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Blu-Ray Review: Shout Factory’s Space 1999: The Complete Series (Collector’s Editon)

Shout Factory's Space 1999 Complete Series

Adam gets lost in Gerry Anderson’s 70’s Sci-Fi TV Series Space: 1999.  Shout Factory has outdone themselves with amazing transfers, and a wealth of extras.

The Series

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson have captured the imagination of many children throughout the years.  Regardless of its age, Thunderbirds remains salient because of its use of Puppets (Supermarionation, like Gerry, explained his process).  Space: 1999 is Andersons taking the ideals of the children’s shows and placing them into a Contemplative (at least for the first season) Science Fiction adventure series with weekly moral quandaries. Though this sounds strangely familiar **cough**cough**startrek**cough**cough** Anderson brings not only his A-Game but a concept so bonkers that it could have only happened from 1975 – 1977, otherwise known as the wild-wild-west of vast emptiness to the cash grab of Science Fiction in Film and Television because of Star Wars. Thankfully, Space: 1999 eschews that particular piece of Mount Rushmore Sci-Fi/Fantasy Pop Culture mania.

24 years in the future (in 1975, remember) Earth has colonized the Moon.  Not really colonize as much as making it a Toxic Waste Dumping Ground.  Enter John Koenig (Martin Landau) who is there to inspect the going’s on.  No sooner than he enters Moonbase Alpha everything goes to hell.  An explosion rocks the base pushes out of Earth’s Orbit causing the Moon to become essentially a giant asteroid.  Koeing along with Dr. Russell (Barbara Bain), Bergman (Barry Morse), and Carter (Nick Tate) attempt to find a way home back to Earth and/or find a settlement to make a go at life beyond Earth.  Each week the Alphans (that’s what they call themselves) face a new threat or challenge as they move farther and farther away from Home (also thanks in large part to a few cosmic events).

The genius of the first season is how easily they were able to meld a combination of the fashionable at the time Disaster Epic troupes, weekly Sci-Fi adventure series plots, with a huge dash of contemplative pseudo-science and psychology.  That boiling pot of disparate genres and themes meld in a way that few shows honestly do.  The characters were allowed to be wrong, make mistakes, argue with one another in a way that feels real and dramatic but not maudlin.  Often times Koeing is at odds with the Command he’s been by default charged with.

Even Space: 1999 itself could only sustain it for one season as Executives took the show away from the Andersons and reshaped it to be less contemplative and more action/adventure driven.  Though the second season is not bad, one who watches the show will instantly feel the changeover when watching the series as a whole.  There’s a shift in tone that feels more Americanized and obvious like their moving towards some sort of love affair between two characters who seemed to be colleagues that loved from afar is one of the bigger transgressions of the Second Season.  The biggest misstep is the loss of Barry Morse’s Bergman.  The hard-won relationship between Koeing and Bergman is one of the highlights of the series as both headstrong men were the core of battling ideals.

Given the troubles with tone in the series Space: 1999 is a masterclass in professionalism and acting by Martin Landau and Barbara Bain.  The real-life acting couple is as compelling as they had ever been. Both working with Bruce Geller on Mission: Impossible in the 1960s seemed to help prepare them for the challenges at hand.  You always believe that Landau and Bain are struggling to carve out a bit of humanity in space.  Barry Morse is the MVP of the show as Bergman the foil to both Landau’s Koeing and Bain’s Russell.  Morse brings a commanding presence to Bergman that feels like he could bully Koeing and Bain into situations that are both good for the Alphans and outright dangerous.  All the while the magic of Morse’s work is that he never feels like he’s an antagonist or villain.

The biggest assets in the series as a whole are not only the Cast but the Guest Stars they managed to procure for the entire run of the show.  Just watching Christopher Lee’s early turn as an Alien of possible malevolent intent is not only pure lunacy but wildly entertaining.  The same could be said about Lee’s friend Peter Cushing showing up a few episodes later to upstage Lee starring as another Alien who well you’ll have to see to believe.  Other British Acting Titans and Stalwarts show up in the show such as a young Ian McShane, Joan Collins, Billie Whitelaw, Brian Blessed, Julian Glover, David Prowse, and a host of others.  Each does exceptional work oftentimes dressed and made up in the some of the sillier outfits the disco era had to offer.  This does distract a little bit in the throes of the series it becomes a part of the milieu.

Space: 1999 in its 48-episode run was and still is compelling Science Fiction. Eschewing the norms of the Science Fiction genre while leaning into specific troupes of the genre is a balance that few shows find or even manage to get footing, the show does just that. Anyone that’s interested in Science Fiction will delight and relish their time aboard Moonbase Alpha.

From Scream Factory regarding the Episode Order:

The Transfers

These Transfers sourced from the original Negatives are nothing short of spectacular.  The work done here is similar to the restoration done on Star Trek: The Original Series, minus all the new-CGI.  The Model and FX work looks jaw-dropping gorgeous here.  The colors and detail pop in a way that even the DVDs of the show never did. Thankfully, they’ve kept the Aspect Ratio Window Boxed 1.33:1.  Bravo to Shout Factory for not only the work done here but spreading the 48 episodes across 13 discs giving the transfers room to breathe, which makes all the difference.

The Extras

They include the following:

  • Audio Commentaries on Select Episodes
  • Mission To Moonbase Alpha: An Interview With Actress Barbara Bain
  • Into The Uncertain Future: An Interview With Actor Nick Tate
  • Brain Behind The Destruction: An Interview With Director Kevin Connor
  • Moonbase Merch: A Tour Of Space:1999 Ephemera With Author John Muir
  •  “These Episodes”
  • “Memories Of Space” Featurette
  • Interview With Sylvia Anderson
  • Guardian Of Piri Remembered With Actress Catherine Schell
  • Vintage Year Two Interviews
  • Vintage Brian Johnson Interview
  • Behind The Scenes Footage With Brian Johnson Commentary
  • Concept And Creation Featurette
  • Special Effects And Design Featurette
  • Martin Landau And Barbara Bain TV Promos
  • Promos For Year One And Year Two
  • Trailers For Destination Moonbase Alpha And Alien Attack
  • Blackpool “Space City” Exhibition Advert
  • Lyons Maid Ice Lolly Advert
  • Photo Galleries

There are five commentaries on four episodes.  Gerry Anderson discusses both Breakway (the pilot) and Dragon’s Domain (arguably the most iconic episodes).  Author Anthony Taylor discusses Dragon’s Domain also (yes, the episode has two commentaries) and The Metamorph.  Finally, Space: 1999 guru Michael Bosco discusses Ring Around the Moon. All three gentlemen not only discuss their episodes but the series writ large.  Though Taylor and Bosco do this more than Anderson who sticks primarily to the discussion of the production of both episodes.

Mission To Moonbase Alpha: An Interview With Actress Barbara Bain is an all-new 11-minute interview with the Co-Lead of the series.  Bain discusses how she was approached to do the series in Britain with her husband, Landau, and the various different aspects of her role in the preproduction, specifically the costuming and her relationship with the costume designer and the production design, the writing of the show, and the production of the series.

Into The Uncertain Future: An Interview With Actor Nick Tate is an all-new 17-minute interview with the actor.  Tate discusses how he got the role of Pilot Alan Carter by turning on the television (it’s a great story worth letting Tate tell it himself), his connection to Thunderbirds (again, something Tate should tell it himself), his character’s development over the series, the production’s lengthy 18-month shoot, the reconfiguration of Space 1999, the mysterious To Infinity pilot that Gerry Anderson made, the Fredric Friedberger situation which he’s very honest, the fact that he was written into the second series.

Brain Behind The Destruction: An Interview With Director Kevin Connor is an all-new 10-minute interview with the series director.  Connor discusses how he came onto the series after working on his The Land that Time Forgot series.  The journeyman director discusses his time on the second season of the series.

Interview With Sylvia Anderson is an archival 17-minute interview with the Producer/Writer of the show.  Anderson suffers no fools during this interview as she’s completely honest about the show itself and the other projects the Andersons did, like UFOTheProtectors. The interview is more a career overview than specifically about Space1999, though she does discuss the series.

Guardian Of Piri Remembered With Actress Catherine Schell is an archival 2-minute interview with the actress that played the second season character, Maya.  Schell specifically discusses the disappointment felt after working with the costume designer who promptly ignored everything she suggested.

Vintage Year Two Interviews is 30-minutes of interview raw b-roll footages with the actors of the series.  As Shout Factory notes in a header before the footage begins the audio quality isn’t the greatest (specifically the interviewer’s questions). As long as one can get over this hurdle, you’re treated to a fascinating look at actors doing interviews.  One of the greatest moments is watching all the various actors in different parts of the studio and sets SMOKING LIKE CHIMMINES. Seeing Martin Landau doing this while wearing his second season outfit (yes, the terrible pink jacket is being worn). Gerry Anderson, Landau, Barbara Bain, Catherine Schell (in her production makeup), and others contribute to what would be EPK style interviews.  Though these interviews have much more substance than the present-day Press Kits.

Vintage Brian Johnson Interview is a 3-minute interview with the FX Guru.  The interview filmed during the production of Space1999is incredibly detailed for something from 1974.  Johnson gives a practical and very detailed description of the Model work he did showing off the models, storyboards on set.  By far one of the coolest featurettes of the set.

“These Episodes” is a 100-Minutes Of Reflections On Some Of Space: 1999’s Iconic Episodes From The People Who Made Them. This documentary/interview/reflection hybrid is an in-depth exploration of some of the best episodes.  The discuss Breakaway, Matter of Life and Death, Black Sun, Another Time Another Place, Guardian of Piri, Force for Life, The Last Sunset, Voyager’s Return, The Full Circle, War Games, The Troubled Spirit, Space Brain, Mission of the Darians, Dragon’s Domain, and The Testament of Arkadiaare covered in the feature.  This amounts to mini-commentaries by Gerry Anderson, Johnny Byrne, Zienia Merton, Christopher Penfold, David Lane all contribute to the discussion.  Though these mini-commentaries are not just limited to the footage but also includes a healthy amount of behind-the-scenes photos as well.

Memories of Space is a 7-minute vintage featurette on the discussion of why the series is still remembered now even forty-plus years later.

Moonbase Merch: A Tour Of Space: 1999 Ephemera With Author John Muir is an all-new 11-minute interview. The author discusses and shows us the various toys and merchandise that came out at the time.  It’s a fascinating look at the memorabilia around the show, which at the time was just beginning as a new thing.  Muir gives up-close looks at the various toys from his own collection.  A fun featurette especially for toy collectors.

Behind The Scenes, Footage With Brian Johnson Commentary is 7-minutes of b-roll footage that has been edited together for Johnson to comment on.  The FX supervisor is quite sharp with recollections on the production itself as the footage plays.  Anyone that is remotely interested in old-school FX and Model work will want to see this footage as it gives a sneak peek into some of the best FX from the series. One thing of note is that Johnson stated that all the FX were shot on 35mm which does lead back to how good these transfers for the show are.

Concept And Creation Featurette is a vintage 13-minute featurette discussing the creation of Space: 1999.  Much of what is discussed is already discussed elsewhere but the featurette does manage to have some interesting preproduction art, and behind the scenes photos.

Special Effects And Design Featurette is a vintage 17-minute featurette about the work that Brian Johnson and his team did.  Again a lot of what is discussed is covered in other featurettes.

The set has an entire section devoted to Promos and Trailers.  The Martin Landau And Barbara Bain TV Promos is a collection of Promos with the actors selling the show for various TV Stations.  The Promos For Year One is 11-minutes worth of old 30-second TV spots for the upcoming Episodes.  The Promo section for Year Two is only 90-seconds worth of TV Spots but far less entertaining than the Year One Promos.  The Trailers For Destination Moonbase Alpha And Alien Attack are the actual movies they made out of Episodes of the series.  Blackpool “Space City” Exhibition Advert is something having to do with combing of Space: 1999 and something else.  Finally, Lyons Maid Ice Lolly Advert is an ad for an Ice Cream Pop.

Rounding out this collection is a series of photo galleries; BTS and Contact Sheets, Bubble Gum Cards, Cigarette Cards, Portraits, Models and Model Making, Year Two Models and Props, Year Two Promo, Storyboards.  Each run automatically and can be paused but not skipped/navigated through.  There are literally a few hundred photos within these sections.  The best is the Trading Cards and Cigarette Cards by far.

The Final Thought

Space 1999 has been given the care before but not in the way that Shout Factory has cared for it. If it was just the transfers it would be worth the purchase but adding in the literal hours and hours of Special Feature Content that has been found and produced for this edition makes this an insta-purchase.  HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATIONS!!!!

Shout Factory’s Blu-Ray edition of Space: 1999 – The Complete Series is out now!

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