Space: 1999 – The Complete Series (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Jun 24, 2019
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Space: 1999 – The Complete Series (Blu-ray Review)

Director

Various, series created by Gerry Anderson

Release Date(s)

1975-1977 (July 16, 2019)

Studio(s)

ITV Studios/Network (Shout! Factory)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: B+
  • Audio Grade: B-
  • Extras Grade: B

Space: 1999 - The Complete Series (Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

If one were to describe Space: 1999 to the uninitiated, it might go something like this: Imagine the high-concept stories of original Star Trek but with a British flair (which is to say slower and far more cerebral and fantastical – think Trek on LSD). Mix this with ground-breaking special effects and production values heavily influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey (and created by Brian Johnson, who later worked on Alien and The Empire Strikes Back). Then toss in Martin Landau (Ed Wood) and Barbara Bain (Mission: Impossible – that’s the original TV series for you youngsters) in bell-bottom uniforms, and tie it all up with a funky disco guitar soundtrack. No kidding – that’s Space: 1999 in a nutshell.

The basic premise of the series is simple – on September 13th, 1999, the Moon gets accidentally blasted out of the Earth’s orbit by a gigantic nuclear explosion and is sent hurtling into deep space. Because of the disaster, the 300 plus men and women stationed on Moonbase Alpha must struggle to survive, encountering all kinds of strange planets and bizarre alien life forms, in the hopes that they’ll someday find a new place to call home. Year One of the show is harder science fiction, grappling with big problems and offering plenty of metaphysical ruminations. It has its share of rubber suit aliens, but it’s thoughtful, even clinical. It recalls Russian sci-fi in this way—films like Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Klushantsev’s Road to the Stars. Highlight episodes include Breakaway, Guardian of Piri, Another Time, Another Place, and Black Sun.

Year Two is a stranger experience. The production design, visual effects, and costumes are more elaborate, but the writing was dumbed down, with moments of humor more appropriate to Lost in Space. The show’s scientific heart, Victor Bergman (Barry Morse), was replaced with the shape-shifting Maya (Catherine Shell) to boost ratings. The opening theme was changed to something more up-tempo, the editing was quicker. All of this was precipitated by the hiring of Fred Freiberger to take over as the show’s producer. Not coincidentally, Freiberger also guided the final season of TV’s Star Trek, which features its own inordinate number of ridiculously camp episodes. Still, there are interesting moments in Year Two. Its opening episode, The Metamorph, is a standout. The Bringers of Wonder, Parts 1 and 2, The Beta Cloud, and The Immunity Syndrome are solid too.

Notable guest stars over the series’ run included Christopher Lee, Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Ian McShane (Deadwood and American Gods), Sarah Douglas (Superman II), David Prowse (Star Wars), Brian Blessed (Flash Gordon), Angus MacInnes (Star Wars and Rogue One), and many others.

Space: 1999 was released previously on DVD in 2001, by Carlton Media in the UK and A&E in the US. In 2004, Carlton was absorbed in a corporate takeover that resulted in the creation of a new company, ITV Network. It was Network that restored the series from the original negatives by creating new interpositive elements and scanning those in HD, then applying extensive digital clean-up. Year One was released on DVD in the UK in 2005 and on Blu-ray in 2010, while New Video (the later distribution group for A&E) released Year One on Blu-ray in the US in 2010 (see our review of that set here on The Bits).

Unfortunately, it look longer for Network to restore Year Two, a process that began in 2007. It was also more costly because the audio for Year Two needed digital remastering as well (this had already been done for Year One). These costs the company wanted to share with their US distributor, but New Video balked. Network released Year Two on DVD and Blu-ray in 2015, but no US release was forthcoming… until now. Shout! Factory picked up the US distribution rights to several Gerry Anderson titles from Network in 2018 and quietly added some of them to their streaming service at the time. At long last, they’re also releasing Space: 1999 – The Complete Series on Blu-ray on this side of the Atlantic.

Now, one thing that should be made clear to US fans of this series: Yes, there is no Year Two only Blu-ray set, and there’s not likely to be (at least for a while). That’s frustrating for those of you who may have picked up the New Video Year One Blu-ray set, but blame New Video for not picking up the Year Two rights. Shout! Factory would lose money if they only released Year Two and—as fans should know—companies like Shout! operate with small budgets and profit margins as it is. BUT… if you’re a real fan of this show, you may wish to have both Blu-ray releases anyway. More on that in a minute.

In terms of A/V quality, these episodes are the exact same masters as released by Network in the UK (for Year One) and New Video here in the US. All of the episodes have been fully remastered in 1080p from the newly-created IP elements. They’re presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio (with black pillar-boxing to preserve the 4x3 broadcast format). The image is lovely, with vastly more detail than anyone experienced in analog SD. The improvement is evident right from the start, in the fine textures of the Moon’s surface around Alpha in the opening credits. Colors are wonderfully vibrant, from the show’s orange and yellow space suits to the light buff hues of the crew’s uniforms. The contrast is excellent, with deep black spacescapes and detailed shadows. The video quality for Year Two is just a hair better than Year One, probably owing to improvements in HD mastering technology in the five years that transpired between the two remastering efforts. But both are very good for content of this vintage.

The audio is improved as well, thanks to new 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless mixes. The 5.1 isn’t what you’d call immersive or lively, as this is a dialogue-driven show. But the clarity is excellent, with good dynamic range, and the rear channels kick in very lightly for action sequences and atmospheric effect. There’s a little bit of distortion in the end credits music, but one assumes this was baked into the original audio elements. In any case, it’s solid for vintage material. The discs also include the original 2.0 mono broadcast mixes (and in DTS-HD Master Audio) for those who prefer them. Optional subtitles are also available in English only. [Editor’s Note: It appears that there’s an issue with the 5.1 soundtracks on these episodes. Comparing to the 5.1 mixes on some of the episodes to A&E/New Video and UK BD releases of the same episodes, the surround channel audio levels are very low. You’re also not able to switch between mono and 5.1 during playback with your remote – it remains to be seen if this is a player specific issue. We’re waiting for a statement from Shout! Factory.]

In terms of special features, the situation is a little complicated. Here’s the disc by disc breakdown of the new Shout! Factory set, including all the episodes and special features on each:

Year One – Disc One

  • Breakaway (HD – 52:17)
  • Matter of Life and Death (HD – 52:14)
  • Black Sun (HD – 52:14)
  • Ring Around the Moon (HD – 52:00)
  • Audio commentary on Breakaway with Gerry Anderson
  • Audio commentary on Ring Around the Moon with Scott Michael Bosco
  • Breakaway Gallery (HD – 8:30)
  • Matter of Life and Death Gallery (HD – 7:27)
  • Black Sun Gallery (HD – 4:11)
  • Ring Around Moon Gallery (HD – 3:39)

Year One – Disc Two

  • Earthbound (HD – 52:16)
  • Another Time, Another Place (HD – 52:17)
  • Missing Link (HD – 52:15)
  • Guardian of Piri (HD – 52:10)
  • Earthbound Gallery (HD – 8:21)
  • Another Time, Another Place Gallery (HD – 3:09)
  • Missing Link Gallery (HD – 1:30)
  • Guardian of Piri Gallery (HD – 4:00)

Year One – Disc Three

  • Force of Life (HD – 52:12)
  • Alpha Child (HD – 52:22)
  • The Last Sunset (HD – 52:18)
  • Voyager’s Return (HD – 52:11)
  • Force of Life Gallery (HD – 1:03)
  • Alpha Child Gallery (HD – 3:15)
  • The Last Sunset Gallery (HD – 2:33)
  • Voyager’s Return Gallery (HD – 1:06)

Year One – Disc Four

  • Collision Course (HD – 52:20)
  • Death’s Other Dominion (HD – 52:17)
  • The Full Circle (HD – 52:24)
  • End of Eternity (HD – 52:15)
  • Collision Course Gallery (HD – 3:00)
  • Death’s Other Dominion Gallery (HD – 4:27)
  • The Full Circle Gallery (HD – 3:00)
  • End of Eternity Gallery (HD – 3:51)

Year One – Disc Five

  • War Games (HD – 52:15)
  • The Last Enemy (HD – 52:16)
  • The Troubled Spirit (HD – 52:21)
  • Space Brain (HD – 52:18)
  • War Games Gallery (HD – 3:30)
  • The Last Enemy Gallery (HD – 2:42)
  • The Troubled Spirit Gallery (HD – 1:51)
  • Space Brain Gallery (HD – :51)

Year One – Disc Six

  • The Infernal Machine (HD – 52:19)
  • Mission of the Darians (HD – 52:16)
  • Dragon’s Domain (HD – 52:19)
  • The Testament of Arkadia (HD – 52:17)
  • Audio commentary on Dragon’s Domain with Gerry Anderson
  • Audio commentary on Dragon’s Domain with Anthony Taylor*
  • The Infernal Machine Gallery (HD – 2:12)
  • Mission of the Darians Gallery (HD – 3:18)
  • Dragon’s Domain Gallery (HD – 2:27)
  • The Testament of Arkadia Gallery (HD – 1:15)

Year Two – Disc One

  • The Metamorph (HD – 51:03)
  • The Exiles (HD – 51:09)
  • One Moment of Humanity (HD – 51:16)
  • All That Glisters (HD – 51:17)
  • Audio Commentary on The Metamorph with Anthony Taylor*
  • The Metamorph Gallery (HD – 3:03)
  • The Exiles Gallery (HD – 2:18)
  • One Moment of Humanity Gallery (HD – 1:39)
  • All That Glisters Gallery (HD – 3:45)

Year Two – Disc Two

  • Journey to Where (HD – 51:14)
  • The Taybor (HD – 51:17)
  • The Rules of Luton (HD – 51:16)
  • The Mark of Archanon (HD – 51:12)
  • Journey to Where Gallery (HD – 2:24)
  • The Taybor Gallery (HD – :48)
  • The Rules of Luton Gallery (HD – 3:09)
  • The Mark of Archanon Gallery (HD – 2:09)

Year Two – Disc Three

  • Brian the Brain (HD – 51:11)
  • New Adam, New Eve (HD – 51:19)
  • Catacombs of the Moon (HD – 51:02)
  • The AB Chrysalis (HD – 51:16)
  • Brian the Brain Gallery (HD – 1:00)
  • New Adam, New Eve Gallery (HD – 2:18)
  • Catacombs of the Moon Gallery (HD – 2:39)
  • The AB Chrysalis Gallery (HD – 2:48)

Year Two – Disc Four

  • Seeds of Destruction (HD – 51:26)
  • The Beta Cloud (HD – 50:43)
  • Space Warp (HD – 51:23)
  • A Matter of Balance (HD – 51:16)
  • Seeds of Destruction Gallery (HD – :54)
  • The Beta Cloud Gallery (HD – 4:09)
  • Space Warp Gallery (HD – 2:21)
  • A Matter of Balance Gallery (HD – 3:48)

Year Two – Disc Five

  • The Bringers of Wonder, Part 1 (HD – 51:24)
  • The Bringers of Wonder, Part 2 (HD – 51:04)
  • The Lambda Factor (HD – 51:16)
  • The Seance Spectre (HD – 51:11)
  • The Bringers of Wonder Gallery (HD – 3:49)
  • The Lambda Factor Gallery (HD – 1:39)
  • The Seance Spectre Gallery (HD – 1:51)

Year Two – Disc Six

  • Dorzak (HD – 51:17)
  • Devil’s Planet (HD – 51:15)
  • The Immunity Syndrome (HD – 51:10)
  • The Dorcons (HD – 51:26)
  • Dorzak Gallery (HD – 1:30)
  • Devil’s Planet Gallery (HD – 3:48)
  • The Immunity Syndrome Gallery (HD – 1:42)
  • The Dorcons Gallery (HD – 1:06)

Special Features

  • Mission to Moonbase Alpha: An Interview with Actress Barbara Bain (HD – 10:36)*
  • Into the Uncertain Future: An Interview with Actor Nick Tate (HD – 16:44)*
  • Brain Behind the Destruction: An Interview with Director Kevin Connor (HD – 9:14)*
  • Interview with Sylvia Anderson (SD – 16:54)
  • Guardian of Piri Remembered with Catherine Schell (SD – 1:41)
  • Vintage Year Two Interviews (SD – 30:25)
  • Vintage Brian Johnson Interview (SD – 3:21)
  • These Episodes (SD – 99:10)
  • Moonbase Merch: A Tour of Space: 1999 Ephemera with Author John Muir (HD – 11:16)*
  • Memories of Space (SD – 7:33)
  • Behind the Scenes (with Brian Johnson commentary) (SD – 6:49)
  • Concept and Creation (SD – 13:10)
  • Special Effects and Design (SD – 17:34)
  • Martin Landau and Barbara Bain TV Promos (SD – 1:41)
  • Year One Promos (SD – 11:37)
  • Year Two Promos (SD – 1:35)
  • Destination Moonbase Alpha Trailer (SD – 2:10)
  • Alien Attack Trailers (SD – 3:04)
  • Blackpool “Space City” Exhibition Advert (SD – :39)
  • Lyons Maid Ice Lolly Advert (SD – :28)
  • BTS and Contact Sheets Gallery (HD – 2:11)
  • Bubble Gum Cards Gallery (HD – 3:30)
  • Cigarette Cards Gallery (HD – 5:09)
  • Portraits Gallery (HD – 5:03)
  • Models and Model Making Gallery (HD – 5:39)
  • Year Two Models and Props Gallery (HD – 5:03)
  • Year Two Promo Gallery (HD – 2:51)
  • Storyboards Gallery (HD – 1:32)

If you’re thinking: That looks like a lot of content… it is. And hats off to Shout! Factory for creating a couple of hours worth of good new original special features (which are marked with an * above). It represents most of the content from the previous Network/A&E/New Video releases on Blu-ray and DVD, but definitely not all of it. Again, more on that in a moment. The discs come in three plastic Blu-ray cases and there’s a booklet with liner notes in one of them. There’s also a nice hard-shell slipcase. If your order the set from Shout! Factory directly (on their website), the first 500 orders also get a limited edition 4-inch snow globe featuring the Moon and an Eagle Transporter (offer only available to North American customers). Here’s what it all looks like...

Space: 1999 - The Complete Series (Blu-ray Disc)

The new content has very nice substance. In Bain’s interview, she talks about how she and her husband (Landau) got involved in the project, the challenge of acting with special effects, the differences between British and US TV series pacing (the latter requiring mini cliff-hangers for commercial breaks), and the guest stars she worked with. Nick Tate talks about how he got the part of Alan Carter, how a heroic bit in Dragon’s Domain was originally written for him (but would have resulted in his character being killed… and upstaging Landau), how much of the cast was let go for Year Two, how his character was saved at the last minute, and why the sets changed. Kevin Connor offers production insights and anecdotes about his work as a director for two episodes on the show (Brian the Brain and Seed of Destruction)—what the process was like, working with the production designer, etc. And the Moonbase Merch piece is essentially a “tour through the toybox” of anyone who grew up with the show. The new commentaries are good too, with lots of interesting trivia and insights; Anthony Taylor is a widely-regarded author and expert on the work of Gerry Anderson. (You can visit his website here.) Daniel Griffith and his Ballyhoo Motion Pictures team created these new features for Shout! and they deserve a nod. It’s all good stuff.

[Editor’s Note: The liner notes and slipcase indicate additional audio commentaries by Robert Meyer Burnett, but these aren’t actually on the set, so they must not have been completed in time.]

Now then… as good and substantial as the content included on this set is, there’s more that doesn’t carry over here unfortunately. That’s not Shout!’s fault—I’ve confirmed that rights issues prevented much of the missing material from being included here. In any case, for those of you who may be serious fans of this show, it’s a good reason to keep those previous Blu-ray and DVD sets if you have them.

Here’s a complete list of additional special features available elsewhere:

Special Features Missing from the Network (UK) & New Video (US) Year One BD Sets

  • Music-Only Tracks (on all episodes except Breakaway and Dragon’s Domain)
  • Text Episode Commentaries on The Last Sunset and Space Brain
  • End of Eternity Deleted Scene Gallery (HD – :51)
  • Unfinished Textless Opening Titles (HD – 2:25)
  • Textless End Titles (HD – 32)
  • Textless Episode Material (HD – 18:29)
  • Season One Textless Generic Titles (SD – 1:44)
  • BBC Horizon: Year One Behind-the-Scenes Footage (SD – 2:29)
  • Clapperboard Two-Part Special on the work of Gerry Anderson from 1975 (SD – 38:58)
  • Barry Gray’s Theme Demo (SD – 1:23)
  • Alternative Opening and Closing Titles (SD – 2:58)
  • Martin Landau and Barbara Bain US Premier Intro and Outro (SD – 1:54)
  • SFX Plates and Deleted SFX Scenes with Music Track (SD – 11:41)
  • Journey Through the Black Sun Trailer (SD – 1:53)
  • Ad Bumpers (SD – :38)

Note that the New Video Year One Blu-ray set has been reviewed here on The Bits for those who might be interested.

Special Features Missing from the Network (UK) Year Two BD Set

  • Seed of Destruction: Year One Version (with a newly edited Barry Gray score) (HD – 52:03)
  • Unexposed: Behind the Scenes of Series Two (HD – 25:07)
  • Stock Footage Archive (HD – 46:02)
  • Cosmos: 1999 Stop-Motion Fan Film (HD – 13:22)
  • Martin Landau 1994 Interview (SD – 44:53)
  • Outtake (SD – :27)
  • Promos and Trailers (SD – 10:43)
  • Year Two: Clean Titles (HD – 4:01)
  • The Taybor Production Audio (HD – 26:18)
  • The Rules of Luton Production Audio (HD – 41:36)
  • The Mark of Archanon Production Audio (HD – 16:08)
  • Brian the Brain Production Audio (HD – 29:56)
  • Archive Interview: Brian Johnson (SD – 6:42 – some of this appears in the Vintage Brian Johnson Interview clip on the Shout! set, but not all of it)
  • Episode Script PDFs
  • Annual PDFs

Note that the Network Year Two Blu-ray set has been reviewed here on The Bits.

Special Features Missing from the Network (UK) Bringers of Wonder BD

  • Destination Moonbase Alpha Feature Film (HD – 100:10)

Note that the Network Bringers of Wonder Blu-ray has been reviewed here on The Bits.

Special Features Missing from the A&E Megaset DVD

  • Year Two Behind the Scenes Featurette (SD – 2:59)
  • Message from Moonbase Alpha Fan Film (SD – 6:55)
  • Audio Commentary on Testament of Arkadia with co-creator Sylvia Anderson
  • Audio Commentary on Dragon’s Domain with writer Johnny Byrne and story consultant Christopher Penfold
  • Audio Commentary on Death’s Other Dominion with series expert Scott Michael Bosco
  • Alternate Edition Scene from Collision Course (SD – 4:01)
  • Various Image Galleries

Also missing is the Alien Attack feature film itself, which is available in the UK on DVD, as well as The Space: 1999 Documentary plus extras, which was produced by Kindred Productions in 1996 and was available on DVD in the UK in 2004 exclusively to Fanderson club members.

So again, while the Shout! Factory set includes a good portion of the available extras for this series, there’s much still available elsewhere.

Space: 1999 is probably not for everyone, but if you’re open to it and you enjoy vintage British TV sci-fi, it’s an awful lot of fun. Plus, the show’s Eagle Transporter is still one of the coolest fictional spacecraft ever created for film or TV. In any case, Space: 1999 has never looked and sounded so good as it does on Blu-ray… and US fans finally have the opportunity to buy the complete series in Region A (and note that this set is coded for Region A only). Thanks to Shout! Factory for finally picking up the US rights and for doing the show justice on Blu-ray. Here’s hoping Gerry Anderson’s UFO: The Complete Series isn’t far behind. Recommended for fans.

- Bill Hunt

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)

 

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