30th Anniversary Edition
Review by Michael Jacobson
Landau, Barbara Bain July 31, 2007
Audio: Dolby 2-Channel Mono
Video: Standard 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 2496 Minutes
July 31, 2007
"We're all aliens...until we get to know one another."
was a live action, science fiction follow up by Gerry Anderson to his
popular Thunderbirds show (also available on DVD from A&E).
It ran in the mid 70s and owed more to the look and feel of Kubrick’s 2001 than to the previous television success of Star Trek.
The special effects, set designs, and overall look were far superior
to any other space travel show that came before…in fact, many of them still
hold up well today. What it
didn’t have was Star Trek’s sense of character, optimism or humanity,
which is why, I think, this show isn’t as etched in our culture today.
It’s approach was a little more sterile, emphasizing the science over
the fiction and the events over the people.
Now, with this incredible 30th Anniversary Edition set, containing all 48
original episodes on 17, count 'em, 17 discs, we
have the luxury of looking back at a television show from the past that
was about a future time we’re now on the other side of.
The series was filled with ideas about how mankind would be using the
moon in the future…for manned bases, for radioactive waste dumps, and as a
launching point for certain deep space missions.
Anderson and his crew could not have know, nor could we, that we’d
eventually abandon all ideas about the moon for reasons unexplained.
But fresh off the excitements of the Apollo missions, Space:
1999 was remarkable in the amount of accurate detail mixed in with
its futuristic fantasy. The surface of the moon looked just as real, if not better,
than the fresh NASA footage. The
astronauts floated and teetered along in a relaxed gravity atmosphere, and even
the moon vehicles looked like the logical progressions of ones currently in use
in the space program.
The first episode, “Breakway”, set the entire series in
motion. As the new commander of
Moonbase Alpha, John Koenig (Landau) arrives to investigate a strange series of
deaths, which seemed to be radiation related even though instruments are not
showing any signs of leakage. The
base’s doctor, Helena Russell (Bain), believes operations should shut down
while they search for answers. While
Koenig agrees, he is also under pressure to launch the new Meta Probe on time,
the first exploration device aimed at a planet outside our own solar system.
When it is discovered that a buildup of magnetic radiation
is causing the deaths and other malfunctions on the moon, the team tries to
correct the problem. They cannot,
and soon an atomic explosion sends the moon, and the base and crew along with
it, hurtling out of earth’s orbit and into the unknown. They cannot make it back.
Their only hope, therefore, is to forage forward, see what they can find,
Subsequent episodes led to further adventures of the team
as they sail through deep space on the uncontrollable moon…they make
discoveries, meet new alien life forms, and learn more and more to work together
to keep hope alive.
Although the show was out when I was a child (I can still
remember the lunchboxes and coloring books), I confess I never really watched it
at the time. This DVD set
marks my first real experience with the show.
As a fan of Thunderbirds, I was always impressed with the way
Gerry Anderson used his imagination to create fantastic worlds that eased the
viewers into suspension of disbelief. Here,
such a trait is not necessary. He
peoples this show with human actors, and the special effects and model
techniques he had been perfecting for years really work here.
This is a fantastic looking show, and definitely ahead of its time…few
pre-computer animation sci-fi shows could touch its technical superiority.
I enjoyed, too, seeing a younger Martin Landau (later a
critical favorite for Crimes and Misdemeanors and an Oscar winner for Ed
Wood) and an older but still very beautiful Barbara Bain (from Mission
Impossible). The scripts were
generally very well written, with a lot less psuedo-science babble than you’ve
seen from Star Trek.
But it’s the impressive visuals that make Space:
1999 a real standout amongst shows.
Fueled by imagination and a passion for the space race, this program
created fantastic yet believable worlds by using as much attention to detail as
creative license to follow the lost crew of Moonbase Alpha.
And you’ve gotta dig that disco-era theme music, too!
Consider me thoroughly impressed…despite being a 30 year old series, this DVD comes extremely close to four star rating territory. It looks better than I would have imagined in a hundred years!
The prints are remarkably clean, with only bare instances of telltale
marks and debris. Images are
incredibly sharp and filled with detail…no softness or distortion anywhere
that I could see. Colors are vivid
and natural throughout, even flesh tones, and show no signs of washing or
fading. The space scenes exhibit
deep, true blacks with no grain, and crisp lines separating lighter objects from
darker ones, with no bleeding or blurring.
The 2-channel mono soundtrack is perfectly fine, if not
exemplary. Dialogue clarity is
strong throughout, as are the musical cues and special effects (which add a
limited amount of dynamic range to the audio).
There are minor instances of noticeable noise often associated with older
programs, but nothing distracting.
With the Anniversary set, you get a fairly good collection of features to go along with the program. Included on the disc are vintage interviews with Gerry Anderson, Martin Landau, Barbara Bain and othermembers of the cast and crew, a behind-the-scenes featurette for the second season, the rare Blackpool exhibit film, theatrical trailers for two Space: 1999 films (Destination Moonbase and Alien Attack), a trailer for season one, promo spots for season two, alternate sequences from key episodes, and galleries for both pre-production artwork and photo stills. There are also new commentary tracks for three of the episodes.