Judge Brett Cullum boldly goes where many men named Prince have gone before, to the year 1999.
Our review of Space: 1999 Set 1, published April 6th, 2001, is also available.
An adventure as big as the universe!
What was absolutely astonishing about Space 1999 when it premiered was that it angled to bring the special effects of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and the heady themes of unexpected mysticism from Solaris to the small screen. Now the premise of the moon breaking out of the earth's orbit and traveling through space was silly enough for Isaac Assimov to poke fun, but the show was the BBC's answer to the Star Wars craze. Married couple and Mission: Impossible costars Martin Landau and Barbara Bain starred, while Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson piloted the whole series. Often the show is accused of being stilted and emotionless, while being an orgy of smart design and cool plotting. There's definitely that sense in Series One, but the Blu-ray smartly ups the visual game enough to make it well worth checking out on the high definition format.
Facts of the Case
In the year 1999, the moon is sent out of the planet's gravitational pull by a nuclear explosion on its dark side. Guess we shouldn't have used it as a dump for all those war missiles all these years! Left with no way home, the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha now need to find a new planet they can live on. But they will have to expect the unexpected as they are involuntarily flung in to the void where no man has gone before. Commander John Koenig (Landau) and Dr. Helena Russell (Bain) are going to have to keep everybody together long enough to figure out how to survive in the cold void of space right before they celebrate New Year's Eve 2000.
Space: 1999 ran for two years, and this set only contains the first twenty-four episodes of the freshman season. Remarkably year one was the heaviest on the metaphysical sci fi, and it played it tight and British. Where Star Trek: The Original Series was all emotional American outbursts of Captain Kirk, 1999 was tight lipped resolve of Commander Koenig and Dr. Russell. They were far more intellectual than emotional, as if the entire flight crew were Vulcans. The series featured some of the most intriguing stories of sci fi television for the '70s, often avoiding the cheesiness of American counterparts such as the original Battlestar Galactica.
The show was incredibly expensive, filmed at Pinewood Studios for about $250,000 per episode. Despite the idea that in 1999 this technology would exist, the series shows off an eye for design with clean cool model work that looked like evolved NASA designs. There were no magical teleporters or phasers set for stun to help out the crew. Their costumes were drab, the sets were functional, and the whole vibe revolved around a realistic vibe outside of the whole lunar space travel at far too rapid a pace. It always looked great on TV, but this is one step beyond.
This is what Blu-ray was made to do for a television series, and the set represents a stunning leap forward in the visuals and sound department when compared to the DVD sets released in America. Colors pop, grain makes things look filmic, and the picture is so dang clear you can see what is painted and what is real in controls and backdrops all over the set. Whoever mastered this had a true passion for making the series look as good as it possibly can. Earlier DVD transfers had yellow parts, edge enhancement, not so deep black levels, and flickering or shimmering. All of these issues are gone, and we're left with a pristine look at the series in great detail. In the sound department the entire series gets a five speaker facelift that, although light on any true directional effects, does add major oomph to Barry Gray's almost constant score.
The supplemental features are ported over from the British releases of the DVDs, and they are debuting for the first time in this region. Previously Space: 1999 was on DVD in several bare bones volumes just to get out there, but now we have hours of extra material.
Fans of the show can now finally see the first year in its entirety on one compact set with an amped up clear picture and five channel surround sound. All the extras that used to be found only in Britain and Europe are finally on a region one set. This is certainly one of the best examples of how to up the stakes in every direction from DVD to Blu-ray, and this makes Space: 1999: The Complete Season One a wise upgrade for fans, and the only version to buy if you're looking to get into the show for the first time. The show might be stoic and slow paced at times, but it shows off a fantastic use of design and miniatures that CGI just can't compete with. Bell bottoms be damned, I still enjoy the look of this whole series. And that is something that Blu-ray does an admirable job showcasing.
Guilty of being worth the upgrade to blue.
Give us your feedback!
Scales of Justice
• Episode Commentaries
Review content copyright © 2010 Brett Cullum; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.