Judge Steve Power waives his right to be silent. In space no one can hear him anyway.
"The Name's Brogan, Lt. Brogan. For 20 years I was with the NYPD. Now? Let's just say I've transferred to another precinct."
Sci-fi veterans and kids who'd watch any rerun with a ray gun after falling in love with the galaxy far, far away have no doubt seen at least one show in their life that came from the brainpan of Gerry Anderson. Such efforts as Space: 1999 and Thunderbirds have long since cemented their presence in the cultural space of the sci-fi pantheon. Gerry returned to television with the British-mounted live action series, Space Precinct, sadly the '90s was hardly supportive of quality (or even middling) sci-fi television, and after one rather expensive season, Space Precinct vanished like Anderson's name recognition. Thanks to the wondrous powers of DVD, we can revisit this nigh unheard of sci-fi series. Should we?
Facts of the Case
Lt. Patrick Brogan (Ted Shackleford, The Young and the Restless) spent 20 years walking the beat in New York City, now he and his somewhat less experienced partner Jack Haldane (Rob Youngblood, LA Firefighters) find themselves walking a new beat, the mean streets of Demeter City, on the planet Altor. They may be surrounded by aliens, and the culture may be nothing like they're used to, but crime never changes.
Have you ever seen a family friendly cop show? How about a family friendly cop show set in outer space? Me neither, until Space Precinct. It's about what you might expect. There are human cops—one the experienced family man, the other the ladykiller rookie—and a ton of cutesy rubberfaced aliens with funny accents. Actually, wait, those are Irish accents. It's amazing that even on the planet Altor, in deep space, the police precinct's captain speaks with a grizzled Irish brogue, and regales the rookies with tales of his hard career walking the tough streets. Yes, Space Precinct leaves no "boys in blue" story stone unturned in its quest to entertain. Think really hard of a cop cliché and you'll find it here, although Denis Franz's naked ass is nowhere to be found.
Melded with all the fun and games of your typical police procedural are the trappings of your average old school sci-fi throwback. There's the space faring family dynamic, the fromage filled antics of the supporting cast as they bumble their way through the latest episode's meandering subplot, and good old fashioned fun with ray guns and spaceships.
The writing typically fits somewhere between banal and outright goofy, with plots hitting typically predictable milestones as your average episode unfolds. There's usually at least one hanging subplot that weaves in and out, a few opportunities for blaster battles, and a neat 'n' tidy final scene that clues everything up with a hearty laugh or a wink and a smile from the cast. It feels like a concept that was taken to the point of execution without much more development than, "Let's make a space show with cops!"
The human performers do an adequate job, given the material, but the alien effects are so wretchedly one note that the ETs basically have no choice but to emote with hilariously over the top hand gestures, head bobs, and the aforementioned funny accents. These are "Star Wars cantina" quality aliens we're talking about, and background guys at that.
Space Precinct spans five DVDs worth of real estate, and what we get for presentation isn't much worth talking about. Episodes are grainy, filled with noise, and soft. There's a ton of blurring and digital artifacts pop up frequently. The sound fares a little better, with an active stereo mix that has some liveliness to it, but suffers from some muffled bits here and there. The only extra is bit of text on the disc's main menu telling you to hit up www.spaceprecinct.com for some extra goodies. I did, and there wasn't a whole lot there. It feels pretty low rent, which isn't entirely surprising considering the material. I'm not sure if the series is fondly remembered in the UK or anything, but I'm sure that only the hardest of the hard core fans will be diving in for an instant purchase.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
OK, so the effects were actually kind of cool in that old school way. The miniature work certainly has its charm, and some of the models and mini-sets that were constructed are pretty impressive. The show doesn't do a particularly impressive job of actually blending the miniature effects into the live action, but for what it's worth, the miniature unit certainly earned their pay, and the digital effects that do pop up don't really draw much attention to themselves. Outside of the totally wretched costumes, police uniforms, and Cantina-band level Alien masks, the show actually looks kind of neat, with a sort of Blade Runner meets Red Dwarf design aesthetic. This actually sounds much cooler in writing than it is to witness.
Honestly, I'd never heard of Space Precinct before now, so going in, my expectations hovered somewhere between "blight on humanity" and "meh." I was pleasantly surprised; there were definitely moments of enjoyment scattered throughout, and the production values were surprisingly sound for a show that no one on this side of the pond actually saw. That said, when the average budget for British sci-fi shows in the '80s and early '90s was about 50 quid an episode, any degree of quality comes as a shock. Image Entertainment has basically dumped broadcast quality masters on us here, but I wouldn't expect much more.
Oh so, guilty!
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