Release Date(s)1976-77 (September 28, 2015)
Studio(s)ITV Studios (Network Distributing Ltd.)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B+
[Editor’s Note: This is a REGION B Blu-ray release.]
Fans of the classic British science fiction TV series Space: 1999 have had a very long wait for Series Two to arrive on Blu-ray Disc. Series One was first released by Network (in the UK) and A&E (in the States) back in 2010. But higher mastering costs for Series Two, and no small amount of difficulty in justifying paying those costs to complete the work, resulted in a delay of nearly five years. Now at last, Network has released Series Two in a fully restored and remastered Blu-ray set in the UK. Meanwhile, US fans are forced to continue waiting for an American distributor to step forward – more on that in a minute.
Given the long wait, and the degree to which we’ve pushed for it to happen here at The Digital Bits, we’ve decided to go ahead and review the UK Blu-ray release. American fans who choose to import this should know that the set is Region B locked, and that its SD content is in the PAL format customary for the UK. So you need to make sure that you have an all-region capable player and a display that can show PAL content.
Series Two of Space: 1999 is a very strange experience, as many of you already know. In some ways, it seems to have as much to do with Series One as Series One has to Gerry Anderson’s UFO (the series that preceded Space: 1999 and the cancellation of which led directly to Space: 1999 being developed). Fans for whom Series One was a rewardingly high-concept and thought-provoking viewing experience were justly horrified at Series Two’s descent into silly sci-fi tropes, rubber-suited monsters, and melodramatic histrionics of character and action.
On the one hand, the production design, visual effects work, and costumes were all greatly enhanced. But the script writing and intellectual tone were woefully dumbed down. The storytelling became pure camp, including moments of humor that were nowhere to be found in Season One – a kind of science fiction more appropriate to episodes of Lost in Space than Space: 1999. The show’s scientific heart, Victor Bergman (Barry Morse) was replaced with the glamorous and shape-shifting Maya (Catherine Shell), in a blatant attempt to boost ratings. The theme song was changed to a more up-tempo beat, the editing was flashier and faster. All of these changes were precipitated by ITC hiring the American Fred Freiberger to take over as the show’s producer. It’s interesting to watch this set’s extras and hear people talking about Freiberger’s work. Everyone seems to be putting on a positive face, and they’re quick to note what a very nice man he was. But his ideas about what made good science fiction television were rather seriously wanting. Space: 1999 became almost a parody of itself under his tenure. It’s worth noting that Freiberger was also the producer on the final season of TV’s Star Trek, which not coincidentally features its own inordinate number of ridiculously camp episodes.
Still, there are some interesting moments in Series Two. Its opening episode, The Metamorph, is a clear standout. The Bringers of Wonder, Parts 1 and 2, The Beta Cloud, and The Immunity Syndrome are solid. And as mentioned, good or not, the episodes are all gorgeous looking, with fantastic production design and visual effects work all around.
The 1080p HD video quality of Network’s Blu-ray presentation is also excellent. The episodes are all presented in the original full frame aspect ratio. Detail is exceptional, with rock solid contrast and appropriately vibrant colors. When push comes to shove, I’d have to say the video quality here is maybe even a hair better than that of Series One, probably owing to improvements in HD mastering technology in the past five years. The audio is once again available in all-new 5.1 DTS-HD MA mixes created from the original audio elements (the restoration of which was a factor in the release delay). As with Series One, the mixes aren’t exactly lively, but they are clear and atmospheric, with excellent dynamic range for a show of this vintage. In addition to the 5.1 option, you also have access to the original English 2.0 mono audio in Dolby Digital format, as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 music tracks. Optional subtitles are also available in English only.
In terms of content, here’s a disc by disc breakdown of what you get:
Disc One includes the episodes The Metamorph, The Exiles, One Moment of Humanity, All That Glisters, and Journey to Where, as well as video image galleries for each episode.
Disc Two includes the episodes The Taybor, The Rules of Luton, The Mark of Archanon, Brian the Brain, and New Adam New Eve, as well as video image galleries for each episode.
Disc Three includes the episodes Catacombs of the Moon, The AB Chrysalis, Seed of Destruction, The Beta Cloud, and Space Warp, as well as video image galleries for each episode.
Disc Four includes the episodes A Matter of Balance, The Bringers of Wonder: Parts 1 and 2, The Lambda Factor, and The Séance Spectre, as well as video image galleries for each episode.
Disc Five includes the episodes Dorzak, Devil’s Planet, The Immunity Syndrome, The Dorcons, Seed of Destruction, and Seed of Destruction: Season One Version (with a newly edited Barry Gray score), as well as video image galleries for each regular episode, plus video galleries of Promotional Images (2:54) and Models and Props (5:06).
And Disc Six includes bonus video features only, most in full HD (scanned from vintage film elements), among them Unexposed: Behind the Scenes of Series Two (25:07), Stock Footage Archive (46:02), Cosmos: 1999 (13:22), Martin Landau Interview (44:53), Outtake (:27), Promos and Trailers (10:43), Behind the Scenes: Model Shop (6:36), Clean Titles (4:01), Production Audio (sound rushes for The Taybor, The Rules of Luton, The March of Archanon, and Brian the Brain – 16-40 minutes each), and Archive Interviews (with Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Gerry Anderson, Catherine Schell, Keith Wilson, Brian Johnson, and Fred Freiberger – 4-5 minutes each).
Note that the set also includes a booklet of liner notes. And the discs’ animated menus are designed to simulate the Moonbase Alpha Command Center interface.
In terms of quality, this is all pretty good material and – like’s Network’s Series One release – it’s a lot more content than I would have expected. To start, the video image galleries for each episode run about 3-5 minutes each. Of the documentary featurettes, Unexposed is a strangely wonderful period piece produced by film students (with everyone smoking like crazy on camera). The Models and Props gallery is extremely cool to see, especially for fans of the show’s iconic Eagle Transporter spacecraft. The Stock Footage Archive is also very cool viewing, as it includes raw film footage (much of it unused) of various planetscapes, model shots, and background plates from the show. Cosmos: 1999 is a short 8mm stop-motion film that’s also rather cute, if low quality. And in his interview piece, Martin Landau reveals that he turned down the role of Spock in the original Star Trek (something I hadn’t heard before).
Really, the only bit of criticism I have about this set’s extras is that Message from Moonbase Alpha isn’t included. As fans will know, this was a 7-minute short produced in 1999 by fans of the show (starring series star Zienia Merton and written by series scribe Johnny Byrne) that revealed the ultimate fate of Moonbase Alpha and its inhabitants. This was available on the DVD Megaset release of Space: 1999, but apparently the rights couldn’t be obtained for its inclusion here which is a shame. (Our recommendation would be to keep the US DVD Bonus Disc that includes it if you have it.)
Shortcomings aside, it’s a thrill to finally be able to own the complete Space: 1999 TV series in high-quality on Blu-ray Disc… even if it is the UK Region B release. Our hope is that US fans will get share in this experience in 2016 (we have a bit of information that seems to indicate the US distribution rights to Series Two expire fully at the end of 2015, which would mean a new distributor could finally acquire them. (The likeliest suspect is Shout! Factory, which already has a US distribution deal with ITV for many other Gerry Anderson properties.) In any case, I think it’s safe to say that the patience of fans of Space: 1999 has been justly rewarded with this BD release. Away all Eagles and enjoy!
- Bill Hunt