Space Precinct: The Complete Series
Studio: Image Entertainment
US Rating: Not Rated
Film Length: 17 Hours 43 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Release Date: November 23, 2010
Review Date: November 28, 2010
“The name's Brogan, Lieutenant Brogan. Twenty years I was with the NYPD. Now… well let’s just say I've transferred to another precinct…”
Space Precinct has fervent fans and this release will be a welcomed event. Though short-lived, this British science-fiction series from the legendary creator of Space: 1999, Thunderbirds, and UFO, sought to meld the miniature visual effects style notorious in Gerry Anderson productions, with accessible morality tales and defined notions of good versus evil. Gerry Anderson originally produced a pilot in 1986 called Space Police (that title was changed for this series to avoid issues with the Dutch toy line called Space Police), but was never picked up. Then, in 1994, the satellite television carrier in the UK, Sky, broadcast this strange blend of rugged New York cop show drama, acceptable cheesy children’s show silliness, and a full-dedication to puppetry and prosthetic make-up and alien characters. The results are interesting.
The Show: 3 out of 5
The year is 2040, and two former New York Police Department detectives have been transferred halfway across the galaxy to serve and protect the city of Demeter, an industrialized NYC style spread of buildings, crime, civilians, and danger, on the planet Altor. The two officers, Lieutenant Patrick Brogan (Ted Shackleford) and Jack Haldane (Rob Youngblood), are not the most tolerant of the diversity of alien cultures and species they encounter, despite serving alongside a variety of species and even reporting to a gruff police captain of another species. They encounter a smorgasbord of crime, from the mundane trafficking of drugs and precious metal bank robberies, to the more exotic murders by mind-control and fire-worshippers, and each week they must fight, chase, and outsmart their enemies in an attempt to bring law to the city.
Lt. Brogan is married with children, Haldane is a wannabe ladies’ man, and the drama and humor fed from their respective personal lives dynamic is relatively stock. Brogan’s loving wife, somewhat rebellious son, and innocent and well behaved daughter provide a standard source of material to play counter-point to the crime of the week, and Haldane’s borderline narcissism and propensity to sling a cheese ball pick up line are all-too familiar. So is this show any good? Well, there are two answers to that question.
Fans of Gerry Anderson’s creations will relish in the simplicity of the characters, and will cleave to the favor provided scale models and vehicular puppetry, and the tendency to explore entry-level tales of morality neatly wrapped in a crime procedural bathed in the police show paradigm from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. The second answer is that those seeking something better defined – more clearly aware of who its audience is or should be, will quite likely find it tough to know whether to appreciate the simplicity of acting and clearly children oriented approach, or be able buy in to the often more adult oriented plotting aligned with those crime procedurals that clearly served as partial inspiration to Gerry Anderson. The plethora of British actors providing American accents for various criminal and good-guy sorts can also prove a tad distracting.
But here’s the funny thing. I liked this show. Despite all the ways this show is flawed, and all the reasons that this show likely failed to find and audience big enough outside of Europe to secure a second season, the earnestness with which the stories are presented, with some genuinely good prosthetic and puppetry effects (something that is all but a forgotten art), there is entertainment here. In some ways, this show foreshadowed the successful Jim Henson series, Farscape – in some very elemental ways at least – and can easily be enjoyed for its science-fiction, action-adventure construct, and imagination.
01 Protect And Survive
03 Body And Soul
04 Double Duty
05 The Snake
06 Time To Kill
08 Seek And Destroy
09 The Power
11 Divided We Stand
12 Two Against The Rock
14 Predator And Prey
15 The Witness
16 Hate Street
18 Smelter Skelter
20 The Fire Within: Part 1
21 The Fire Within: Part 2
22 The Forever Beetle
23 Deathwatch: Part 1
24 Deathwatch: Part 2
The Video: 2 out of 5
There’s no good way to say this; the image looks terrible. All 24 episodes are presented on 5 discs their original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the image quality is murky, muddy, soft, and generally weak in all the ways that matter. It is clear than no clean-up effort has been made for this release, and given the lower than typical sales potential, that isn’t surprising, but the quality will disappoint fans hoping to significantly upgrade from their VHS collections. It is better than VHS, of course, but some cursory restorative efforts would have gone along way.
The Sound: 3.5 out of 5
Presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio track, the sound on this release is better than expected. While clearly there is no directional sound, the surrounds to contain quite a bit of activity – mainly sound effects from the flying squad cars, the thrusters on the space precinct (used in a couple of episodes), and a number of explosions. The audio in the front and center channels isn’t the most precise, but carries the dialogue, music, and general action adequately.
The Extras:No Stars
Fans of the series will delight in this complete series release. While it isn’t the best presentation of the series possible, rare and hard to find shows coming to DVD is surely something to celebrate. Rather than an intellectually stimulating show, Space Precinct is easy fun. As a fan of Thunderbirds when I was a child, the vehicular puppetry and model landscapes are fun to watch, and while advances in visual and special effects have rendered this form of effect moot today, there is a distinct charm there.
The level of complexity in the alien characters should be admired, and though this show’s reach outpaces its grasp, it is hard to not be impressed by what is attempted, and find some appeal in what is accomplished.
Overall Score 3 out of 5