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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Space: 1999 Season One - Highly Recommended

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#1 of 16 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

Kevin EK

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Posted December 22 2010 - 03:26 PM

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SPACE: 1999

YEAR ONE


US Blu-ray Distributor: A&E

Original Airing: 1975-1976

Length: 24 episodes (20 hours, 48 mins)

Genre:  Science Fiction


BD Resolution: 1080p  (4:3 Aspect Ratio)

BD Video Codec: AVC @ 22 mbps

Color/B&W: Color


Audio:

English DTS 5.1  @ 755 kbps



Subtitles: None

Rating: Unrated (TV-safe action, Some Intense and Scary Images)


Release Date:  December 14, 2010


Rating: 3  

Starring: Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Barry Morse, Prentis Hancock, Nick Tate, Zienia Merton, Clifton Jones and Anton Phillips


Creator/Executive Producer: Gerry Anderson

Producer:  Sylvia Anderson

Written by: Various, Supervised by Chris Penfold and Johnny Byrne

Directed by: Various, Including Lee H. Katzin, Charles Crichton, Ray Austin, David Tomblin, and Bob Kellett



Space: 1999 finally arrives on Blu-ray in the United States with this 7-disc set that presents all 24 episodes of the first season of the program in lovely high definition picture transfers, along with a generous helping of extras, mostly culled from the 2005 Network DVD released in the UK.   Before I say anything else, I must first note that this set is a true gift to fans of this series and is an easy recommendation for purchase. 


Looking back to the history of Space: 1999, it’s hard to believe that it originally premiered on US television more than 35 years ago.  I remember watching episodes of the show when they would air on channel 9 in Los Angeles in 1975 and 1976.  I vividly recall seeing the episode “Dragon’s Domain” and being terrified by it as a child.  I also recall seeing the episode “Another Time, Another Place” and being both scared by some of the imagery and captivated by other moments.  


Space: 1999 was created from the ashes of Gerry Anderson’s earlier series UFO.   As is recounted in several places on this disc set, Anderson was already in preparation for a second season (or series, as they are reckoned in the UK) of UFO, with a larger, more expensive moonbase and a more ambitious plan.  When UFO was cancelled, Lew Grade of ITC and Abe Mandell approved Anderson’s idea of converting the plan to a new series concept, with the proviso that no scenes could take place on Earth.  Anderson went with the idea of having the moon blasted out of Earth orbit in the first episode, thus setting the stage for some truly bizarre adventures.   The tone of the first year of the show was modulated more along the lines of 2001: A Space Odyssey than on Star Trek, which led to many episodes having a more philosophical approach, a slower pace and a greater emphasis on spectacle and design.  Many episodes in the first season had a truly gothic approach, with moments of almost ghoulish horror popping up in surprising ways.  This wasn’t the conventional sci-fi approach of rubber-suited monsters (although one pretty scary monster does appear in “Dragon’s Domain”) but a more philosophical approach to man’s fears of death and the unknown.   The somber tone of the first year was buttressed by Barry Gray’s music, which mostly takes a classical approach in the five-plus scores he contributed.  Of course, the main theme for the series contrasts this classical approach with a performance by Vic Elmes on electric guitar that firmly bases the series in the 1970s.  The opening titles of each episode, modeled after earlier Gerry Anderson productions, show multiple quick cuts of the upcoming show, as Elmes’ guitar work plays and in between blue flash cards reading “This Episode.”  (This approach would more recently be adopted by Ron Moore for his updated take on Battlestar Galactica.)  The cast is led by Martin Landau as Commander John Koenig and Barbara Bain as Doctor Helena Russell, both contributing fairly chilly performances overall.  (To be fair, Landau’s performances are also marked by moments of sudden rage.)  The first 24 episodes took over a year to complete, starting in late 1973 with the pilot episode and finishing up in early 1975 with the last one.  The first episode alone took nearly a month to film, indicating a significant amount of time and money was spent on this program.  (The second season, supervised by American producer Fred Frieberger, would take a completely different approach in terms of both the tone and the production methods.)


There have been many criticisms of Space: 1999, for the dated guitar music, for the slow pacing, for the pretentiousness of some of its concepts, for the wooden acting seen in various parts, etc.  The fact remains that this is not Star Trek, nor is it meant to be.  It is a decidedly British program, albeit with two American lead performers appearing in it.   I have to acknowledge that many of the situations presented in the series go beyond simply being “fantastic” or “high concept”.  The idea that the moon could somehow be blasted out of orbit like this is an incredible leap to ask an audience to make.  Many of the episodes present scenarios that are flat-out impossible.  And even within episodes, there are incredible leaps of logic where things go far beyond what an audience can be expected to swallow.  Yet, there is an underlying logic at work here.  I think of it as a kind of dream logic – the logic that can allow us in our dreams to make connections between concepts and events that wouldn’t necessarily work if we thought about them in the cold light of day.   I’ve thought for a long time that the best environment to watch Space: 1999 is in the middle of the night, at the point where you’re just starting to get sleepy, and you’re not likely to question things too much.  If you think of many of these episodes as tone poems of a sort, or as dreams or nightmares, they do actually make sense.  (And I’m delighted that in one of the expanded featurettes included here, Johnny Byrne acknowledges just that concept as the basis for his writing on the show.)


We should take a moment to review the history of Space: 1999 on DVD, as it will make clear how much of a gift this Blu-ray set really is, as well as what elements have not been included.  Roughly ten years ago, as DVD really started to flourish, Space: 1999 was brought out in 6-episode sets in the US by A&E.  Extras were sparse, and the picture quality was not the greatest, but at least we were able to see the episodes uncut – something I had last been able to do when a PBS station in Northern California aired them in the early 1990s.  At the same time, Carlton released the episodes in the UK, with roughly the same picture quality, but a much more generous helping of extras.  When all the episodes of both years of the show had been released, A&E released a “Megaset” in the US, this time including a Bonus Disc, specially prepared with a few choice extras.  This Bonus Disc included three episodes with redone transfers – “Death’s Other Dominion”, “Dragon’s Domain”, and “The Testament of Arkadia”, with each episode also featuring a commentary to boot.  “Death’s Other Dominion” had a commentary by Scott Michael Bosco, “Dragon’s Domain” had one with writers Chris Penfold and Johnny Byrne, and “The Testament of Arkadia” had a scalding talk with Sylvia Anderson, who pulled no punches in her description of the lead actors.  These commentaries unfortunately were recorded at a low level, making them harder to hear than I would prefer, and they are not scene-specific.  Instead, the participants just talk freely about the series, only occasionally referring to anything onscreen.  (Sylvia Anderson notes in her commentary that she’s actually recording it in the same dubbing theater where they used to do voiceovers and looping for the show back in the day.)   The Bonus Disc also included some material on the visual effects of the series, and as a gift to fans, the fan-made “Message from Moonbase” (written by Johnny Byrne to conclude the show on first-year terms).   Thankfully, A&E made this disc available separately in early 2003, at which point I was delighted to pick it up.   In 2005, Network DVD in the UK restored the 24 episodes of the first year in high definition and released a Special Edition set of 7 DVDs (6 discs for the episodes, and one disc loaded with special features, including multiple featurettes culled from the work of the Gerry Anderson fan group Fanderson, along with other goodies.  This Special Edition set also included two commentaries by Gerry Anderson, and two text commentaries on episodes, as well as a pair of commemorative booklets encompassing an episode guide and a production history of the show’s first year.  This set was only available in the UK.  Up to now, these new transfers and the special features were not provided to US fans of the show.


This year, both Network DVD and A&E announced Blu-ray releases of the first year of Space: 1999.  After a lot of speculation about what would or would not be included in the US set, we now know they are almost identical.  Both are 7 disc sets, including 5 Blu-ray discs holding the episodes, and 2 SD discs holding a passel of special features.  From what I can tell, the transfers on both Blu-ray sets are the high definition ones done by Network in 2005, only now for the first time, we can actually see them IN high definition.  I am standing by to receive a copy of the UK set to confirm this, but given the identical breakdown of the contents of each disc (with some very minor exceptions on the two SD discs), and given the presence of the Network logos before everything, I strongly believe that I am looking at an almost complete port-over of the UK materials in this set.   Which is, again, a true gift to the fans, who were essentially denied these materials for the past five years.  The only extras not included in the Blu-ray set are a 2 ½ minute segment on the Space: 1999 visual effects from the BBC series Horizon, a 30 second commercial for a Lyons Maid “ice lolly”, a reprint of the 2005 booklets, and some PDFs (of scripts, Annuals, a flyer and some episode synopses).  When you really think about it, the one thing I would have loved to have seen included is the booklet reprint – the rest of this stuff is pretty minor to me.


At the same time, I confess that I really wish A&E had included the commentaries from the Bonus Disc, as well as “Message from Moonbase Alpha”.  The Sylvia Anderson commentary alone would have been a priceless item to have in the package.


I will go through the materials here in some detail, but the short version is that I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this Blu-ray collection for purchase by fans of the series.


12/25/2010 POSTSCRIPT:  Having now received the UK Network edition, I can safely say that the picture and sound transfers are indeed identical between both US and UK Blu-ray editions.  The UK edition does have a booklet, containing most of the booklet content from the 2005 set (The Gerry Anderson introduction, the reprint of the Michael Richardson "Back to the Future" production history, the reprint of the Jonathan Wood remastering article) but not the ITC episode guide.   The UK edition has one additional extra (The Horizon VFX segment) on the 6th disc, one additional extra (the Lyons Maid spot) on the 7th disc, and the aforementioned PDFs on the 7th disc.  Everything else is identical, down to the menus on all the discs.   All the A&E Blu-rays add is an A&E logo before the Network logo on the discs, in place of the "Copyright Proprietor" warning found in the UK.


VIDEO QUALITY   4 ½/5

Space: 1999 is presented in a collection of 1080p AVC transfers that is literally a night and day difference from the transfers previously available in the US.  (To be clear, I did a direct comparison between the A&E DVDs from ten years ago, as well as with the redone transfers from the Bonus Disc, and with the UK set from 2005.)   The transfers on this Blu-ray set are from Network’s remastering project, but seeing them in 1080p is a jaw-dropping experience at times.  All sorts of details are now visible, from mascara over women’s eyes to the texture of the uniforms, even to levels of detail on the sets and in the visual effects photography.  (For example, when characters are approaching a closed double door in the base corridors, you can see a light magenta line at the door line.)  At the same time, these transfers are much, much brighter than the ones we have seen for years, and we can now see much farther into the sets and much more of the miniature photography details.   In some cases, this may not be as good of a thing as it sounds.  In several cases (particularly in “Dragon’s Domain”), miniature effects shots look very much like what they are, and we lose the sense of mass or density that was present in the lower resolution images.  In another case (again in “Dragon’s Domain”), what had been a moody, dark hospital room scene where Landau and Bain discuss a patient is now bright and full of light – so much so that the decal facings of the medical gear are now obvious.  Of course, I should also note that the series opening titles have been redone, using textless masters, so that the opening images of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain are much cleaner than anyone has seen them since the series first aired.  One other note – as Jonathan Wood has noted in his materials about the remastering project, the framing here is a little different from what viewers have seen from prior TV airings or SD DVDs.  It’s still in the correct 4:3 aspect ratio, as it should be, but the difference here is that we’re seeing a little more headroom, sideroom and legroom now.  According to Wood, the remastering people zoomed the image out a small amount when capturing the frames, trying to get as much picture information in as possible without including things like boom microphones or the unfinished edge of a set.  So you’ll be seeing more than you’ve seen before in almost every frame of every episode.   I should note that I am viewing this season set on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone with a  larger HDTV (60” or more) notices a problem with the picture quality, please comment within this thread.  I will update this review once I receive the UK Blu-ray, to confirm that the transfers are identical.  If I find this not to be the case, I’ll be the first to admit it.


12/25/10 UPDATE:  Having now received and gone through the UK Blu-ray edition, I can safely say that these are the same transfers on both US and UK editions.  The bitrates are identical, and the picture quality is essentially the same.  I think there may be a very slight variance in how a Blu-ray player may read the transfers, just due to the US edition being encoded for Region A, and the UK edition not being encoded for a Region, in spite of the packaging notes that it was supposed to be encoded for Region B.  In some spots, I could have sworn that a shot on the US edition had slightly deeper colors, but in other spots I could say the same about the UK edition.  But there is no doubt whatsoever that we are looking at the same transfers both in the US and the UK.



AUDIO QUALITY 4/5

Space: 1999 is presented in English DTS 5.1 mixes that I believe are based on the Dolby 5.1 mixes from the 2005 Network release.  I enjoyed these new mixes, in terms of some directionality and some atmospheric sounds.   (Helena’s typing at the beginning of “Dragon’s Domain” is clearly audible now.)  For people wanting the original mono tracks, those have been preserved here.  And as another bonus, just as in the 2005 Network release, Music-only tracks are available for all episodes except two.  (“Breakaway” and “Dragon’s Domain” feature Gerry Anderson commentaries instead.)



DISC BY DISC:

As I normally do with TV season sets, I think it will work better here to account for what can be found on each disc, in order. THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE AS WE GO THROUGH THE VARIOUS EPISODES.  Every episode except two (which will be noted) features a music-only audio track, in addition to the DTS 5.1 track and the original mono track.  The first five discs are all Blu-ray discs, and the final two are SD discs.



DISC ONE (BLU):


Episodes: 


Breakaway, with optional commentary by creator/executive producer Gerry Anderson -  This is the episode that establishes Moonbase Alpha, and stages the nuclear situation that throws the moon out of Earth orbit.   This is overall a fairly straightforward episode, particularly when compared to some of the wilder ideas that will come into play as the series develops.  The titles for this episode in the flash cut sequence are in lower-case, for the only time in the series.  Again, there is no music-only track for this episode due to the commentary, which comes from the 2005 Network set.


Matter of Life and Death –  The first proper episode of the series finds the Alphans encountering Helena Russell’s long-lost (and presumed dead) husband on a distant planet.  Comparisons have been made between this episode and the Tarkovsky film Solaris, given the similarities.  Things start to become strange almost immediately here, with the situation getting weirder and weirder until a complete deus-ex-machina ending that only makes sense in terms of dream logic.


Black Sun – This is considered one of the best episodes of the series, and it certainly has one of the more ambitious concepts.   Four years before the Disney film, the moon encounters a black hole, and the Alphans must figure out how or if they can survive it.   The second half of the episode is notable for an abstract discussion of physics and metaphysics that can spin your head completely around.  Barry Gray’s score here is a high point for him on the series.


Ring Around the Moon – This is not considered to be one of the more memorable episodes.  Helena is taken over by an alien force, and Koenig must negotiate with them to free her and the base.  If anything, this episode shows a similarity between how Koenig deals with this, and how James Kirk would likely have done things on Star Trek.  Just like Kirk, Koenig essentially talks a computer to death.


Earthbound – This is an interesting episode that deals with the first direct encounter between the Alphans and a group of visiting aliens.  Of course, the aliens are all presented as tall humanoids wearing metallic wigs, and the lead alien is played by Christopher Lee.  The episode features a particularly nasty ending for one character, presented in as lovingly ghoulish a manner as could be desired.

                   
This disc also contains:


Image Galleries – A series of photo galleries are presented here for all of the episodes on this disc, titled “Breakaway”,  “Breakaway PR and BTS”, “Matter of Life and Death”, “Matter of Life and Death BTS”, “Black Sun”, “Black Sun Ageing Process”, “Ring Around the Moon”, “Earthbound”, “Earthbound Lew Grade Visit”, and “Earthbound – Roy Dotrice ‘This Is Your Life’”.




DISC TWO (BLU):


Episodes:


Another Time, Another Place – This is an interesting concept episode where the moon goes through a space warp that causes the Alphans to encounter parallel versions of themselves on a parallel Earth.  This is the first episode to be directed by David Tomblin, working from a script by Johnny Byrne.  Judy Geeson turns in a good performance as a young Alphan who can’t take the strain of the situation.  Barry Gray’s score here is probably his best for the series.  The closing moments of the episode feature a great strings and harp piece that would be endlessly recycled for the rest of the season’s endings.


Missing Link – Here’s another abstract episode, in which Koenig’s consciousness is kidnapped after an Eagle crash, and he finds himself on an alien world in an experiment run by Peter Cushing (who wears the same wig sported by Christopher Lee…).


Guardian of Piri – This is essentially a replay of Star Trek’s “This Side of Paradise”, where the Alphans are seduced by a paradise-like planet and Koenig must bring them back to their senses.   The difference here is that the planet is presented in almost completely abstract terms of color and white balls.  Catherine Schell, later to star in the second year of the show as Maya, appears here as the beautiful Servant of the Guardian.


Force of Life – David Tomblin’s second directorial effort is this scary episode, in which a young Ian McShane plays an Alphan reactor technician who is taken over by an alien energy force.  There are some really creepy moments here, as McShane strides down corridors literally sucking all the energy out of the walls.  Typically for the series, the wrap-up does not evaluate whether the force was good or evil – only that it exists.


Alpha Child – Here’s another creepy episode, this time focusing on the first child born on Alpha.  And right after the birth, the boy suddenly ages 3 years and begins wandering the base, fixing everyone with a baleful look right out of The Omen.  By the time the inevitable alien forces arrive to correct things, the episode has long since stopped being all that scary.


This disc also contains:


Image Galleries – A series of photo galleries are presented here for all of the episodes on this disc, titled “Another Time, Another Place”,  “Missing Link”, “Guardian of Piri”, “Force of Life”, “Alpha Child”, and a “Generic and Portrait Gallery”.


 


DISC THREE (BLU):


Episodes-


The Last Sunset – In this episode, aliens provide an atmosphere on the moon so that the Alphans can potentially settle outside of the base (and also stay away from the aliens’ planet.)  Predictably, things go wrong with this scenario rather quickly, and some of the Alphans are stranded in a crashed Eagle away from the base.  There are no guest stars in this episode, which instead provides some bigger moments for the usual supporting cast.  This episode features a text commentary by Chris Bentley that is identical to the one found on the 2005 Network DVD set.


Voyager’s Return – Jeremy Kemp guest stars in this episode about the return of a potentially lethal interstellar probe from Earth.  There are some similarities between this episode and “The Conscience of the King” from Star Trek.  This is actually one of the more straightforward plots of the year, with a clear sense of what is going on at all times.


Collision Course– And we get back into abstract territory with this episode about the moon facing a collision with a massive planet.   The episode features a final performance by Margaret Leighton, who died very soon after filming her part.


Death’s Other Dominion – This episode features an Earth probe that has somehow adapted to near-immortal life on an ice planet.  Brian Blessed and John Shrapnel both turn in appropriately big performances as the key members of the expedition.  This is another episode with a gleefully ghoulish finale.  (This was one that sent me to the other room at the very end as a child…)


The Full Circle – I’ve never really known what to make of this strange episode, which contains a bizarre scenario and some truly creepy moments.  In the only location shoot of the first year, the Alphans encounter a planet where they revert to cavemen after walking through a strange mist.  Zienia Merton gets a lot to do in this episode as she is repeatedly chased and menaced by cavemen.  Barry Gray returns to contribute a percussion score for this one.


This disc also contains:


Image Galleries – A series of photo galleries are presented here for all of the episodes on this disc, titled “The Last Sunset”,  “Voyager’s Return”, “Collision Course”, “Death’s Other Dominion”, “The Full Circle”, and a gallery titled “BTS and Original Contact Sheets”.





DISC FOUR (BLU):


Episodes:


End of Eternity – This is one of the only episodes to feature a truly evil alien.  Peter Bowles guests as Balor, a powerful and immortal alien who nearly takes over the base.  There are some similarities to Star Trek’s Khan here, but this episode treats the matter in a far more abstract way.  Of note are the soundless bits where Balor throws security guards around to the tune of abstract wind instruments.


War Games – This is another episode where the Alphans face annihiliation only to have a massive deus-ex-machina ending fix everything.   This is one of the heavier visual effects episodes, for all the space combat scenes and the destruction of the moonbase.


The Last Enemy – This unusual episode finds the moon somehow being used by two alien races that are at war with each other.  It’s another heavy visual effects episode.


The Troubled Spirit – This is one of the creepiest episodes of the first year, apparently supervised rather closely by Sylvia Anderson.  In this one, an Alphan technician is haunted by a spectre killing those around him – apparently of his own ghost.  The technician is played by Italian actor Giancarlo Prete, the first of three Italians brought onto the series as part of a funding deal with RAI.


Space Brain – I can only describe this episode as being the one using Holst’s “Mars” in the score, and where Moonbase Alpha is inundated with killer foam!   This episode features a text commentary by Chris Bentley that is identical to the one found on the 2005 Network DVD.


This disc also contains:


Image Galleries – A series of photo galleries are presented here for all of the episodes on this disc, titled “End of Eternity”,  “End of Eternity Deleted Scene” (This has to do with a very bloody attack on Koenig edited from the finished episode), “War Games”, “The Last Enemy”, “The Troubled Spirit”, “Space Brain”, and two more galleries titled “Models and Model-Making” and “Storyboard Breakdown”.





DISC FIVE (BLU):


Episodes-


The Infernal Machine – Leo McKern guests as an alien scientist who has programmed his own personality into the computer that operates his vessel.  David Tomblin returns to direct this episode, which doesn’t make a lot of sense, but is oddly moving by the time it gets to its conclusion.


Mission of the Darians – This is the show’s take on the plane crash survivors in the Andes whose story became the book and film Alive.  Joan Collins guests as one of the aliens on a massive city ship that has come to grief over the course of its long voyage.


Dragon’s Domain, with optional commentary by Gerry Anderson – Possibly the scariest episode of the series, this episode features the one true monster of this year.  In another wild story leap, the episode presents a spaceship graveyard that somehow moves from Earth’s solar system to the farthest reaches of space so that an Alphan pilot who dealt with it before can face it once again.  Gianni Garko plays the pilot, and is the second of the Italian actors brought in under the RAI agreement.  This story was originally intended to feature series regular Nick Tate’s Alan Carter, but was changed to place the emphasis on Koenig instead.  This episode features the 2005 commentary by Gerry Anderson in place of the music-only track normally found on each episode.  This episode also features a great use of Albinoni’s Adagio over the footage of the doomed probe.


Testament of Arkadia – David Tomblin directs the final episode of the first year, which posits the notion that life on Earth began elsewhere, and implies that the point of the Alphans’ journey away from Earth was to come to this world and regenerate it.   At the close of the episode, which has been narrated throughout by Koenig as he writes his journal, Martin Landau literally closes the book on the season.  Orso Maria Guerrini guests as an Alphan, and is the final Italian actor brought in from the RAI agreement.  For some reason, the name of this episode is misspelled “Arcadia” on the front of the disc.


This disc is fairly well packed with extras, all of which are in HD:


The Metamorph – As a nice surprise, we are given the second season premiere of the show, in high definition.  Immediately taking a different tone and approach, the story here finds the Alphans at the mercy of an alien scientist (Brian Blessed) who wants to drain all their brains to restore life to his planet.  Thankfully, his shape-changing daughter Maya (Catherine Schell) comes to the Alphans’ aid.  Unlisted on the packaging or even on the front of the disc itself, the episode is presented here in a 1080p AVC picture transfer (@ 20 mbps) and 2.0 sound (@ 224 kbps).  The picture is noticeably better than that found on the A&E DVD from ten years back, but it’s not as dramatic a jump as the Year One episodes filling the rest of these discs.    Visual effects shots of lava exploding and boiling on the surface of Psychon show a LOT more detail, but at the same time, an early shot of an Eagle overtaken by a ball of green light shows its seams.  Comparing the sound to the earlier A&E DVD, I note that the bitrate is a little higher here.  (The earlier DVD had a sound bitrate of 192 kbps)   The only appreciable difference I noticed is that the music is a little lower in the mix.  Not enough to really change anything, but enough that I could just notice it.  Given that the tradeoff is a much nicer picture transfer, I’m certainly not complaining.


Bassett Sweet Cigarette Cards – Here’s a gallery of promotional cards for the show that came with Bassett Sweet cigarettes back in the day.


Donruss Chewing Gum Cards – Here’s a gallery of promotional cards included in Donruss gum packs back in the day.


Unfinished Opening Titles – (2:25 Total, 1080p, 2.0 Sound)  Here we have two passes at the textless opening titles of the show, presented in a 1080p AVC transfer.  The first version is without Barry Morse’s image in the titles, and the second version includes Morse.  When we get into the flash cut sequence, images are shown from multiple episodes, ranging from “Breakaway” to many others.


Textless End Titles – (0:32, 1080p, 2.0 Sound) And here we have the textless backgrounds for the closing titles of the show, presented in a 1080p AVC transfer.


Textless Episode Material (Mute) – (18:29 Total, 1080p) What we have here are textless shots from the beginnings and endings of several episodes, where credits would normally have been placed.

 
Image Galleries – A series of photo galleries are presented here for all of the year one episodes on this disc, titled “The Infernal Machine”,  Mission of the Darians” “Dragon’s Domain”, and “The Testament of Arkadia.”





DISC SIX (SD):


And now we really start to get into the special features and goodies, none of which have been available to US fans before.  Much of this material comes directly from the 2005 Network DVD set, but there are some new additions.  I will be specific as to all of this.



“These Episodes” Featurettes – (1:35:18 Total, 480p, FF) EXPANDED VERSION OF FEATURETTES ON 2005 NETWORK DVD – Produced by the guys at Fanderson under their Kindred banner, this is a collection of interview segments covering multiple episodes of the first year.  For the new release, they’ve gone back and included several more episodes than were found in the first go-round.  I’ll indicate which episodes have been added with an asterisk.  Episodes covered here are “Breakaway”, “Matter of Life and Death”*, “Black Sun”, “Another Time, Another Place”*, “Guardian of Piri”*, “Force of Life”*, “The Last Sunset”, “Voyager’s Return”*, “The Full Circle”, “War Games”, “The Troubled Spirit”, “Space Brain”, “Mission of the Darians”, “Dragon’s Domain” and “The Testament of Arkadia”.  As was pointed out by Kevin McCorry on the forum, the clips of the episodes under discussion have been replaced by SD downconversions of the new high definition masters done for the 2005 set.  The interviews date back to 2005, and were conducted with Gerry Anderson, Chris Penfold, Zienia Merton, David Lane, and the now-deceased Johnny Byrne, among others.  There are chapters built into this section, so that you can jump from episode to episode via that button.


Memories of Space– (7:16, 480p, FF) NEW FEATURETTE –  This is just a little more interview material with the 2005 group, offering some final thoughts about the series.


Sylvia Anderson Interview – (16:13, 480p, Anamorphic)  NEW INTERVIEW – Here we have excerpts from an interview with Sylvia Anderson wherein she discusses her experiences on several Gerry Anderson productions, including Doppleganger (Journey to the Far Side of the Sun), UFO, The Protectors, and, of course, Space: 1999.  (The Space: 1999 comments start up around the 6:19 mark)  There are no chapters within this section, so you’ll just have to fast forward if you want to skip the other sections.  Anderson’s comments here are right in line with the commentary she did a few years back for that Bonus Disc.  She spares nothing here in pillorying both Martin Landau and Barbara Bain.  And if you notice it, yes, that is really steam coming out of your television set…


Textless Generic Titles – (1:44, 480p, FF)  FROM THE 2005 DVD – Carried over from the 2005 Network set, this is one version of the textless opening titles used for the new masters.  From what I can see, this is a SD downconversion of the second “Unfinished Opening Title” option included on the 5th Blu-ray, meaning that this part of it includes Barry Morse’s image in the titles.


Space: 1999  Concept and Creation – (12:38, 480p, FF)  FROM THE 2005 DVD – Carried over from the 2005 Network set, this is actually an edit from the 1996 Fanderson Space: 1999 Documentary, including narration by Shane Rimmer and interviews with several principals including Gerry Anderson and Barry Morse about the creation of the show.


Space: 1999  SFX & Design – (16:52, 480p, FF)  FROM THE 2005 DVD – Carried over from the 2005 Network set, this is another edit from the 1996 Fanderson Space: 1999 Documentary, this time focusing on the visual effects work of Brian Johnson and the design work of Keith Wilson.  Both men are interviewed at length.




DISC SEVEN (SD):


Oh, you thought we were done?  Like the Ginsu Knife, but wait, there’s more…


Clapperboard Special on Gerry Anderson (1975) – (38:59 Total, 480p, FF) FROM THE 2005 DVD – Carried over from the 2005 Network set, this is a two-part British program focusing on Gerry Anderson.  The first part is mostly an interview with Anderson covering everything from his earlier “Supermarionation” work to Space: 1999.  The second part focuses more on the visual effects work of Brian Johnson.  This is an old piece of videotape, so the quality isn’t the greatest.  Sound is a little muffled.


Guardian of Piri Remembered – (1:36, 480p, Anamorphic) – FROM THE 2005 DVD – Carried over from the 2005 Network set, this is a quick interview snippet with Catherine Schell, in which she confides that the dress designed for her as the Servant of the Guardian was not exactly what she had in mind…


Barry Gray Theme Demo – (1:23, 480p, FF) FROM THE 2005 DVD – Carried over from the 2005 Network set, this is an old audio recording of a demo performance of the main title themed for the series, as played by Barry Gray on piano and Vic Elmes on electric guitar.


Alternate Opening/Closing Credits – (2:58, 480p, FF)  FROM THE 2005 DVD – Carried over from the 2005 Network set, this is an alternate version of the opening and closing titles for “Matter of Life and Death” using a different title screen, and a different font for the titles.


Martin Landau and Barbara Bain US Premiere Intro and Outro – (1:54, 480p, FF) – FROM THE 2005 DVD – Landau and Bain host the series premiere in 1975, talking up the visual effects of the show, and previewing the second episode to air, “Dragon’s Domain”.  (And I remember that episode airing second in Los Angeles as well.)  The videotape quality is poor, but it’s interesting to see both actors in civilian clothes and out of character.


SFX Plates and Deleted SFX Scenes – with Music Track – (11:41, 480p, FF) – FROM THE 2005 DVD - A series of visual effects shots and plates are presented to the tune of some Barry Gray score cues.  Some of these shots are common to the series, but others are new to my eye, including a shot of the moon passing Saturn and some alternate exterior moonbase shots.


Alien Attack Trailers (3) – (3:36 Total, 480p, FF) – FROM THE 2005 DVD – Three trailers for a compilation movie of two episodes of the first year are presented here.  (The eps are “Breakaway” and “War Games”)  From what I can tell, the episodes were edited together for a foreign theatrical release, and a couple of new scenes were filmed (in the late 1970s) involving the unseen Lunar Commission from “Breakaway”.DF


Journey Through The Black Sun Trailer – (1:53, 480p, FF) – FROM THE 2005 DVD - The trailer for a second compilation movie of two first year episodes is presented here.  This time, the episodes are “Collision Course” and “Black Sun”.


Ad Bumpers– (0:38 Total, 480p, FF) – FROM THE 2005 DVD – A series of quick commercial bumpers are presented here, showing a title card for the show backed with a quick blast of theme music.  The first two bumpers are for the first year, the second two bumpers are for the second year, and the final bumper is for Journey Through The Black Sun, for some reason.


Okay.  NOW we’re done with the special features.


There are no subtitles included here, which is one mild complaint I have with the package.  I always prefer to have subtitles, if it’s at all possible.   Standard chapter menus are not exactly included here – instead, each episode is itself a chapter.  There are chapters within each episode, but they are not itemized in a menu – which means you may have to hunt through an episode if you stop the disc and restart it later.  Personally, I find this kind of thing a bit annoying, but other viewers may be fine with it. The usual Blu-ray pop-up menus work fine.    And the main menu indicator of “Human Decision Required” is a nice touch, as is the use of Barry Gray scoring to background the ubiquitous Network logo.



IN THE END…


Space: 1999 gets a long overdue high definition release on Blu-ray that’s a true gift to the show’s fans, and an example of just how much can be done with even a 35 year old television series.  I could quibble about the absence of commentaries from the earlier A&E Bonus Disc, or some minor extras left off from the UK Blu-ray, but that’s avoiding the good news here.  This is a solid set of high definition picture transfers of this program, put together by people who clearly care about the show and its fans.  Once again, this collection is Highly Recommended.



Kevin Koster

December 22, 2010.

 


#2 of 16 OFFLINE   Nelson Au

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Posted December 22 2010 - 06:00 PM

Cool! Great review. I like how you characterize this series, as dream like. I'm still on disc one and about to see one of my favorite episodes, Earthbound. I never heard it described as ghoulish! :) I can see why you'd call it that! I'm very curious to know, when you get the UK set, whether they have the same transfers. I have to believe that they are!

#3 of 16 OFFLINE   Michael Rogers

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Posted December 23 2010 - 10:48 AM

It's been fun hearing the surround mixes on these shows. However, I wonder if others have noticed that some of them have a certain "harshness" where even some of the dialog has a somewhat distracting higher pitched effect that can grate a bit on your ears. I don't know if that's exactly how to describe it but I wonder if others have noticed this.



#4 of 16 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted December 24 2010 - 04:34 AM

I hadn't noticed that - but I have noticed that whenever Barbara Bain screams, that comes in at a REALLY high pitch.


I'm not sure if this sort of thing has anything to do with much of the show being shot at 25 fps due to the video monitors all over the base, but the sound being recorded at 24 fps and then slightly sped up.  (I may be getting the technical part of that backwards, I admit)



#5 of 16 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted December 25 2010 - 05:57 AM


I have now updated the review to reflect that I have received and evaluated the UK edition of the Blu-ray set.


For the record, I now have Limited Edition 0204, which shows a very colorful planet I don't remember the Alphans visiting...


The UK edition holds the same transfers as the US edition - the bitrates are identical, and the only variances I can see, which are truly minute, could be attributable to the different Region encoding, in my opinion.  The US edition is encoded for Region A, and the UK edition, despite notes on the packaging of being Region B coded, is actually not encoded for any Region.


I note that the US edition contains everything on each Blu-ray disc held on the UK edition, including the identical menus, transfers and features.  The difference is that when you spin up a UK Blu-ray, you initially get a British "Copyright Proprietor" warning before the Network logo appears to Barry Gray's music.  On the US edition, you get the A&E logo up front instead, and then the Network logo with the Barry Gray scoring. 

On the two SD discs, the menus are again identical, except that there are the two additional extras (both very brief) on the UK PAL discs, and the PDFs on the 7th UK disc.


So I think we can lay the issue to rest here - US customers have truly been given about as close of an identical release to the UK Blu-rays as was possible, and it's a wonderful gift for the fans of the show.  I'd like to think that the delay in the release date may have been to insure that this was the case - that by waiting a little longer to clear everything, A&E was able to include pretty much everything from the UK set. 



#6 of 16 OFFLINE   Nelson Au

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Posted December 25 2010 - 06:37 AM

Excellent news regarding the UK BD set being identical to the US set! Thanks Kevin. On the sound issue, I had wondered if it might be related to the speed variance between the UK PAL and US NTSC spec. Though I have not noticed the shrill sound yet. One thing I am noticing, because I had not watched this series in a while so closely, is how goofy the actors look when walking in the surface of the Moon trying to depict the lower gravity during Ring Around the Moon. They did it as well while walking around inside the alien ship on Earthbound when there was a vacuum inside still. But Keonig did ask Paul to somehow add atmosphere and gravity to the ship while it was still where it first landed out there on the lunar surface!

#7 of 16 OFFLINE   SWFF

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Posted December 31 2010 - 12:19 PM

I found these alternate opening sequences for Season Two on YouTube. Never knew they existed. Have a look:












And, here's the opening and end credits we all know that made the cut:







#8 of 16 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted December 31 2010 - 01:26 PM

Shawn, those are fun pieces.  The music comes from Derek Wadsworth's soundtrack CD set from the UK group Fanderson, which included alternate takes on the opening and closing themes.  When the music was condensed down to 1 CD for release by Silva Screen, they dropped these alternate takes from the group.  Pity.    (I must admit to having purchased the Fanderson CDs for both Series One and Series Two, for different reasons.  The music itself is a nice document of the show, and a clear indication of the changes between the first and second years.)



#9 of 16 OFFLINE   SWFF

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Posted December 31 2010 - 02:17 PM

More stuff I didn't know. I like the visual collage of the second alternate opening, now, all you have to do is fuse that with the music that made the cut and, I think, I'd almost prefer that opening to the one the show eventually got. By the way, I just got around to reading your assessment of the blu-ray, and, man, did they load that mother with extras. More importantly it looks like the colors on these new transfers pop, and the clarity?! Christ! And that they actually added a smidge of extra picture to all sides?! Jesus, Kevin! I gotta remember this set when I get a blu-ray player next Christmas. Though, I still think I'm gonna have to also, at some point, get that mega-set for those select season 2 eps I'll wanna keep, like the two-part, "BRINGERS OF WONDER".


And, for that special features DVD.


I'll admit I'm still a little peeved they couldn't crank out a standard DVD collection, but . . . oh, well. Would be pointless at this point anyway, since I'm only a year off from going blu.



#10 of 16 OFFLINE   AndyMcKinney

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Posted December 31 2010 - 04:13 PM



Originally Posted by SWFF 

More stuff I didn't know. I like the visual collage of the second alternate opening, now, all you have to do is fuse that with the music that made the cut and, I think, I'd almost prefer that opening to the one the show eventually got.

And, for that special features DVD.


I'll admit I'm still a little peeved they couldn't crank out a standard DVD collection, but . . . oh, well. Would be pointless at this point anyway, since I'm only a year off from going blu.



After looking at those "alternate" opening graphics, they look like something fan-made with modern technology to me, not a product of 1976. No way are those real. Part of the give-away (to me), besides the "too-smooth" moving text on the opening, but the smoothly rotating blueprint and, perhaps most-tellingly, the clips from middle-run episodes like Beta Cloud. Unlike year one, when all 24 were in the can , they were running really close on deadlines in year two. They were still shooting episodes while the second season was being transmitted.


Beta Cloud wasn't filmed until the last ween of July through 6th August of '76 (with additional sequences filmed in September). Film prints of the first few episodes will have likely been distributed to local TV stations beginning in late August. For that to have happened, the opening sequence would have had to be 'nailed down' before that and it would have been extremely unlikely they'd have had some creature footage from that episode to include in the main titles. If this is being passed off as a genuine "vintage" sequence, I call hoax.



Originally Posted by SWFF 

I'll admit I'm still a little peeved they couldn't crank out a standard DVD collection, but . . . oh, well. Would be pointless at this point anyway, since I'm only a year off from going blu.



Might not have happened here, but in the UK, Network re-released the remastered DVD set of year one, so there's a decent chance they might do a DVD set of year two.


If you're interested in a R2 PAL set of year one, let me know!



#11 of 16 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted December 31 2010 - 11:46 PM

I don't know about the video for the stuff on YouTube, but the music is genuinely alternate takes by Derek Wadsworth of the music he was writing for Series Two.


As for Network releasing Series Two on either SD DVD or Blu-ray, I believe they've confirmed that they do not intend to do so.  They had announced an SD special edition of the second year for 2007 when they released their 2005 set of the first year, but this set never materialized.  When they were asked this year about it, my recollection is that they stated there would be no such set.



#12 of 16 OFFLINE   SWFF

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Posted January 01 2011 - 03:16 AM

I was referring to Year One, when I mentioned I was peeved about it not getting a remastered standard release for region 1. I don't own a regionless player, yet, so . . .

Anyhow, did I get had on those videos I posted, or what? Them sonsabitches! Posted Image



#13 of 16 OFFLINE   JoshuaB.

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Posted January 01 2011 - 10:42 AM

After watching several episodes from the S1 blu-ray set (fantastic set, excellent AV quality, not unlike The Prisoner blu-ray set), I went back and watched some of the S2 episodes from the A&E sets (hard to believe many of us paid nearly $50 for 6 episodes a set). I still prefer the S1 episodes, but I enjoyed many of the episodes. The DVDs still look good on my 42" HDTV, but I'm now more inclined to buy a blu-ray set if one were to be released in the future by A&E. Yes, I think the show loses some of its uniqueness by reverting to an action-oriented Star Trek style, sans social commentary (and the Derek Wadsworth music is a steep decline compared to Barry Gray's scores), but there's still fun to be had (except for the episodes with the talking trees and living rocks, ugh)--Martin Landau does get a chance to lighten up ever-so-slightly (his acting in both seasons is still one of 1999's biggest weaknesses). If sales of S1 are good, here's hoping A&E spends the money on HD transfers for S2.



#14 of 16 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted March 13 2011 - 05:11 AM

FYI Amazon has Space 1999 Season One (Blu-ray) on sale for $41.99 if you haven't picked it up yet.



#15 of 16 OFFLINE   spacefan

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Posted April 01 2011 - 07:09 AM

There is quite a lot of talk about Season 2 coming to Blu-ray, but I'm not sure what the source is.


If true Network and A&E will hopefully make official announcements soon.



#16 of 16 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted April 02 2011 - 06:45 PM

I've also read the updates about Series Two coming to Blu-ray.  I'll be curious to see what exactly is involved, and when they think it would be ready.


I have a feeling that Network may have completed interview materials to cover both years when they did their 2005 set, but then never released the Series Two material since that DVD set never happened.  They could do so now.  I would also be curious to hear any commentaries, if any are possible for these episodes...


The sad thing is that so many of the principal people involved are no longer with us  (Johnny Byrne, Charles Crichton, Barry Morse, Tony Anholt, Fred Freiberger, etc).  I suppose that Gerry Anderson could do new commentaries about one or two Series Two episodes, like "The Metamorph" or "The Dorcons", to discuss what they were thinking at the time or how they were thinking of continuing the series before it was ended.  But it's a lot more likely that the set will only include HD transfers of the episodes with no additional material.