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Space:1999 Complete Series from SHOUT FACTORY!

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by ScottRE, Apr 11, 2019.

  1. AndyMcKinney

    AndyMcKinney Cinematographer

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    Two weeks were allotted for shooting the episodes (versus a 6 or 7 day shoot on Star Trek), so even without reshoots, overruns and the like, it would've taken 48 weeks just to shoot everything.

    Year One took even longer that that, though, because early on, Lee H. Katzin (who had been hired to be one of the main directors on the show) kept dragging his feet. He was very slow to get footage shot. The pilot took 23 days to shoot (almost twice as long as allotted) , and it was way overlong! They screened the pilot for ITC and everyone panicked. It was overlong and dull. Gerry Anderson had to go back, cut a bunch of stuff out (he had been a film editor at one time), then write new bridging sequences and take 3 more days to shoot new footage to make the episode come out at 50-ish minutes and still make sense. When the new version was shown, ITC basically said to Gerry, "you saved our bacon!"

    Anderson gave Katzin another chance (on "Black Sun"), but instead of the allotted two weeks, it took three-and-a-half weeks to shoot! After yet another overrun, they decided not to use him anymore.

    There was also a one-month break in June/July of 74, and a random week off here or there, but mostly, production kept to an episode every two weeks, for the most part.
     
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  2. Scott511

    Scott511 Second Unit

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    I remember reading somewhere, (maybe in Robert Vaughn's book) that he warned Landau & Bain that shooting episodes would take forever. That was just because of the way the days shooting schedule was lined with "tea breaks". He wasn't happy with how long it took to shoot 2 seasons of The Protectors. That coupled with everything that goes along with shooting a hour long sci-fi series, probably ensured a long schedule.
     
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  3. ScottRE

    ScottRE Supporting Actor

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    Apparently, nobody enjoyed making The Protectors. Vaughn was apparently a real D hole (his business partner was even worse), Nyree Dawn Porter had no respect for Anderson and Anderson was just kinda handed the series by Lew Grade. It wasn't his kinda show. Only Tony Anholt worked with Anderson again.

    I enjoyed The Protectors, it was a quick half hour nothing that was too short to be dull. Well, that's not true, The Adventurer was pretty lifeless. Or maybe that was just Gene Barry's boredom shining through. ITC wasn't making their best shows at that point. However, there was something charming about The Protectors, but there were some mysteries: why was the opening titles so dull? The only excitement came from he film and TV clips they put in between shots of Vaughn getting out of bed and feeding his green dog some eggs. Who was the silhouette supposed to represent? And why was the series called The Protectors...?
     
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  4. Scott511

    Scott511 Second Unit

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    Yep, I had heard that about Vaughn and his business partner, but I had not heard that about Porter.

    I liked it too, I bought a VEI set on the cheap thinking I wouldn't. Yes the opening credits are dull. There's nothing so great about the series, I'm not sure why I like it as much as I do...LOL. I will probably put it in my "watch once a year" pile.
     
  5. Philip Verdieck

    Philip Verdieck Supporting Actor

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    So what is the verdict on picking up a Blu version of Space 1999?

    It sounds like if you care about 5.1, you want the Network version.
    So do neither, have the extra content people wanted (Message/Movies)
     
  6. ScottRE

    ScottRE Supporting Actor

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    If you don’t care about the missing extras and are cool with the mono, pick it up. Surround sound on vintage series never sounds right to me anyway.

    My only issue is that while there is a Play All option, it doesn’t pick up where you left off if you stop midway. I’m not one to sit there for 4 hours and binge which makes Play All useless to me in this case.
     
  7. AndyMcKinney

    AndyMcKinney Cinematographer

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    Also, bear in mind that you must be able to play Region B-locked discs to even have the Network version as an option. Both their releases for Space: 1999 are region-locked.

    As I understand it, there were rights issues preventing Message from being used as an extra. Thank goodness I was able to purchase A&E's "Bonus Disc" DVD ala-carte when that was still an option.
     
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  8. ScottRE

    ScottRE Supporting Actor

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    Wasn't the first year region free on the Network release? And just the SD extras in PAL? Or am I confused - which is always a possibility...
     
  9. AndyMcKinney

    AndyMcKinney Cinematographer

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    You are right, Year One is Region A&B. Year Two (and the related show UFO, for that matter) is Region B locked.

    You are correct on the Year One bonus features (discs 6 and 7). Those discs are DVDs rather than blu-rays, and are PAL format, so you must be able to handle PAL DVDs to play the bonus features.
     
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  10. ScottRE

    ScottRE Supporting Actor

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    Sat through a bunch more episodes and while some were as fun as I remembered, others were just unwatchable. The one-two Freiberger punch of “The Beta Cloud” and “Space Warp” were mind-numbing. Just a lot of pointless running around with no real plot. Those are the episodes that bother me the most. It’s forgivable when an episode with a story just turns out poorly (“Catacombs of the Moon” or “Mark of Archanon”), but when something is just an excuse to fill an hour and save money, that’s when the Freiberger method pisses me off. He isn’t improving the series or making characters more human, he’s just filling an hour of screen time by having a monster chase Tony and Maya around Alpha or having Maya change from one monster to another while people chase her.

    So last night I begin “The Bringers of Wonder.” This episode, at least, has a decent plot and feels like it’s about something. It is firmly in the Feiberger mold, though, as characters who have been here from the beginning barely act like their year one versions. Koenig is wide-eyed and panic stricken when he should be more reserved and horrified (it's like he never saw a monster before). Much of the episode would have worked out the same if they toned him down a little. Having a commander who sees monsters instead of family and friends is just as nuts as a guy screaming his head off. Other lapses could have been avoided with a little care; such as having Alan call Erlich and Bartlett on his commlock on his way out the door would have made more sense than having to Nuclear Physicists conveniently bumming around commander center. If they had revealed some of these things as alien manipulations, it would have worked, but at this point, it felt like they were just grinding these out.

    Part two this evening, thankfully this is the final monster episode. I do love this one and have very fond memories of seeing it in movie firm on TV multiple times as Destination Moonbase-Alpha.
     
  11. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Lead Actor

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    So, I’ve been watching the show, the first season, and got to wondering about the science of it. There just seemed like a lot of things that didn’t make scientific sense, even given the state of science in the 70s. I googled “the science of space 1999,” and what did I find but an article in the New York Times from 1975 by none other than Issac Asimov! You probably need a Times subscription to see this since it’s from the archive but it’s very cool.

    PS Asimov, who liked the show, confirmed my fears about the show’s science, which is dicey at best.

    https://www.nytimes.com/1975/09/28/archives/is-space-1999-more-fi-than-sci-space-1999more-fi-than-sci.html
     
  12. ScottRE

    ScottRE Supporting Actor

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  13. Message #133 of 134 Oct 4, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2019
    ScottRE

    ScottRE Supporting Actor

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    Space: 1999 was really both the victim and beneficiary of timing. The victim because at that moment in time, absolutely every damned SF show was being compared to Star Trek. Beneficiary because SF fans were hungry for new product and 1999 initially had amazing ratings. But man, those Asimov articles were really indicative of the attitude of the day. Almost nobody was open to anything other than Trek and when 1999 year 2 came out, that's kind of what they got - and still people hated it. "Maya is a Spock rip-off!" they cried.

    When you look back on these old articles, especially the initial Starlog run, you can see how slavishly everyone was defending Trek and bashing everything else. 1999 was bad on science, but even Trek wasn't as amazing at the science as Roddenberry and Fontana were bragging. It was TV. Maybe the moon being blasted out of orbit couldn't have happened, but the way it was shown was pretty convincing.
     
  14. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    I thought I'd chime in, now that I've been able to come home from filming and go through the new Shout Factory set.

    For those who remember a few years back, I did the review here for the A&E Blu-ray set of Season(Series) One.
    I was particularly interested here to be able to see the new bonus content.
    I ordered the set with the snow globe, out of sheer nostalgia.

    As a little background, I have previously owned:

    -All four of the compilation movies
    -All of the A&E DVDs of Series One and Series Two
    -The Bonus A&E DVD
    -The Fanderson Space 1999 Documentary DVD
    -The Carlton Series One Region 2 DVDs with a little Bonus Content
    -The Network Series One Region 2 DVDs with Lots of Bonus Content (2005)
    -The A&E Series One Blu-ray Set (2010)
    -The Network Series One Blu-ray Set (2010)
    -The Network Series Two Region B Blu-ray Set with Some Bonus Content (2015)

    So I am familiar with the various different bonuses that have been available over the past 20+ years, and the differences between the various sets.

    I'll first say that the compilation movies really never impressed me that much. The two from Series One with the Sybil Danning intros were really odd pieces, and the two from Series Two had issues for me as well. While "Destination Moonbase Alpha" does essentially just have the "Bringers of Wonder" two parter, but with the opening and closing music replaced and odd stuff thrown on the front end. (Not to mention the cliffhanger and ending being truncated) So I'm not in any hurry to see those things again. They were really just a way to see episodes of the show when it wasn't available in syndication or on video anyway.

    Next, there is a considerable amount of other Bonus content that did not make it to the Shout Factory set, which thus requires me to hang on to the other Blu-ray sets for completion's sake. And there is additional Bonus content that never made it to the Blu-rays in the first place, such as "Message From Moonbase Alpha" and the commentaries from the Bonus A&E DVD. It's also instructive to be able to see the complete Fanderson documentary from the mid-90s as a complement to the Network interviews from 10 years later. So I need to hang on to that Bonus A&E DVD as well as the Fanderson DVD to boot.

    Third, there are some really strange oddities in the text on the packaging and in the mini-booklet inside. In addition to odd grammar mistakes, there's a commentary listed for Robert Meyer Burnett that does not actually appear anywhere in the package. (I'm told that he was meant to do one but that it simply didn't happen.) On the other hand, there is a commentary from Scott Michael Bosco that is NOT listed but can definitely be found on "Ring Around the Moon" from Series One. And there's the factor that you'd think someone would identify which episodes have commentaries in the booklet listing which eps are on each disc. And let's add that the booklet does not actually list what special features are on the Bonus Disc - just what the new ones are - and even there we have the mistaken listing of the Burnett commentary. There's also a fair amount of sloppiness in terms of what images have been chosen, and in how the various episode scenes have been used for the actual menus. (The Series Two menu screen is showing footage from Series One episodes...)


    All that being said, the most important thing to note about the Shout Factory set is that it's a pleasure to see the entire series presented in HD in good condition. As someone who has watched the prior Blu-ray sets, I can attest that we're looking at the same transfers. There are small quibbles we can make about the finer details in the transfers, as have been noted above. But these are the same HD transfers that were put together by Network first for Series One in the 2000s and then for Series Two within the last decade. And the episodes have solid mono soundtracks that work extremely well for each episode. The 5.1 tracks I'm not as certain about - I haven't spent time with those. My understanding is that there are issues with the 5.1 mixes - either because the new Network mixes weren't available or weren't handled correctly. I honestly don't know which, but this is not a deal breaker for me - I'm not in a rush to listen to manufactured surround mixes of these eps, and if I really need that, I can go to the prior Blus. I'm fine to watch these episode in HD with mono sound - and I continue to appreciate that Network made these newer transfers available for both Series. I realize again that there are quibbles, but this is honestly the best that the show has ever looked.


    Going into the production information, I'd also want to point out that the British shooting schedule would need to be longer than the American one, for multiple reasons. Under the British method of shooting, the shooting day would be shorter. And with things taking longer and less hours available to shoot, they would have actually had a more limited time than if they'd been in Los Angeles trying to film another episode of "Mission: Impossible" at Desilu. We are also at this point missing some vital pieces of information about the production of Space: 1999 - only some of which have been available through the writings of Michael Richardson and in the interview materials presented in Robert Wood's unofficial "Destination: Moonbase Alpha" guide. (No relation to the compilation movie) As I've examined the materials available in the Fanderson, Network and A&E presentations, now coupled with the newest interviews and commentaries, it's struck me that we have a kaleidoscope of opinions about what happened during production but precious little that we can verify given that as of 2019, we've lost so many key players: Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson, Fred Freiberger, Johnny Byrne, Martin Landau, Tony Anholt, Zienia Merton, Barry Morse, David Tomblin, Lee H. Katzin, Charles Crichton and more. There are several stock stories that some of the key participants have regularly told over the decades that may or may not be completely true. Just one to keep in mind: The work of Lee H. Katzin, the American director hired to be a supervisor on the series, tasked with directing the pilot and key episodes, but sent back to the US after only two episodes. To hear Sylvia Anderson tell it, Katzin was pretentious (she called him "Lee Katzin the 3rd" in disdain) and oblivious to anything other than the whims of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. To hear Gerry Anderson tell it, Katzin was supposedly the greatest TV pilot director in America but in fact a lousy director who took too long on the initial episode "Breakaway" and delivered an unworkable, boring movie that generated a panic from ITC until Anderson himself made major cuts, rewrote sections and directed a bunch of material on the floor himself to rescue the show. We do know from multiple accounts that Katzin took a staggering amount of time to film the first episode, and that he would go over on his second episode, "Black Sun" as well. We know that Katzin was fired after both the pilot and "Black Sun" required reshoots to patch them together for presentation. But we don't know for certain that Katzin was supplanted by Gerry Anderson - all we have on that front is Anderson's word on it, and both of them have been deceased for years. We do have the recounting by Michael Richardson, which tells us that 3 days of reshoots were done for "Breakaway" and something for "Black Sun" as well, after which Katzin was severed from the company and sent back to the States. It's certainly possible that Anderson, himself a director, was the main voice during these shooting days. But my instincts say that it was Katzin who actually shot them, as he would have been fairly public if he felt he'd been supplanted on any of his work. Again, at this point, it's hard to be able to determine specifics.


    Looking at the new special features for the Shout Factory set, here's what we find:

    -New Barbara Bain Interview - Bain recounts a few stories from Series One, but pretty much all from her usual assortment of recollections, which have previously been presented on the various documentaries about the show. Bain repeats her anecdote about establishing a background for her character where Dr. Russell's father had been the one to cure cancer. She discusses the disastrous filming of "Space Brain" where the soap suds of foam overfilled the set and overwhelmed cast and crew before they heard the frustrated shouts of director Charles Crichton screaming "STOP THE FOAM!" Bain also discusses how she connected the show to fashion designer Rudy Gernreich and how he gave them the basic designs for the show. But that's about it. No discussion of Series Two, no discussion of "The Last Enemy", a story she is noted for having suggested, and no discussion of anything with any further depth.

    -New Nick Tate interview - Tate mostly repeats the same anecdotes that can be found in the Robert Wood book, but he does make the point about how Sylvia Anderson was the producer the cast preferred to talk to, while Gerry Anderson tended to be more stand-offish. But Tate has a big story about the involvement of the Italian production group RAI that doesn't line up with Sylvia Anderson's discussion or anyone else's. Tate's version has RAI involved while they were putting the series together, so that the chief pilot would be an Italian named Alfonse Catani - at least until Tate impressed Sylvia Anderson during a casting meeting and wound up going from the role of a doomed Eagle pilot to the role of the rechristened Alan Carter. From what I've read, they did intend to have a couple of Italian Main Mission staff and pilots, but I don't know that this was due to any deal with RAI. The production timeline that I've seen from Richardson's article would indicate that RAI didn't get involved until several episodes into filming, after which four Italian actors were cast and brought in. Tate does get into the story about "Dragon's Domain", where his spotlit role was taken from him so that the day could be saved by Koenig. Tate also gets into how he nearly wasn't back for Series Two - I would note that with Series Two, they added British actor Tony Anholt as Tony Verdeschi - which is likely the way they would have handled the Italian characters if they'd kept them for the original pilot.

    -New Kevin Connor Interview - Director Kevin Connor did two eps in Series Two ("Seed of Destruction" and "Brian the Brain"). He briefly discusses them, mostly just saying that the sets weren't very big, that he didn't have a lot of time and that the writing was pretty much worked out before he came in - so that he really didn't have a lot of room in which to move. He talks a bit about the details of filming these episodes - the mirrors in the cave for "Seed of Destruction" and the guy inside the robot for "Brian the Brain". Nothing really major comes from this - just the account of working for hire as a director on a 1970s television series.

    -New John Kenneth Muir Interview - Muir shows off a bunch of Space: 1999 toys he still has in what looks like an extensive collection of 1970s and 1980s ephemera. It's funny to watch today, although I do remember having a few of them as a kid way way back in the day.

    -New Anthony Taylor Commentaries for "Dragon's Domain" and "The Metamorph" - These are both interesting commentaries, filled with little details about the cast and shooting of each episode. Some of the material is obvious. Some of it sounds like it's been researched from dedicated websites like the Catacombs - particularly the details Taylor provides about the model work. There's also some good material about what the various patches on the uniforms mean, and about how some of the shots of models versus sets simply don't line up if you pay attention to them. I frankly wish Taylor could have done a few more, for both seasons.

    -New Scott Michael Bosco commentary for "Ring Around the Moon" - This was the one major problem I found in all the new bonus features. Beyond the issue of people retelling their old stories, Bosco actually offers some material that is shockingly questionable for someone who theoretically should know a LOT more about this series. Bosco starts with a fairly comprehensive discussion of the home video history of the series, and about how we got from poor copies of prints of episodes being used for videotapes to the current HD- sourced Blu-rays. But he then very quickly gets sidetracked into areas that really don't make sense. At one point, he takes a minute to celebrate Sylvia Anderson and denigrate Gerry Anderson in the same breath - referring to Gerry Anderson as a "bean counter" and as someone who tried to intimidate Sylvia into staying quiet about her contributions to the series after their divorce. He presents a near-angelic portrait of Sylvia Anderson that her own commentaries and interviews would bely. (Her commentary on the A&E Bonus disc pulls no punches in taking Landau and Bain down a few pegs, and her interview found on this Blu-ray set (ported from the 2010 Blus) rounds on cast members in multiple shows she produced with Gerry.) Bosco then offers his thought that Gene Roddenberry lifted his premise for Star Trek TMP from this episode of "Space: 1999" due to the show's similarity to 2001: A Space Odyssey and due to some of the plot elements being similar. (He never entertains the notion that Roddenberry was actually looking directly to 2001 and pulling plot elements from prior "Star Trek" episodes and established sci-fi tropes.) Bosco is of the opinion that various Series One ideas would be re-examined from a different perspective in Series Two - using a problematic example of comparing "The Troubled Spirit" with "The Rules of Luton" in terms of the sentient plants. I'm frankly not convinced - perhaps one could compare the ill-fated séance in the former episode with "The Séance Spectre" in Series Two, but even that is a bit of a reach. Bosco pushes it farther when he opines that the television series Battlestar Galactica is somehow actually a converted version of what could have been a 3rd Season for Space: 1999 - which is a theory that got a major "HUH? WHAT?" from me when I heard him announce it. Finally, Bosco offers that an appropriate ending for the series can be found in the closing moments of the Series Two episode "Journey to Where". Having re-watched that episode just to see what he was talking about, I can attest that this is not a well-founded argument, to say the least.


    I'm still delighted to have picked up this comprehensive set, but I do confess that I wish they'd done a bit more with the special features. At least, I wish they'd taken a little more time.
     

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