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Space: 1999
Season 1 on Blu-ray

Many of you are simply too young to remember the year our moon left orbit and shot out into space.  Sure, using the dark side of moon as a dumping ground for our nuclear waste seemed like a good idea at the time, but who could foresee the disaster in waiting.  We lost the moon, Moonbase Alpha, and all the Alphans living there. 

Sure, the new moon Haliburton installed during the Bush administration is fine, and does a great job keeping the tides going, but it’s nice to be able to reflect on our original satellite and the adventures we must assume are still going on more than a decade later...

In any case, the adventures have been collected and restored as a cautionary tale for a new generation.

Space:1999 was the 1975 follow up to the short-lived UFO series, created by the Supermarination duo Garry and Sylvia Anderson.  Produced in the U.K, with the US syndication market in mind, it was squarely targeted at both fans of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Star Trek. The episodes revolve around the now-spacefaring moon, and the adventures of a small group of scientists that were stationed there when it left our solar system. 

There’s a dismissal of a number of obvious problems, primary among them how a moon could move fast enough through space to visit other solar systems on a regular basis, and apparently slow down enough to let the Alphans jump over to Earth-like locales to have adventures before having to leave and travel onwards.  You simply have to get past that to enjoy the weird and often wonderful stories they have to tell.

Borrowing heavily from the designs of 2001, the space suits, vehicles, gadgets, and moon base interiors were all true to technology and products that were feasible if not actually in use in the late ‘70’s. Personal video communicators, think iPhone Face Time, were in use both within the base and on missions.  In fact, the show’s engineers had to develop new cutting-edge technology to film the video monitors while eliminating the visual “roll” that is often seen due to refresh sync problems.  Unisex uniforms developed for the show (complete with an unexplained oversized zipper that oddly ran down one sleeve) foreshadowed similar designs eventually used in 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Anyone notice the number of colons used in ‘70’s sci fi show titles?  Yeah, it’s weird.

The first season of shows focused on the team getting oriented in their new situation, while dealing with encounters with other civilizations and menaces.  Obviously targeted at the Trek fan, the story lines did vary quite a bit, but typically stayed serious: there are no “fun” episodes, no great humorous lines to repeat.   But that’s pretty much British TV in the ‘70s; the stories were good enough, and the effects were great for the time. 

The main characters of the show are the ex-Mission Impossible husband and wife team of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain.  While both are American, the one complaint that could be lain here is their acting is as stiff as is typically associated with British sci-fi actors of the period.

In Star Trek fashion many episodes pivot on their characters, but luckily there’s a rich cast of other primary characters to bolster the variety of tales.  The second season introduced two younger characters, a “hot metamorph” played by Catherine Schell and an action figure pilot played by Tony Anholt.  Here, Schell stars in the first season episode “Guardian of Piri," but not as the hot metamorph; that all awaits in the next collection. 

As to this collection, it is amazing how well much of this stands up over 30 years later (or is that eleven years later?) using non-digital model and very simple in-camera effects.  It’s worth mentioning that the Blu-ray clarity is stunning. The direct HD transfers (as opposed to cleaned-up digital work) is a very big selling point for this collection.

The stories are good, definitely evoking strong nostalgia for those who remember watching, and are a good set of stories for new viewers.  The supplemental information is full of great tidbits and facts about the production.  Many episodes have complete mini-documentaries that can be consumed like popcorn; “I’ll just watch one more...”

Space: 1999: The Complete Season One [Blu-ray]

Ric Bretschneider

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