One of the fond memories of my childhood is that of me sneaking around and trying to watch Space 1999 late on Sunday nights. This was after the original run of the series on prime time, and it had gone into syndication. My mother did not allow me to stay up that late on a school night to watch the show, so I had to conceive of MANY creative ways in which to thwart my mother’s attempts to keep me from watching this show. While she was able to catch me many times and send me back to bed, there were enough instances where I did get to see enough episodes to fall in love with the series.
Previously, I have owned some DVD copies of the series, but was always a little let down and how underwhelming the series was when compared to modern shows. The colors were always washed out, and the sound was very tinny, as it was never meant to be played with a surround system. If you’re a fan of the show, and you currently own any of the previous DVD versions of this series, you will want to toss them after seeing 1999 on Blu-ray. I was not prepared for the crisp colorful images that began to flow across my screen after playing the pilot episode. The picture is truly stunning, and I would say that it even rivals that of the remastering of the Star Trek Original Series. On the old DVD’s the interior of Moonbase Alpha always seemed so bland and monochromatic. While there are still a lot of creams and whites around, you will now notice splashes of color all over the place in computer displays and flashing instrument panels.
In addition to a major improvement in picture quality, the sound remix is AMAZING!!!!! Of course this series was released long before people began to hook their TV’s up to surround systems, so on the original DVD’s the sound was much as I remembered hearing it on a small black and white TV in our living room. When the first explosion occurred in the pilot episode, I was very surprised to hear a deep bass coming from my subwoofer. Of course these sound effects have either been tweaked, or completely re-recorded for this hi-def release. If you prefer the original mono soundtracks, never fear, there is an option for that. While the original sound effects are really closer to my memories, the new surround effects really add to the enjoyment of this series.
OK, now for my biggest surprise. While I did love this series as a child, watching it on DVD was a little of a let down, because the special effects seemed very dated. I expected that any restoration in hi-def would only amplify what I remembered as cheesy effects. I was SHOCKED to see that the extra clear image provided by blu-ray really does 1999 a favor by showing the details of the models used for the special effects shots. This show was not an offshoot of Star Wars as some may think. 1999 came out a couple of years before Star Wars was released. While you may see an occasional wire attached to a character to help simulate the reduced gravity on the moon, the ability to see the details in the models is what really got me excited. High definition actually makes these models look more life-like. That was an unexpected treat with this new restoration.
Now we come to the star on the top of this wonderful package. In addition to some special features spread out over the 5 blu-ray discs in the set, there are also two DVD’s chocked full of extra features. Many of these features are released here for the first time in the US. There are audio commentaries, text commentaries, making-of featurettes, interviews, still photos, etc.
Bottom Line: If you enjoy good science fiction, and can overlook some conflicts with scientific reality, then take a step back in time and see what good TV was like 35 years ago. This set brings back so many good memories for me about my childhood. I remember all of the elaborate tricks I tried to play just to be able to see this show, and it brings a smile to my face now that I can pop in a disc anytime and watch this wonderful show in a way that is far better than anything I ever expected. Just in case I start to feel really nostalgic, I can switch on the mono sound track and sit up really close to the TV so my mother won’t hear. I swear that woman had bionic hearing!!! Oh yeah!!!!! Just one more plus to this new set……Instead of taking up several inches of shelf space for the DVD’s, you now get the entire first season in a nice shiny package that takes up less than one inch of shelf space.
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I have the first season BD box set in hand and have just finished watching “Breakaway”. You can actually see the grain in the fabric of their uniforms. Color has been restored, especially in the opening sequence. No more blurry back grounds. Main Mission looks fantastic. Wait until you see the restored detail of the Eagles!! Looking at the pilots through the cockpit window and the orange from the rocket motors is excellent. Sometimes, restoring a classic special effect show can bring out the flaws in the effects or production. Not so with this release. The audio, while it says 5.1 Dolby, actual decodes for me to DTS 5.1. I have only heard audio from the Left/Center/Right speakers. Maybe other episodes will provide surround rear audio. The audio is crisp and not compressed or distorted as are some of the episodes in the “Mega” set. While this an expensive set, it’s totally worth it!
Who knew bell bottoms would still be in fashion in 1999?
The Blu-ray edition of the first season of “Space:1999″ looks marvelous revealing details that were only hinted at on the DVD’s released in the U.S. (which were pulled from 16mm prints)in these digitally restored and cleaned up episodes pulled from the original 35mm negatives. The show looks marvelous very much comparable to the marked improvement that we saw with “Star Trek” when it was remastered for Blu-ray and the last round of DVDs (although both shows because they were shot in different decades look different).
FYI, I did note a glitch on the second episode of the series towards the conclusion where there’s a digital “skip”–I’m not sure if it was just on my edition or if it is a problem with the entire set due to some sort of manufacturing or encoding error. Strange though it may seem A&E elected not to include SDH captions. I would think they would realize that the audience for the show is skewed older than others and it might be useful to have these. Let’s hope that A&E realizes the error of their ways and corrects this by adding closed captioning because i for one would appreciate it.
A&E’s release uses the same digital masters for this set and while this set doesn’t include all of the original special features from the UK network release of the series, it does have the bulk of the special features carried over and but does contain two new commentary tracks on “Breakaway” and “Dragon’s Domain”.
The only things missing from this set compared to the UK set are the 19 script pdf files.
The premise–As the Earth plans its first major intergalatic flight to the planet Meta, there are strange things occurring on Moonbase Alpha. The astronauts including those training for the Meta mission are becoming ill. Commander Koenig (Martin Landau) arrives on Alpha to get the Meta mission back on track. Dr Helena Russell (Barbara Bain who seems as if she has had botox injected in her entire face)theorizes that some sort of radiation from the silos storing atomic waste is somehow damaging the brains of the astronauts but tests run by Professor Victor Bergman (the late Barry Morse best known prior to this for “The Fugitive”)indicate that radiation levels on the far side of the moon are normal. Koenig and his crew are pressured by Commissioner Simmonds to get the Meta ship launched. A magnetic storm generated by the atomic waste causes the Moon to be blown out of Earth orbit on an accelerating course out of the solar system forcing the Alpha crew to rely on each other as they make their way into the void.
Originally planned as the next season of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s “UFO” where the aliens tried to destroy Earth’s moonbase by blowing the Moon out orbit, “Space: 1999″ featured handsome production designs, top notch visual effects and production values and while the writing was flawed (and as been noted the “science” of the show could be silly)the show featured a top notch group of guest stars (Roy Dotrice, Christopher Lee (“Horror of Dracula”, “The Lord of the Rings”), Brian Blessed (“I Claudius”)among others)and some terrific lead actors (Martin Landau (“Mission:Impossible” the TV series, “North by Northwest” and an Oscar nominee for “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and winner for “Ed Wood”) and Barry Morse)that along with the direction helped carry the show through despite the flawed writing on the show. “Space: 1999″ is still entertaining due to the top notch production designs and the performances of most of the cast.
I much prefer the first season to the second season which lacked the sense of wonder that dominated the first season. Supervised by producer Fred Freiberger (“The Wild Wild West”, the third and final season of “Star Trek”)the second season moved the series in more of an action direction. One of the few things that Freiberger brought to the table was his character Maya (Catherine Schell)a metamorph who could change into any creature and became part of the Alpha crew.
This set is definitely worth upgrading for long time fans of the show as the image quality is dramatically improved.