Space: 1999: Series 1 (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Network
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (5th November 2010).
The Show

Space: 1999 (ITC, 1975-7): The Complete Series One>

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Having staked his claim in television history for his marionette-based series Fireball XL5 (AP Films/ITC, 1962), Stingray (AP Films/ITC, 1964-5) and Thunderbirds (AP Films/ITC, 1965-6), producer Gerry Anderson’s first 'live-action' science fiction series UFO (ITC/Century 21, 1970-1) had initially proven to be very popular in America, where for seventeen consecutive weeks it topped the ratings (O’Brien, 2000: 104). Based on the show’s early success, a second series of UFO was commissioned and entered pre-production. However, this second series was abruptly cancelled when American viewing figures went into sharp decline towards the end of the first series (ibid.). Anderson then developed Space: 1999 (ITC, 1975-7) as a way of using some of the resources gathered for the cancelled second series of UFO, including ‘a collection of unused story outlines and an expensive, now redundant [moonbase] set’ (ibid.; see also Sellers, 2006: 187, 189). UFO had featured two key types of stories: those predominantly set on Earth, and those predominantly set on the moon. In America, the Earth-based episodes of UFO were the least commercially successful; influenced by this, Abe Mandell (the American representative of ITC) demanded that Space: 1999 should have no Earth-based episodes. Mandell's demand resulted in Space: 1999’s central premise, in which the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha are spun out of the Earth’s orbit and into deep space (O'Brien, op cit.: 104; Sellers, op cit.: 189). Mandell also decreed that in order to appeal to American viewers, Space: 1999 should feature American lead actors; this resulted in the casting of Martin Landau (as John Koenig, the commander of Moonbase Alpha) and Barbara Bain (as Helena Russell, the outpost's chief medical officer) (Sellers, op cit.: 191).

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The cancellation of the second series of UFO may have been a bitter pill for Anderson: certainly, in the contextual material included in this Blu-Ray release of the first series of Space: 1999, Anderson expresses some distaste towards the apparently fickle demands of American audiences – or, more precisely, the bureaucrats who claim to be able to gauge the tastes of American audiences. In Anderson’s audio commentary for the episode 'Dragon's Domain', he notes that each episode of Space: 1999 was shot in around twenty days, and consequently 'it really was very difficult to take on board their [the American ITC advisors’] comments’, and in fact and sometimes their comments would be presented after an episode had been shot. Anderson also suggests that the series was pulled in many different directions by the demands made by the American representatives of ITC. According to Anderson, the production was visited by the Abe Mandell. Anderson and his crew showed the visitor three completed episodes, and ‘he came back absolutely white as a sheet [and said] “I’ve just seen three shows, Gerry, and there’s not one monster in any of them”’. The lack of monsters was a problem for the Mandell, because he claimed that commercially successful American shows featured monsters. Anderson subsequently ‘put monsters in some of the shows’. However, several months later Anderson showed three more episodes to Mandell, who then complained, ‘Gerry, you’ve got monsters in the shows’, arguing that ‘monsters are out of fashion now in America’. ‘I give that as an example of people who are trying to help, and well-meaning, can really damage a show’, Anderson claims, adding that today ‘I will not tolerate anybody giving advice or trying to help, and I make a stipulation that I’m the only one who can make decisions’.

Conceived as a half hour show but expanded into hour-length format, Space: 1999 also received some financing from the Italian television station RAI, who stipulated that the series must feature a number of Italian guest stars (for example, Gianni Garko appears in ‘Dragon’s Domain’) (see Sellers, op cit.: 194, 196). The series was expensive to produce, with each episode costing around three hundred thousand pounds and the cost of the first series spiralling to three and a half million pounds. In SF:UK: How British Science Fiction Changed the World, Daniel O’Brien notes that the series’ minimalist aesthetic appears to have been modelled on the look of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), ‘with clinical white-on-white sets’ (O’Brien, 2000: 105). Comparisons between Space: 1999 and the Kubrick film were unsurprising, considering the foregrounding of the work of the series' visual effects director, Brian Johnson – who had worked on 2001 (and would later function as the visual effects supervisor on Alien) but had also produced effects (under the name Brian Johncock) for Anderson's Thunderbirds. In the ‘Special Effects and Design’ featurette included on the sixth disc of this release, Johnson states that his aim was to 'do a feature film job on a television series', and he made an attempt to produce similar effects to those he used on 2001 at a much smaller cost.

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As with many science fiction shows of the 1960s and 1970s, Space: 1999 has some similarities with Star Trek (Desilu/Paramount, 1966-9). M Keith Booker (2004) has asserted that 'Space: 1999 has often been compared to Star Trek in the way its characters wander the universe, encountering strange, mysterious and often dangerous phenomena, at the same time thoughtfully exploring issues and ideas relevant to the lives of their real-life television audience' (79). Space: 1999 also shares similarities with Star Trek for 'the way the multiracial, international crew of the moon base projects a potential future of global cooperation' (ibid.: 80). However, this is in part due to the international financing behind the series: as noted above, although the series (and the cast) was predominantly British, American leads (Landau and Bain) were chosen to make the series more easy to market to audiences in the US, and the series' Italian backers demanded that at least some of the guest stars be Italian. Although in the years since its original broadcast, Space: 1999 has attracted a significant cult following, the (largely unfavourable) comparisons with Star Trek have haunted the series: as Booker notes, 'Space: 1999 has a reputation as the series that Star Trek fans, feeling that it unsuccessfully mimics their favorite program, love to hate' (ibid.: 80).

In SF:UK, Daniel O’Brien labels Space: 1999 as ‘a real puzzle of a series’ that failed to fully ignite the interest of ‘either science fiction enthusiasts or the general public’ (O'Brien, op cit.: 104.). O’Brien highlights the series ‘eclectic mix of story elements’ and claims that the programme lacks ‘a real sense of style or purpose, perhaps a reflection of the show’s hasty, stop-gap conception’ (ibid.). The first series of Space: 1999 was not particularly successful, and the second series was planned with a reduced schedule and a much smaller budget (ibid.: 106). This second series was overseen by American producer Fred Freiberger, who had also taken control of Star Trek (Desilu/Paramount, 1966-9) during its heavily-criticised third season. Freiberger reworked Space: 1999, making the series more action-oriented, commissioning Derek Wadsworth to write a new score (including a new main titles theme) for the series, removing several key characters (including Victor Bergman, played by Barry Morse) and replacing them with new characters, amongst them a shape-shifting alien named Maya (Catherine Schell) and a new human secondary lead, Tony Verdeschi (Tony Anholt). Freiberger’s philosophy was encapsulated in his repeated assertion, in relation to the character of Victor Bergman, that '[i]f you're going to have a professor, then have a young kid with a beard in there as the professor' (Freiberger, quoted in Sellers, 2006: 201). In his autobiography Pulling Faces, Making Noises (2004), Barry Morse has asserted that Freiberger 'was supposed to be representing American tastes insofar as the reception of Space: 1999 was concerned' (287). Freiberger’s attitude to the series was less than popular with many of the crew: Johnny Byrne, Space: 1999’s script editor, once claimed that 'Freiberger was a lovable, warm, generous man, but he should have been kept a million miles away from Space 1999' (Byrne, quoted in Sellers: 202).

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The first series of Space: 1999 has been seen as quite forward-thinking. For example, Barry Morse has commented that '[t]he roles of women […] were larger in Space: 1999 than in other science fiction series before or since, including Star Trek' (Morse, op cit.: 281). Space: 1999 also has a subtle ecological subtext that is planted in the first episode, ‘Breakaway’, and an anti-corporate stance that predates Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979) and other 1980s science fiction films such as RoboCop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987) and Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982). The accident that causes the moon (and the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha) to blast out of the Earth’s orbit is caused by the dumping of nuclear waste on the moon. As the episode opens, a number of the crew of Moonbase Alpha have been driven berserk by a virus which exhibits itself in symptoms similar to those experienced by sufferers of radiation sickness. The Earth-based corporation tries to silence the news of the deaths and virus: 'If one word or hint of failure leaks out, they'll immediately abandon their support for our project', a representative of the nameless corporation tells Koenig via videophone. When Koenig and Bergman surmise that the sickness is caused by magnetic energy at the site of one of the older nuclear waste dumps, Koenig concludes that ‘Now we’re sitting on the biggest bomb man’s ever made’. However, Koenig discovers that the representatives of the corporation that controls Moonbase Alpha are more concerned with staging an interplanetary expedition than precenting any more deaths amongst the Alphans. A huge explosion on one of the nuclear waste dumps sends the moon spinning out of Earth’s orbit, and when prompted 'Human decision required' by Alpha’s computer, which is unable to navigate a flight plan back into Earth's orbit, Koenig declares that 'As we are, we have power, environment, and therefore the possibility of survival. If we should try to improvise a return to Earth […] it is my belief that we would fail. Therefore, in my judgement, we do not try'. Anticipating the ‘media breaks’ used in RoboCop, ‘Breakaway’ concludes with a mock news item, watched by the crew of Moonbase Alpha, detailing the explosions on the moon and describing the earthquakes and other natural disasters that have followed on the surface of the Earth.

On the whole, Space: 1999’s stories, at least in its first series, are often philosophical and always thematically dark – especially in comparison with Star Trek’s optimism about the future. In ‘End of Eternity’, the Alphans discover an alien, Balor (Peter Bowles), in an asteroid three light years away from the nearest star system. When discovered by Koenig and his crew, Balor appears to be dead; however, in an expressionistic sequence (depicted silently and largely in slow-motion, with tense non-diegetic music), Balor revives in Alpha’s sick bay and attacks the Alphans in the area. After being confronted by Koenig, Balor reveals that he attacked the crew members out of self-defense, and he tells Koenig that on his planet, scientists have achieved immortality by ‘finding means to eliminate the aging process’ and hasten cell regeneration. ‘With nothing to strive for, our people became apathetic, corrupt. Our civilisation decayed, lost its purpose, became negative. When some of us realised what was happening, we tried to reverse the process; we tried to instil in our people the thought that only death gives a purpose to life, that a full response to life can only be measured against a fear of death. How can you value life if you do not fear death?’ Balor claims that his philosophy offered ‘a means to transcend the limitations of their human spirit’, and in response to this Balor was ‘shut in’ the asteroid ‘and cast out to suffer eternal solitude for what were considered my crimes’. However, Balor soon proves himself to be a megalomaniac who poses a threat to the crew of Moonbase Alpha. Like so many other episodes, ‘End of Eternity’ concludes with a moral epiphany that is stated overtly in the dialogue: after Koenig has tricked Balor into entering the airlock and blasted him onto the asteroid in which he was found, Russell declares that the Alphans ‘interfered with another people’s justice. We must learn to leave some things alone’. Elsewhere, in an exploration of another timely theme the series offers an allegorical representation of gender conflict in the era of the women’s lib movement: in ‘The Last Enemy’, the Alphans become involved in what appears to be a perpetual conflict between two planets that orbit the same star. Neither planet is visible to the other, existing in orbit on opposite sides of the same star; where one planet is populated entirely by women, the other planet is populated by men.

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In other episodes, the series traded metaphysical ponderings for gothic horror. ‘Dragon’s Domain’ features the Italian actor Gianni Garko as Tony Cellini. In an extended analepsis, it is revealed that Cellini was a former crewman of a 1996 expedition to the planet Ultra. In the orbit of Ultra, Cellini’s crew stumbled across a graveyard of derelict alien spacecraft. Docking with one of the craft, the crew of Cellini’s ship was confronted by a tentacled monster which hypnotized the crew and drew them into its gaping maw before regurgitating their charred remains in front of their colleagues – the creature's next victims. Cellini managed to escape and, the sole survivor of the mission to Ultra, was rescued by Koenig. Meanwhile, in the episode’s present, Moonbase Alpha encounters the same spaceship graveyard that the Ultra Probe’s crew discovered. In its extended analepsis and its overt examination of the importance of mythology (as outlined in the dialogue by Russell that closes the episode), the haunting ‘Dragon’s Domain’ shows evidence of the brand of gothic horror-influenced science fiction that was later popularised by Ridley Scott’s Alien; like the alien in Scott’s film, the creature in ‘Dragon’s Domain’ could best be described as Lovecraftian – it is an ancient, unknowable force. The episode also draws on Melville’s Moby Dick, with Cellini taking the role of Captain Ahab and the alien creature taking the role of the whale.

Barry Morse has suggested that the middling reception of the series in America may have been due to the worldview promoted by Space: 1999. Morse has suggested that 'I suppose it is true that the basic structuring of Moonbase Alpha was essentially socialistic, as opposed to militaristic. There was a sense of community among the crew of the Moonbase [….] It may be this sense of community gradually established among the Alphans was perhaps interpreted as being too socialistic by people in the United States who had control over the various networks' (Morse, op cit.: 281). Morse has also argued that the series was characterised by 'too much uniformity', suggesting that the characters 'were considerably lacking in individuality' (ibid.: 282). Others have cited the series' abstract qualities as the principal reason why the series was not a popular hit – something which Freiberger attempted to counteract in the second series. For example, M Keith Booker has stated that '[p]erhaps the wandering moon was meant to be taken as an allegory for human life as a whole, suggesting that we must all move through life come what may, but the lessons of this allegory remained unclear, if there were any lessons at all' (80-1). David Seed (2005) has suggested that the mid-Atlantic nature of the show acted as a hindrance to its success and prevented it from displaying a strong cultural identity: 'Produced when Britain no longer shared an equal relationship with America, Anderson's American-modeled and financed series [Space: 1999 and UFO], appear too abstracted from British cultural life. Although both series reflect the sombre mood of Britain in 1970s [sic], the future they show is not a British future' (297).

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Disc One:
‘Breakaway’
‘A Matter of Life and Death’
‘Black Sun’
‘Ring Around the Moon’
‘Earthbound’
Image Galleries:
‘Breakaway’
‘A Matter of Life and Death’
‘Black Sun’
‘Ring Around the Moon’
‘Earthbound’
Gerry Anderson commentary for ‘Breakaway’

Disc Two:
‘Another Time, Another Place’
‘Missing Link’
‘Guardian of Piri’
‘Force of Life’
‘Alpha Child’
Image galleries:
‘Another Time, Another Place’
‘Missing Link’
‘Guardian of Piri’
‘Force of Life’
‘Alpha Child’
Portrait galleries

Disc Three:
‘The Last Sunset’
‘Voyager’s Return’
‘Collision Course’
‘Death’s Other Dominion’
‘The Full Circle’
Image galleries:
‘The Last Sunset’
‘Voyager’s Return’
‘Collision Course’
‘Death’s Other Dominion’
‘The Full Circle’
‘Behind the Scenes’ galleries
Text commentary for ‘The Last Sunset’

Disc Four:
‘End of Eternity’ (52:05)
‘War Games’ (52:05)
‘The Last Enemy’ (52:05)
‘The Troubled Spirit’ (52:13)
‘Space Brain’ (52:07)
Image galleries:
‘The End of Eternity’ (3:06)
‘War Games’ (3:33)
‘The Last Enemy’ (2:45)
‘The Troubled Spirit’ (1:54)
‘Space Brain’ (0:54)
‘End of Eternity’ deleted scene (presented as stills) (0:51)
‘Models and Model-Making’ featurette (5:42)
‘Storyboard Breakdown’ (1:36)
Text commentary for ‘Space Brain’

Disc Five:
‘The Infernal Machine’ (52:09)
‘Mission of the Darians’ (52:06)
‘Dragon’s Domain’ (52:09)
‘The Testament of Arkadia’ (52:07)
Image galleries:
‘The Infernal Machine’ (2:15)
‘Mission of the Darians’ (3:21)
‘Dragon’s Domain’ (2:30)
‘The Testament of Arkadia’ (1:54)
Season two episode: ‘The Metamorph’ (51:00)
Bassett Sweet Cigarette Cards (stills) (5:12)
Donruss Chewing Gum Cards (stills) (3:33)
Unfinished opening titles (2:25)
Textless end titles (00:32)
Textless episode material (Mute) (18:29)
Gerry Anderson commentary for ‘Dragon’s Domain’

Disc Six (DVD format):
Special Features (with a 'Play All' option)
'These Episodes' featurettes (selected individual episode analysis) (95:18)
Sylvia Anderson interview (16:13)
Textless generic titles (1:44)
'Horizon' Behind the Scenes Footage (2:29)
Featurettes:
‘Concept and Creation’ (12:38)
‘Special Effects and Design’ (16:52)
'Memories of Space' (7:16)

Disc Seven (DVD format):
‘Clapperboard’ special on Gerry Anderson (edited to remove non-Anderson footage) (38:56)
‘Guardian of Piri Remembered’ (1:36)
‘Barry Gray’s Theme Demo’
Alternate opening and closing titles
1975 introduction to season one (with Landau and Bain), from US station KRON-TV
Effects plates and deleted effects scenes (silent, with music) (11:35)
Alien Attack’ trailer
‘Journey Through the Black Sun’ trailer
Break bumpers
Lyons Maid commercial
DVD-ROM material:
13 Script PDFS
Space: 1999 annual PDF

Please note that only discs four, five and six were available for review. Please also note that images are for illustration purposes only and are not intended to reflect the quality of this Blu-Ray release.

Video

The episodes are presented in their original broadcast screen ratio of 1.33:1, and the 1080p/AVC transfer is consistently crisp and film-like, with the natural grain structure of the image appearing to be intact. The release appears to use the same restored HD source as Network's 2005 DVD release of the first series of Space: 1999, which has also been used as the basis for DVD releases throughout a number of other territories (for example, by Beyond Home Video in Australia) and broadcast (in a 16:9 variant) on ITV-HD in 2006. Colours are consistent and the transfer capably handles the series' frequent juxtaposition of the sterile moonbase set and expressionistic outbursts of solid primary colour. Whilst the 2005 DVDs were very good, this Blu-Ray release shows a depth of field that was not present on the DVDs (most noticeable in 'End of Eternity', during the reverse tracking shots showing Balor's progress through Moonbase Alpha) and also appears to have more balanced contrast levels.

Audio

Audio is presented via the original two-channel mono track and a remixed DTS 5.1 track (48kHz). Although purists may prefer the mono track, which is relatively clear and problem free, the 5.1 track is also very effective: Barry Gray's exciting main theme sounds great in 5.1, which gives the music added 'punch' and makes good use of the channels. The 5.1 track is never 'showy' or gimmicky and sounds very clean, especially in direct comparison with the mono track.

Optional English subtitles are included.

Extras

Discs one to five contain a smattering of contextual material, and discs six and seven (presented in DVD format) contain the bulk of the 'extras' in this set.

Music only tracks, showcasing Barry Gray's scoring, are available for all of the episodes barring 'Breakaway'; each disc also contains a series of image galleries for the episodes contained on it.

Only discs four, five and six were available for review, and so I shall limit my detailed comments to the content of those specific discs.

Disc Four:
Text commentary for 'Space Brain'. This text commentary provides comment on the set decoration, differences between the script and the finished episode, the rewriting and reshooting of several scenes, details of production, the secondary cast. It is more of a trivia track than anything else.

Disc Five:
Gerry Anderson provides a commentary for ‘Dragon’s Domain’ on disc five. In this commentary, Anderson discusses the expensive nature of the series and the difficulties in constructing the sets, and claims that his use of ‘Lego-like components’ that made it easier to take the sets down and rebuild them again ‘worked very well’. This didn’t work for the episodes that featured alien planets though, which were more difficult to construct.

Anderson talks openly about his relationship with ITC and its New York subsidiary. He claims that the American employees of ITC ‘had a worrying task because what’s satisfactory in our country isn’t always satisfactory in America’. ‘One of the major problems, of course, was the British voices’, Anderson claims: ‘If we had an actor who spoke frightfully well […] that would be acceptable, but Cockney – unless it was driven to an extreme – was not acceptable in America [….] And also, of course, we had to be careful – and I particularly was very careful – to avoid mid-Atlantic accents. Those mid-Atlantic accents were unacceptable here, and equally unacceptable in the States’. Anderson provides a frank overview of some of the other issues he had with ITC's American representatives.

Discussing the importance of Barry Gray’s music, Anderson asserts that ‘Barry was always very helpful. He was a very clever man’. Anderson also discusses his first meeting with Gray, who was apparently offendedwhen Anderson once asked him if he could compose music: Gray was a composer who could play nine instruments but had been working principally as an orchestrator.

Anderson also provides a detailed discussion of the logistics of some of the effects and stunts featured in this episode. A warm and open commentator, Anderson is easy to listen to and his comments are frank and help the viewer to understand some of the issues faced by the series' cast and crew.

Disc Six (DVD format):
'These Episodes' Featurettes (95:18)
Detailed discussion of specific episodes, featuring Gerry Anderson, writers Johnny Byrne and Christopher Penfold, and actress Zienia Merton. The episodes discussed 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'. There is no option on the DVD menu to play these featurettes individually.

In these featurettes, Byrne reflects on the 'lean patch' experienced by the film industry in the mid-1970s and his excitement at being informed that the series was going to be produced, and there is some comment (by Christopher Penfold) on the concept underpinning the episode, the launch of nuclear waste into space, that was topical at the time the episode was produced. Penfold discusses his working relationship with Byrne, and Anderson suggests that 'it has always been a particular problem for me' to find a writer who shares his interests and is empathetic to his worldview.

Byrne suggests that the 'all action title sequence' was a trademark of Anderson's shows: 'he felt that you had to give people a taste of what was come […] and you had to make them feel excitement before they actually got to the show'.

Penfold claims that 'Breakaway' took longer to shoot than most of the other episodes. According to Anderson, the American backers stipulated that the pilot episode should be directed by an American, Lee H Katzin. Zienia Merton relays the story of Katzin's struggle to get the episode 'in the can', and Anderson claims that '[w]hen we cut the picture together, what should have been a one hour show ended up two hours'. Anderson discusses the difficulties of cutting the story back to 'the fifty minutes we required for a one hour slot'.

Reflecting on 'Matter of Life and Death', Johnny Byrne reveals that the credited co-writer, Art Wallace, 'was never present with me. I've never met him in my life'.

Discussing 'Black Sun', Anderson discusses the topicality of the episode and the debates raging about black holes during the mid-1970s, reminding us that they weren't accepted as a concept until the 1980s.

Penfold highlights the lack of 'love interest' in the series and the attempt to 'keep it at arm's length'.

Byrne discusses the development of Professor Bergman as the 'almost metaphysical nature of the stories and the problems' developed throughout the series: Bergman 'went back to the notion of the scientist savant'.

In relation to 'Another Time, Another Place', Anderson claims that '[t]he first season of Space: 1999 had a number of shows that dealt with the metaphysical aspects' of the series' central premise: 'These episodes made a major contribution to the programme because they were different', Anderson continues.

The episode also encourages reflection on Landau's performance as John Koenig and discussion of the ways in which Koenig and Bergman were designed to complement one another: we are told that 'Bergman was the other side of his [Koenig's] brain'.

Byrne suggests that this episode highights the way in which '[t]he whole experience takes on this thing which grows throughout many of the episodes, the feeling of a half-remembered dream. Did it happen or didn't it? In a more closed-down series, we wouldn't have been able to do this'.

Discussing 'Guardian of Piri', Penfold notes that '[s]eries one was a very successful collaboration both between the script department, and between Brian Johnson's special effects and Keith Wilson's production design'.

There is discussion of the process involved in the production design for the series, and Penfold claims that sometimes scripts would be developed on ideas presented 'by Keith Wilson's imagination'.

'The narrative of the episode is about the Alphans encounter with perfection and the realisation that when you get there, it's actually pretty boring', Penfold tells us: 'I suppose a central idea which I wanted to explore is the human aspiration to reach for a perfect life'.

The comments on 'Force of Life' mostly revolve around director David Tomlin's imprint on the show.

On 'The Last Sunset', Penfold states that he 'wanted to deal with the issue of homesickness' and suggests that 'I suppose that in “The Last Sunset” […] I may well have had in my mind the journey of the Israelites and the return to the Promised Land'.

The comments on 'Voyager's Return' focus on a discussion of Jeremy Kemp's character as like a 'tortured Nazi' or the men who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, caught up in the guilt of their technological developments.

'The Full Circle' is mainly discussed as the first episode directed by Bob Kellett, who in the words of Merton 'was brought in to kind of add new life and zest'.

Penfold reveals, in his discussion of 'War Games', that '[t]he vulnerable humanity of John Koenig, and of Helena Russell, was really written into the series from the start by George Bellak. I think, to a very considerable extent, that was what really attracted Martin Landau to the part'. Johnny Byrne adds that 'John Koenig was an instinctive man. He acted in instinctive ways. Humanity was instinctive; his response was instinctive – although he was obviously a technocratic man, running a base like that [Moonbase Alpha]. Whereas Helena had the ability to stand well back, and to pose problems and situations and solutions which were not always in keeping with her instinct'.

Discussing 'The Troubled Spirit', Anderson suggests that '[t]here is a school of thought which says, if you're going to make a television series, put it on the rails and keep it on the rails – don't let it veer this way or that way […] I don't observe that rule. I listen to an idea from a writer; and if it's good, I do it. It results in a variation, from episode to episode, which in my opinion […] I feel, that makes a show more real'.

Penfold reveals that 'Space Brain' was influenced by the astronomer Carl Sagen's idea that space could contain 'a multiplicity of lifeforms'.

Byrne claims that 'Mission of the Darians' was inspired by the Argentinian football team's plane crash in the Andes, as documented in Piers Paul Read's Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors (1974).

In relation to 'Dragon's Domain', Penfold claims that the story is an attempt 'to deal with the myth of St George and the dragon', and Penfold suggests that the story narrates Helena's journey from 'being super-rational' to being more open to other possibilities.

Finally, discussing 'The Testament of Arkadia' Byrne claims that as this episode was the last to be filmed, 'it had to be cheap' – due to most of the money having been spent earlier in the production of series'. Byrne took the use of narration from the earlier episode 'Dragon's Domain' and debunks the suggestion that the story was influenced by Von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods (1968), asserting that it's 'a story of people exploring their roots [….] a question of identity, a question of belief'.

'Memories of Space' featurette (7:16)
In this featurette focusing on the particpants' general reflections on the production of the series, Penfold suggests that '[o]ne of the attractions of the series, and one of the reasons why I think it endures, is because it doesn't have that slightly superhuman quality that Star Trek has. Alphans are not the masters of their universe'.

David Lane, supervising editor on the show, asserts that '[a]ll of Gerry's shows had legs. And I think they have legs because they were well made and he insisted on quality. Quality doesn't diminish with legs'. Anderson 'was always pushing the show to its limits as regards the cinematic look'.

Johnny Byrne reflects on the series, which provided him with his first experience of seeing a show in production.

Sylvia Anderson Interview (16:13)
In this candid interview, Sylvia Anderson discusses UFO, which she believes is an 'underrated' series. She argues that she 'treated it really, the costumes and the casting, as if I was dealing with puppets'. She discusses The Protectors, which seems to have been a difficult experience for her in which 'the fun and the enjoyment of it [producing for television] had gone'. Then, Sylvia talks about Space: 1999. She reveals that Lew Grade sent her and Gerry Anderson to America for casting. She claims that Bain and Landau 'were such a pain' and tried to 'tell everybody what to do'. She also says that 'they didn't have the best taste in the world'. Sylvia wanted someone 'really offbeat' and claims that Landau has 'since proved to be a good character actor [but] he was never a leading man. He didn't know how to walk; he was flat-footed; he had to be in every scene; he couldn't allow any actor to have any lines'. She suggests that Landau exhibited some diva-like behaviour, both on-set and off. 'Whereas the first series, I used to have very good script conferences [….] on the next series, Freiberger […] didn't, and so he got more and more outrageous; for me, it didn't work'.

Textless Generic Titles (1:44)
This is nothing other than a textless version of the titles sequence.

Horizon Behind the Scenes Footage (2:29)
A short vintage extract from the BBC series Horizon about the production of Space: 1999, this principally focuses on the show's special effects, showing the construction and use of the scale miniatures used in Space: 1999. It features an interview with Brian Johnson.

'Concept and Creation' featurette (12:38)
Produced in 1996, this featurette discusses the origin of Space: 1999 in the cancellation of UFO. Anderson claims that he was inspired by the 'great pollution problem on Earth'. Anderson also asserts that the American representatives of ITC claimed that it had to 'take place in space and not on Earth'. Anderson discusses the attempts to get Landau and Bain to star in the series, and Penfold suggests that as the base was 'a quasi-military base', the lead character had to be 'a quasi-military person'. Barry Morse discusses his character of Victor Bergman.

'Special Effects and Design' featurette (16:52)
Again produced in the 1990s, in this featurette Brian Johnson states that his aim was to 'do a feature film job on a television series' and made an attempt to produce similar effects to those he used on 2001 at a much smaller cost. It is revealed that most of the model work was done at Bray Studios.

Johnson, Keith Wilson and Anderson discuss the design and production of the Eagles and the filming of the effects sequences. Keith Wilson talks about the problems of designing the sets and props for the series.

Overall

A fascinating 'cult' series, Space: 1999 is often thought-provoking and sometimes frightening. For many years, it was unfavourably compared with Star Trek due to its focus on humans journeying through space and encountering different phenomenon. However, with its emphasis on abstract, metaphysical debates and its often downbeat tone Space: 1999 has more in common with the much later Star Trek spinoff Deep Space Nine (Paramount, 1993-9). This Blu-Ray release contains a commendable presentation of the series, with a fantastic array of contextual material.


References:
M Keith Booker, 2004: Science Fiction Television. London: Greenwood Publishing

J P Harris, 2002: Time Capsule: Reviews of Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Films and TV Shows from 1987-1991. Bloomington: iUniverse

Barry Morse, 2004: Pulling Faces, Making Noises: A Life on Stage, Screen & Radio. Bloomington: iUniverse

Daniel O’Brien, 2000: SF:UK: How British Science Fiction Changed the World. London: Reynolds & Hearn

David Seed, 2005: A Companion to Science Fiction. London: Wiley-Blackwell

Robert Sellers, 2006: Cult TV: The Golden Age of ITC. London: Plexus


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