In 1999, the people of the world held their collective breath in anticipation of the dreaded Y2K Bug. But twenty-five years earlier, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson predicted a disaster of a different kind. After years of dumping nuclear waste on the moon, an explosion knocks the celestial body out of orbit, marooning the men and women of Moonbase Alpha and dooming them to a slow death in space.
Dovetailing off their earlier series, UFO, Space 1999 had a similar serious tone and a cold, sterile atmosphere obviously influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey. Much of that can be attributed to Oscar winning special effects creator Brian Johnson who worked on 2001 and later on Alien and The Empire Strikes Back. As with all of the Anderson fantasy creations, Space 1999 relies heavily on miniature model work and visual effects and these effects have never looked better than in this new Blu-ray release.
A&E Home Entertainment has put together an excellent upgrade from the 30th Anniversary Edition which was released back in 2007. The episodes have been remastered for 1080p Blu-ray with a Dolby 5.1 surround sound soundtrack that is amazingly sharp and clear. But is Blu-ray really that much better than DVD? For the first time since getting our new player, I had a chance to check it out.
We put the 30th Anniversary Edition in the DVD player and the new Blu-ray edition in the Blu-ray player then ran them both through an HD TV. We started the same episode in both players then flipped back and forth comparing scene after scene. There’s no question that Blu-ray is a step up, and not just a small step. Though the basic color scheme for the series is in tan and gray, there are plenty of colorful accents and these popped off the screen in Blu-ray. Where we really saw the difference, was in the special effects shot. There is a scene where the Alphans watch a swirling starfield on the view screen. On DVD it was a flat collection of twinkling lights. On Blu-ray, it had dimension. It was as if you could actually see the spiral of stars behind the stars and each light was bright and crisp against the dark background. I am now totally sold on the merits of Blu-ray.
If the upgrade in video and audio quality isn’t enough for you, then how about two full discs of bonus features, many of which have never been included on any US release?
One of the best features is an episode of Clapperboard, a British children’s series about TV and movie production. In this particular two-part episode, the host visits with Gerry Anderson and the Space 1999 effects team. They show off the workings of an original Anderson puppet and take a close look at the miniatures from Space 1999. Quite a rare piece of Space 1999 history. Another rare bit features Martin Landau and Barbara Bain introducing the series to American TV viewers. It’s brilliantly stiff and staged. A true gem. There are also featurettes devoted to the creation of the series and the special effects. There’s an interview with Sylvia Anderson and even Catherine Schell, who would later join the series as Maya, pops up to talk about her first season guest appearance.
Here’s a full list of the bonus features:
* Original ‘as broadcast’ mono track
• Music-only tracks on all episodes except ‘Breakaway’ and ‘Dragon’s Domain’
• Anderson commentary on ‘Breakaway’ and ‘Dragon’s Domain’
• Extensive HD image galleries of rare and previously unseen stills
• HD image galleries of gum and cigarette cards
• HD restored, textless titles
• “These Episodes” featurettes
• “Memories of Space” featurette
• Sylvia Anderson interview
• Series One textless generic titles
• “Concept and Creation” featurette
• Special effects and design featurette
• Text episode commentaries on The Last Sunset and Space Brain’
• “Clapperboard” two-part special on the work of Gerry Anderson from 1975
• “Guardian of Piri Remembered”
• Barry Gray’s theme demo
• Alternative opening and closing titles
• Martin Landau and Barbara Bain US Premier intro and outro
• SFX plates and deleted SFX scenes – with music track
Amazing, huh? The only downside to this great release is that it only covers season one. If you already own the complete series on DVD, bite the bullet and pick up Space: 1999: The Complete Season One on Blu-ray, it’s worth it for the bonus features and the amazing upgrade in quality. And if this first season, with its starched and pasty color-scheme looks great, just imagine how season two, with all of the action and color, will look! It’s going to be amazing.
Space: 1999: The Complete Season One on Blu-ray is now available on Amazon.com and in stores.