Space: 1999 – The Complete Series Ultimate Edition (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Sep 29, 2021
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Space: 1999 – The Complete Series Ultimate Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Director

Various, series created by Gerry Anderson

Release Date(s)

1975-1977 (August 27, 2021)

Studio(s)

ITV Studios/Network (Via Vision/Imprint Television)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: B+
  • Audio Grade: C
  • Extras Grade: A

Review

[Editor’s Note: While this is an Australian import Blu-ray box set, the discs are ALL REGION.]

If one were to describe Space: 1999 to the uninitiated, it might go something like this: Imagine the high-concept stories of original Star Trek but with a British flair (which is to say slower and more cerebral or fantastical—think Trek on LSD). Mix this with ground-breaking special effects and production values heavily influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey (and created by Brian Johnson, who later worked on Alien and The Empire Strikes Back). Then add in Martin Landau (Ed Wood) and Barbara Bain (Mission: Impossible – that’s the original TV series for you youngsters) in bell-bottomed uniforms, and tie it all up with a funky disco guitar soundtrack. No kidding—that’s Space: 1999 in a nutshell.

The basic premise of the series is simple: On September 13th, 1999, the Moon accidentally gets blasted out of the Earth’s orbit by a gigantic nuclear explosion and is sent hurtling into deep space. Because of this disaster, the 300+ men and women stationed on Moonbase Alpha struggle to survive, as they encounter a myriad of strange planets and bizarre alien lifeforms, all while hoping to one day find a new place to call home. Season One of the series is harder science fiction, grappling with big problems and offering plenty of metaphysical ruminations. It has its share of rubber suit aliens, but it’s thoughtful, even clinical. It recalls Russian sci-fi in this way—films like Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Klushantsev’s Road to the Stars. Highlight episodes include Breakaway, Guardian of Piri, Another Time, Another Place, and Black Sun.

Season Two is a stranger experience. The production design, visual effects, and costumes are more elaborate, but the writing was dumbed down, with moments of humor more appropriate to Lost in Space. The show’s scientific heart, Victor Bergman (Barry Morse), was replaced with the shape-shifting Maya (Catherine Shell) to boost ratings. The opening theme was changed to something more up-tempo, the editing was quicker. All of this was precipitated by the hiring of Fred Freiberger to take over as the show’s producer. Not coincidentally, Freiberger also guided the final season of TV’s Star Trek, which features its own inordinate number of ridiculously camp episodes. Still, there are interesting moments in Season Two. Its opening episode, The Metamorph, is a standout. The Bringers of Wonder, Parts 1 and 2, The Beta Cloud, and The Immunity Syndrome are solid too.

Notable guest stars over the series’ run included Christopher Lee, Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Ian McShane (Deadwood, American Gods), Sarah Douglas (Superman II), David Prowse (Star Wars), Brian Blessed (Flash Gordon), Angus MacInnes (Star Wars, Rogue One), and many others.

Space: 1999 was originally released on DVD in 2001 by Carlton Media in the UK and A&E in the US. In 2004, Carlton was absorbed in a corporate takeover that resulted in the creation of a new company, ITV Network, who then reissued Season One on DVD in the UK in 2005. The company eventually restored and remastered the series with new HD scans of the original camera negatives and extensive digital clean-up. Network released Season One on Blu-ray in the UK in 2010 and licensed the US rights to A&E/New Video, who released Season One on BD here in the States that same year (see our review of that set here on The Bits). Unfortunately, it look longer for Network to restore Season Two, a process that began in 2007. It was also more costly because the audio for Season Two needed additional remastering (this work had already been done for Season One). Network wanted to share those costs with New Video, but the US distributor balked. So Network released Season Two on Blu-ray in the UK in 2015 (see our review here), but no US release was forthcoming until Shout! Factory finally licensed the US rights in 2019, at which point they released Space: 1999 – The Complete Series as a Blu-ray box set (you can read our review of that set here as well).

For for US fans of Space: 1999, none of these Blu-ray releases has been ideal. For one thing, the UK sets are Region B only. Yet they included significant bonus material not found in the Shout! Factory set. Meanwhile, that US set is Region A and it includes some new extras, but Shout! unfortunately created their own 5.1 mixes for all the episodes—rather than simply utilizing the 5.1 mixes from the UK sets—and they’re not particularly good. (Specifically, the audio in the surround channels is very low. And for some reason the Shout! BDs don’t let you switch from 5.1 to mono with your remote.) So what’s a self-respecting US Space: 1999 fan to do? Well, I’m very pleased to say that I’ve finally got a good answer to that question…

The indie distributor Via Vision Entertainment has just released Space: 1999 – The Complete Series Ultimate Edition as a 14-disc Blu-ray box set in Australia, through their new Imprint Television label. Not only does it include every episode in great HD quality, with the original mono and proper surround mixes, it includes nearly all of the Network Blu-ray extras… and it includes nearly all of the newly-created Shout! Factory extras too! On top of that, it includes all four of the Space: 1999 compilation films: Destination Moonbase Alpha (1978), Alien Attack (1979), Journey Through the Black Sun (1982), and Cosmic Princess (1982). The set even comes with a new 48-page liner notes book, The Making of Space: 1999, by Ian Fryer of Fanderson. And here’s the real clincher: It’s REGION FREE!

Now, a couple of quick notes: The set is limited to just 2,000 copies and because it’s an import, it’s going to set you back a little more than the Network and Shout! sets (SRP is $219.99, but it’s currently selling for $126.99 on Amazon now). But given how comprehensive this box set is—this is truly an Ultimate Edition—it might be worth a look for some of you, especially if you don’t already have the other editions.

In terms of video quality, these are the exact same HD masters produced by Network. All of the episodes have been fully remastered in 1080p and are presented in the original 1.33:1 TV aspect ratio (with black pillar-boxing to preserve the 4x3 broadcast format). The image is lovely, with vastly more detail than anyone experienced in analog SD broadcasts back in the day. The improvement is evident right from the start, in the fine textures of the Moon’s surface around Alpha in the opening credits. Colors are wonderfully vibrant, from the show’s orange and yellow space suits to the light buff hues of the crew’s uniforms. The contrast is excellent too, with deeply black spacescapes and detailed shadows. The video quality for Season Two is just a tad better than Season One, probably due to improvements in scanning and mastering technology in the five years that transpired between the two projects. But both are very good looking for content of this vintage.

The audio is improved as well, thanks to new 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless mixes for each episode. (And to be clear, these are the exact same surround mixes found on the Network UK Blu-ray sets, not the compromised 5.1 from the Shout! sets.) Given the vintage of this series, the surround experience here isn’t what you’d call aggressive or lively, as this is a dialogue-driven show. But the clarity is excellent, with good dynamic range, and the rear channels kick in lightly for music, action sequences, and atmospheric effects. There’s a little bit of distortion in the end credits music, but one assumes this was baked into the original audio elements. In any case, it’s solid for vintage material. Note that these discs also include the original 2.0 mono broadcast mixes for each episode in Dolby Digital for those who prefer them. And here’s a nice treat: Nearly every episode also includes an Isolated Score Track in 2.0 Dolby Digital (see details below). Optional English Captions for the Hearing Impaired are also included.

Now then, I mentioned that this is a true Ultimate Edition release with substantial extras carried over from both the Network UK BD sets and also the more recent Shout! Factory BD set. So let’s break down the contents of Imprint’s new box set disc by disc (note that some of the special features listed in HD have been upsampled from SD)…

** Indicates Isolated Score Track available

* Indicates new content created for the Shout! Factory Blu-ray Release

SEASON ONE – DISC ONE

  • Breakaway (HD – 52:08)
  • Matter of Life and Death (HD – 52:05)**
  • Black Sun (HD – 52:04)**
  • Ring Around the Moon (HD – 51:51)**
  • Earthbound (HD – 52:08)**
  • Audio Commentary on Breakaway with Gerry Anderson
  • Audio Commentary on Ring Around the Moon with Scott Bosco
  • These Episodes: Breakaway (HD – 10:54)
  • These Episodes: Matter of Life and Death (HD – 4:49)
  • These Episodes: Black Sun (HD – 7:17)
  • Breakaway: Gallery (HD – 4:09)
  • Breakaway: PR & Behind-the-Scenes Gallery (HD – 8:33)
  • Matter of Life and Death: Gallery (HD – 3:57)
  • Matter of Life and Death: Behind-the-Scenes Gallery (HD – 3:36)
  • Black Sun: Gallery (HD – 3:00)
  • Black Sun: Aging Makeup Process Gallery (HD – 1:18)
  • Ring Around the Moon: Gallery (HD – 3:42)
  • Earthbound: Gallery (HD – 3:39)
  • Earthbound: Lew Grade Visit & Behind-the-Scenes Gallery (HD – 3:42)
  • Earthbound: Roy Dotrice (This Is Your Life) Gallery (HD – 1:12)

SEASON ONE – DISC TWO

  • Another Time, Another Place (HD – 52:08)**
  • Missing Link (HD – 52:06)**
  • Guardian of Piri (HD – 52:00)**
  • Force of Life (HD – 52:02)**
  • Alpha Child (HD – 52:12)**
  • Guardian of Piri Remembered with Catherine Schell (SD – 1:41)
  • These Episodes: Another Time, Another Place (HD – 7:02)
  • These Episodes: Guardian of Piri (HD – 3:27)
  • These Episodes: Force of Life (HD – 3:49)
  • Another Time, Another Place: Gallery (HD – 3:12)
  • Missing Link: Gallery (HD – 1:33)
  • Guardian of Piri: Gallery (HD – 4:03)
  • Force of Life: Gallery (HD – 1:06)
  • Alpha Child: Gallery (HD – 3:18)
  • Generic and Portrait Gallery (HD – 5:06)

SEASON ONE – DISC THREE

  • The Last Sunset (HD – 52:08)**
  • Voyager’s Return (HD – 52:02)**
  • Collision Course (HD – 52:12)**
  • Death’s Other Dominion (HD – 52:08)**
  • The Full Circle (HD – 52:14)**
  • Audio Commentary on Death’s Other Dominion with Scott Bosco
  • Text Commentary on The Last Sunset
  • Alternate Scene for Collision Course (HD – 4:02)
  • These Episodes: The Last Sunset (HD – 8:08)
  • These Episodes: Voyager’s Return (HD – 6:10)
  • These Episodes: The Full Circle (HD – 6:08)
  • The Last Sunset: Gallery (HD – 2:36)
  • Voyager’s Return: Gallery (HD – 1:09)
  • Collision Course: Gallery (HD – 3:03)
  • Death’s Other Dominion: Gallery (HD – 4:30)
  • The Full Circle: Gallery (HD – 3:03)
  • Behind-the-Scenes and Original Contact Sheets Gallery (HD – 2:15)

SEASON ONE – DISC FOUR

  • End of Eternity (HD – 52:05)**
  • War Games (HD – 52:05)**
  • The Last Enemy (HD – 52:05)**
  • The Troubled Spirit (HD – 52:13)**
  • Space Brain (HD – 52:07)**
  • Text Commentary for Space Brain
  • These Episodes: War Games (HD – 8:59)
  • These Episodes: The Troubled Spirit (HD – 6:39)
  • These Episodes: Space Brain (HD – 6:25)
  • End of Eternity: Gallery (HD – 3:06)
  • End of Eternity: Deleted Scene Gallery (HD – :51)
  • War Games: Gallery (HD – 3:33)
  • The Last Enemy: Gallery (HD – 2:45)
  • The Troubled Spirit: Gallery (HD – 1:54)
  • Space Brain: Gallery (HD – :54)
  • Models and Model Making Gallery (HD – 5:42)
  • Storyboard Breakdown Gallery (HD – 1:36)

SEASON ONE – DISC FIVE

  • The Infernal Machine (HD – 52:09)**
  • Mission of the Darians (HD – 52:06)**
  • Dragon’s Domain (HD – 52:09)
  • The Testament of Arkadia (HD – 52:07)**
  • Audio Commentary on Dragon’s Domain with Gerry Anderson
  • Audio Commentary on Dragon’s Domain with Johnny Byrne and Christopher Penfold
  • Audio Commentary on Dragon’s Domain with Anthony Taylor*
  • Audio Commentary on The Testament of Arkadia with Sylvia Anderson
  • These Episodes: Mission of the Darians (HD – 4:14)
  • These Episodes: Dragon’s Domain (HD – 6:30)
  • These Episodes: The Testament of Arkadia (HD – 7:44)
  • The Infernal Machine: Gallery (HD – 2:15)
  • Mission of the Darians: Gallery (HD – 3:21)
  • Dragon’s Domain: Gallery (HD – 2:30)
  • The Testament of Arkadia: Gallery (HD – 1:54)
  • Bassett Sweet Cigarette Cards Gallery (HD – 5:12)
  • Donruss Chewing Gum Cards Gallery (HD – 3:33)

SEASON ONE – DISC SIX (BONUS CONTENT)

  • Memories of Space (SD – 7:34)
  • Sylvia Anderson on Live Action (SD – 16:54)
  • Clapperboard Vintage Featurette (1975) (SD – 20:33)
  • Lyons Maid Ice Lolly Advert (SD – :28)
  • Textless Generic Opening Titles (HD – 1:48)
  • Textless End Titles (HD – :32)
  • Unfinished Opening Titles for Breakaway & Missing Link (HD – 1:12)
  • Alternate Opening and Closing Titles (HD – 3:05)
  • SFX Plates and Deleted SFX Scenes (HD – 12:11)
  • Textless Episode Material (No Sound) (HD – 18:30)
  • Ad-Break Bumpers (HD – :39)
  • Martin Landau and Barbara Bain TV Promos (SD – 1:58)
  • Vintage Year One Episodic Promos (SD – 11:37)
  • Barry Gray’s Theme Demo (HD – 1:26)
  • BD-ROM: 13 Scripts from Season One & The Space: 1999 Annual (PDF format)

SEASON TWO – DISC ONE

  • The Metamorph (HD – 51:09)**
  • The Exiles (HD – 51:02)**
  • One Moment of Humanity (HD – 51:08)**
  • All That Glisters (HD – 51:09)**
  • Journey to Where (HD – 51:05)**
  • Audio Commentary on The Metamorph with Anthony Taylor*
  • The Metamorph: Gallery (HD – 3:06)
  • The Exiles: Gallery (HD – 2:21)
  • One Moment of Humanity: Gallery (HD – 1:42)
  • All That Glisters: Gallery (HD – 3:48)
  • Journey to Where: Gallery (HD – 2:27)

SEASON TWO – DISC TWO

  • The Taybor (HD – 51:10)**
  • The Rules of Luton (HD – 51:18)**
  • The Mark of Archanon (HD – 51:06)**
  • Brian the Brain (HD – 51:06)**
  • New Adam, New Eve (HD – 51:14)**
  • The Taybor: Gallery (HD – :51)
  • The Rules of Luton: Gallery (HD – 3:12)
  • The Mark of Archanon: Gallery (HD – 2:12)
  • Brian the Brain: Gallery (HD – 1:03)
  • New Adam, New Eve: Gallery (HD – 2:21)

SEASON TWO – DISC THREE

  • Catacombs of the Moon (HD – 50:56)**
  • The AB Chrysalis (HD – 51:09)**
  • Seeds of Destruction (HD – 51:19)**
  • The Beta Cloud (HD – 50:33)**
  • Space Warp (HD – 51:16)**
  • Behind the Scenes: Model Shop (with Brian Johnson commentary) (SD – 6:36)
  • Catacombs of the Moon: Gallery (HD – 2:42)
  • The AB Chrysalis: Gallery (HD – 2:51)
  • Seeds of Destruction: Gallery (HD – :57)
  • The Beta Cloud: Gallery (HD – 4:12)
  • Space Warp: Gallery (HD – 2:24)

SEASON TWO – DISC FOUR

  • A Matter of Balance (HD – 51:08)**
  • The Bringers of Wonder: Part 1 (HD – 51:17)**
  • The Bringers of Wonder: Part 2 (HD – 50:57)**
  • The Lambda Factor (HD – 51:08)**
  • The Séance Spectre (HD – 51:03)**
  • A Matter of Balance: Gallery (HD – 3:51)
  • The Bringers of Wonder: Part 1 & 2 Gallery (HD – 3:54)
  • The Lambda Factor: Gallery (HD – 1:42)
  • The Séance Spectre: Gallery (HD – 1:54)

SEASON TWO – DISC FIVE

  • Dorzak (HD – 51:09)**
  • Devil’s Planet (HD – 51:09)**
  • The Immunity Syndrome (HD – 51:04)**
  • The Dorcons (HD – 51:20)**
  • Seed of Destruction: Series One Version (with a newly edited Barry Gray score) (HD – 52:03)
  • Dorzak: Gallery (HD – 1:33)
  • Devil’s Planet: Gallery (HD – 3:51)
  • The Immunity Syndrome: Gallery (HD – 1:45)
  • The Dorcons: Gallery (HD – 1:09)

SEASON TWO – DISC SIX (BONUS CONTENT)

  • Mission to Moonbase Alpha: Interview with Barbara Bain (HD – 10:36)*
  • Interview with Martin Landau (SD – 46:49)
  • Into the Uncertain Future: Interview with Nick Tate (HD – 16:45)*
  • Brain Behind the Destruction: Interview with Director Kevin Connor (HD – 9:15)*
  • Moonbase Merch: A Tour of Space: 1999 Ephemera with Author John Muir (HD – 11:17)*
  • Outtake (SD – :29)
  • Cosmos: 1999 Stop Motion Film (HD – 13:22)
  • Blackpool “Space City” Exhibition Advert (SD – :39)
  • Unexposed: Behind-the-Scenes of Series Two (1976) (HD – 25:07)
  • Vintage Year Two Interviews (SD – 7 segments – 37:20 in all)
    • Martin Landau (SD – 5:56)
    • Barbara Bain (SD – 4:42)
    • Gerry Anderson (SD – 4:46)
    • Catherine Shell (SD – 3:26)
    • Kieth Wilson (SD – 4:24)
    • Brian Johnson (SD – 7:00)
    • Fred Freiberger (SD – 7:06)
  • Year Two Promos and Trailers (SD – 9:00)
  • Year Two Textless Footage (HD – 4:01)
  • Original Production Audio: The Taybor (HD – 25:47)
  • Original Production Audio: The Rules of Luton (HD – 40:30)
  • Original Production Audio: The Mark of Archanon (HD – 15:55)
  • Original Production Audio: Brian the Brain (HD – 28:46)
  • BD-ROM: Most of the Season Two & The Annuals (PDF format)

ALTERNATE MISSIONS – DISC ONE

  • Destination Moonbase – Alpha (HD – 100:19)
  • Destination Moonbase – Alpha Trailer (SD – 2:12)

ALTERNATE MISSIONS – DISC TWO

  • Alien Attack (SD – 109:31)
  • Journey Through the Black Sun (SD – 92:10)
  • Cosmic Princess (SD – 91:31)
  • Alien Attack Trailers (SD – 3 trailers – 3:04 in all)
  • Journey Through the Black Sun Trailer (SD – 1:57)
  • Cosmic Princess Trailer (SD – 1:44)

Any way you slice it, that is a huge amount of special features material for this series. As you can see above, the four new Shout! Factory interview featurettes are all included along with the compilation films (only one is in HD, but still). And again, there’s a 48-page liner notes booklet in the packaging.

So the question you might be asking now is: What’s missing here?

Well… the BBC Horizon: Year One Behind-the-Scenes (SD – 2:29) featurette is not here, possibly because the BBC wouldn’t allow it or wanted too much to license it. (But you can find it on the Network Season One BD set and it’s also on the A&E/New Video DVD Megaset.) Kindred Productions’ Space: 1999 – Concept and Creation (SD – 13:10) and Space: 1999 – SFX and Design (SD – 17:34) featurettes are missing. (They’re on both the Network Season One and Shout! Factory sets.) The Year Two Promo Gallery (2:54) and Year Two Models and Props Gallery (5:06) are missing. (Those are on both the Network Season Two and Shout! BD sets.) The Network Season One BD included Unfinished Opening Titles (HD – 2:25) that are sort of included here, just split into different clips. (This piece is also available on the A&E/New Video Season One BD.) There are also three additional features only found on Network’s Season Two BD set that aren’t here: Stock Footage Archive (VFX Shots – No Sound) (HD – 46:02), Clean Titles (HD – 4:01), and Promos and Trailers (SD – 10:43). And here’s a weird one: Both the Network Season One and A&E/New Video Season One BD sets included the Clapperboard 2-Part Special (1975) (SD – 38:56). Only the first part of this—which looks at the work of Gerry Anderson overall—is included in the Imprint box; the second part which features Brian Johnson is missing for some reason. Note that Kindred’s These Episodes documentary (SD – 99:10) is technically missing in its compiled form (from the Network Season One and Shout! sets), but all of the actual content is here—it’s just broken into individual segments for each episode.

Obviously, Message from Moonbase Alpha (SD – 6:58) is also missing due to complicated licensing issues. However, you can find it in the A&E/New Video DVD Megaset. Better still, it’s also currently available on DVD (NTSC/Region 0) directly from Fanderson in the UK as part of their Space:1999 and UFO – The Documentaries DVD release (see this link to their online store). That DVD is actually well worth having, because it also includes Kindred’s 2-part Space: 1999 Documentary (SD – 102:37), along with the Space: 1899 short (SD – 3:37), The UFO Documentary (SD – 59:19), and Derek Meddings: The Anderson Years (SD – 13:36).

One last note: The A&E/New Video DVD Megaset also included a set of 14 30-second TV Station Promos for the series, along with 10-second Coming Next Week TV Promos with Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Catherine Schell, Nick Tate, and Tony Anholdt. But once you’ve seen one of the former, you’ve essentially seen them all (and one of them is included on the Promos and Trailers (10:43) on the Network Season Two BD, as are all of the Coming Next Week promos).

In any case, despite the fact that there are still a few special features missing, it should be clear now that Via Vision Entertainment/Imprint Television’s new Space: 1999 – The Complete Series Ultimate Edition box set truly is the most comprehensive Blu-ray release of this series to date. Yes, it’s more expensive than the previous Blu-ray editions. But if you’re looking for a single REGION FREE Blu-ray set that contains the largest number (and overwhelming majority) of special features, along with beautifully-remastered HD video, and the correct 5.1 and mono audio mixes too, this is box set is absolutely unmatched.

Here’s what it looks like…

Space: 1999 – The Complete Series Ultimate Edition (Blu-ray Disc)

Once again, this set is limited to just 2,000 copies worldwide. So if you’re interested, I wouldn’t wait (click here to order it on Amazon.com). As a lifelong fan of Space: 1999—and something of an expert on the subject of Blu-ray releases—this is definitely a box set that’s worthy of your attention. It’s highly recommended for Space: 1999 super fans everywhere (and all residents of Moonbase Alpha too, wherever out there in the cosmos you might be).

- Bill Hunt

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)

 

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