The continuing adventures of Commander John Koenig and co. as Moonbase Alpha faces terrifying adversaries. At least on paper…
Pretty much the last gasp of the Andersons’ dominance of ITV’s genre output, Space: 1999 is an unusual series with its two years markedly different in style and cast. If you’ve seen the first year, there’s a noticeable change in the show as soon as you start watching the opening episode of the second year – not just in terms of uniforms, change of title for the central area, and music, but the whole ethos. The first year had some unlikely moments, but nothing to the weirdnesses perpetrated in the second…
That’s really brought home by one of the clever extras in this new set, which is a must-buy for any Anderson fan (even if you don’t rate the season!): the footage that forms second series story Seed of Destruction has been re-edited as if it was part of the first year, complete with a Barry Gray score. The other extras include assorted interviews with cast and crew, the archive ones being particularly interesting given what is now known about the behind the scenes problems the show experienced.
The stories themselves don’t stand up to major scrutiny although there are flashes of excellence. I particularly love James Laurenson’s mentally tortured husband in Catacombs of the Moon (Laurenson is an underrated actor whose star turn in the 1981 genre thriller A Spy at Evening really ought to be released on DVD!) while it’s interesting to see a Terrance Dicks script for a show other than Doctor Who or Moonbase 3 (and in an ironic twist, he didn’t get to novelise this, and wasn’t even originally aware that it was out in the shops until shown a copy!). The season certainly attracted a star cast – from Brian Blessed in the opener to Patrick Troughton in the final broadcast episode – but unfortunately the old joke about the acting being as wooden in this live-action Anderson series as in the puppet shows holds true far too often.
The episodes do look incredible though – the restoration work that has been carried out brings out every detail of the sets and costumes (you could even argue that perhaps we almost see too much sometimes!) and with separate music tracks, as well as fully restored mono and new 5.1 soundtracks, they’ve not sounded better.
Verdict: If you’re a 1999 fan, you’re going to lap this up; it’s unlikely to win over those who prefer the first year (or who wanted UFO Year 2), but it’s certainly the best we’re ever likely to see these 40 year old shows! 8/10