This heat is kicking the proverbial posterior.
But hey I’m not complaining, I’ll take heat over cold, any day.
But you guys didn’t come here to hear weather talk, onto this installment’s insanity.
I’ve seen all 30+ seasons of Doctor Who, including the recreations (largely still shots and the audio recording of the shows) that exists through the hard work of dedicated fans, who preserved these shows for the love, when the suits couldn’t see any monetary value or re-watchability to these shows and could not delete the tapes fast enough.
It’s why I’ll side with the so-called file-sharer or collector or peer to peer proponent who does it for the love, over suits any day. Because I KNOW how much of our history (television shows, radio shows, silent and sound films, books, manuscripts) still exists not because of the money grubbing corporation who would (and have) let everything burn if they couldn’t make a penny off of it; but exists because of the dedicated fan and collector.
I’ve said that before, but it bears, particularly in our current environment, constant repeating. That the people who profit off a thing, are not the people that should be trusted with the preservation of that thing. And history bears out, that it’s necessary to have the dedicated collector out there doing for the love, what corporations will fail to do in the absence of monetary incentive.
Our cultural history owes much to the dedicated collector, that are being criminalized by the ‘Johnny-come-lately’ corporations, who have finally wised up to the fact that… people are interested in this old stuff.
Case in point, I still await official SPENSER FOR HIRE DvDs, or the full seasons of the live-action ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY that have been unavailable for over 20 years, and these things should not be sequestered away until some suit can find a way to profit off of them. In the absence of someone making them available, the collector is there to make them available. So thanks to great collectors… there’s a rumor that I may actually own both series :).
And if that rumor is true, I’ll hold onto those collector DVDs, at least until such time as the studios get off their ass, and release official high quality versions/DVDs, which I will be more than happy to support/purchase. But in the interim… to all the suits/companies out there, support and work with fans/collectors… they are the heart of your business. And more than that, they are the heart of the preservation of culture and art and history… in the absence of business. Give them their due.
Okay, off my soap box.
The reason I got on that soap box is because, I have been rewatching Doctor Who, and much of that series has been lost through corporate stupidity and short-sightedness, but almost all of it has been preserved and recreated, even the pretty much devastated Patrick Troughton years (which I’m currently re-watching), and you can not watch those shows without being extremely mindful and extremely thankful, for the fans and collectors, who preserved those shows to the best of their ability.
I mean, now, today the BBC gives a damn about Doctor Who, because the show is making them a boatload of money, but you have to care about preserving culture and art… even in the absence of money, and that is what collectors do.
So yes, I’m thankful that we have shows such as:
William Hartnell’s four seasons as the doctor.
He’s remembered, unfairly I think, for flubbing his lines. However, what he should be remembered for is being the man who set the template, the tone, and the consummate “play this for real” passion that allowed the show to be a success.
Think about it, if Hartnell or those first companions did not make the premise work, the show would have been canceled in that first season and NO ONE would today be talking about Doctor Who.
Patrick Troughton gets a lot of praise for ‘saving’ Dr. Who, when it became necessary to replace Hartnell due to his deteriorating condition.
For continuing Doctor Who, I would agree, but for saving it? … no. The show would have gone on with or without Troughton. It was that popular. Hartnell had help make it that popular.
Don’t get me wrong, Troughton was a great actor and he made a fantastic 2nd Doctor, and the very, unavoidable medical issues with Hartnell pushed the writers and producers into coming up with one of the most brilliant and iconic ways to keep the series going… ie the idea of ‘Regeneration’.
I mean that idea, that was born under pressure and calamity and potential cancellation, remains one of the greatest ‘hail marys’ of television history, as can be seen by a whole new generation, wowing to the adventures of yet another whole new Doctor.
But had Hartnell and crew, not made DOCTOR WHO a success out the gate, no one would have been pressed to try and keep the show alive. They would have done the normal thing, canceled the show and put something else on, and DOCTOR WHO becomes, like many shows of the time, a forgotten footnote.
But Hartnell was a GREAT Doctor Who, an iconic Doctor Who, who loved and championed the show. And he did four seasons of the series, back when the workload was a YEAR ROUND weekly series, basically performing the shows in a live-run, like a play, performed beginning to end, no time for retakes, you hit the mark at the beginning of two hours, and at the end of two hours, they filmed the entire show… JUST LIKE YOU SEE IT AIRED!
With filmed segments cut in on queue, and effects and sound done live in camera….the amount of pressure and work, is beyond ANYTHING that television actors, or indeed directors, editors, crew are doing today. It was the work of master actors and crew, to basically have to learn and crank out a play a week, under budget restrictions and time restrictions that can only be called… crushing.
And William Hartnell did this. For going on four Years, largely without vacation, with seasons FAR LONGER than the laughably short seasons the BBC has today… William Hartnell did this. While suffering with what today we would call early signs of Dementia or Alzheimers.
For nearly four years he bled and sweated and carried Doctor Who, when his younger companions were folding left and right under the pressures and issues of a financially challenged, somewhat ghettoized show. Hartnell’s tenure as the Doctor saw him with the most companions (A whopping TEN companions. And every departure cut Hartnell like a knife, who saw the show as a familial thing), and having to ride the most tumultuous time in the history of the show, when it was figuring out, on a weekly basis, what it was, and who the characters were.
That he was able to play the series as long as he did, when suffering from a condition known to cripple, says everything about the nature of Hartnell’s professionalism, his “the show must go on” ethic. I just think a lot of people focus on the occasional flubs, when he was given tons of gobblydeggok to say, and he made it work. I don’t know of any actors today, in their full health and prime, who could have done week in and week out what Hartnell did, producing basically live televison in a fantastic setting.
Which is far more difficult than just soaps, because you have the additional hassle of effects and costumes and elaborate monsters and cut in scenes, and hitting marks, it’s really a big budget type cinematic production, done on a shoe-string budget and with no retakes and no time, and everything music, etc… done in camera.
Actors today would piss themselves.
I just have a tremendous amount of respect for Hartnell as a performer, and he could really perform and act and emote, and bring it when he needed to… which more often than not… was always. Add to all of that he also had some of the best episodes under his tenure, namely:
SEASON I 1963-1964
AN UNEARTHLY CHILD- PILOT- It does everything a first episode needs to do. Incredibly ambitious, for the time. A time ship, bigger on the inside than the outside, and looks like a simple police phonebox. It is just a genius conceit, even 50 years later. GRADE: B+.
100,000 BC- 3 episodes- It’s not a great episode by today’s standards but it is a necessary one, as they are still defining the Doctor, and his crew of travelers. And it is pretty brutal for a kid’s program. GRADE: B-/C+.
THE DALEKS by Terry Nation, directed by Christopher Barry and Richard Martin- 7 episodes- Terry Nation’s script and idea, fleshed out and realized, made concrete by the producers, and designers and voice actors, resulted in an immediate worldwide sensation… The Daleks. And the story, is quite good, quite ambitious, though of course hampered by the budgets and limitations of the time.
It is a great intro to one of the great iconic creations of television history. The serial falls apart in the last episode, the whole “live” thing, the director just couldn’t pull it all together, so it’s a bit of a mess. But the serial is strongly recommended in-spite of that; and it highlights, the rare times when it goes wrong, just how masterful the cast and crew was, to enable it to go right… most of the time. GRADE: B.
INSIDE THE SPACESHIP aka The Edge of Destruction- 2 episodes- This is another example of them not really having the time to make the story come across, it’s a bit of a confused mess. But it’s an intriguing watch, and is available with a nice commentary with the actors. The commentary worth the price of admission.
Marco Polo- seven episodes- A recreated episode, stills and audio, watched this recently it’s quite good. From the few shots of sets in color, it was quite an elaborate period piece.
The Keys of Marinus- 6 Episodes- Terry Nation returns, this is a great, exciting serial. Even with a bit of implied rape. Terry Nation always wrote excellent scripts that explored not only man against the alien, and man against nature, but far more interestingly man against man. His scripts and the crews performance transcends dodgy sets and questionable effects. GRADE: B+.
The Aztecs- 4 episodes – One of the best Doctor Who stories! This historical episode, sports great acting, great sets, and a great story. And wonderful direction. This is available with commentary, and I highly recommend it. One of my favorites. GRADE: A+.
THE SENSORITES- 6 episodes- This is one of the most successful of the scifi themed serials (the first season nearly equally divided between the historical episodes and the scifi/fantasy episodes) for season I. As it allowed some growth for the character of Susan, and real thrills for the rest of the characters. Lots of fun. Grade: B/B+.
THE REIGN OF TERROR- 5 episodes- This Dennis Spooner penned tale is quite enjoyable. The last two episodes are recreations (stills, audio) but is perfectly understandable and builds to a fun end. GRADE: B.
Those are my grades for season #1. Counting the pilot, Thirty eight weekly episodes!!! Wow! Episodes I didn’t grade are worth a look, for historical reasons, but may not be the show at its best.
Stay tuned for upcoming season reviews!
So I just received today the SPACE 1999 Blu-Ray Season One Set!
Does it live up to expectations? Few episodes in and I have to say… HOLY HECK does it ever! I’m older than most of you reading this, having been frozen in a block of ice during World War II (Okay , okay I’m joking! It was actually World War I) 🙂 , so it tends to give me a different perspective on culture and entertainment.
And I guess a different appreciation for the wonders of yesteryear.
Whereas kids raised today on the latest Battlestar Galactica or Big Screen Blockbuster, may see in this outdated show just groan inducing cheese, I see something that does not dim or fade… I see quality. And it is not for nostalgic reasons that I praise some old shows; old shows can be awful just like new shows. I’m always distrusting of people who put things on a pedestal for nostalgia’s sake, just because they grew up with something. Seems like a lazy person’s way of rating things.
Crap is crap. I grew up with ‘Different Strokes’ and ‘Dukes of Hazard’ for heaven’s sake, and you would have to pay me (quite a lot) to sit through those shows again.
So yeah anyone who hypes a show based on no more than nostalgia, is suspect at best, and moronic at worst.
Either a show is good or it isn’t.
No, if I gravitate to something from yesteryear or from today I do so because there’s evident in it a craft, a passion, that transcends the budgetary or technological constraints of the time.
I once watched a ragtag theater group on the edge of the world put on a production of MAN OF LA MANCHA, that lacking even the most modest sets, was performed with such verve, and passion that decades later… it rallies me still.
And watching SPACE 1999, a show that even its title proclaims as a short-sighted anachronism, I’m drawn in and impressed by it for similar reasons as that play of long ago. Not judging it because of what I remember of it as a kid (I hated it as a kid) but judging it based on my appreciation of it today.
Here is this multi-national cast and crew, and this British studio, developing in that shadow land between the demise of the Star Trek television series and the rise of the Star Wars film, this very odd space show.
As a kid I wasn’t a fan of the show. I caught it sporadically, and I found it (though it’s not a word I would have used then) plodding. It was stilted, overly stoic, and filled with not particularly happy or young people… endlessly scowling at the camera and talking, talking talking.
As a kid I would watch maybe ten, fifteen minutes, then start looking through the five (and on a good day six) channels we had back then for a good show. Maybe a rerun of Star Trek. Now that was a show to capture a kid’s imagination! It was colorful, action-packed, filled with attractive people (did I mention the mini-skirts) who seemed to be having fun in between saving worlds, By comparison SPACE 1999, was a drab, monochromatic environment, filled with endlessly scowling old people. I could get that from my teachers, so I didn’t need that in my tv show.
So as a kid I might have seen 3 or 4 episodes in bits and pieces, none of them leaving a positive impression on me. But as an adult the price was right, and my curiosity was piqued so I now have the Blu-ray in my SEIKI Multi-region player, and as stated… it looks better than it ever did when watching it as a kid. The Blue-ray remastering is fantastic, imbuing color everywhere in a show that I recall being almost achingly drab and gray and lifeless.
Putting in the first disk, and watching the first episode, BREAKAWAY and I’m stunned… it’s gorgeous, simply sumptuous. It’s visually very reminiscent of Kubrick’s 2001. The masterful use of models, the 1960s used to imagine and dress the coming millennium. Even though this is a show that ran from 1975 to 1977, it’s the suave, controlled ‘James Bond’ 60s, rather than the psychedelic 70s that influence the films costumes and sets.
There’s a sleek open modernity and aesthetic that is style rather than fad, and this extends particularly to the sets and ships with this wonderful analog, tactile sense to the walls and architecture and buttons and displays. And boy, I love seeing those oscilloscopes/frequency generators. As a guy who has had to use more than a few of those, now rarely seen, tech tools… it’s both charming and effective.
It’s a wonderful clash of concepts, a 1999 wherein analog did not lose the war to digital, and Pan-Am never went out of business, and JFK’s head never went back and to the left.
And the story… I had never seen the first episode, the story (which I’ll leave you to discover) is some crazy audacious manna! In short, I found it a lot of fun. Though it plays, fast and loose with physics, I have no prob with that. I go into my sci-fi not expecting it to be sci-fact.
And the stilted, stoic, even dire performances that bored me to tears as a kid, here in this episode work brilliantly. It’s so stylized, their acting, ranging from subtle to understated to unnatural(Barbara Bain offers an unblinking, very controlled, almost mechanized delivery, yet is still very feminine. It’s very unusual what she does, but unusual in this case works). An addictive episode.
If you’re a fan of films such as Kubrick’s 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY or Mario Bava’s DIABOLIQUE, those primary color drenched odes to style, then you’ll love this first episode of SPACE 1999. I was there in 1999, and this is the future we didn’t get, but should have.
Perhaps it’s not too late! Someone go blow-up the moon!!!
Oh and one more thing. The order these episodes are on the Blu-ray set (and DVD) is production order, which is completely how they came out. However, it doesn’t work.
I’ll say again… it doesn’t work.
I hit episode two, and I was like…. “what the eff, did I miss something?!”. Because even though these shows are supposed to be more or less standalone, some scripts/stories juxtapose badly with other episodes, in the order they are on the disk.
I did a bit of searching, and thankfully found someone who noticed the same type of inconsistency in the production order of the shows. Namely Andrew Kearley who has created a great web site devoted to SPACE 1999.
One of the best things on the site is that he has created a viewing order for the SPACE 1999 shows.
His website gives a breakdown of why he places the shows where he does, and you can read it here. After viewing the entire season one, I see both the strengths and weaknesses of his list. In my opinion, after watching the whole season, it’s best to stick to production viewing order except where necessary. In a lot of cases Kearley’s list moves episodes out of production order, when in my opinion it doesn’t improve or substantially affect the viewing experience.
So I’ve created a list that looks to stay true to the production order of the series (the order it was shot in and how it is laid out in DVD), except where such alterations in my opinion substantially strengthen the viewing experience.
So here is Production order of the episodes and how you will find them laid out on the DVD or Blu-ray:
Matter Of Life And Death
Ring Around The Moon
Another Time, Another Place
Guardian Of Piri
Force Of Life
The Last Sunset
Death’s Other Dominion
The Full Circle
End Of Eternity
The Last Enemy
The Troubled Spirit
The Infernal Machine
Mission Of The Darians
The Testament Of Arkadia
Utilizing Kearley’s and then my own viewing experience, I’m come up with what I believe is the optimum viewing order for this series. Maintaining Production Order whenever feasible. So without further ado, here is the final set in concrete order, that I recommend the shows should be watched in. I call this the HT Space 1999 recommended Episode Viewing Order List (or HT Space 1999 REVOL for short :)):
3. Black Sun
4. Missing Link
5. Voyager’s Return
The first five follow the Kearley list. Without doubt that gives a great opening to the series.
6. Ring around the Moon
7. Matter of Life and Death
Six and Seven is where I break with the Kearley List. This forms a loose 2 parter. With the possession of the Doctor in RING perhaps following her subconsciously into MATTER and perhaps helps address some of the inexplicable events that happen there.
8. Guardian of Piri
9. Force of Life
10. Alpha Child
11. The Last Sunset
12. Collision Course
13. Death’s other Dominion
14. The Full Circle
15. End of Eternity
These eight episodes GUARDIAN to THE END OF ETERNITY (with the exception of moving one episode earlier in the season for story development reasons) follow production order, as I saw no substantial reason to move them around. And having watched them both ways they work best this way, adhering closer to production order.
16. The Last Enemy
17. War Games
I swap the order of THE LAST ENEMY and WAR GAMES, because in WAR GAMES it kinda heals the damage done to them in THE LAST ENEMY, and helps them get out of the habit of… preemptive strike and finding enemies wherever they look.
18. Another Time, Another Place- Agreeing with Kearley’s desire to have this closer to the end of the first season, I thought this was the ideal place for this episode. The largely space based and battle heavy WAR GAMES being a nice lead in for the far more metaphysical ANOTHER TIME, ANOTHER PLACE. And I think after the loss in ANOTHER TIME, the opening of TROUBLED SPIRIT is a great way to cleanse the palette and show a healing moment for the crew of Alpha after several shattering episodes.
19. The Troubled Spirit
20. Space Brain
21. The Infernal Machine
22. Mission of the Darians
23. Dragon’s Domain
24. The Testament of Arkadia
And the final six episodes follow production order exactly and are a strong powerful wrap up for the first, best, and some would say ONLY true season of SPACE 1999.
Well this has been a lot of fun, a little work, putting this HT Space 1999 Recommended Episode Order Viewing List (REVOL) together. Hope it will be of help and use to some of you. Thanks!
Anyhow, Go enjoy this BLU-RAY edition of a show about a space-faring multi-cultural unified 1999, that somehow here in 2012 we managed to miss. We took the wrong road, somewhere in our not too distant past, and found ourselves stuck for decades in Orwell’s 1984, rather than in Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s 1999.
Perhaps it’s not too late to turnaround, as a culture, as a nation, as a world, and find that future that we missed… those days of futures past.
Till later in the words of the late Don Cornelius… Peace, Love, and Soul!!!