DVD Review: SPACE 1999 BLU-RAY Episode#1 BREAKAWAY! Plus Viewing Order List!!

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Whereas kids raised today on the latest Battlestar Galactica or Big Screen Blockbuster, may see in this outdated show just groan inducing cheese, I see something that does not dim or fade… I see quality.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:

Breakaway

Matter Of Life And Death

Black Sun

Ring Around The Moon

Earthbound

Another Time, Another Place

Missing Link

Guardian Of Piri

Force Of Life

Alpha Child

The Last Sunset

Voyager’s Return

Collision Course

Death’s Other Dominion

The Full Circle

End Of Eternity

War Games

The Last Enemy

The Troubled Spirit

Space Brain

The Infernal Machine

Mission Of The Darians

Dragon’s Domain

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 :)):

1. Breakaway
2. Earthbound
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.

Space: 1999: The Complete Season One [Blu-ray] – Buy it here!

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!!!