Space 1999
Space 1999

 

Space: 1999 is a British science-fiction television series that ran for two seasons and originally aired from 1975 to 1978. In the opening episode, nuclear waste from Earth stored on the Moon's far side explodes in a catastrophic accident on 13 September 1999, knocking the Moon out of orbit and sending it and the 311 inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha hurtling uncontrollably into space. The series was the last production by the partnership of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and was the most expensive series ever produced for television up to that time.

 

Space: 1999 is the last in a long line of science-fiction series that the Andersons produced as a working partnership, beginning with Supercar in the early Sixties and including the famed marionette fantasy series StingrayFireball XL5ThunderbirdsCaptain Scarlet and the MysteronsJoe 90 and The Secret Service, as well as the live-action alien-invasion drama UFOSpace: 1999 owes much of the visual design to pre-production work for the never-made second series of UFO, which would have been set primarily on the Moon and featured a more extensive Moonbase. Space: 1999 drew a great deal of visual inspiration (and technical expertise) from the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The programme's special effects director Brian Johnson had previously worked on both Thunderbirds (as Brian Johncock) and 2001.

 

Plot:

 

The premise of Space: 1999 centres on the plight of the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha, Earth's Space Research Centre on the Moon, following a scientific cataclysm. Humanity had been storing its nuclear waste in vast disposal sites on the far side of the Moon. Due to an unknown form of magnetic radiation, the accumulated waste reaches critical mass and, on 13 September 1999, detonates in a massive thermonuclear explosion.

 

The force of the blast propels the Moon like an enormous booster rocket, hurling it out of Earth orbit and into deep space at colossal speed, thus stranding the 311 personnel stationed on Alpha. The runaway Moon, in effect, becomes the 'spacecraft' on which the protagonists travel, searching for a new home. During their interstellar journey, the Alphans encounter a vast array of alien civilizations, dystopian societies, and mind-bending phenomena previously unseen by humanity.

 

The concept of traveling through space to encounter aliens and strange worlds is similar to Lost In Space and Star Trek, although the programme's visual aesthetic was heavily influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey. In another nod to Kubrick's film, the first series of Space: 1999 explored mystical and metaphysical themes, offered little exposition or explanation of plot points. The inhabitants of Alpha were unwilling travelers, and represented present-day Earthmen cast adrift in a vast, unexplainable universe where Earth-bound logic and laws of nature no longer operated. Several episodes hinted that the Moon's journey was influenced (and perhaps initiated) by a 'mysterious unknown force', which was guiding the Alphans toward an ultimate destiny. The second series centered more on more simplified 'action-oriented' plots (à la Star Trek), with a deliberate aim at the American audience, and there was no further mention of the 'mysterious unknown force'.

 

Video/DVD/Blu-ray releases

 

The series was released on home video in the 1990s, with each cassette (or volume) featuring two episodes. In 2001, it was released on DVD in the UK by Carlton Media, both in single disc volumes (each volume contained four episodes) and also as two complete season boxed sets (titled as "Year One" and "Year Two") comprising six discs each. Each DVD also contained various extra features, including a variety of archive production material, memorabilia, and interviews with the cast and crew from the time the series was being made.

 

In 2005, Network DVD reissued Series One in the UK as a Special Edition seven-disc boxset. For this release, to coincide with the series' 30th Anniversary, each episode was digitally restored by creating new 35mm film elements (a new interpositive made from the original negative which is then used to make further copies). High Definition digital transfers were then made from the interpositives using a state-of-the-art Philips Spirit DataCine. Each frame was digitally cleaned up and colour-balanced, and the image was then processed with noise reduction (to reduce the film grain) before then being manually cleaned up to remove any remaining scratches and flaws.

 

This vastly improved the picture quality in comparison to the previous DVD releases, however the restoration process has actually made some of the space scenes (that involve special effects and model work) less realistic due to increased brightness and contrast (a comparison can be viewed here). This boxset also included a new set of extra features that were not on the Carlton DVD releases, including featurettes on "Concept & Creation" and "Special Effects & Design" (edited from an earlier "Fanderson" documentary made in 1996), as well as a two-part Clapperboard special on Gerry Anderson from 1975, and also a brand new 70-minute documentary entitled "These Episodes" in which Anderson, Christopher Penfold, Johnny Byrne, Zienia Merton and David Lane reflect on the making of key episodes from the first series.

 

Also included in the set are two booklets: a 24-page Episode Guide for the first series, and a 32-page "Production Notes" booklet. The audio options are Dolby Digital 5.1 for all episodes, with original mono for most episodes, and also a "music only" option for most episodes. There are also audio commentaries by Gerry Anderson on the episodes "Breakaway" and "Dragon's Domain", and text commentaries available on the episodes "The Last Sunset" and "Space Brain".

 

Network DVD began a similar restoration process for Series Two in 2007, however little progress has been made due to higher production costs in comparison to remastering Series One (the audio for Series One was already digitised prior to Network's restoration, but Series Two is not). Network have stated their intention to continue with the remastering of Series Two in conjunction with New Video/A&E Home Video in the U.S., with a view to a release in late 2013 or early 2014.

 

A&E Home Video has released the entire series on DVD in Region 1 in various incarnations. It was initially released in 8-volume sets between 2001 and 2002. On 24 September 2002, a 16-disc "Mega Set" boxset featuring all 48 episodes of the series was released. On 31 July 2007, A&E released Space: 1999 - Complete Series, 30th Anniversary Edition. This is essentially the same as the 2002 "mega set" release (and does not use the 2005 hi-def remasters), but does includes a special bonus disc full of extra features.

 

Network DVD released Series One on Blu-ray in the UK on 1 November 2010, and simultaneously re-released their Special Edition DVD box set of Series One with new artwork at the same time. Season One was released on Blu-ray in the U.S. on 2 November 2010 by A&E Home Entertainment.

 

[much more info on Space 1999 : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space:_1999 ]

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