Sunday, 27 September 2015

Space:1999 Season 2 (1976)

Ah, SPACE:1999 SEASON 2 - the sometimes embarrassing younger brother to the occasionally elegant season one. In fact, if it were not for a few of the same actors, one could easily be forgiven for thinking this second series was actually an Italian rip-off of the original, with different sets, some outrageous fashions, and an anything-goes approach to storytelling that frequently involved men in monster costumes banging each other over the heads with sticks. It’s hard to imagine a mid-1970s TV series of BARBERELLA looking much different to what we have on display here. Even Derek Wadsworth’s revamped music is reminiscent at points of Walter Rizzati’s music for Fulci’s HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY. Of course that doesn’t mean SPACE 1999: Season 2 isn’t fun. Quite the opposite, in fact - it feels like a more pumped up, racier, sexier version of the show that some may well prefer. And now here you get all twenty four episodes plus extras spread over six Blu-rays or DVDs. 

        The Metamorph is the first of five episodes on disc one and sets the tone for the rest of the series, There’s no explanation for why Moonbase Alpha looks entirely different, where Professor Bergman has gone or indeed any of the other Series One regulars who are noticeable by their absence. The subtlety of the foes to be encountered from hereon in is epitomised by the mighty BRIAN BLESSED who plans (very loudly and with unbelievable hairstyling) to use zombie Alphans to rebuild his dying planet. At least he has a sexy shapeshifter daughter they can rescue to become a regular character and extremely handy plot device. 
The Exiles features a dubbed Peter Duncan and a very short-skirt-wearing Stacy Dorning as 300 year-old villains determined to get their revenge on the people who banished them and their kind into space to wear dayglo red and yellow spandex uniforms forever. It’s a bit silly, but only just misses out on BritPulp perfection by not having Sheila Keith play the old lady who rules the planet.

In One Moment of Humanity a pre-OMEN Billie Whitelaw gets to call Barbara Bain a decrepit old hag as she and her android colleagues (created by Geoffrey Bayldon!) attempt to learn the emotion of hate so they can kill everyone. Or something. Maya turns into a parrot and there’s a dance routine choreographed by Lionel Blair. The plot is stupid, the dresses are ridiculously glamorous and everyone takes it very seriously. Was SPACE:1999 ever more Italian than this? 
All That Glisters features a trippy planet set and a daft tale of sentient rocks with guest star Patrick Mower boasting a terrible Irish accent and a silly hat. In Journey to Where, a transmat beam created by Texan scientists Freddie Jones and Isla Blair gets buggered by an earthquake, causing Commander Koenig, Dr Russell and Alan the Pilot to get transferred to the Planet of the Scotsmen instead of back to earth as planned. Both this and The Exiles are by Donald Jackson rewriting Season One scripter Johnny Byrne’s stories, and they do have a gloomier, more serious feel than some of the more cartoony stuff. 

Disc two offers the next five episodes. The Taybor features Willoughby Goddard, who looks like a vastly over-inflated George Woodbridge (from PIPKINS and Hammer Horrors) with pink hair. In The Rules of Luton, three members of Metallica chase Koenig and Maya around the BOY FROM SPACE quarry. Directed by Val Guest, this one’s probably most famous for getting its title from producer Fred Freiburger, who saw a road sign on his way to the studio & thought Luton sounded sufficiently otherworldly that he wrote this story under the name Charles Woodgrove. Maya is a stock footage lion in this one which is not so much intercut as quite obviously Somewhere Else. It’s still fun, though - a little like SPACE:1999’s equivalent of Fredric Brown’s Arena episode from the first season of STAR TREK. 
The Mark of Arkanon has the bodies of aliens John Standing and Michael Gallagher being discovered beneath the moon’s surface, with Standing suffering from a disease that turns him homicidal whenever the plot needs a bit of a boost. Brian the Brain is directed by Kevin FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE Connor and features Bernard Cribbins as a mad computer. New Adam New Eve guest stars Guy SARDONICUS Rolfe playing God by way of Jason King in a Terence Feely script directed by series one regular Charles Crichton. 

Disc three kicks off with Catacombs of the Moon. This feels more like a Series One episode with James Laurenson slowly being driven mad by visions of his sick wife (Pamela Stephenson) being burned alive as a heatwave threatens Alpha. Not a monster costume in sight and it’s actually a refreshing change. The AB Chrysalis features a naked Sarah Douglas wreathed in mist while Maya turns into a chlorine breathing monster. Seed of Destruction is another Kevin Connor-directed episode and features a naughty Koenig mirror image. The Beta Cloud is a daft but fun episode by “Charles Woodgrove” that has Dave Prowse in a monster suit crashing his way around Alpha in search of the base’s life support system. In Space Warp Koenig & Tony are trapped light years away from Alpha, where Maya has been put into restraints as she keeps turning into this week’s monsters. 

Disc four begins with A Matter of Balance, a fun episode about a planet of anti-matter beings trying to use pretty (and for some reason intermittently dubbed) Lynne Frederick to bring them back to reality. Then we get the two part Bringers of Wonder, which I reviewed here. After that it’s The Lambda Factor, with Deborah Fallender (from JABBERWOCKY) using her psychic powers to get her own way on Alpha. The disc concludes with The Seance Spectre with special guests Ken Hutchison and Carolyn Seymour.
On disc five we get Dorzak, guest starring Lee Montague as the evil Psychon of the title. Devil’s Planet features ladies in skin tight red uniforms wielding whips in an episode that could only have existed in the world of mid-1970s television. The Immunity Syndrome is a Johnny Byrne-written episode where the ghost of Nadim Sawalha recounts how his crew were killed by an unintentionally lethal creature. Finally there’s The Dorcons, with Patrick Troughton needing Maya's brainstem to keep him going.

Disc five also contains the first extra, which is a fascinating experiment where the season two episode Seed of Destruction has been recut to make it seem like a season one episode - complete with a Barry Gray score! The different music lends a majesty to the proceedings that they probably don’t deserve, and it certainly makes for an interesting viewing experience. 
Disc six has the rest of the extras, including a behind the scenes piece where Gerry Anderson seems tired, Barbara Bain comes across as more human and animated than she ever does in the series, and it seems to be a requisite to be smoking a fag while being interviewed. Cosmos:1999 is a charming animated short using Action Men to tell a Moonbase Alpha story about a roving monster. There’s a fun archive of stock footage of model shots, and Brian Johnson deservedly gets his own archive short detailing the model shop. There are also archive interviews with cast and crew, production audio for four episodes, a tiny outtake, and image galleries.

Most important of all in this set, though, is the quality of the transfers. All the episodes here look as pristine and beautifully restored as Season One, with the model work looking absolutely stunning in high definition. If you’re a fan of the show, or harbour nostalgic memories of it, this really is the best these episodes could possibly look. It’s difficult to believe they were shot in the mid 1970s as they look better than some modern-day television. Network have done another superb job with this. It’s been a long wait, but SPACE:1999 SEASON TWO is finally here and image quality-wise it’s definitely been worth the wait. 

Network are releasing SPACE:1999 SEASON TWO on Region 2 DVD and Region B Blu-ray on 28th September 2015. If you order the Blu-ray set direct from Network here you have the chance to get some exclusive packaging. 

1 comment:

  1. "The different music lends a majesty to the proceedings that they probably don’t deserve" Funny! :-)