“UFO is Go!
Gerry Anderson’s 1970 live-action science fiction TV show comes to Blu-ray in this gloriously restored edition courtesy of Network.
Coming after world-famous shows like THUNDERBIRDS and CAPTAIN SCARLET and paving the way for SPACE:1999, UFO was an ambitious project for Gerry Anderson. The basic plot is that in 1980, after ten years of developments, SHADO (the Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation) goes live, headed by Commander Straker (Ed Bishop) and assisted by Colonel Alec Freeman (George Sewell until he left three quarters of the way through) and Colonel Paul Foster (Michael Billington who was up for James Bond) on earth, where their base is disguised as a film studio. A moonbase is staffed by purple-haired ladies led by Lt Gay Ellis (Gabrielle Drake). The aim of SHADO is to defend the earth from a dying alien race who want our organs to replace theirs.
Remarkably adult in its plots and denouements (hollow victories, downbeat endings, and a fair bit of serious violence), UFO was nevertheless marketed as a children’s show in many ITV regions, often being shown on Saturday mornings. Dinky toys and bubble gum collector card sets also undoubtedly added to the turn-offs for what could have potentially been a solid adult audience looking for something a bit more serious that THE PERSUADERS.
Of course, those of us of a certain age (and certainly younger than the 12 certificate this set has been given) didn’t mind at all. Here was an SF show that was anything but childish. The lead characters smoked and drank, had affairs and got divorced, all among the backdrop of some smashing special effects including exploding flying saucers and all manner of great bits of battle equipment.
I reviewed Network’s ‘preview’ Blu-ray, INVASION UFO, back in August. That disc consisted of edited bits of six episodes in 1.85:1 aspect ratio (boo!) but the restoration job boded well for the forthcoming series release. Here you get all 26 episodes over six discs, with the option of either mono or 5.1 sound (you really do need Barry Gray’s music in 5.1, you know). Most importantly, it gives me great relief to report that the episodes are all in their original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (hooray!).
Extras on the set include From the Earth to the Moon - a brand new feature-length documentary with plenty of archive video. The Women of UFO is another new documentary, and there’s a new SHADO briefing film narrated by Matt Zimmerman.
There are audio commentaries on two episodes: Identified with Gerry Anderson and Sub-Smash with Ed Bishop, plus an archived Ed Bishop interview from 1986. Tomorrow Today is a look at the series fashions with Sylvia Anderson, and there’s a SID voice session complete with outtakes.
You also get textless episode title backgrounds and end titles, stock footage, extra footage from several episodes (Identified, Exposed, Timelash and The Long Sleep) and Italian trailers.
Finally, in addition to all the video material, Network’s UFO set comes with a 600 page book on the making of the series by television historian Andrew Pixley. It’s hard to believe there will be a better presentation of UFO on Blu-ray and, for the quality of the transfers if nothing else, Network has done the fans proud.
Network's Blu-ray restoration set of all 26 episodes of Gerry Anderson's UFO is available now.