When it comes to sci-fi, Space: 1999 is a funny one. Or rather, it isn’t. Confused? You may well be after sitting down to enjoy the first handful of episodes of Gerry Anderson’s 1970s science fiction drama which followed the misadventures of the crew of Moonbase Alpha whose home, the Moon itself, is forced out of its orbit by a nuclear explosion and sent hurtling through space.
This isn’t your typical TV space opera, the focus very much on the survival of the crew, led by straight-laced John Koenig (Martin Landau) and Helena Russell (Barbara Bain), as they float through the cosmos in search of safety. Script editor Johnny Byrne ensured that the serious side of life on the Moon was always to the fore, with little time for levity or the lighter side of space adventure.
Nevertheless, this first season of twenty-four episodes is packed with variety, each week leading the Alphans to a new part of space and fresh dangers. While most series would be content to send their heroes into battle each week with lasers blazing, Space: 1999 opts for the psychological impact of their encounters.
There’s also a spiritual slant to many of these stories, a sense that the Moon’s journey may not be so haphazard or accidental as first thought. Episodes such as The Troubled Spirit and The Space Brain suggest that there’s more to the universe than meets the eye, while Dragon’s Domain throws in monster to liven things up.
War Games is the standout here, an opportunity for both the series viewers and characters to witness what the effects might be if you shoot first and ask questions later. Christopher Penfold’s script may be rewarding to older viewers, but quite what younger viewers thought at the time is uncertain.
Now scrubbed, polished and released on Blu-ray, the episodes have certainly never looked finer, the expensive production methods used in the 1970s caught on 35mm film. There are also extra features aplenty, including commentaries, original trailers, alternative opening titles and new mini-features discussing many of the episodes in some detail. The actual list is exhaustive, meaning this package is both useful for novices and experts alike.