The Catacombs Catacombs Reference Library
Criticism
Press and Magazine Reviews

SFX magazine, number 39, June 1998.

p103- series review by Anthony Brown (slightly edited as you know the plots!)

Whichever way you look at it, Space 1999 is an intensely variable series. Whereas the second season is an almost unmitigated farrago from start to finish, the initial run mixes triumphs and travesties in equal measure as the production team attempt to work out exactly what they're trying to do.

Unfortunately, they worked it out just in time for the American backers to put Star Trek escapee Fred Freiberger in charge. Still, if you're willing to sit through the bad weeks, the first batch offers eight or nine of the greatest pieces of TV science fiction ever put on film.

The superb effects are obvious, as is the starkly impressive design of Main Mission, but it's easy to overlook the arc-plot embracing the first season. It's understated and entirely dependent on seeing certain episodes in the correct order. Still, it does explain those otherwise irritating moments when fate intervenes to save the Alphans, leaving Koenig staring into space pondering on matters in "heaven and Earth undreamt by man's philosophy". The underlying notion is that some Mysterious Unknown Force has engineered the Moon's departure from Earth orbit in order to return humanity to its original home, as is made most clear by the more metaphysical moments of The Black Sun [..]

Hence the initial Breakaway is an honest to God miracle, which doesn't have to obey the laws of physics, and the entire plot line reaches its conclusion as the Moon literally stops in space above the Garden Of Eden in testament Of Arkadia, a surreal triumph of direction from Prisoner producer David Tomblin.

Backing these up are more lyrical pieces of metaphysics such as Missing Link, where a comatose Koenig hovers between this world and the next, and Death's Other Dominion, a showcase for one of Brian Blessed's greatest performances, as he restrains his volume for an understated portrayal of King Lear, complete with Fool. Finally there are straightforward dramas of simple power. There are few moments in science fiction as chillingly logically horrific as the conclusion of Earthbound [...] while Dragon's Domain, a blood curdling version of St. George and the Dragon showcases the season's only monster. Best of the lot is Troubled Spirit [...]. From an eerie opening pan through Alpha's corridors accompanied by sitar music to the inevitable ending, it never lets up for a moment.

Presiding over it all are the low key performances of the cast. Barbara Bain remains flat and wooden, but Martin Landau's Koenig is an effective portrayal of a man pressed down by an impossible command. Interesting enough, he comes across far better in the 90s, after the compelling dedication of Picard and Mulder, than he did back in the 70s, when Kirk's histrionic heroism was all viewers had as a benchmark.

Tune in, and don't let a single bad experience put you off. After a couple of weeks, you're sure to see something superb.

B+


Cult TV number 11, June 1998

p81 Series review by Clay Hickman

Welcome to the year 1999, where moonbases, laser pistols and plenty of beige are just part of everyday life in this, Gerry Anderson's second stab at series SF. His show packs bold visuals, fabulous model work, an international star studded cast and has no clue how to use any of it effectively.

It's major flaw is that it's trying hard to bring 2001 to the small screen but in the process copies all the wrong bits. The characters aren't interesting enough, the scripts aren't particularly clever and sometimes - well, sometimes it just stops. Space 1999 is probably the most ponderous piece of television ever conceived. Plenty of impressive tracking shots, huge close ups and badly delivered moral agonising. A notable absence of exciting running bits, good performances or tight plotting.

The show is quite the most po-faced load of old nonsense that's ever masqueraded as intelligent science fiction, and it's [precisely because it doesn't realise this that it's rather charming.

The cast, including Martin Landau as the rugged but dull base Commander, are a pretty mediocre lot, but it's in Alpha's medical officer that we find the true star of the show- Barbara Bain as the frosty Dr Helena Russell. Nothing can fluster this woman. Nothing can elicit any reaction at all. Blow her into space, bring her husband back from the dead, toss her from side to side in soft focus and you won't find an eyelid batted or a hair out of place. Either Bain is a true acting genius or she's clinically dead. Either way she's unmissable.

As is the whole show. Don't watch Space 1999 if you want an action packed runaround, because it's the very antithesis of Star Trek and its ilk. Everything about this series is wrong (down to Christopher Lee's memorable guest spot in Earthbound) and that's why it comes so close to working. You may watch it in astonishment, but after half an hour you'll find it inexplicably hard to stop.


SFX number 43, October 1998

p81 Entry in "The 50 Worst Things About SF Ever!"
Under a colour picture of Nick Tate with a bringer of wonder in Command Center.

27. Space: 1999

Okay, so the actual programme rarely plumbed the depths of lesser science fiction shows, but Gerry Anderson's second live action space series deserves its place here for the sheer dumbness of the central concept: Earth's moon is blown out of orbit and travels through space carrying the occupants of the Alpha Moonbase with it. Trouble is, the moon would have to be travelling at near light speed to cover the distances shown in the show - it's beyond Earth's solar system by the end of the first episode- so how come it seems to slow down whenever they encounter a new planet, enabling the crew enough time to nip off in their Eagles (definitely a contender for top SF ship of all time) and investigate.

Beware, however, of Space 1999 fans who claim there is an arc plot to explain this anomaly concerning a Mysterious Unknown Force (MUF) guiding the Moon back to a planet whereby humanity evolved. It doesn't. Well, not that convincingly anyway.

And two places on, after Dune characters and Star Trek Voyager technobabble, comes the second entry, at 25 for Fred Freiberger (p82)

25. Fred Freiberger

The producer who allegedly "killed" Star Trek and Space: 1999. He worked on the final series of both. Apologists may argue that the shows were on the way out anyway, but Freiberger certainly didn't provide any reasons to keep them going. His first Trek episode was the miserable "Spock's Brain", certainly the original series' low point. Freiberger then turned Space: 1999 into Lost In Space On The Moon, camping it up with dodgy monsters, gimmicky aliens (the shape changing Maya) and comic strip stories. Legend has it that the episode "The Rules Of Luton" which was written by Freiberger under a pseudonym, got its name after the producer saw a British road sign on his way to work, and thought the town sounded exotically alien. Says it all really.

Top was Bonnie Langford, in case you were wondering!


Computer Weekly 11 November 1999

Original URL: http://www.computerweekly.co.uk/cwxtra/cwxtrareviews.asp
p79

Space 1999

Barry Neild
Comments by Martin Willey

Bogged down by his flapping flares, Martin Landau was two decades away from churning out an Oscar-winning movie performance when he led the cast of Space: 1999 on their voyages through a hostile universe. Heralded by a theme tune that sounded like a sustained attack on an already malfunctioning Bontempi, this classic Gerry Anderson (he of Thunderbirds fame) sci-fi series charted the progress of a team of moonbase scientists set adrift in space by a blast that dispatched their chunk of moon rock to the far reaches of the Galaxy.

In their search for a planet to call home, the scientists were pitched against a motley bunch of malevolent aliens, none more fearsome than the often appallingly poor plotlines, penned by writers who seemed to genuinely believe shaving foam could destroy a space base and that Luton was an exotic name for a distant planet.

The references are to Space Brain and Rules Of Luton. Both episodes have well regarded aspects, as well as the more obvious flaws which are derided by non-fans and regarded uncomfortably by fans.

Nevertheless, the show persevered for 48 episodes between 1975 and 1977 and enjoyed global success in countries as diverse as Italy and Nigeria - where it cleared the streets every Saturday afternoon. Cult status - largely fuelled by the popularity of the show's Eagle spacecrafts - has resulted in recent repeats on UK terrestrial telly, and ensured the legend lives on in numerous Web sites.

The "Eagle spacecrafts" [sic] are perhaps the most popular symbol of the show, but while there are a large contingent of modellers (both CGI and traditional), fans tend to be attracted to the stories and characters.


SFX Cult TV booklet, 2000

Booklet supplement to the magazine, reviews by Alex Stewart

SPACE 1999. ITC/RAI/Group Three, Gerry Anderson/ITC (1975 - 1977; 48 x 50 minute episodes). Creators - Gerry & Sylvia Anderson. Executive Producer - Gerry Anderson. Producers - Sylvia Anderson, Fred Freiberger. Starring - Martin Landau (Commander John Koenig), Barbara Bain (Dr Helena Russell), Barry Morse (Professor Victor Bergman), Nick Tate (Alan Carter), Zenia Meeton (Sandra Benes), Catherine Schell (Maya, Season 2), Tony Anholt (Tony Vedesci, Season 2).

Gerry Anderson's follow-up to UFO was a visually spectacular but rather lacklustre affair, following the adventures of the staff of Moonbase Alpha as they struggled to survive after the moon had been blasted out of Earth orbit by an accident at a nuclear waste storage facility.

Thereafter, as the moon careered through space at what must have been an appreciable fraction of the speed of light (enough for the time dilation effect to kick in, judging by the regularity with which it passed through alien solar systems without the cast ageing visibly between episodes), Commander Koenig tried to hold everything together and deal with the latest malevolent aliens to cause trouble for his beleaguered crew.

As one would expect from a Gerry Anderson production the hardware was visually interesting, most especially the Eagle transporters which, like Thunderbird Two, were equipped with mission-specific modules, and the special effects were cutting-edge for the time. Most of the stories made little more sense than the initial premise, however, and the second season was even dafter than the first, following a revamp intended to increase its appeal to American audiences.


SFX number 77, Spring 2001

DVD review by Nick Setchfield

Uniquely for a television show, Space 1999 always managed to be less than the sum of its title sequences. They were, without exception, pulse-troublingly fab... And each week we would dupe ourselves that yes, this time it would be the funky, sexy experience it promised to be and not the tedious old tommyrot it always was.

It's ironic. Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's mid 70s stab at mid Atlantic science fiction always carried the rep of a prosaic Star Trek knock-off, but in many ways it foreshadowed Star Trek The Motion Picture, flaws and all. Both share a similar drab aesthetic... Both value huge, portentious concepts over humanity and emotion, as if unscrambling the secret of the universe is inherently more interesting than two people falling in love.


Science Fiction Chronicle, May 2001

DVD review by Jeff Rovin

Twelve of the forty-eight episodes of Space: 1999 (1974-1976) have been released on DVD. The show is about the moon being blasted from its orbit and roaming the universe like a giant spaceship. In command is the sure-handed John Koenig played with uncharacteristic but welcome reserve by Martin Landau. The series was the work of Gerry Anderson, whose marionette shows such as Supercar and Thunderbirds remain fan favourites. Anderson's team were masters of special effects model-work and those skills make for breathtaking visuals. Unfortunately, the science is often insane (overlooking the bizarre premise itself, you can pour coffee in a spaceship?), and the stories range from intriguing to dumb. Except for some shocking gashes in the opening moments of the first episode, and occasional marks here and there, the episodes look fresh and colourful.


SFX magazine #203, January 2011

p114. 1/4 page review of Network Blu-ray release by Will Salmon. Picture of Koenig and Helena in Medical from Breakaway, captioned "Babs really didn't get the whole hairdressing idea."

Lunar Landau

Space 1999 debuted in 1975, nine years after Star Trek. It shares a lot in common with Roddenberry's baby; a multicultural crew, a philosophical yet heroic commander, and a peculiar episode about space hippies, but comes at the whole space adventuring lark from a different angle. Glossy, cerebral and determinedly serious, this was telly's equivalent of 2001.

Well, that's what fans will tell you. Thing is, a lot of the time Space 1999 doesn't fulfil the promise of its ludicrous-yet-thrilling premise (an explosion sends the Moon hurtling out of Earth's orbit carrying the crew of Moonbase Alpha away on intergalactic adventures). Its ponderous and frequently quite dull. There's virtually no humour, and while Landau s good as Commander Koenig, Barbara Bain's Dr Russell appears to have trouble expressing even basic human emotions.

Despite the flaws, it's an extremely watchable show. It looks fantastic, with beautiful design and model work. And when the quality of the scripts aligns with the show's epic ambition, you get excellent episodes like "War Games" (which pits Alpha against an unbeatable enemy), "Guardian Of Pin" (those space hippies) and "Dragons Domain" (a creepy stab at Lovecraftian horror). It's far from perfect but series one is as close to cinematic SF as British telefantasy ever got.

Extras: The main draws here are a new Sylvia Anderson interview and the featurette "Memories or Space". Also new for Blu-ray: galleries of gum and cigarette cards, annual PDFs, and a digitally restored, HD version of "The Metamorph". You also get goodies from the DVD release, including Gerry Anderson's commentary on "Dragon's Domain", analyses of selected stones and a two-part TV special on Anderson from 1975. Will Salmon

! Martin Landau was offered the role of Spock in Star Trek. He turned it down, saying he couldn't "play wooden". Unlike Barbara Bain...


SFX magazine #233, May 2013

p82. 1/2 page of a longer commentary feature "Counch Potato" on "Sci-Fi Babes", kids in TV fantasy

Space: 1999 "Alpha Child"

In our next baby-themed slice of sci-fi the first child is born on Alpha in Space: 1999.

Nick: What's it all about, Alpha Child?
Rich: They should have called this show Beige: 1999.
Jordan: I can't believe the man who made Thunderbirds made this...
Will: ...Only the actors are more wooden.
Nick: And apparently a cosmic phenomenon has bleached all colour out of the moon.
Rich: They brought the two stars of Minion Jntpossibk. husband and wife, in as a package. Most expensive package on British TV
Nick: And the most boring. You compare it to Doctor Who and this doesn't have a tenth of the wit and imagination.
Within hours, the Alpha Baby has aged five years.
Will: Blimey, he's not a baby for very long.
Jordan: So the message of this is don't have sex in space?
Nick: This was our first experience of the celestial force known as tedium.
Rich: We were happy then, before the tedium came.
Charlotte: This is "space Damien" isn't it?
Nick: It could be Space 666.
Rich: It would he great if this alien child was just like 'I hate you! I'm not coming out of my room.'
Will: This was our answer to Star Trek, That's dispiriting.
Jordan: This is like Star Trek with all the fun taken out.
Will: Still better than Voyager though.
A surprisingly glittery invading alien force arrives to reclaim their child.
Jordan: We bring colour, Earthmen.
Nick: That's very Star Trek, the spaceship appearing on the scanner screen.
Will: The Eagle, that's a classic design.
Rich: The Blockade Runner was originally going to be the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars, but they decided it looked too much like the Eagle One.
Charlotte: The most startling thing in this is that all their TV monitors are black and white.
Jordan: Guy on the right with an enormous moustache. His style hasn't dated at all.
Nick: Porn: 1999.
Will: This is quite upsetting, they've exposed this kid to terminal levels of boredom.
Having indulged in tangents for the last ten minutes, the child growing into Julian Glover recaptures the Couch crew's attention.
Jordan: He's like a wannabe Zod. Interesting costume though, like some kind of fetish mummy.
Nick: It's a motif of Gerry Anderson's that they shoot first, ask questions later.
Rich: If they hadn't shot first in Captain Scarlet the Mysterons would never have invaded.
Nick: When you compare how exciting something like Stingray is, this at least needs a decent theme: Moooooonbase, Moonhase..."
Jordan: Moral of this story they grow up fast. Or: don't trust s baby.
In the closing scenes we enter a room to find a man dying in bed.
Nick: Someone's read the next script
Eleanor: "gurgles"
Charlotte: I think that means two stars.


Sci Fi Now magazine #90, Feb 2014

p115-116, part of article "The Complete Guide to Gerry Anderson" by Chris Chantler

(Of UFO, filmed 1968-1969) "It was to be Anderson's only Seventies masterpiece. ... the uneven and uncomfortably Amercianised Space 1999 - then the most expensive British TV series ever made - ended up a protracted, compromised disappointment, despite an intriguing premise (the Moon is blown out of orbit by a nuclear explosion), fantastic guest stars (Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Brian Blessed and Bernard Cribbins), inevitably breath-taking model work and some great individual episodes in its first season. Also around this time, Gerry and Sylvia's relationship fell apart, and her replacement (professionally speaking) Fred Freiberger wrought a number of changes to the show, resulting in a much reviled second season, which limped on until the end of 1977. By then, Anderson had been working relentlessly on intensive production schedules for 20 years. With his marriage over and his biggest-ever project ending in ignominy, a break was in order.

Some odd opinions (Bernard Cribbins was a fantastic guest star?). Space 1999 was the most expensive TV series in the world in 1975, not just Britain. The the series wrapped at the end of 1976. Because of interrupted runs, first run episodes were still appearing in 1978 (in London and Birmingham, in some other regions even later). During 1977 and 1978, Anderson, initially with Freiberger, were developing new series ideas. He was not actively filming in these years, but nor had he in 1973 when he was developing Space: 1999. There had also been a number of periods between series in the 1960s, so it was certainly not 20 years of continuous production.


Rolling Stone

On RollingStone.com, article "40 Best Science Fiction TV Shows of All Time" by Sam Adams, Sean T. Collins, David Fear, Noel Murray, Jenna Scherer, Scott Tobias. May 26, 2016

1 to 5 is predictably Star Trek, Twilight Zone, Battlestar Galactica reboot, Dr Who and The Prisoner.

Space: 1999 is a respectable 22, below Babylon 5 (20) and Quantum Leap (21), above The Flash (23), Life On Mars (24) and Jessica Jones (25).

When Star Trek became a belated hit in syndication, smart producers set out to capitalize on the "space is the place" trend - which is how "Supermarionation" mavens Gerry and Sylvia Anderson ended up making this stylish, high-toned live-action series. Their highly Trek-esque plots saw Earth's human-inhabited moon hurtling through the universe after an explosion and getting embroiled in interplanetary conflicts. Today, fans love the show for its snazzy disco uniforms and elaborate spaceship models - both of which resemble a certain blockbuster motion picture that was still in production at the time. If only the show had stayed on the air just one year longer, it could've ridden that Star Wars wave to bigger glory. NM