“well, it’s 1999.”
“shouldn’t martin landau be on the moon now, or something?”
– from the 1/1/1999 comic strip
by Bill Amend.
Anybody else remember Space: 1999, the Gerry Anderson TV series from the 1970’s with Martin Landau and his wife, Barbara Bain? I used to be a fairly avid watcher of the series when it was first on and had some of the memorabilia. I remember getting a plastic model kit for an Eagle transporter for Christmas when I was in the first grade (though I actually got it for Eastern Orthodox Christmas on January 7 because it was the item to have that year). I also remember getting the “larger” toy Eagle that disassembled and came with action figures a year or two later. I never had the lunch box… but oh well. Space: 1999 had become rather passe by that point and I had moved on to other TV shows, like say, Battlestar Galactica.
Until recently, I hadn’t seen any of the series in years. I know that the Sci-Fi Channel took a stab at running the show for a while in the mid 1990’s before it was carried by my local cable provider. I also got to see a snippet or two on a local PBS station in the early 1990’s — in highly edited versions that were released as movies in Europe.
So, there was some curiousity on my part to see the series again when I discovered last year that it available on DVD. Thanks to my Amazon wish list, I just got Set 1 and Set 2 of the series for Christmas and my birthday. I have been happily watching parts of the first 12 episodes of the adventures of denizens of Moonbase Alpha ever since.
Seeing the series again evokes mixed feelings. Here are just a few bullet points describing why:
- The visual effects, especially in terms of model work, are still pretty damn good, even by today’s standards almost 30 years later.
- The show was generally staffed by fine actors, both in terms of the cast “regulars” and the weekly guest stars.
- The episode plots generally attempted to tackle some interesting premises relating to metaphysics, politics, etc (in a very 70’s way.)
- Character development on the show was awful. Other, more recent efforts at science fiction television have had the good sense to give individual characters well-defined personal story arcs in order to illustrate who they are. No such thing here; characters often tend to be plastic, ill defined, and exist solely to serve then needs of that week’s episode plot.
- Use (or abuse) of science and technology on the show is equally awful. Other shows have since taken the effort to have some sort of “science consultant” on staff to keep the use of scientific and technological jargon vaguely correct. No such help here. Re-writes to the laws of physics are frequent and abyssmal.
- Little is said about what the world and culture of the fictional 1999 was/is really like. There is, therefore, nothing to describe the protocol of how the different characters are to interact, their relationship with technology, their political ideas, etc. This further reinforces the notion that characters and their actions merely serve episode plots.
Yet, I cannot completely give up on the show. It’s like the bad, 1970’s science fiction equivalent of crack cocaine. It is oh-so-bad for me in so many ways, but I can’t shake it completely. Oh well. Just six more DVD sets to go…