on December 3, 2010
I've been a fan of Space:1999 since it first aired in the states, and finding decent reference books on the series to be a daunting task. I eagerly snapped up Exploring Space:1999 a few years ago in hardcover. I enjoyed it and share John Muir's affection for the series. It was gratifying to read someone giving a few logical rebuttals to the long standing criticism of the series and some episodes. It's clear that many of the show's critics never actually watched the series at length, and some simply repeat what was said by others without fact checking. 1999 was in the unenviable position of being the first major sci-fi series since Star Trek's syndication popularity exploded. At that time, everything (and I mean everything) sci-fi was held up to Trek for comparison. I feel Muir's pain when defending his favorite show, and Star Trek fans were a pretty obnoxious lot back then. So, I was thrilled to see someone reading into the series as I did and shared my (crackpot?) theories on the first year's metaphysical bent.
Where the book falls short is in the decision to bash every other sci-fi show in order to support his theories on Space:1999. While I understand his desire to balance the scales, it comes off unprofessional and, frankly, annoying. Muir slams Star Trek and other shows, sometimes outright but mostly with disguised sarcasm, using loads of qualifiers such as "beloved" and "critically acclaimed." Also, his choice to use exclamation points liberally is distracting and amateurish. It's a trait seen in many UK fan magazines to emphasize a joke or a supposition which isn't all that clever or exciting. He comes across sounding like an excited, rabid fan talking about something most people aren't so enthusiastic over. Note to any writer of anything: use exclamation points where someone actually exclaims - which means "cry out."
Also, his reviews of episodes in year two are not seen with the same critical standards as the first year. I mean, something he'll let go in one episode the first year will be pounced on in the second. The example I can think of is that of a space helmet visor flipping open during a fight scene on the moon's surface in Space Warp. He trashes the episode in general (rightfully so), but he really comes down on this gaffe, calling it careless, unprofessional or something to that effect. How something like that could go unnoticed, he felt, only demonstrated the slipshod technical attributes of the second year. However, he fails to mention that this exact same incident occurred in the very first episode, Breakaway (Muir would have used an exclamation point right here). Breakway, it should be noted, had an over 4 week shooting schedule. Space Warp had something like 6 days. I have no objection to his opinions on the episodes themselves, but whatever slack he cuts for year one should be cut for year two, if not moreso since production time was cut drastically.
Overall, I find that he is fair in his views of both years, barring a few prejudices. It's a well researched book and obviously a labor of love. Perhaps there's just a little too much love, something a good editor should have caught and toned down. However, it's a decent starter volume for fans of the series.
on August 21, 2005
Muir does a comprehansive episode by episode review of the 2 seasons of the show. I very much enjoyed his analyses of each episode though I found the comparisons with shows such as STAR TREK a little distracting. There were also errors of fact carried over from the original hardback version of this book; I would like to have seen the publishers give Muir the opportunity to revise the text before publishing this paperback version.
I don't agree with all of Muir's comments by any means and I also think he short-changed Year 2. Granted in many ways it did not match the first season but it had a look and feel all of its own and I think Muir did not emphasise this enough.
Overall a good read. Perhaps not the definitive analysis of Space 1999 but a good attempt. But be prepared to disagree with the author on some of his opinions!
on June 29, 2007
Clearly, John Kenneth Muir has written a definitive account of the popular series created by Gerry Anderson, whose largest body of work consisted of fantasy-adventure programming aimed for children filmed in "supermarination"--highly sophisticated puppets on miniature sets.
"Space 1999" was Anderson's second venture using live actors, save for the brief two season run of "UFO" produced approximately 6 years earlier. To the author's credit, Muir methodically analyzes each individual episode of Space 1999: the ones that are exemplary and the ones that are better left forgotten; the changes made in the second season under producer Fred Freiberger to add some fire to the principal characters, Koenig and Russell and the addition of Maya (Moonbase's resident alien--not the wisest of moves)and the series' constant, albeit irritating, comparison to its more universally respected rival, "Star Trek." (See my DVD review of Space 1999's Megaset)
Where the book falls short, is in the author's lack of critical distance as both a writer and commentator. Too often, Muir comes across as a fan rather than maintaining a sense of detachment from the subject he is examining. (Historians do this all the time--when you love your subject so much, you can't really see the forest from the trees-For example, how many "critical biographies" have we read on George Washington that have tried not to examine their subject with a sense of reverence and awe for our first President?)
Muir's defense for Space 1999, even in the wake of some critical and erudite comments from Isaac Asimov who thought the show's premise was scientifically preposterous, manages to fall flat. Muir too, takes to task celebrated author, Gary Gerani, of the popular sci-fi historical/pictorial book, "Fantastic Television" (c. 1977) finding his analysis rather hostile and insubstantial (And I thought Gerani's commentary was on-the-mark!)
An interesting note: had it not been for Gerani's coveted tome and episode guides to some of sci-fi television's most respected programs many Gen Xers like myself would never had heard of classic shows like "The Twilight Zone" and "The Outer Limits." Before the debut "Star Wars" in late in 1977 when science fiction finally received its due, his book was the first of its kind to examine science fiction on television in a critical manner.
Muir reminds me of David Gerrold, the well-respected and opinionated writer and commentator (re: the bestselling "The World of Star Trek" reprinted and revised multiple times) but lacks the latter's wit and engaging style. This is not to say that Muir's book is not without merit--it is, by all means exhaustive and, I would dare say the best resource we have on this series which sadly never lived up to its potential.
on October 16, 2008
This book is a must for all of you who had seen this series in the 70`s or 80`s. It has a little summary of the story as well as behind the scenes and some comments on each episode. I had a previous version of this book with a blue hardcover and this one is a re-edition. Some critics may say that the book is biased towards Space 1999, since Muir is a sincere fan. However is has some points that show that the show, mainly in its first season was a groundbreaker and visionary one. You will see that the ideas in some episodes would be used in other subsequent series and films, like Dragon`s Domain was the inspiration for Alien first movie. Highly recommended for Sci-fi fans.
As I’ve mentioned in another review recently, I missed the whole SPACE: 1999 phenomenon of the late 70’s. Basically, I grew up in a small town in a time unlike today that one didn’t have a billion entertainment choices on the TV dial, nor could one have a vast library of video upon which to fall back on in time of performance drought. In the US, SPACE: 1999 played entirely in syndication, so – if it wasn’t on in your market – then you were out of luck. Sure, you had what the trade magazines told you of it in the day, but that couldn’t make up for failing to see it on a TV set near you.
Now that I’m older and wiser and have a bit more income to invest in choices, I’ve been able to pick up a handful of episodes from the first season (the one I’ve been told, by far, is the best) and screen them on my Kindle. Dare I say I probably would’ve loved this show had I seen it in my relative youth? I don’t know where it’s heading in its second season – well, other than what I’ve read – but I definitely would’ve been a believer back then, as I’m finding I am today. Why this thing hasn’t been rebooted is a mystery, and I hope someone sometime somewhere does mankind a service and re-engages this tale of a moon gone awry, drifting on a course into deep, dark space.
Having watched a half-dozen episodes and being suitably impressed, I picked up a digital copy of John Kenneth Muir’s EXPLORING SPACE 1999: AN EPISODE GUIDE AND COMPLETE HISTORY OF THE MID-1970S SCIENCE FICTION TELEVISION SERIES to read. Mostly, I wanted to know more about the show, something a bit more in-depth than the passing Starlog article I could find online. Where did the show come from? How did it originate? Who were the main players? And – most of all – why didn’t it catch a more enduring foothold in the popular culture of the time?
Well, Muir might argue that it did get a pretty solid foothold, but he’d probably agree that the show’s oft-maligned reputation wasn’t exactly of the show’s own earning. In fact, from what I learned in his book, SPACE: 1999 went largely ignored, probably in no small part due to the fact that so many Star Trek fans of that generation didn’t exactly want another franchise bumping the Gene Roddenberry vehicle off of their cultural radar. When 1999 premiered in the mid-70’s, Trekkies had finally been modestly assured that Star Trek was coming back: rumor had it that a second television show was in the offing, and it was going to serve as the cornerstone to a whole new network from Paramount itself! So even though there was definitely room for another universe, sci-fi fans appeared reticent to sign aboard anything new. And why should they? What did their allegiance earn them? Four decades later, and Trekkies are still the butt of jokes across the entertainment spectrum!
Granted, there were other factors contributing to SPACE: 1999’s shelf-life, not the least of which was being sold directly to syndication in the U.S. (meaning it really wouldn’t have the backing of a major network and, instead, competed against them); but you get the point. It didn’t catch on, certainly not the way it could’ve, and the rest is history.
Thankfully, Muir’s book goes to respectable lengths to document the phenomenon it was as well as the various finer points one would expect with any compendium. EXPLORING SPACE 1999 does a good job looking back on the show’s era; positioning the program within the social context; and recounting the good, the bad, and the potentially ugly episodes of its two seasons. Muir even manages to peel back some of the show’s charm to show you how the politics behind-the-scenes (specifically, a failed marriage) may’ve clipped 1999’s wings before they ever really go to soar.
Those who knew the show will probably be charmed by Muir’s critical take on each installment. Those who’ve only since discovered the sci-fi adventure in reruns on Syfy will appreciate the man’s attention to detail. Heck, even those just getting to know Commander Koenig and his crew for the first time – knuckleheads like myself – will likely cherish this accounting of minutiae big and small as the writer takes his audience back to the future (as promised) when our sole satellite was blasted from its gravitational perch on September 13, 1999!
on July 12, 2005
This is a book about the TV series Space:1999, the science fiction show from the mid-1970s that never gets much respect from Star Trek fans. It's pretty much an episode-by-episode summation of the series, with an interview with Catherine Schell (Maya!) included, as well as a look back at the Isaac Asimov New York Times piece. There are some photos (not many), including one with Nick Tate at a Star Trek convention.
Anyway, I think it's highly ironic that the one-star reviewer below has objected to the fact that this book (a book about Space:1999) devotes time to rebutting long-standing myths about the series perpetuated by Trekkies for 25 years. I mean, I would expect a book about Space:1999 to address this element of the series' history. And besides, I think the criticism is even-handed and definitely not gushy. There are some episodes of 1999 that get lashed and even the author at points acknowledges where Star Trek did things better. So I don't really see any overt Star Trek bashing. In fact, Star Trek is the yardstick by which Space:1999 has been measured (and battered with...) for 25 years, so I think it's kinda nice to see the other side represented. FOR ONCE. And again...this IS a book about Space:1999. Maybe Star Trek fans are just getting defensive again now that Enterprise got cancelled, and have to go out and attack Space:1999 books on their own amazon pages...
on March 26, 2011
Although in need of updating (having been written even before 1999) especially in regards to the shows availablility in the home video market, the real value comes in the opinions of the author regarding each episode. Of course, an episode list and synopsis of those episodes are readily available without a book, especially now that we are in the 21st century.
The author is obviously a huge fan, many of his observances and critiques of the episodes are quite interesting. He likes episodes I didn't, and of course the reverse is true as well, but he also explains why the episode succeeds or fails on emotional levels or perhaps because of excellent characterization even when it may or may not have had the best script.
The main weakness in this concordance are the ad nauseum Star Trek comparisons. Over and over we have to read how this script seems like that one from Trek, either the original series or later on the Next Generation, or how this one did it first or this one did it better. Some of his observances are spot on, some come across as fan-boyish.
I did laugh when he commented on how Space: 1999 in it's first season did not necessarily need to adhere to earth based scientific principles to tell a good story, and then immediately in the episode discussions opines about this scientific mistake or that one. He also spends too much time near the end of the book justifying how often the Alphans come close to habitable planets, comparing Star Trek's warp drive starship to the moon, and stating that only 40% of the episodes had a habitable planet compared to about 80% for Trek, ignoring that fact that the Enterprise travels to specific places at speeds several hundred times the speed of light compared to the moon's uncontrollable trajectory through space. He also spends a fair amount of time defending other's criticisms of the show, essentially saying if Space: 1999 is ridiculous, than all sci-fi shows are, and even at one point tries to debunk Isaac Asimov's infamous criticism of the show. (although Asimov wrote it immediately after the premier episode) He also counts the Eagles incorrectly, with one episode clearly stating there are 27 Eagles (the author claims 50) and the author claims that 18 were destroyed. (more like 24-25, with another dozen crashing)
I am a fan of this show, and of Star Trek as well. Their fan bases are not necessarily mutually exclusive, nor are the shows particularly similar (well, except for what Frieberger incorporated when he stole some Star Trek bits) Both were under appreciated in their time, and are now considered flawed classics. Yes, for quite some time Space: 1999 was viewed as the redheaded stepchild of TV sci-fi, but that ship has since sailed.
Enjoy the book for the episode critiques.
on January 3, 2014
There is not much current being written about the series Space:1999, so this was a refreshing look at a television series long gone. Though this book is dated, being originally published in the mid 90's, it's full of teriffic reviews of the episodes, as well as behind the scenes info on the making of the series, and it's unfortunate demise. The author is also a fan of the show, so there is a bias in favor of the series, though the episode reviews are right on. Alot of conversation and debate about reviving the series. Will be interesting if one day the show actually does return. Highly recommended....
on October 2, 2014
John Kenneith Muir "gets" the appeal of this series, which I had felt but couldn't put into words; in addition, he places it in the wider pop culture context of its day and since then. He makes the interesting case that the basic slant of the series (mistrusting of technology and government) was well ahead of its time. Fabulous book for fans of the series or for curious readers interested in a vital part of science fiction culture they may have missed or heard pilloried by its enemies.
on October 7, 2006
Overall a good book that gives the background and insight in the tv-series "space 1999". But the book should not have included the long discription of the "fight" between space 1999 and Star Trak fans. In the end they are both fiction - and none of them better and the other.