10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
It's Good, But Not as Good as Season One...,
By A Customer
This review is from: Space 1999, Set 5 (DVD)
"Space: 1999" was a British-made sci-fi series which aired on American television in the mid-1970's. At that time it was the most expensive show ever produced on British television, and the money showed in the large, elaborate sets of Moonbase Alpha and the special effects. The plot is deceptively simple: in 1999 the United Nations has constructed a huge base, called Alpha, on the Moon. Although primarily a scientific and research center, the base is also used to monitor the vast amounts of nuclear waste which are stored on the moon's surface (in Space 1999's timeline, nuclear power is the Earth's main energy source). In September 1999 a freak accident causes the nuclear waste to explode, thereby blasting the moon out of Earth's orbit and hurling it - and the personnel of Alpha - across the galaxy. Space 1999's first season turned this show into a cult classic, and some diehard sci-fi buffs rightly consider the first season's episodes to be among the most unique and creative in sci-fi history. The vivid lighting and colors created a moody, creepy atmosphere not unlike the "X-Files", the musical score was both haunting and memorable, and the episodes themselves were often surprisingly mature, unique, and drew as much from the horror and fantasy genres as sci-fi. What truly made the first season of the show different was that not every episode had a happy ending, not every problem was neatly solved, and the crew of Alpha often appeared genuinely scared and bewildered by their encounters with all sorts of aliens and strange phenomena. Commander Koenig, the base's leader, was no heroic Captain Kirk, but a very human leader doing his best to help his people survive in an often hostile, or at least uncaring, universe. Unfortunately, for the second season the show's producers decided to "Americanize" the series, and the result was a definite drop-off in the show's quality in the second season. Cost-cutting led to cheaper special effects and sets, and too often the monster costumes looked like something out of a Grade-B horror film. The musical score was jazzed-up and sped-up, and thus sounded more like something out of a seventies disco than the first-season's original score. Several major characters from the first season simply vanished, with no explanations ever given for their sudden disappearance. Paul Morrow, Koenig's second-in-command and David Kano, the computer expert, were gone. But the biggest loss was that of Barry Morse, who played Dr. Victor Bergman, the base's chief scientist and father figure, and whose brilliance saved Alpha several times in the first season. In the second season these characters were replaced by Tony Verdischi, the hot-tempered Italian Security Chief, and the lovely Catherine Schell as Maya, an alien shape-shifter who joins the crew of Alpha. Although a fine actress, Schell is given little to do except flirt with the male characters and keep changing into lots of monsters (and with the cheaper special effects, her monster costumes are beyond fake). But the greatest difference between the first and second seasons can be seen in the plots. Whereas the first season's episodes were mature, adult-oriented, often creepy and eerie, and even made you think occasionally, in the second season Space 1999 quickly degenerated into just another juvenile, "shoot-'em up" sci-fi series. Character development and the "atmosphere" of the series were sacrificed for lots of gunplay with laser pistols and spaceships, and Commander Koenig was transformed from a brooding, almost grim leader into a macho, almost cartoonish tough guy who could outfight or outfox almost any alien imaginable (the producers were obviously thinking of Captain Kirk). I'm sure there will be a good deal of discussion about the merits of season one versus season two, and it's pretty obvious which side I'm on :). However, even the second season did have its' moments (the episode on this DVD set which introduces Maya is quite good), and it's still nice to see the second season being released after all these years. But, for this fan at least, it's still a shame that the producers didn't stick with the format of season one - in effect they created two completely different series instead of just one. Recommended, but I'd try looking at the season one DVD's as well, just so you can make your own comparison.