Joe 90 - The Complete Series
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JOE 90: THE COMPLETE SERIES
Joe 90 was Gerry Anderson's penultimate puppet show of the 1960s, following Captain Scarlet (1967) and preceding the little-known The Secret Service (1969). In 2112, professor Ian McClaine has invented the BIG RAT (Brain Impulse Galvanoscope, Record and Transfer), a machine for copying knowledge and experiences from person to person. WIN (World Intelligence Organization) uses this to prime their top undercover agent before sending him into the field on missions that range from foiling international terrorists to recovering a nuclear weapon from beneath the polar ice. So far so good, but in perhaps the most mind-boggling concept ever to reach children's TV, that agent is McClaine's 9-year-old adopted son, Joe.
Somehow even as it stays true to the Gerry Anderson techno-fantasy formula of secret organizations, gadgetry, and action-packed adventure full of spectacular explosions and violent death, Joe 90 remains blithely unconscious of its own implications. The missions are as globe-trotting as anything in Anderson's classic Thunderbirds series, and sometimes Joe does save lives, performing a risky brain operation or rescuing trapped astronauts. Yet even then his criminally irresponsible father brainwashes the lad each episode before placing him in a highly dangerous adult situation. Though the production values remain way ahead of anything else being done on British TV at the time, the question remains: how did this ever seem like a good idea?
Joe 90 comes complete in a four-disc boxed set of the entire 30-episode series. The 25-minute episodes are presented in superb picture quality and full, detailed mono sound. Extras include commentaries on two episodes, character biographies, a photo gallery, and varied extras such as location stills. --Gary S. Dalkin
- All 30 episodes on 4 discs
- Character biographies
- Data files: Equipment and location briefings
- Photo gallery
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Top customer reviews
First UFO and Captain Scarlett, both of which I have also reviewed and more or less completely flipped over. After Captain Scarlett I found myself needing another SuperMarionation fix quite badly. Despite the mixed reviews, Joe 90 sounded quite intriguing and I am happy to say I was not disappointed.
First of all, I am completely blown away by the opening sequence. It's quite beautifully filmed, and the Barry Gray score simply sweeps you away. Even though the genre is secret intelligence, not science fiction, those of us who thrill in the futuristic will still find a lot to love about this show, it is set in 1990 after all!
With a smaller cast comes the opportunity for us to get to know the characters better and the excellent voice characterizations of the four lead characters really bring the SuperMarionation to life. Len Jones as Joe strikes a perfect balance of sounding like the young boy he was in real life while speaking with enough intelligence and maturity to allow you to believe he can take on his fantastic missions. Rupert Davies too is quite amazing and makes the quite formidable role as a father who truly cares for his son yet would allow him to be in such dangerous situations completely credible. The characters of Sam Louver and Shane Alexander, both your more or less typical charismatic leading man types as voiced by Keith Alexander and David Healy may seem to overlap a bit in early episodes but soon develop distinct and entertaining personalities.
Overall I found most of the criticisms I had read about the show unwarranted. The sexist angle in particular I found the most ridiculous. I'm sure with much credit due Sylvia Anderson, the Gerry Anderson universe is filled with strong, heroic women protecting the Earth and the Moon. More to the point, the reason there weren't more females in the McCLaine's life was clearly explained in a very early episode.
I won't spend a lot of time telling you what you already know about this show, but if you are a fan of Captain Scarlett, UFO, and Space: 1999 I think its safe to say you will enjoy Joe 90 as well and enjoy adding it to your Gerry Anderson collection. You will recognize many familiar names in the credits and I think its fair to say the amazing talent assembled for this production delivered an amazing product.
If I had to pick one thing about the show I wished were different it would have been that the Sylvia Anderson character of Mrs. Harris had been given more to do in the show. As filmed it was barely a cameo appearance which is a shame as Sylvia's characterization of Melody Angel was done so well and added so much to Captain Scarlett. If I could go back and reinvent the character, the McClaines would have believed Mrs. Harris to been exactly what she appeared to be on the surface, their kindly housekeeper, but secretly another WIN agent, and a quite high-ranking one at that.
My only other minor beef with Joe 90 has nothing to do with the excellence of the original production but is aimed squarely at A&E. For some strange reason even though the show clearly had four lead characters most of whom appear in every episode, disks 2 and 4 feature characters who each appear only once throughout the entire run of the show. Perhaps even stranger the "additional" menu features another single-appearance character sporting a badly Photoshopped WIN badge. I will however give A&E much credit that the maddening playback glitches that plague the Captain Scarlett set are happily absent from Joe 90. More important, the sound and picture quality are quite impressive and appear about as close to Blu-Ray quality as a standard DVD could possibly be, even when played back on a super huge screen.
In summary I found Joe 90 a quite worthy and enjoyable addition to my growing Gerry Anderson collection.
Taking what worked from "Captain Scarlet"--the more anatomically correct and proportioned puppets on incredibly detailed minature sets--and refining it even more, Anderson again delivered an enjoyable half-hour program intended for children, but seems to delight all of us Gen X'ers who were probably too young to truly appreciate Anderson's genius and who are not afraid to indulge in a little childhood nostalgia.
Where as the content of "Captain Scarlet" was never lighthearted and terribly violent for children's Saturday morning fare(the Mysterons inhabiting the dead bodies of Spectrum agents and unknowing ordinary citizens), each half hour of "Joe 90" usually ended on a happy note with the bespectacled Joe thwarting yet another hostile takeover of Anderson's supermarionation universe.
The puppets in this series demonstrate a further margin of refinement from "Captain Scarlet" but not by much--that artistry would reach its ultimate apogee with Anderson's "Secret Service," technically a superior series and light years from the earlier and more crude puppets seen in "Supercar" and "Stingray," but alas, the series never really found its audience and was cancelled after 13 episodes.
In this set, the transfers are remarkably good, but there are little or none in the way of outstanding extras to speak of that most collectors demand with their multi-volume dvd editions.