SFcrowsnest

UFO – The Complete Series (Blu-Ray and book review).

‘UFO’, Gerry Anderson’s first foray into live-action television is an interesting contrast of style and content. From a design point-of-view, the series looks fantastic: amazing sets, futuristic costumes, action-packed model shots of flying saucers, fighter aircraft and submarines. From a content perspective, it’s the show that gives us ‘Carry On’ style leers from male personnel towards their female colleagues and a cat possessed by aliens that is used to infiltrate SHADO headquarters. The highs and lows are all found on Network’s new blu-ray release of the whole series.

As with Network’s blu-ray release of ‘Space:1999’, access to the original negative has been made available and complete remastering of the series has been able to take place. This means that the show looks and sounds sharp and vibrant. Those purple wigs and shirts pop out of the screen, the green of the many woodland locations look verdant. Despite the late-sixties design masquerading as ‘1980’ and our leads regularly smoking and drinking, it actually looks quite modern. It makes watching the show itself a refreshing joy.

As you would expect, this is the complete list of episodes including ‘The Long Sleep, long thought to have been dropped by networks due to drug use references, but this was actually a false rumour. Alongside all of these episodes are a long list of extras material. There are alternate takes for scenes in episodes like ‘Identified’ and ‘Timelash’, archive interviews with Gerry Anderson and Ed Bishop from conventions. Test materials for some recordings, for example SID’s voice. There are also two recorded commentaries from the previous DVD set, one by Gerry Anderson on the pilot ‘Identified’ and one by Ed Bishop on ‘Sub-Smash’. You can also watch a whole episode of ‘Tomorrow Today’ which features an interview with Sylvia Anderson on the show’s futuristic fashions.

This new boxset also includes some more stand-out material. ‘From Earth To The Moon’ is a new hour-long documentary on the making of the series with new interviews from surviving cast members such as Wanda Ventham, Ayesha Brough, Jane Merrow and Jeremy Wilkin. In addition to this, there are guest actors, for example Michael Jayston and Susan Jameson discuss the episode ‘The Sound Of Silence’ while David Collings and Deborah Grant talk about working on ‘The Psycho-Bombs’. On the production side, Alan Shubrook is on hand to discuss the advancements that ‘UFO’ made in model effects over what had previously been achieved with the puppet programmes. Particular highlights include Matt Zimmerman discussing how Gerry Anderson nearly killed him while filming and Wanda Ventham relating what it was like on the set of ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ compared to filming ‘UFO’. In addition to this, another short film talking about the women of ‘UFO’ and a fun ‘SHADO Briefing’ narrated by Matt Zimmerman (though unclear what accent he is using on this).

The other major extra for this first edition of the box set is the accompanying book, ‘The Complete Book Of Gerry Anderson’s UFO (Revised And Expanded Edition)’ and is, arguably, worth the price of the set alone, although it might not be available with the second edition having instantly sold out with the first. At over 600 pages, Andrew Pixley has written the definitive guide to the series. The first half of the book is a detailed look at the show’s history, its production and performance. The second half consists of a guide for all 26 episodes going even deeper into the production archives and teasing out some of the amazing writing, casting and editing facts about the show. Pixley is one of the foremost television history writers of today and that the box set contains such a comprehensive work on this TV series means that it is worth getting.

Grittier than ‘Space:1999’ and certainly more adult than the shows before it, ‘UFO’ is an important TV series in showing what could be achieved technically by a British crew with a decent budget by the end of the sixties. This excellent box set from Network is essential for any Anderson fan, or cult sci-fi enthusiast. Picture and production perfect.

John Rivers

January 2017

(region B blu-ray: pub: Network. 6 blu-ray discs 1300 minutes 26 * 50 minute episodes. Price. £89.99 (UK). ASIN: B01LYB15X9)

check out website: http://networkonair.com/shop/2566-ufo-the-complete-series-blu-ray-pre-buy–5027626805944.html