Audio Review: Space 1999 (Vol. 1)

Review by Ian McArdell


Space 1999 Volume 1 continues Big Finish’s vivid reimagining of the late 1970s Gerry Anderson classic. After launching with the show’s pilot episode, refashioned as an epic audio movie, this boxset moves us into the realm of regular episodes. While remaining faithful to the spirit of the original, this first set holds two original stories and one adaptation. The first deals directly with the aftermath of Breakaway, and follows up on the mysterious call to the planet of Meta – a plot threat surprisingly forgotten onscreen as the Moon headed on out into the universe.

The Siren Call

As the surviving residents of Moonbase Alpha come to terms with their predicament, not knowing what devastation their departure may have wrought on the Earth, thoughts turn to survival.

With a horror infused, but entertaining take on first contact, writer Andrew Smith sees the crew imperilled while still dealing with the fallout of their new situation. Meta does indeed turn out to be inhabited and its citizens played their part in the Moon’s departure, however it also offers the prospect of somewhere to start a new life.

This is a great first adventure and I loved how Koenig both plays and then disregards Simmons as the situation dictates. Amid the action, there is personal tragedy and then trauma for Kano (Amaka Okafor), and this serves to underline how precarious the situation is on the rogue satellite.

In addition to BF regular Tracy Wiles in dual roles, this episode boasts Davros himself – Terry Molloy – as the emissary from Meta. Additionally, the multi-talented Glen McCready; who already plays both Paul and Alan, voices the alien leader Garradus.


Death’s Other Dominion

Responding to the welcoming tones of another human voice, the Alphans meet the survivors of a crashed space probe on the icy planet of Nival. Despite the relentlessly harsh conditions, humans have thrived and made remarkable progress there.

Adapting the original television episode of the same name, Roland Moore’s script remains faithful to the core of the story while deepening the dilemma. He holds back some of the less subtle hints from the start and builds in a little more mystery, as well as beefing up the terribly underwritten part of Freda.

While there are few actors who could step into Brian Blessed’s shoes, and this was the less enthusiastic of his two Space: 1999 appearances onscreen, Chris Jarman vividly brings the driven Dr Rowland to life with an appropriate level of manic bombast. He is matched by Beth Chalmer’s Freda, who aids and abets her husband, while also helping us to see the cruel truth of their situation. Nicholas Asbury also engenders compassion with his portrayal of the troubled Jack Tanner.

If I could dare make one grumble, it is regarding planet’s name: While Nival is far more appropriate, with relevance to its environment, I did rather love the odd, original one, Ultima Thule.


Goldilocks

Passing another planetary system, the Alphans spot a planet capable of supporting life: an apparent paradise. Without spoiling anything, suffice to say that Andrew Smith’s second script brings us monsters and plenty of action, as the crew are split up and embroiled in a fight for their lives.

I particularly enjoyed the scenes when the Eagle transporter left its passenger module behind, and Koenig and Bergman took off for their reconnaissance flight – an idea apparently inspired by playing with an original Eagle toy!


Summary
If the television show was fundamentally a monster-of-the-week style series, a more modern sensibility is applied here which allows these characters to grow. Mark Bonnar’s square-jawed take on John Koenig continues to impress; he leads from the front and I enjoy his interactions with both the forthright Dr Russell (Maria Teresa Creasey) and the thoughtful Professor Bergman (Clive Hayward). They make a likeable team and there is a palpable sense of camaraderie between them – even if it is at the expense of Space Commissioner Simmons!
I am particularly enjoying the development of the pompous Simmons, who seemingly creates tensions everywhere. While John Koenig commands Alpha, the political desk-jockey technically outranks him despite being entirely unsuited to the task. Timothy Bentinck gives a great performance of this character who can shift from being the butt of the joke to a dangerous fool, but might just be finding a place within the team. As with the Meta plot-line, Simmons’ story was something the television show failed to follow through, save for a single further appearance after the pilot.

All three of these episodes are lovingly placed in period with authentic sound design from Iain Meadows and a pleasing score. Although the original could be glacial at times, director and script editor Nicholas Briggs ensures this version keeps to a smart pace. This reimagining of Space: 1999 shows no signs of flagging and we look forward to Volume 2. The future of humanity could not be in safer hands!


Space 1999 Volume 1 is available to purchase, on download and CD, from Big Finish

Order from Amazon or Forbidden Planet
Check out our Big Finish reviews.

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