UFO: The Complete Series Blu-Ray Boxset With Book (Blu-ray/book review).

July 10, 2018 | By | Reply More

It isn’t as though I haven’t reviewed the DVD version of the ‘UFO’ TV series, so there is more an emphasis on the differences and extras in the blu-ray special limited edition. In fact, I thought I missed the boat completely in being able to buy a copy. More so as Andrew Pixley’s book included with the volume but alone on the subject has had some escalating prices. Looking at the various dealer ads, there really was no way of telling if the blu-ray on offer was the limited edition or the standard edition sans book. Get that wrong and you would be hunting for one or the other. I did find one website offering the limited edition and have included it in the indicia after this review. How many copies they have is up to them but I wouldn’t hang around if you are desperate for a copy, more so as they haven’t raised the price. There might still be other businesses that have the limited edition but ask first so you get the one you really want. The book has the same dimensions as the blu-ray packing so it you have to ask, the specific question should relate to the size of the box. If it’s a thick box then it should be the limited edition.

Be careful on how you put the blu-ray disks back into their box. Those clips are easy to break and I still haven’t figured out anything successful beyond sliding the top one in over the bottom one. Are manufacturers doing this to reduce the number of pristine editions out there? Then again, who’s going to buy and not want to watch the contents?

The episodes and the two audio commentaries are the same as the DVD version. It is with the extras that there is the biggest differentiation and next to the limited edition book, has to be the most convincing reason to buy this edition. From Pixley’s book, foreign releases of ‘UFO’ have got different interviews so a definitive edition featuring everything has yet to be released.

So, let’s look at the extra as featured on the last blu-ray disk in the box.

The 90 minute long ‘From The Earth To The Moon’ interviews the remaining cast up to 2012 with various stories about the filming of their episodes. I think the biggest surprise was discovering that Shane Rimmer was supposed to play one of the aliens in ‘Computer Affair’. Generally, there’s a lot of chit-chat. Some with poor memories of what happened like Asyha Brough and David Collings. The biggest surprise was in seeing Michael Jayston and Susan Jameson appreciating being remembered in the series.

The 32 minute long ‘Ladies Of UFO’ has interviews with regulars Ayshea Brough, Georgina Moon and Wanda Ventham and guest stars Jane Merrow and Deborah Grant. I can understand why Antonia Ellis wasn’t interviewed as she lives abroad but it’s a shame we don’t see Gabrielle Drake. Oddly, little is said about the scriptwriters or directors.

The 19 minute ‘Identified: SHADO Briefing’ commentary by Matt Zimmerman, is a briefing for all new SHADO recruits about the aliens. About the only thing I would disagree with is the information pertaining to the UFOs themselves. There must be a variety of classes of them for some to be more powerful than others and just how many aliens are manning them. The point about the UFOs self-destructing after 24 hours to prevent human examination has some validity but as it would have been possible to get them underwater or even on the Moon, there is no proof that they would self-destruct there. In fact, in ‘Survival’, the UFO was there for over 48 hours and only auto-destructed when it was discovered. Most of the UFOs are seen in space so there isn’t always a sense of size or scale. Straker’s reference in ‘Conflict’ to an immensely powerful UFO likely to blast the studios would suggest a larger UFO than usual. There also has to be some consideration that not all UFOs are manned or why send so many to their destruction through SHADO defences when procuring bodies. You would be in a losing situation considering they’re a dying race.

The ‘Production Archive’ has 13 features, the majority showing different scene variants and changes for 6 episodes. Mel Oxley, the voice of SID, also had a fine singing voice. The ‘Textless’ 3 part section has 37 minutes of silent clips from the series, ideal to test your knowledge of which episodes they came from.

Seeing the Italian promotional clips was really the oddest, especially when they used two different James Bond theme tunes instead of the standard ‘UFO’ theme.

The four interviews, about quarter of an hour each, were conducted in Italy. The first with Ed Bishop and shows a variety of merchandise and, a surprise for me, there was a soundtrack CD over there. Director Ken Turner explains how he was thrown in the deep end at the helm but helped by the cast. From what looks like a British convention, Ed Bishop gives a half hour interview about his career. The fourth, ‘Tomorrow/Today’, is an oddity with a partial interview with Sylvia Anderson about ‘UFO’s clothes design but focused more on the Moonbase uniform with Antonia Ellis posing on Earth in it.

Probably of more interest to the ‘UFO’ fan is the multitude of designs and photos of the series divided into three sections, the last focusing on the episodes

There is over half an hour of stills from the Italian SHADO unit and a lot I hadn’t seen before. If you thought the green Dinky Interceptor and Mobiles were bad colour choices, you haven’t seen nothing yet. Oddly, there were a lot of absences. No Viewmaster, Barratt/Basset sweet cigarettes card sets and most of the Japanese books – but these are rarer than hen’s teeth. What was most surprising, an absence of the Italian Panini card set album. After all, these people were in the right place to have spotted this one.

The ‘Image Archive’ should fulfil any ‘UFO’ fan’s need as it has stills from each episode in front of and behind the camera, which has varying numbers. Some of these photos I have seen before but a lot I haven’t including seeing the Moonbase interceptors being arranged during take off.

 

The main reason to buy this version of the TV series is because it includes Andrew Pixley’s updated book of the series and is actually cheaper to get this way than separately. In fact, the only way, having checked around. It’s size is compatible to the size of the blu-ray box so one does have to wonder if it will ever be reprinted at at a larger scale.

The book covers the evolution of the series and SHADO itself in development. Reading behind the lines here, the Andersons really did run a fiefdom with their studio and with the way they controlled things. The desire to do live-action was strong but, equally, you do see it took some adapting to realise they then had actors who didn’t always do what they wanted to do must have been quite jarring after so many puppet series.

Something that was never made quite clear in the TV series was that the Space Intruder Detector (SID) was on the other side of the world in the area where Moonbase could not detect UFOs. When you consider that in the first episode, Moonbase was receiving information from SID, you would wonder at that. These days, I suspect there would be more information imparted in the series or at least have more than a single satellite to give global coverage.

The variation of the amnesia drug being originally given by a watch administrating the dosage so they relate the incident before they forget it is understandably simplified.

Don’t forget, the Andersons had help evolving the concept from Tony Barwick and Donald James, so it wasn’t solely their ideas. With Donald James, this was also around the time he wrote his one and only and most famous ‘Mission: Impossible’ story, ‘Submarine’, which was why his episode ideas were written by others.

Seeing how the series evolved is illuminating. Names pop up, like Reagan, and then promptly held back for another time. Its fascinating seeing how things evolved, more so if you think all choices were correct the first time. You also get some insight as to what else was being filmed at MGM studios at the same time. I was surprised to discover ‘The Persuaders’ was originally called ‘The Friendly Persuaders’.

There are several references made throughout to where props were used by other productions later although author Andrew Pixley fails to mention part of the Moonbase controller console appearing in ‘The Tomorrow People’ story, ‘Into The Unknown’.

One thing I did find contrary to what has been reported elsewhere. The injury to Ed Bishop’s ankle in ‘Timelash’ didn’t stop the production for 6 weeks but only for a couple days although he couldn’t walk far.

Moving into ‘UFO’s release in the UK came up with some odd information, more so as some channels omitted the eye shell being taken out of the alien’s eye in the opening credits. I remember at the time, Westward TV had ‘UFO’ in the south-west first and I relied on a grainy look at it from my parents’ bedroom TV which could just about pick it up and even saw the 6 late night episodes if I was very quiet. It was nearly a year later before HTV had it but, by then, I had several items of merchandise related to the show.

It’s rather interesting seeing how much the Italians loved ‘UFO’ and were the main instigators of turning multiple episodes into films, even if it did mean it stopped the original episodes getting a video release. I do remember buying some of their photo-story comics and their card/album set around that time.

The same could be said for Japan although Pixley does miss out the ‘ITC Super Visual Special’. I still think I’m fortunate to have both it and the Town Mook books for ‘UFO’ and ‘Thunderbirds’, especially as I bought them months apart.

Something I still find bizarre and no real answer in this book is, outside of the ‘Sub-Smash’ episode, and Lieutenant Masters who appears in ‘Close-Up’, none of the Skydiver crews ever get names even talking to each other and yet they are given in text without any reason for the omission.

The episode guide is a little bit bitty and not focusing on the released version but earlier drafts. Using ‘Conflict’ as an example, you don’t actually read what happened to the Maddox flight. Of course, you would have watched the episodes before reading the book, so this is either seen as a supplement or a need to get the page count down. You do get full credits, though. I would recommend watching an episode and reading about it afterwards than do what I did and read afterwards as there’s a lot to work through.

It is often too easy to blame the continuity person for not matching costumes and other things between scenes, but reading the likes of ‘The Responsibility Seat’, I’m more amazed I didn’t spot some of the mistakes that Pixley points out here. I suspect much of this is due to the invisible gorilla in the room and your attention isn’t always on the detail but what is actually going on.

It’s nice to see confirmation that Joan Harrington (actress Antonia Ellis) was in the flat scene sans purple wig in ‘Confetti Check A-OK’ even though if you’d blink, you’d miss her. I often thought as this was the core group in the build-up to SHADO that they’d also have higher ranks ten years on. It must have been very disconcerting have new people brought in who were raised to higher ranks with no hope of promotion. You would think there would be an explanation as to Ellis and Barry being only lieutenants in charge of Moonbase unless Freeman or Foster were there.

What was a bigger surprise was discovering that the last eight episodes filmed at Pinewood were done cheaply compared to the rest of the series and yet were also, with the exception of ‘Reflections In The Water’, some of the best storywise. I tend to agree with Ed Bishop that had they gotten to a second season, ‘UFO’ would have ran and ran/

If there is a gap in information in this book, I wish there had been more information as to what Derek Meddings special effects group were actually doing when so many stock shots were used. I’m still not convinced that this book is the definitive volume on ‘UFO’ but you do have a lot more information here than in other books.

GF Willmetts

July 2018

(blu-ray region B: pub: Network. 12 disks 1300 minutes 26 x 50 minute episodes. Cat No: 7958059)

cast: Ed Bishop, Dolores Mantez, Michael Billington, George Sewell, Keith Alexander, Gabrielle Drake, Antonia Ellis, Vladek Sheybal, Wanda Ventham, Ayshea Brough, Norma Ronald and Grant Taylor

If you want to buy the limited edition then try: https://www.zoom.co.uk/product/ufo_the_complete_series_box_set_blu_ray where you can buy it for £42.96. Normal retail was originally: £89.99 (UK).

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Category: Books, Scifi, TV

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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