Space Precinct: The Complete Series
by Various Directors
Review by Charles Mohapel
IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT DVD ISBN/ITEM#: B00404ME2E
Date: 04 January 2011 List Price $49.98 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: IMDB.com - Space Precinct / SpacePrecinct.com / IMDB.com - Gerry Anderson / Fanderson (Official Appreciation Society) / Show Official Info /
Created by Gerry Anderson
Ted Shackelford ... Lieutenant Patrick Brogan
Rob Youngblood ... Officer Jack Haldane
Simone Bendix ... Officer Jane Castle
Jerome Willis ... Captain Rexton Podly
Nick Klein ... Matt Brogan
Megan Olive ... Liz Brogan
Mary Woodvine ... Officer Aurelia Took
Gary Martin ... Slomo (voice)
Nancy Paul ... Sally Brogan
Gerry Anderson's film and television productions listed in production order:
Production List (Source: Fanderson)
Some of my earliest Science Fiction influences as a child came from the fertile mind of Gerry Anderson, beginning with Supercar, then continuing with Fireball XL5, Stingray, and Thunderbirds. Unfortunately for me, the local stations in Ottawa, Canada didn't carry subsequent shows like Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons and Joe 90, and my tastes had changed by the time UFO and Space: 1999 hit the air waves.
I remember being intrigued the concept for Space Precinct, but even though there were more channels available, I wasn't able to watch it the first time around, but when I got the opportunity to review the 5 DVD set of Space Precinct: The Complete Series, I jumped at it.
Filmed at Pinewood and Shepperton Studios in London, according to IMDB.com the series was shot 16:9 on Super 16 film to "future-proof" it, but then entirely post-produced in 4:3 "centre cut-out", effectively chopping off vast chunks from the edges of the image. No widescreen versions, or even letterbox versions, were ever made. Reading this, I was outraged at the massive amount of stupidity required to make this ill-advised decision. Given that each episode cost between $1 million and $1.5 million US, making it the most expensive TV show filmed in Britain at the time, perhaps the cost cutting began with the post-production process...
Broadcast from October 3, 1994 to July 24, 1995, Space Precinct was unable to come back for a second season due to the inability to get a network or syndication deal. To put this in context, the 2nd season of Babylon 5 and the 3rd season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine aired in that same time period, so that explains a lot in my mind.
Are you aware that Space Precinct wasn't even the first Cop/Sci-Fi show? BBC aired 9 episodes of Star Cops, an excellent show killed by 'industrial action' at the Beeb, and one I was lucky enough to watch in the summer of 1990 on WPBS, the nearby PBS station in Watertown, NY that gets about 75% of their membership drive funding from Eastern Ontario.
Watching all 24 episodes of Space Precinct: The Complete Series, the humor reminded me somewhat of that in the first season of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, i.e. before they got rid of Dr. Huer and brought in the uberobnoxious robot Crichton. I think Space Precinct's robot Slomo would have had far more in common with Buck Rogers's Twiki, than he would have with Crichton, aka Kettlebelly, aka Skillethead.
Stylistically, the surface of 88th Precinct of Demeter City depicted in Space Precinct made me think of Blade Runner without the neon, combined with the grungy look of Downbelow in Babylon 5 or the less frequented sections of Deep Space Nine where you were as likely to bump into Quark concluding an illegal deal as you were to meet Odo stopping Quark's attempted crime.
Neither the Tarn or the Creons, the two main alien species, nor any of the lesser seen alien races in Space Precinct look anything like the cookie cutter aliens from any of the Star Trek shows, nor do they look like anything found on Babylon 5. However, the aliens of Space Precinct would probably feel at home in the Star Wars universe.
Where the Gerry Anderson style becomes most noticeable is in the special effects and in the painstaking details.
Watching the 5 DVDs was loads of fun and for the most part, the "bad" parts were the type of cheesy "bad" that seems to be a trademark of the Brits. But lest you think that it was all cheesy, consider that the show had name actors like Burt Kwouk (Protect and Survive), Nickolas Grace (Double Duty), Steven Berkoff (Deadline), Ray Winstone (Two Against The Rock), and Maryam d'Abo (Takeover) as guests. Although I couldn't remember where I had seen their names, I was surprised to discover that Nickolas Grace and Ray Winstone had appeared in TV's Robin of Sherwood (1984-1986) as Robert de Rainault and Will Scarlet respectively.
As much as I enjoyed watching all the episodes, my joy was tempered by the fact that the video quality varied greatly from very good to very grainy, even with the upconverting capabilities of my Blu-ray disc player. Apparently complete digital restoration was an expense they were unwilling to accept.
However the nastiest shock came when I discovered that the 5 DVD set of Space Precinct: The Complete Series contains absolutely no Bonus Features whatsoever. Where are the commentaries on one or more episodes? Where are the bloopers and deleted scenes? Where are the storyboards?
Frankly, I'm being charitable by saying that I'd give the 5 DVD set of Space Precinct: The Complete Series a conditional 3 stars out of 5, the 3 stars for the programming and 2 missing stars for the poor video quality and the shocking total lack of Bonus Features. Overall I'd recommend this set to more than just Gerry Anderson fans, but caveat emptor applies.