Series Creator and Producer: Gerry Anderson
Starring: Ted Shackleford, Rob Youngblood, Simone Bendix
Remember Jon Stewart’s character in Half Baked, the pot smoker who continually asked “have you ever, insert banal everyday activity, on weed?” Well Space Precinct follows a similar trope except the question is “have you ever, insert 80’s cop show cliché, in space?”
Officer Patrick Brogan, played by Ted Shackleford, is a twenty year veteran of the New York Police Department and in case you might forget this fact he reminds you during the main title sequence of every episode. His partner Jack Haldane is also a former NYPD officer though originally from Tennessee. Along with Jane Castle, Simone Bendix they are the only human officers at Space Precinct 88 of Demeter City on the planet Altor. Demeter City is actually on the surface of Altor, but the police station for some unexplained reason is located on a satellite in outer space, maybe Demeter City got a good deal on a recently refurbished batch of police station satellites at Ray’s Surplus Police Station Satellite Emporium on Xchanky VII. Demeter city is inhabited primarily by Creons and Tarns and recently humans along with a myriad of other alien species from around the galaxy. They all seem to get along well enough, but not well enough that Space Precinct doesn’t have something to do every week.
Reading an episode guide is like looking at a list of worn out cop show clichés. In the first episode Brogan and Haldane are forced to protect an unpleasant murder witness until he can testify. Then there is the cold case episode in which Brogan and his son find a body on a derelict spaceship which launches an investigation into a twenty year old murder of an eccentric millionaire recluse ala Howard Hughes. These are joined by the loose canon jeopardizing the case episode, the new drug on the streets episode, the bad guy frames the heroes episode, the too deep undercover episode, the old flame interfering with the investigation episode I could go on but you get the drift. To be fair there is also the thwart the alien invasion episode and strange meteor taking over peoples minds and threatening the existence of the entire planet episodes which I don’t recall ever seeing on CSI or Law & Order.
I’m being harder on the show than I should. It never claims to be NYPD Blue; its heart is more Starsky and Hutch. There is B level melodrama, explosions, gunfights, brawling, good natured ribbing, bad one liners and after school special moralizing a plenty, it’s just all happening on an alien planet. Up to a point the show works, the characters start to grow on you and while the stories are derivative and predictable they are for the most part at least competently put together, but its easy to see why the show only lasted one season.
The one unique aspect of the show is the character and set design. As you might expect with Gerry Anderson, the creator of Supermarionation, producing the show the special effects featured miniatures and sophisticated puppeteer controlled masks for the aliens. The miniature work is quite good but it is often marred by the transition to live action. In countless scenes you will see a flying car, for the lack of a better term, buzzing around Demeter city quite convincingly only to cut to a scene of the actors stepping out of normal car with the shot framed so that you couldn’t see the wheels and tires. The alien costumes are similarly compromised. While the eyes blink and the mouths move convincingly they still put the actors behind a big glop of rubber and the performances suffer for it. Then there is the robot that roams around the precinct satellite that looks like it came out of a 1978 Heathkit catalog. Watching the episodes you would be sure that it came out in the mid eighties but it was the mid nineties. Star Trek the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager were all airing at the same time. Still for all of that the show has a kind of charm all its own. The real effects and the earnestness make you want to give it a break.
The show is presented its original full screen aspect ratio. The transfer is okay, there is some aliasing and the colors are muted. It’s got that sort of mushy shot on video look, whether this is comes from the transfer or the source material the end result is kind of blah.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in English only. The dialog, sound effects and sometimes over the top score are always clear and undistorted, competent but nothing special. There are no subtitles.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The packaging is quite nice. The five DVD set comes in a double sided clear box with an inner leaf. The rather striking black on chrome DVDs are all held snugly in place. The exterior artwork is simple, bold and effective. The clear case shows off some interesting concept art for the show which strangely seems to be printed upside down. Of course this is outer space so technically there is no up or down. There are no extras or bonus features beyond a link to the DVD’s website where you can find limited cast bios and an episode guide.
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10
Even for fans of the show this has got to be a little disappointing, yes it’s all there but zero bonus materials and a blah transfer really don’t do this interesting if flawed show justice.
The Movie 6/10
The Video 5/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10