An exciting new entry into the Big Finish catalogue of classic TV serials re-imaged for audio.
Television’s Space: 1999 ran for two seasons in the mid-1970s but it has retained a cult following and is now the latest entry in the growing catalogue of Big Finish audio remakes. It joins other television classics such as Doctor Who, The Prisoner, Captain Scarlet, Terrahawks, Dark Shadows, Blake’s 7, Stargate SG-1, Survivors, and The Tomorrow People to make the transition to audio.
With most of the original TV cast now either deceased or quite aged, Big Finish reinvents the world of Moonbase Alpha with Mark Bonnar and Maria Teresa Creasey replacing Martin Landau and Barbara Bain as Commander John Koenig and Dr Helena Russell respectively.
The updated script by Nicholas Briggs reimagines the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson television pilot, also called Breakaway, which sets the series in motion when the moon breaks free from Earth’s orbit, taking with it the residents of the self-sustaining lunar base. It breaths new life into the character dynamics and adds a touch of modern scientific knowledge to make more sense of the dubious premise, but still only finds mixed success.
The action moves much quicker without the need for long, worried looks or having to cut the camera to a special effect. It does falter through some odd directorial choices however, most notably in the climax when the moon breaks orbit and the action is disrupted several times by jumping between the explosive event and the observation of it back on earth. The loss of momentum by repeatedly withdrawing from the thick of the action is a great disappointment to what should have been an edge-of-your-seat finale.
Mark Bonnar is a fine lead, displaying determination and guts with the right amount of compassion. Not so successful is Creasey as Dr Russell who comes across more like a whiny juvenile than a leading medical professional. This is in equal parts the fault of poorly written dialogue for her character and an amateurish delivery of that dialogue. I hope to this this pivotal character grow in strength as the series progresses.
Ian Meadows’ sound design is full-bodied and exciting, capturing the era of 1970s science fiction however the production values suffer the same fate as many Big Finish productions where the sound effects or music drown out the dialogue too much. That’s not to discount the quality of Benji Clifford’s great music score, nor Barry Gray’s reworking of the television theme – both are excellent.
Running 167 minutes, which includes a behind-the-scenes documentary, Space: 1999 – Breakaway has a lot of potential to shape into a thrilling and fresh new series for Big Finish. It was released on 13 September 2019 to coincide with the moon breaking orbit on 13 September 1999 in the television series and it’s little nods like that which demonstrate the care and fandom being put into this new series.
While not a breakaway success, the next episode is eagerly awaited.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: September 1999
Approx RRP: $32 CD, $15 Digital Download