Friday, April 29, 2011

Not The 70s: SPACE PRECINCT (1994)

Two New York City police officers get transferred to a new beat in Space Precinct (1994-95), a British science fiction police procedural created by producer Gerry Anderson (UFO, Space: 1999). Syndicated in the U.S. in the mid-90s, the show usually aired in late night/early morning slots and thus, failed to garner much of an audience. But it's a pretty interesting show, and even though it's not from the Seventies, it may be of interest to Space: 1970 readers - partly because it's a Gerry Anderson production, and partly because of the retro nature of the effects and storytelling.

Set in 2040 (a mere 30 years away!), Ted Shackleford (Dallas, Knot's Landing) plays Lieutenant Patrick Brogan, a married NYPD cop who is transferred to the Demeter City police force on the planet Altor. There, he and his human partner Jack Haldane (Rob Youngblood, Melrose Place), must work side-by-side with a variety of extraterrestrials to uphold the law and solve a wide range of crimes committed by rogue aliens and Earthmen alike.

It's a weird show, especially for the mid-90s. The many rubber-masked aliens, 70s-esque special effects (Miniatures! Yay!) and production design makes the show kinda look like it's for kids, but the scripts, direction and performances are almost completely cop show-serious. This confused a lot of American TV programmers in the 90s, who didn't know when to schedule the series, dooming it to late night slots between infomercials. This didn't exactly lead to high ratings, so the show only lasted one season - oddly, it was reportedly very popular in many European markets, though.

The performances are generally okay, and the quality of the scripts vary from the mundane to the pretty good. Every once in a while, the writers even manage to come up with some solid science fiction ideas, although the series is police procedural first, sci-fi second. The special effects are also inconsistent. There is some limited, low-budget 90s CGI here and there, but most of the FX utilize Old School-styled miniatures and on-set practical gags. Most of the miniature work is excellent (some great pyrotechnics in particular), but other model shots are all too obvious. The make-up and creature effects are also ingenious, if not always entirely convincing.

Sets are - understandably, considering the budget - cramped, but are fairly-well designed. Series directors included 007 veteran John Glen (For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, Licence To Kill), Alan Birkinshaw (Invaders Of The Lost Gold) and Piers Haggard (Blood On Satan's Claw).

Image Entertainment brings all 24 episodes of Space Precinct's one and only season to Region 1 DVD in a nice, if bare-bones, 5-disc set. The episodes are presented in their original, 1.33:1 "full-frame" aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. The transfers are a bit soft and grainy, but I'm guessing that's more due to the fact that the show (like many other 90s adventure shows) appears to have been shot on 16mm film rather than any flaw in the transfers. There is no notable print damage, specks or other artifacts, and the episodes appear to be uncut, complete with original commercial "bumpers." There are no bonus features whatsoever.

Fans of Gerry Anderson's UFO and Space: 1999 - or anyone looking for 70's-styled sci-fi - may want to check it out. It's not a great sci-fi show, neither is it a great cop show, but it has its charms. It can be purchased from Amazon here: Space Precinct: The Complete Series


  1. Man, I loved this back in the day - even though I was in my early 30s I had all the action figures and the only annual. I think I may even have had the episodes on VHS. I was gutted that it never made it to a second season and felt it was horribly underrated.

  2. Dear Christopher! Can you help me? I'm looking for movie (old, may be 70's, 80's) about two pilots, they met UFO when they flied over mountains. And one of them lost (but I'm not sure). And there also were "angel hairs"... And one pilot back to mountains to find his friend - second pilot, something like this.

  3. The UK DVD's I got back in the late late 90's were released as a 12 box set with 2 episodes on each disc, they features a Making of Space Precinct and each set had various Behind the Scenes Photo's,Character profiles and Photo Galleries.This is what my UK set looks like Space Precinct 12 Box set

  4. Space Precinct was pretty decent. As you said, not quite Space: 1999 nor UFO quality, but fun effects and aliens. I wished it had been a bit more gritty at times and also added some humor here and there.

  5. Actually it's closer to Space 1970 that you realise. The pilot was done in '86 as "Space Police" and was old fashioned in concept even then. Gerry had long wanted to try a mix of puppets & live action, but it is very obvious in this pilot (and even the later & higher budget Farscape still looked a bit Muppet Show)He was allegedly so strapped for cash that he tried to borrow back an original Space 1999 Eagle minature from a fan collector to reuse as the main spaceship, but the fan balked at the thought of his minature being touched

  6. It's closer to the 70's than you realise. It had its genesis as the "Space Police" pilot of '86, which was an idea Gerry had been toying with for some time previously about mixing puppets & live action in the one show. Unfortunatly the technique is very obvious & not helped by the pilot budget being so low, it is even said that he tried to borrow back an original Eagle minature off a fan to use as the main spaceship. He finally did get the show made of course, but what would have been a passable concept in the 80's was dated for the 90's, as shows like Babylon 5 & the later Treks used story arcs and shaded characters rather thna the literal Cops & Robbers of Space Precinct

  7. I liked the show when it aired and still do. Too bad they didn't preserve the original 16:9 super-16mm format. The space CG looks great even today. The wire work not so much but they were on a budget and a timetable. The aliens were more daring than the dumb nose or forehead candy often seen on Star Trek: NG et. al., but did distract, especially when an alien head sat on a perfectly humanoid body. The police chief mask was superb. Lighting was often good, and there was a decent mix of humor and grit. I mean, a young man falling into a vat of acid before our eyes? And some other eye opening twists throughout. The show was just hitting its stride. I agree with one point: Having the precinct house in synchronous orbit seems hugely wasteful and maybe they could have explained the rationale for that. Security? Tne need to patrol aerospace and not just city streets? Anyway, the series would have been more visually impoverished without that conceit. I'm currently rewatching the whole series on Netflix streaming.

  8. I loved space precinct.. I've got it on discs some where. when the BBC aired it it was a cut down version and had to be altered with fight scenes removed if blood was shown, and knifes changed to laser weapons. some scenes had to be completely re-shot to comply with BBC rules as they aired it at 6pm. Gerry wanted it shown after 9pm when the rules are relaxed as it was deemed that kids would be in bed by then. Space precinct was more of an Adult show and not for younger generation.( Gerry Anderson quote )

    I want to try and make a Space precinct uniform, so does any one know if the shirt arm patches are made by any one likewise with the Breast Shield ???? any help much appreciated.

    Does any one know what side-arm they carried. in the series these were real guns firing Blanks 9mm I think they might have been a Glok of some sort. Did these guns ever make it as a Toy ???

    Right this weekend im going hunting for my Space Precinct discs !!