Review by David Paul Hellings
“AHEAD of the release of UFO – The Complete Series later this year, Invasion: UFO (PG) from the legendary creator of Thunderbirds is available to buy on Blu-ray today (29 July 2016) exclusively through networkonair.com, RRP £14.99.
Earth’s greatest fear becomes a reality when UFOs are finally confirmed – the aliens come from a dying planet millions of light years away, seeking human organs to repair their own decaying bodies. In a raging inter-galactic space-battle, top secret defence organisation SHADO attempts to save Earth from this alien terror!
Specially made on videotape for syndication in Europe and America, this amalgamation of six episodes from Gerry Anderson’s UFO has always looked and sounded below par – until now! Re-made in full widescreen from restored High Definition elements sourced from the original 35mm negatives, Invasion: UFO is presented here with both original mono and Dolby 5.1 soundtracks”.
There was a glorious darkness and pessimism about both “UFO” and Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s follow up series, the equally entertaining “Space: 1999”. Incorporating what they’d learned from the marionette world of series such as “Thunderbirds” and “Captain Scarlet”, the Anderson’s ventures into live action (including the excellent feature “Journey to the Far Side of the Sun”) proved far more adult fare.
“UFO” was scary. Aliens wearing helmets full of green liquid; the sound of the UFOs themselves; organ stealing; and a whole range of reasons why you hoped that SHADO would defeat the alien invasion every week.
“Invasion: UFO”, put together from six episodes, is a perfect introduction to the soon-to-be-released series, and the restored version should excite fans of the series if it looks as good as this (and as good as “Space: 1999” did). Basically an origin of SHADO feature, ‘Invasion’ gives us the basics of the start of the counter-alien organisation as well as a look at the key players in a general set of encounters drawn from the series, including the cool lead actors Ed Bishop, Michael Billington, and George Sewell.
We also get to see how ineffective the Interceptor space craft was most of the time, but then it was basically a space fighter jet that carried one large missile and seemingly not much else, and certainly wasn’t as sexy as the Earth-based underwater Skydiver or its even sexier-uniformed crew. But, beyond its chic, “UFO” presented an alien threat that was genuinely terrifying, especially when appearing in nighttime forests. Here were aliens from a dying race stealing humans away to remove their body parts. With SFX supervised by the great Derek Meddings, it’s as grim and grisly a premise today as it was back then.
There was an unspoken sense that this was a battle Earth couldn’t win. The idea was that there would be a move into space-based episodes becoming more dominant due to US criticism of the primarily earthbound adventures (although this wasn’t particularly the case in truth, as there was plenty of ‘space time’), with Ed Straker demanding the resources to build a number of moonbases. Sadly this never happened, but it laid the groundwork for the greenlighting of “Space: 1999”.
“UFO” remains one of the most impressive and dark sci-fi series from the Golden Age of UK Television, an age which has never been repeated, nor is ever likely to be. It was an age of entertainment and risk-taking, high budgets, great stories and cool guest stars. This feature version paves the way very nicely for what’s promising to be a major release of the Complete Series.
“Invasion: UFO” is a great introduction and an excellent restoration of one of the best British Sci-Fi series ever made. Highly recommended.
Original 1980 videotape version
Original 1980 trailer
Full-frame opening and end titles
Textless end titles
Screen Ratio: 1.78:1
Running Time: 93 mins (approx.)
This review appeared originally on SFFWorld at: