“The name’s Brogan, Lieutenant Brogan. For 20 years I was with the NYPD. Now? Well … let’s just say I’m transferring to another precinct.”
That Precinct is the 88th, which serves Demeter City from an orbiting station around the planet Altor. Demeter City is one of the toughest cities in the universe. There’s tons of slums and every kind of scumbag criminal you could ever expect to find in the worst of Earth’s hoods. The planet is primarily populated by three species, although there are literally hundreds of known species that might be found in one of the darkest corners of the city. Humans make up about a third of the dominant population. The Tarns are a species with a third eye that grants them varying degrees of telepathy and telekinesis. The Creons are the dominant species. They look a little like hammerhead sharks with their bulging eyes extended outward on either side of their face. This species is high on ritual and tradition. The three species are well represented in the officers who serve at the 88th.
Lieutenant Brogan (Shackelford) is a human who has come from Earth. He and his wife Sally (Paul) and two young children live in an orbiting condo unit with houses spread out as spokes on a giant wheel. They have a bit of trouble adapting to their space lives. The precinct captain is Tarn Rexton Podly (Willis). He’s a no-nonsense tough stereotypical police captain. He barks out the orders and once in a while winks an eye when his officers don’t exactly follow the book. Brogan’s partner is fellow human Jack Haldane (Youngblood). He’s a younger officer who usually has his mind on the ladies, in particular officer Jane Castle (Bendix) another fellow human and officer who treats him quite aloofly most of the time. Her partner is Tarn Aurelia Took (Woodvine) who often uses her telepathic powers to draw police sketches from the memories of crime witnesses. The station also has the requisite cute robot; this one is named Slomo, which likely stands for something I didn’t catch.
The show is the brainchild of sci-fi veteran Gerry Anderson. Anderson, of course, is best known for his sophisticated puppet shows of the 60’s and 70’s, most notably Thunderbirds. Anderson was also the brain behind such live-action shows as UFO and Space 1999. This series was the perfect transition from his marionette days to the live action shows. The aliens wore huge animatronic heads that had articulated expressions. If you’ve seen the Disney/Henson series Dinosaurs, you have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about. The actor’s face was completely hidden, and all emotion was achieved through puppeteers off-stage who manipulated the various points of the heads. There were alien guest stars that had the more traditional Star Trek-style makeup designs, but these were often in the minority. The advantage to the style was that the show had a limited number of regular actors who could play different characters in every episode, often multiples in a single episode. With this kind of creature design, you’d have no way of recognizing a repeat performer, or offender as was often the case on the series.
Even with the help of stock players, this was a very expensive series to produce. The show often averaged over $1.5 million an episode. It didn’t have a network, which meant less intrusion but tougher constraints in getting the money. It was syndicated for its entire single-season run. The show mixed plenty of humor with the typical hard-boiled street cop show. The mix was, at times quite awkward. You never knew if you should be on the edge of your seat or laughing you head off. Mostly it was the latter. The stories featured the usual assortment of criminals from murders to scams. There were the expected stories where the cops find themselves facing false charges and the usual assortment of buddy moments. The set designs were often quite elaborate. Everyone drove around in hoppers, which were flying cars that looked a lot like 1990’s automobiles with thruster packs mounted on the back. If you look at the show closely enough, you’re bound to find a lot of inside jokes that make it more enjoyable. The show is terribly dated, and the acting is more than a little stiff, so the visuals and the Easter eggs are the real saving grace of the show.
You get the entire 24 episode run on just 5 discs. Unfortunately, the edit includes all of the place-screens for the commercial breaks which tends to get slightly annoying.
Each episode is presented in its original full frame broadcast ratio. The decision to put five episodes on a disc is as criminal as anything the perps on the show did. The video presentation is simply awful. There are tons of compression artifacts. The colors bleed, and the image is about as sharp as a basketball. You’re not going to be flying to this title for the image presentation.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 is barely serviceable. I guess the dialog comes through just fine, and maybe that’s all we can expect from such an obscure show. That’s fine, but be forewarned that this audio presentation isn’t going to impress anyone. You’re not going to be showing this show off to your tech buddies.
These kinds of releases always leave me with rather mixed feelings. I do very much enjoy many of these old obscure films and shows. The business of releasing home video titles is, after all, a business. If they don’t expect a huge return, they are not going to put a lot of money into making it something special. Therefore, you simply have to be content with having it at all. In the old days of video tape, I was a collector of old films, particularly horror titles. I still have many titles in my collection that are poor videotaped copies from a 16 mm projected on someone’s bedroom wall. You treasure it because it’s history that you’re never going to see any other way. Consider this show in that light, and you’ll be happy with your purchase. It’s a game of give and take with “the good and the not so good”.