The latest trend in home video - DVD sets of TV series - continues this month as more and more, both old and new shows, become available in attractive collectors editions.
Among the newest to arrive are a pair of adventurous voyages from two different time periods.
One, Space 1999 (A&E; Home Video, 1974-1976, $199.95), takes a futuristic journey to the far reaches of outer space in a magnificent 16-disc mega-set. The other, Horatio Hornblower: The Complete Adventures (A&E; Home Video, 1998-2000, $79.95), sails the high seas of the late 19th century in a collection that includes six discs.
When the original Star Trek was canceled in 1969 by NBC after three seasons, sci-fi fans howled in protest. That sparked some studios to come up with shows that might fill the void left by the Enterprise's departure. One of the better efforts was Space 1999, a British production starring the then husband-and-wife team of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain.
While it is no Star Trek, it does have some moments, notably special effects which are superior to those encountered by Kirk and Spock. In Space 1999, Landau plays Commander John Koenig, who commands Moonbase Alpha, which along with the moon itself, was launched on a long journey into deep space after a nuclear explosion test went awry. Along for the fantastic trip are Dr. Helen Russell (Bain) and Prof. Victor Bergman (played by Barry Morse, who had gained fame a decade earlier as Lt. Gerard on The Fugitive).
During their journey, Koenig and his crew encounter the usual assortment of weird aliens and strange worlds. The DVD set contains all 48 episodes presented in the order each was produced. Among the extras are vintage interviews with the cast, an original behind-the-scenes documentary for the second season, and theatrical trailers for Destination Moonbase Alpha and Alien Attack, two movies that were edited for Space 1999 episodes.
As is always the case with A&E; Home Video, the prints are of pristine quality with rich, vibrant colors.
Horatio Hornblower originally premiered on A&E; as a miniseries of four 100-minute movies in 1998. Two years later, two more films aired on A&E.; All six are included in this set.
Based on the books of C.S. Forester, the films follow the exploits of the young Hornblower and his fellow midshipmen aboard the frigate Indefatigable of His Majesty's Royal Navy. The first four movies take place in the 1790s during the first years of the Napoleonic War, which pitted Britain against France and Spain.
The heroic Hornblower is terrifically played by newcomer Ioan (pronounced Yowan) Gruffudd, whose transformation from young, shy, uncertain sailor to confident ship commander is one of the many highlights of these marvelous productions.
It's not just old shows that are getting the collectors edition treatment. Many new series are becoming available, too.
For example, last season's most innovative series 24(Fox, 2001-2002, $59.98) is available in a six-disc set that contains all 24 episodes. It is a terrific way to watch the series, especially because there are no commercials to interrupt the relentless pace of the taut thriller. Each episode represents one hour of one day.
Kiefer Sutherland plays FBI agent Jack Bauer, who heads a counter-terrorist unit that learns an assassination attempt will be made on presidential candidate David Palmer (Dennis Haysbett). Bauer and his team race against the clock in hopes of thwarting the attempt.
The job becomes even more difficult when his wife and daughter are held hostage. Dennis Hopper makes a memorable appearance as terrorist leader Victor Drazen.
The DVD set contains only a couple of extra, including an introduction by Sutherland that also serves as teaser for the second season, which begins Oct. 29. The other extra is the more appealing: an alternate ending to season one.
Also new on DVD:
Friends: The Complete Second Season (Warner Home Video, 1994-1995, $69.98) This is the one where Tom Selleck makes several guest appearances as Dr. Richard Burke and strikes up a relationship with Monica (Courtney Cox). Other guest stars include Julia Roberts, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Charlie Sheen. The first season on DVD is available at the same price. Extras on both are never-before-seen footage.
The Outer Limits (MGM Home Entertainment, 1963-64, $79.96) After Rod Serling's original The Twilight Zone became a hit on CBS, it didn't take long for other TV sci-fi anthology shows to pop up on television. The Outer Limits was one of the best, and all 32 episodes of its first season are available on this four-disc DVD set.
Included in the collection are some of the series' most famous episodes including "The Galaxy Being," where a deadly alien is accidentally transmitted to Earth by radio beams.