Back in the mid-1980s when the home entertainment industry was in its infancy, ITC issued a series of VHS tapes (ask yer Grandad) in which episodes of their popular 1960s and 1970s action series were randomly butchered and stuck back together in compilation form, often with new and wholly inappropriate title sequences and credits. The peerless UFO suffered this ignominy in the form of an extended ‘movie’ entitled Invasion: UFO, which jettisoned Barry Gray’s unforgettable strident signature tune and the head-rush staccato title sequence and replaced it with a crudely-animated computer typeface credit sequence and a piece of bubbling electronic music which gives a new meaning to words ‘utterly forgettable’ (Gray’s incidental music has, mercifully, been restored to this new release). If you can look beyond this troubling travesty, you’ll find that the episodes themselves have been quite intelligently and sympathetically truncated to create one long, if slightly uneven, storyline from selected material from three full episodes with – slightly jarringly – one or two random scenes from other episodes thrown in here and there. The emphasis is clearly to create a fast-paced, action-orientated feature film concentrating on hardware and special effects rather than character and human drama. Thus we have much of the show’s opening episode Identified, which introduces us to the concept of SHADO – the Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation – and its ongoing battle against body-part-harvesting aliens targeting Earth from their dying planet. Aficionados will recognise (and wince at) the excised material and similarly action sequences from The Computer Affair are included but the episode’s subplot, which suggested that Moonbase Commander Gay Ellis (Gabrielle Drake) has allowed her professional integrity to be compromised by her attraction to astronaut Mark Bradley (Harry Baird) is almost entirely removed. Similarly sections from Reflections in the Water omit material in which SHADO’s Lieutenant Anderson (an impossibly young James ‘Game of Thrones’ Cosmo) appears to be working in collusion with the aliens. In fairness, a couple of useful brief bridging sequences have been lifted from episodes such as Confetti Check-AOK and The Man Who Came Back in an attempt to ease the transition between one storyline and another. If Invasion: UFO was the only commercially-released representation of the series fans would be entirely justified in throwing a tantrum (or at least hurling their model Moonbase Interceptors at the screen) but UFO remains readily available in its entirety as God (aka Gerry Anderson) intended on DVD and with the Blu-ray hopefully imminent.
On the basis of the magnificent restoration work done on the compilation, UFO is going to look absolutely stunning when it finally arrives on Blu-ray. The picture is pin-sharp, almost eye-achingly so; colours are vibrant and vivid and the image is astonishingly clean, occasionally to the detriment of the model work, which remains just about the best ever seen on a weekly television production. Purists are absolutely entitled to balk at the very idea of a ‘compilation’ film but Invasion: UFO was clearly done with some sympathy for the source material and, for now, serves as a mouth-watering taster of what’s to come when that set finally arrives. Come on, Network! For the compilation concept, this set would get 6 out of 10, but the final score is based purely on the UFO content.
Extras: Original 1980s videotape version, original trailer, full-frame titles, textless titles
INVASION: UFO / CERT: PG / DIRECTORS: GERRY ANDERSON, DAVID LANE, DAVID TOMBLIN / SCREENPLAY: GERRY ANDERSON, SYLVIA ANDERSON, TONY BARWICK, DAVID TOMBLIN, TERENCE FEELY / STARRING: ED BISHOP, GEORGE SEWELL, MICHAEL BILLINGTON, PETER GORDENO, WANDA VENTHAM / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW