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August 18th, 2006

My review of the POWYS Media Space 1999 Year Two Omnibus

Space1999, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson premiered worldwide in 1975, starred Martin Landau, Barbara Bain and Barry Morse and featured ground breaking special effects by Brian Johnson. Space1999 lasted two seasons and followed the exploits of the 311 men and women of Moonbase Alpha cast adrift in the Universe after a massive nuclear explosion ripped the moon from Earth's orbit.

The Space 1999 Year Two Omnibus is a limited-edition hardback containing six books in one -- the complete set of novelizations of Year Two episodes, now revised, expanded, and updated with new linking material to create a consistent and unified saga. The year two adventures now include links to the episodes of Year One and Powys Media's original novels, so that they fit in smoothly following Survival and point the way to the Year Three novels.

POWYS media's model and inspiration for it's Space 1999 line of books has been the Doctor Who book series that kept that show alive in the years it was off the air. Inspired by Virgin Publishing's new adventures and missing adventures books the POWYS original Space 1999 novels continue the odyssey of the Alphans and their trip through a dangerous and unknown universe.

As a Science Fiction fan who's been going to conventions for 25 years now I like to think I know a little bit about publishing. Well not really, but I do know that most writers and publishers do not get rich in publishing. Many small press publishers go from book to book hoping to keep their businesses alive. I've spoken to enough writers to know that writing isn't the romantic thrilling career a reader imagines it to be. Writing is hard work and many times the reward does not equal the effort.

Media tie In books can be an exception to this rule for writers if the property is hot enough. Star Trek has done very well for itself over the years and you'll see some mid list Science Fiction writers dip in to the Star Trek novel pool for some steady income. So Star Trek, Doctor Who and Star Wars are good to have around to keep these mid list writers solvent.

So here comes Mateo Latosa and his POWYS Media. Somehow he lands the license for Space 1999 books and you have to wonder what the market is for Space 1999 books anyway. The next question is will the fractured fandom that is still hanging around Space 1999 support such a project? And the last question to ask is if the books are good enough will the first two questions matter at all?

So far it looks like question 3 makes questions one and two irrelevant because the POWYS books are better than you'd expect them to be. The reason for this is the editing and the team of POWYS writers who go over each novel for story, structure, continuity and typos. The result is four high quality Space 1999 books in print before publishing the Year Two Omnibus collection. These books hit a high mark by maintaining a high standard that work as good stories. More importantly they are good Space 1999 stories.

With the Year Two Omnibus POWYS has done something that's never been done before. Taken existing novelizations of a TV series and revised them. Brought them in line with what actually appeared on the screen. Usually Science Fiction TV Tie Ins are written from early draft scripts, the Year Two Space 1999 books from the 1970's are no exception. In them you'll find characters that never made it to the screen, a rearranged episode order among the other problems of a 30 year old TV series that never cared much for continuity within it's own universe.

So POWYS brought these stories in line with what was filmed, fixed the internal inconsistences like how the alien character Maya's powers would change week to week due to the needs of the script and the ever amazing fact how Moonbase Alpha could take huge amounts of damage in one episode and by the next be in perfect working order. In the book the damaged Moonbase is slowly repaired after this event while most of the Alphans are safe in a fleet of Eagle Spacecraft flying above the moon. These linked ships are called Alpha 2. The after effects of the episode make for a good backstory here and the special effect of a fleet of linked Eagle Spacecraft is only limited by the readers imagination.

Add to this mix our fictional characters remembering and dealing with things that happened in the shows first season, something Year Two producers Gerry Anderson and Fred Freiberger decided not to do. Also POWYS media has connected these old novelizations to their current authorized line of Space 1999 novels making the characters remember events that happened in Resurrection, The Forsaken and most importantly Survival. Since this is a year two book there are also events in the upcoming POWYS Year Three that are referred to even though those books haven't been published yet. Put all these elements together, bring in the original author, Micheal Butterworth who has a tremendously positive attitude about the whole project and add lots of good editing and spell checking, more probably than a novelization has ever had before and you have a fine republishing of 6 novels / 24 episodes that have gotten more care than perhaps the original show had.

But wait! There's more! Not only is this collection very readable but it's also wrapped in a beautiful black hardcover binding with the classic Space 1999 TV logo embossed in silver on the cover. A signed and numbered limited edition of 100 copies has already sold out but there is a 2nd printing of 100 more unsigned copies.

I had stopped reading Television novelizations in High School, the high points for me were some of Alan Dean Fosters work in the Star Trek logs, The Original Battlestar Galactica books by Robert Thurston especially the third book and the occasional Star Trek tie in later if it were done by a favorite author of mine like Peter David, Diane Duane, Greg Bear, Vonda Mcintyre or David Gerrold. Ordinarily novelizations are written quickly to get the books out on the shelves while the show is still on the air. This was an early version of the home entertainment system as Television shows were produced with the single airing in mind, and maybe a summer re-run. If you loved a show enough you found the novelization of it so you could enjoy it again. This was way before Videotape and the Digital Versatile Disc came into the picture. These books could be very tedious reading because they were produced quickly before a hit show faded away without much time for editing or corrections.

So the prospect of reading these 6 Space 1999 Year Two novelizations in a row was something that put me off a bit, it's something I wouldn't have done in the 1970's as I had been disappointed when I read some of the Year One books.

I had some questions about the re-release of these novels

Would the entire Omnibus hold my attention?

Would 24 episodes I've already seen, now converted into the odd genre of novelization keep me turning the pages?

How was POWYS going to handle such clunkers as series 2 low points Matter of Balance, Rules of Luton, Space Warp and Beta Cloud?

Would the Alphans have more depth as characters for a reader in 2006, already a reader spoiled by thousands of great Science Fiction books plus a renaissance of televised Science Fiction shows that embraced odd and unusual concepts that Space 1999 embraced first in the 1970's. Concepts that the viewing public would not accept in the 1970's. That audience had grown up, could the old stories grow up too?

Well the stories did grow up and with incredible finesse it seems. I found myself reading episodes that had previously made me pray for the intellectual stimulation of an Ed Wood movie. These same episodes that made me cringe when I watched them on the screen now had many of the faults of production erased and a decent Sci Fi story emerged.

POWYS added an emotional dialog to these 2 dimensional characters giving them another chance. As they did this they did to Space 1999 year 2 what Alan Moore did to the concept of the Swamp Thing comic book in the 1980's. They gave the season a second chance, a chance the show didn't deserve but a chance that Michael Butterworth and the POWYS bullpen of writers surely do. Butterworth's voice and style are intact in this work and his positive attitude and sense of wonder at revisiting this work 30 years down the road are stitched into every page. Add to that the team of writers and editors at POWYS who worked on this project longer than it took to produce the second season of Space 1999 and you have before you an incredable labour of love.

If you are a Space 1999 fan this book is a must have, if you've ever watched an episode of Space 1999's season two and thought they should have done it better... well they have between the covers of the Space 1999 Year Two Omnibus.

The book can only be ordered from the POWYS Media website, www.powysmedia.com

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