Space Stars: The Complete Series
Cinelinx gets a blast from the past with Warner Archive's Space Stars: The Complete Series on DVD!
This Warner Archive release is a Manufacture-On-Demand (MOD) DVD. It is made to be played in "play only" DVD devices, and may not play in some DVD recorders or PC drives. This DVD set, however, played with no problems in the Toshiba DVD recorder used for this review, as well as on a Gateway PC. This title is available directly from WBShop.com by clicking here.
The adventures of Space Ghost, The Herculoids, The Teen Force, and Astro and the Space Mutts are chronicled in this hour-long animated series from Hanna-Barbera. This three-disc DVD set collects all 11 episodes of the series.
In an attempt to capitalize on the Star Wars craze, Hanna-Barbera gathered up a few of their established properties - namely Space Ghost, The Herculoids, and The Jetson’s dog Astro - and added in a new set of characters (The Teen Force) to create Space Stars, an animated series that ran briefly in 1981. This DVD set marks the first time the shows have been made available in their entirety since their original airing.
The Star Wars influence is evident: even the opening credits resemble the scrolling titles of Lucas' film. Other than the space setting, that’s really where the similarities end. Space Ghost has more of a “Kung-Fu in Space” vibe, with our hero traveling around the universe helping people in need from various interstellar enemies. The Herculoids feels like a precursor to He-Man, and Astro, is well, Astro. The Teen Force follows the Space Ghost formula, only with a politically correct trio of characters to fill the necessary demographics. They frankly don’t bring much to the table.
Most of the episodes (which are untitled) follow essentially the same format, splitting itself into two 30-minute parts. Space Ghost leads off the episode’s first part, followed by short adventures from The Teen Force and The Herculoids. Another Space Ghost cartoon begins part two of the episode, followed by Astro and the Space Mutts, and then a finale with various characters teaming up for one last adventure.
While the stories aren’t particularly standouts, the cartoons are surprisingly watchable. I was expecting an animated trainwreck for a show that lasted only a few months on television. Instead, Space Ghost and company put on a pretty good hour of sci-fi adventure. It’s too bad it didn’t catch on with kids.
There’s even an attempt at education in some episodes - short segments called “Space Science” are included for the first time since their original airing. In one episode, an explanation of what a comet is includes the promise that you will be able to see Earth’s most popular comet - Haley’s Comet - in a few years, in 1986. It’s a fun moment, but it also reminds you how incredibly old you are if you watched this back in the day.
Besides Space Ghost and Astro, many of the Space Stars characters have drifted into pop culture obscurity, but the show overall remains a surprisingly entertaining slice of early 1980s nostalgia. It has an odd charm, even with some rather wooden voice acting, because you also get Blip, Space Ghost’s monkey companion, who feels the need to wear a mask, apparently to hide his identity from other space-traveling monkeys. The humans of The Herculoids can be a bit boring, but you get a space dragon, an ape made out of rocks, and a rhino thing that shoots energy balls from his horn. Reason enough to watch every bit of this show.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video transfer is solid, but not great. There is minor debris in the print, as well as some grain. The image lacks both sharpness and vivid color. Considering the age of the video, the fact that the video is fairly clean is great, but I expected a bit more vibrancy and pop, even in a standard DVD image. The stills used in this review are screenshots taken from our review copy of the disc. The audio is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix of the original mono soundtrack. There is no real depth and a slight bit of distortion, but sound clarity is good overall.
No extras are included in the DVD set. However, I did like the fact the menu screens broke down each episode, allowing the viewer to search each episode by individual segments, essentially as labeled chapters. If you choose to only watch the Space Ghost segments, they are easy to pick out.
Release Date: October 9, 2013
Rating: Not rated
Running time: 615 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Special Features: None
Label: Warner Archive
The Bottom Line: A must for 80s Saturday morning cartoon fans
Space Stars may be an obscure refugee from the land of 80s Saturday morning cartoons, but it is still an entertaining watch. Space Ghost is the draw here, but even the weaker entries have a bit of nostalgic charm. As this is the first time the series has been released in its entirety, fans should snap this up.