Mill Creek Entertainment begins an epic journey with the October 15, 2019 separate Blu-ray, and Blu-ray steelbook releases of the mid-60s Japanese sci-fi classic "Ultra Q" and the (reviewed) follow-up series "Ultraman." These two more-than-ready-for-primetime series are the first of roughly 40 "Ultra" shows,
A related note is that the surprisingly strong production values and delight associated with these series is worthy of marathons that justify sleep deprivation, However, rationing them out to savor over an extended period is advised. They truly do not make 'em like that anymore.
MCE is honoring the unprecedented track record of this 50 year-old phenomenon by releasing other sets of programs over the next several months. One can only hope that the entire franchise ultimately sees the light of day.
Our discussion of "Q" begins with an hearty endorsement of the steelbook editions of "Q" and "Man." Both series look and sound crystal-clear in BD. Further, the well-designed sturdy steelbooks are stylish and have spines that add to "the big picture" as future "Ultra" series hit real and virtual store shelves.
Both BD versions of the "Ultra" series include a "must-own" collectible booklet that commences with an informative essay on how each show makes it on the air. This includes both the collaboration and the "circle of life" elements of the productions.
The booklets go on to provide detailed episode recaps; truly last but not least is an index (complete with photos) of every monster from that series.
The following description of "Q" that is "borrowed" from the MCE website is a comprehensive overview of the lore and the themes of this fanboy fave.
"After co-creating the iconic movie monsters Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra for Toho Studios, special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya launched his own company, Tsuburaya Productions. The first production under his new label was ULTRA Q, a 28-episode series that brought the theatrical spectacle Tsuburaya had become known for to television.
The black & white sci-fi drama focused on Mainichi Shimpo photojournalist Yuriko Edogawa (Hiroko Sakurai, Ultraman), Hoshikawa Airlines pilot/SF writer Jun Manjome (Kenji Sahara) and his co-pilot Ippei Togawa (Yasuhiko Saijo), who partnered to investigate mysterious events occurring in and around Japan. These phenomena often involved aliens and giant monsters, many of whom would return in future Ultraman shows and movies.
One of the most expensive TV programs produced in Japan up to that time, ULTRA Q was a ratings smash that paved the way for Tsuburaya Productions' first color series... ULTRAMAN!"
A "True Tokyo Story" aspect of "Q" from the aforementioned booklet is sure to delight at least one teen Swedish girl. We learn that the original title of this series is "Unbalance" and that it is intended to show how Mother Nature fights back when man disrupts the balance between the natural and the industrialized worlds.
On a more relatable note to mainstream North American audiences, "Q" evokes strong thoughts of the original "Twilight Zone" and the (black-and-white) first season of "Lost In Space" before the influence of "Batman" '66 makes the latter far brighter and more campy. This element of east meets west extends beyond all three series including exposition (and context) providing narration.
The look and tone of "Q" is very similar to that of "Zone" and "Space." The production techniques show that Irwin Allen of "Space" fame and his brother from another continent Tsuburaya are of one mind.
The aptly titled "Defeat Gomess" starts "Q" on a terrific note that reflects a timely "television killed the movie star" vibe by having a well-executed "Godzilla" theme. This story begins with construction of a train tunnel giving the titular beast both a rude awakening and an exit strategy.
This adventure includes a "little child" shall lead them element that is prominent in "Q" and "Man." A young boy takes an "it takes a Klingon to defeat a Klingon" attitude by being instrumental in inviting the arch-foe of Gomess to the party. The rest is pure scifi history.
Speaking of "Trek," "Q" (no relation) regularly having a boy hero seems to inspire a prominent feature in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." One of countless expressions of intense disdain for prodigy Wesley Crusher prompted a friend to agree but note that Wesley allows tween boys to fantasize about being respected members of the Enterprise crew.
"Q" next takes a wonderfully goofy turn in "Goro and Goro." This one has a monkey whisperer do his thing when a science experiment gone awry causes a simian to become a (non-grape) great ape, The humanitarian outcome is a nice alternative to having the "monster" plummet from a skyscraper.
The ironically titled "Gift From Space" has our not-so-favorite Martians respond to rocket scientists boldly going where no man has gone before. There never has been a more clear example of Yankee, go home.
The fun continues with variations of "The Thing" and "The Little Shop of Horrors" (complete with a vampire plant that literally can be thought of a a big prick). This leads to an imminent explosion of Mt. Fuji involving a bear boy and another slumbering monster whom the misdeeds of man has awoken.
"Q" wraps this up several episodes later with a "Dr. Who" style adventure involving a train that can travel through time and space. The "Zone" style destination in a land that is free from the consequences of incidents that shows what fools these mortal be.
The kicker to all this there is much more to discover and adore about "Q" and the entire franchise. MCE deserves high praise for doing such an exceptional job making this possible.