Space Patrol (1962 TV series)
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|Also known as||Planet Patrol (United States)|
|Created by||Roberta Leigh|
|Written by||Roberta Leigh|
|Directed by||Frank Goulding|
|Voices of||Dick Vosburgh
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||3|
|No. of episodes||39|
|Running time||24-26 minutes|
|Production company(s)||National Interest Pictures
|Picture format||Film 35mm 4:3 Black and white|
|Original run||7 April 1963 – 11 June 1964|
Space Patrol is a science-fiction television series featuring marionettes that was produced in the United Kingdom in 1962 and broadcast beginning in 1963. It was written and produced by Roberta Leigh in association with the Associated British Corporation.
The series features the vocal talents of Dick Vosburgh, Ronnie Stevens, Libby Morris, Murray Kash and Ysanne Churchman, and comprises 39 half-hour episodes. This series is also known by its US title Planet Patrol to avoid confusion with the 1950s American live-action series of the same name. The marionettes used in the series incorporated some elements of Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation technique - specifically their mouths would move in synch with dialogue.
The series follows the actions of an interplanetary police force in the year 2100, and focuses on the crew of Galasphere 347 (sometimes referred to as Galasphere 024) under the command of the heroic (and, unusually for this type of series, bearded) Captain Larry Dart. The crew includes the elfin Slim from Venus, and the sausage-mad Russian-accented Husky from Mars. These are from Venusian and Martian civilizations and not from Earth colonies there. Providing technical support on Earth is Irish genius Professor Heggarty. Hegarty's talkative pet Martian Parrot (a Gabblerdictum Bird) rarely accompanies the crew on missions. It was brought back from Mars and taught to talk in The Slaves of Neptune episode. Keeping them all on a tight rein are Colonel Raeburn and his super-efficient Venusian secretary, Marla. The show was somewhat sexist in comments from its characters, reflecting the times when it was made.
The series was sold overseas and broadcast in the USA, Canada and Australia, and in spite of the very low budget—which meant that sometimes the shadow of a puppet could be seen behind a "TV Screen" before the communication device was supposedly turned on—the show rated strongly with young audiences in many regions (including New York City) and garnered a huge following, with Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski stating that it was his favourite TV show as a child.
Leigh had previously worked with Gerry Anderson on children's puppet series, and there are some obvious similarities between Space Patrol and Anderson's Fireball XL5, although Space Patrol was made on a lower budget. Arthur Provis, Anderson's former business partner in AP Films was responsible for the cinematography. For many years it was believed that all but a handful of episodes had been destroyed, until a complete cache of 16 mm prints was discovered in the loft at Roberta Leigh's home. Despite their scratched and grainy condition, they were of sufficient historic interest to warrant a DVD release. Selected episodes were issued on DVD in 2001, and the complete series was released in 2003 on Region 0 discs. Two episodes have survived from the original 35 mm prints and are available on Blu-ray Disc.
Original style of the series
Although compared (and often confused) with the Gerry Anderson productions (due to the similar use of voice-synchronised marionettes), Space Patrol stands out on its own. This is mainly due to the boldness of a few creative choices. The only music involved is extremely avant-garde, the theme being made by Roberta Leigh herself using electronic equipment she bought from a local store after asking an assistant for anything that made interesting noises. F.C. Judd was responsible for creating all the electronic music for the series; he was an early British electronic experimenter, amateur radio expert, circuit designer, author and contributor to many wireless and electronics magazines from the 1950s to the 1990s. Everything had its peculiar noise with the exception of the Galasphere taking off in that rockets too made the same noise taking off, as did even a chemical rocket used in one episode.
In addition, the marionettes used for Space Patrol were more realistic-looking and less cartoon-like than those being used on Fireball XL5; in terms of relative realism, the puppets of Space Patrol fall between that of Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. There were two types of robots, and the ones with the thick upper bodies were mainly used.
Another notable feature is that the music used in the opening sequence may be the first TV theme to be realised entirely through electronic means. That distinction has commonly been ascribed to the BBC's Doctor Who but the first episode of Space Patrol premiered on ABC in the Midlands on 7 April 1963, preceding Doctor Who by more than seven months (that series debuted on 23 November 1963).
Final credits always showed panoramic views over a gigantic city of the future, and never featured any music; only the throb of some industrial machinery, sounding like a gigantic pump or a steam engine, beat in rhythm. The male characters from the planet Venus (Slim for example) presented obvious androgyne features (in contrast to the rustic, virile Martians). Thus the style of the entire series created an extremely eerie atmosphere, that remains rarely matched even by the best adult science-fiction on screen.
Whereas Gerry Anderson had a rocket ship in Fireball XL5 that could travel light years to planets around other stars as though they were just a few million miles away, Space Patrol took a more realistic approach. Because of limited speed, trips to other planets in our solar system could take weeks or months and this was facilitated by the crew of the Galasphere going into a freezer chamber and being put in suspended animation for the trip. A robot would then take over (its movements were said to cost £2,000 a time rather than being just a puppet.) The zirgon ray (faster than light) could be used from Earth to wake them up in an emergency.
On other planets, they would use dial-selector translators (dial P for Pluto) to talk to alien beings - at the time, even some serious scientists considered the possibility of life on Venus, Mars and maybe elsewhere. Life support in hazardous atmospheres was provided by a "Moolung" - a sealed cylindrical transparent helmet, and the crew would often ride around on "Hover Jets", or more rarely, an "Ion Gun" which looked like a giant sparkler firework. Neptune was said to have atomic heating but none of the planets were really cold, as in Dart walked about on Pluto (in "The Buried Spaceship") without any extra protection in what would be temperatures of about -230.C.
The Galasphere had a top speed of about 800,000 mph, using "meson power". In The Talking Bell episode, they use "Boost Speed", which is dangerous, but allows them to travel at almost one million miles per hour for a long period. Meson power is dangerous to use in atmosphere. The engine also used Gamma rays and 'Yobba rays'. The Galasphere has a force field which would protect it from enemy missiles, and it also turned out to protect them from the mind control of the evil Neptunians who were thousands of years advanced on Earth people, with great mental powers, and who hated work.
The Galasphere was constructed of Plutonite, from Pluto and a number of times, like in "The Human Fish", it also travelled underwater. Pluto was the furthest they normally travelled but after an accident they went way beyond that to a self-heated new planet which was full of giants who treated the Galasphere as a toy. Another time, an alien from Alpha Centauri visited them and installed a device which allowed the Galasphere to travel faster than light (at which point it vanished). They had their adventure twenty five trillion miles away and then returned to Earth, and just made it, with Galasphere 347 collapsing under the strain of such travel, just as they left it. In "The Planet of Light", Dart and Slim were taken to a planet circling Sirius (8.7 light years away) in just a few hours. This fast journey was necessary as the "light beings" who took them would be poisoned by air, so the two had to rely on their own supplies.
In "The Rings of Saturn" and several other episodes, they were in Galasphere 024, which was later referred to as Galasphere 347, which is what comes from continually using file footage.
- The Swamps of Jupiter - Captain Dart and his crew are sent to investigate the loss of contact with a scientific base on Jupiter and encounter Martian fur trappers who are killing the local Loomi creatures for their heat-retaining skins.
- The Wandering Asteroid - The Space Patrol crew accept a dangerous mission to destroy an asteroid deflected from its orbit by a cometary collision and heading directly for the Martian capital Wotan. Many have noted the extraordinary similarities between this episode and the Bruce Willis vehicle "Armageddon".
- The Dark Planet - Professor Heggerty and his daughter Cassiopeia are baffled by a plant sample from Uranus with a mind of its own! Following the disappearance of a 20 strong survey team on Uranus, Colonel Raeburn dispatches the Space Patrol crew to locate larger versions of the plant, where they discover the adult specimens of the plant are far from friendly.
- The Slaves of Neptune - The crew of the Galasphere are sent to solve the mystery of a spaceship sending colonists to Pluto which disappeared near Neptune. On approach to Neptune Dart, Slim and Husky fall under the hypnotic influence of Neptunian overlord Tyro who is using his powers to trap Earth colonists as slaves.
- The Fires of Mercury - Professor Heggarty's device for translating the language of ants also converts heat waves into radio waves. Marla realises that this might provide a way of transmitting warmth from Mercury to the Colony on Pluto, where freezing conditions worsen as the planet nears the point in its orbit farthest from the Sun.
- The Shrinking Spaceman - When the Galasphere crew are sent to repair the sonar beam transmitter on the asteroid Pallas. Husky succumbs to a mysterious shrinking disease after cutting his hand on a rock. Keeping him in suspended animation Professor Heggerty attempts to find a cure.
- The Robot Revolution - When an undersea eruption at the Atlantic sea farm damages robot workers, Space Headquarters is overrun by the rampaging machines, determined to seize control of the city.
- The Cloud of Death - A cloud of metallic particles plunges the Earth into darkness. The work of Neptunian leader Tyro, he threatens to freeze the Earth unless Raeburn agrees to send human slaves to work for them.
- The Rings of Saturn - Observing Saturn, Dart and his crew notice a meteor shadowing the Galasphere. On discovering it is actually a Saturnian spacecraft, Dart makes contact and bring a tape of Saturnian language back to Earth for decoding. When contact is finally made with the planet it transpires that Dart has inadvertently offended the Saturnian by picking leaves of their sacred tree.
- Volcanoes of Venus - A virus is paralysing areas of Venus. Raeburn learns that Slim's uncle Gallia intends to seize power by releasing a powder that causes the paralysis into the air. Slim is sent to Venus to investigate, but contacts Space Headquarters to announce that he has changed allegiance and will assist his uncle...back to his mother ship.
- Mystery on the Moon - From a base on the Moon, Berridge threatens Space Headquarters with destruction by laser beam unless Raeburn agrees to send him a freighter full of gold. Dart is sent to Moon Station One to investigate and discovers an artificial crater.
- The Miracle Tree of Saturn - A fungus is destroying crops at an alarming rate. By chance Professor Heggarty discovers a cutting from the Saturnian's sacred tree on Raeburn's desk destroys the fungus and Dart is dispatched to Saturn to obtain further supplies. However, their plan has been overheard by an unscrupulous technician.
- The Forgers - Colonel Raeburn is baffled by a sudden influx of forged currency while investigating what appears to be a disease killing the vegetation on Mars. Dart and Husky stumble across the source of the forgeries ...
- The Planet of Thought - Tyro has come to Earth with a view to joining the UGO but is sidetracked when he catches sight of Maria. Using his hypnotic powers, Tyro returns to Neptune with Maria where he makes her his princess. Dart follows them to discover a way to break the spell.
- The Glowing Eggs of Titan - Husky's discovery of a luminous egg of the Saturnian moon of Titan could prove to be the solution of the Martian energy crisis. While Dart and his crew are on an egg gathering mission, Slim falls and damages his air line. As he waits to be rescued he hears a strange humming ...
- The Planet of Light - Dart and Slim are invited to the planet of Lumen. On their arrival Dart's oxygen cylinder is pierced. The planet's only oxygen comes from blister plants in the "cave of death". Dart and Slim must find the plants before dawn, or risk being boiled alive in the heat of the Sun ...
- Time Stands Still - Stolen art treasures are being transported into space. Raeburn suspects that Venus millionaire Tara is behind the thefts, but his palace is too well guarded. Professor Heggarty develops a watch that speeds up the wearer's reaction sixty times which enables Dart to sneak into the palace unnoticed.
- Husky Becomes Invisible - When Dart is sent to Mars to find the eggs of the Aba bird to help find a cure for a condition known as the "floats", he calls on Professor Zeller who has discovered that his new star-measuring apparatus can make objects disappear.
- The Walking Lake of Jupiter - Scientists Dr Brown and Dr Smith discover that water from a Jovian lake has the power to cause inanimate objects to move as if with a life of their own. Dart arrives to witness the phenomenon. and ends up on the trail of the unfortunate Dr Brown, whose spacesuit has become energised by the Jovian water.
- The New Planet - Galasphere 347 is in deep space. After a comet collides with the ship Dart and his crew discover a new planet beyond the orbit of Pluto. Touching down in the dense forest, Dart and Slim meet one of the planet's giant inhabitants.
- The Human Fish - The Tula Fish in the Venusian Magda Ocean are evolving at an extraordinary rate and attack fishermen. The Galasphere crew are sent to help and discover that building materials, routinely dumped may be the cause of the Tula's accelerated evolution.
- The Invisible Invasion - On Uranus, the Duo's are planning to seize power on Earth by taking over the minds of everyone at Space Headquarters, including Colonel Raeburn. The one person seemingly unaffected by the Duo's power is Professor Heggerty, who is installed beneath his electronic hair-restorer!
- The Talking Bell - On a hunting trip, Raeburn and Hegarty encounter a soft, bell-shaped object with a single extendible leg. It is a visitor from another planet, but Raeburn has accidentally shot its space vehicle down with his 12-bore! Dart is assigned to return "Mr Bell" to his mother ship.
- The Buried Spaceship - "Operation Ice Cube" is put into action when Marla suggests moving ice through space as a solution to a drought problem on Mars. Galasphere 347 is sent to assist but develops a fault in the Meson Power Unit forcing the craft to land for repairs ...
- Message from a Star - Signals from Alpha Centauri suggest intelligent life but it would take a Galasphere 3,000 years to cross the immense distance. Irya, a being from the planet Delta, teleports himself to Earth to fit a special power unit to the Galasphere, enabling it to travel as faster-than-light speeds. Professor Haggerty, however, has reservations about making the trip.
- Explosion on the Sun - An explosion on the surface of Sun causes a temperature rise on Earth and Venus. The Venusian president is contacted by Dr Duncan, who has been causing the explosions by firing a freighter of beryllium into the Sun. He threatens to release further charges unless Earth and Venus send weapons and robots to Ganymede.
- The Unknown Asteroid - The problem of dwindling supplies of Plutonite is solved when an asteroid made of the material is discovered. But before Raeburn has managed to secure the asteroid Miga, a wealthy Venusian has taken possession and intends to sell it. Raeburn reluctantly agrees to the asking price and sends Dart to complete the transaction.
- The Evil Eye of Venus - Professor Borra of Venus has invented a mechanical eye which can destroy any ship constructed of metal alien to Earth, Mars or Venus. The demonstration is impressive but what will happen when a Galasphere constructed from metal mined from Pluto comes within range?
- Secret Formula - Exploring the Silver Forest of Venus, Husky becomes trapped in the web of a Spirigum Spider. Haggarty manages to free him and discovers that fragments of the web act as a truth drug. Raeburn, meanwhile, is offered the formula for Kinotine, which has the ability to store heat indefinitely. Kinotine’s inventor, Dr. Mason will donate the formula but when a call is received from Kolig, head of Mars’s largest chemical plant, offering the formula for sale, Raeburn suspects foul play.
- The Telepathic Robot - Haggarty invents a robot that responds to thoughts. Dart tests the range of telepathic thought in space and investigates a new planet near the sun unaware that the Neptunian’s have encamped there. Only Haggarty’s new robot escapes the Neptunian’s hypnotic influence.
- Deadly Whirlwind - To halt a virus destroying Martian vegetation, Dart is sent with a spray that is deadly to all forms of life except those native to Mars. When the spray comes into contact with a whirlwind the chemical is rushed into space and is soon on a collision course with Earth.
- The Jitter Waves - A strange jittering is affecting the city and other Earth locations. Haggarty discovers, by chance, that the jittering is caused by radio waves emitted by Uranus, where the Duos are once again planning an invasion.
- Sands of Death - Tyrig plans to use a nerve gas to seize power on Mars. Raeburn discovers that Tyrig and his men have set up base on the Martian moon Phobos and Dart is sent to investigate. Dart and his crew are captured by Tyrig, who wants to use the Galasphere to spread the gas. Refusing to co-operate they are placed in a dungeon which slowly fills with sand.
- The Hairy Men of Mars - The Galasphere’s Meson unit malfunctions and lands in the unexplored Tuhera jungle. Dart and Husky leave to fix the problem. When Husky fails to return, Dart follows and is captured by a giant primitive man. Husky speaks with the giant in their native language and they are set free. They return to Earth with some Martian fruit which makes hair grow – the perfect solution to Haggarty’s problem.
- The Grass of Saturn - Saturn has a new leader. Riga is succeeded by his brother Simba and whilst Dart is en route to investigate, Riga launches rockets, destined for Earth containing Saturnian grass seed – which absorbs oxygen and emits carbon dioxide.
- Force Field X - The Neptunian’s create a forcefield around the Earth containing particles with strong electromagnetic properties. The field begins disrupting electricity supplies causing a complete blackout.
- The Water Bomb - The Galasphere is sent on a rain making mission to Mars with a cargo of oxygen and hydrogen – the very ingredient escaped criminal Marog requires to complete his bomb under construction at his Phobos hideaway.
- Destruction by Sound - Raeburn is contacted by Yria from Alpha Centauri who is seeking help to destroy an evil computer superbrain which is attempting to take over the planet Delta.
- The Shrinking Gas of Jupiter - On a mission to Jupiter, Slim disappears in the swamps. Raeburn orders Dart and Husky to leave but trouble with the Galasphere’s primary drives gives Dart an excuse to resume the search only to find that Slim has shrunk to dwarf-like proportions.
Comic strip adaptations
A number of comic strip adaptations of Space Patrol were produced:
- TV Comic: 52 double-page strips forming the centrespread of each issue, in issues 668 to 719. They were written by Roberta Leigh herself and illustrated by artist Bill Mevin.
- Beezer: from September 1966 to March 1967, illustrated by artist Terry Patrick.
- Two Super Mag comics.
- A 1965 Wonderama Productions annual with both stories by Roberta Leigh and illustrations by R.W. Smethurst. Title: Space Patrol and the Secret Weapon.
- Space Patrol, the website (archived 29-Jun-2011) provides a comprehensive guide to the series, including screenshots, episode guide, encyclopaedia of terms, behind-the-scenes information, and links to other Space Patrol websites.