Space Patrol stands utterly alone in the great canon of Gerry Anderson dominated puppet series of the 50's, 60's and 70's. Dark, humorous and far more thoughtful than its cousins from the Anderson stable, it touches your imagination in a way Fireball XL5 and Thunderbirds can't. I remember sitting spellbound as a child, watching the original series when it was transmitted in the early sixties. I was a little worried when I purchased the videos that nostalgia would be shattered, or at least deflated on re-viewing (as I found to my dismay with the recent re-runs on TV of Thunderbirds), but no such thing! Instead, as with the classic Adam West Bat Man series, I discovered whole new layers of adult-oriented thought and ideas (along with a number of non-PC jokes and one-liners that would be hard pressed to make it past the editor's scissors these days!). The characters are well-defined, and you find yourself warming to them - the eccentric Irish scientist, Haggerty, the sausage-loving Martian, Husky, the cranky Colonel Raeburn, and his blonde Venusian babe-style assistant ("on Venus, Colonel, there is no such thing as a dumb blonde," she reminds him as she second and third guesses him at every turn), Captain Larry Dart, our hero, and commander of the Galasphere 347 - one of the coolest ships in creation - a long haired, bearded decent sort of chap who breaks the lantern-jawed hunk mold and tosses it aside, as he confronts all threats and aliens with stoic calm and a minimum of fuss. And let's not forget Slim, the Venusian co-pilot, who plays foil to Husky's gruff, but lovable Neanderthal tendencies.
The special effects are startling when you consider the limitations of the time, and the Galasphere ranks as one of the best SF spacecraft, alongside the Enterprise and Fireball XL5. The stories are carefully thought out, with a strong basis in science; no whizzing to planets in a few minutes here - a trip to Pluto requires a couple of months in the "freezer" for the crew, and each adventure leans heavily on some sort of scientific theme. There are little touches that aid suspension of belief - references to leave owed for long tours of duty, characters actually leaving the office to head home, one scene where Colonel Raeburn tells Dart, when he bemoans having to make yet another round trip to Mars, that that's why he's so well paid, illustrates the type of attention to small detail that bring a gritty realism to Space Patrol.
The tapes themselves are copied from 35mm film re-discovered in Roberta Leigh's garage when it was thought the series was lost for ever - the sort of find that would bring salvation to many a fan desperate for those lost series of the 60's (the Dr Who fraternity spring easily to mind). The quality is quite good, but remember we're talking black and white here, no gaudy coloured uniforms or effects, and in a way, this works to Space Patrol's advantage, enhancing that darker feel to the series.
This volume contains five stories (darned good value!), dealing with an alien mind-control invasion from the denizens of Uranus (delightfully pronounced your-ay-nuss throughout the series), the discovery of a new planet beyond Pluto, occupied by giants, a rapidly evolving race of fish on Venus, a visit beyond the solar system to the planet Lumen, and the arrival on Earth of a bell-shaped creature from (again) a planet beyond the solar system (the simple response from the alien to Colonel Raeburn's comment that "we must be very backward", when yet another race capable of faster than light ravel drops by, of "Yes, you are" is a scream). The stories illustrate the wide varieties of alien, plot and science utilised by the series.
Don't just buy this video, get them all - I promise you'll enjoy them. And just maybe, you'll see the seeds of progammes like Star Trek in the adventures of Captain Larry Dart and his crew. As Michael Straczynski, creater of Babylon 5 says, "My favourite show as a kid, bar none."