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on 22 February 2002
The adventures of Captain Larry Dart of Galasphere 347, with his crew the Martian Husky and Venusian Slim. Often confused with Gerry Anderson's 'Fireball XL5', Roberta Leigh's 'Space Patrol' offers a quirky and light-hearted slant on the SF genre. Primarily a children's show with educational and moral aspirations mixed into its stories, this first volume, finds the series gain incredible momentum through its first four episodes.
'The Swamps Of Jupiter' introduces, though expands little on, the main characters in a tale of illegal animal hunting. Scientific ideas mix with fantastic extrapolations to give a interesting view of the future, and the puppet 'fist-fight' must be a brief but effective first!
'The Wandering Asteroid' sees Roberta Leigh pre-empting films like 'Deep Impact' and 'Armageddon' by some 25 years with the crew of Galasphere 347 given the mission of destroying an asteroid on a collision course with Mars. In respects like this, the series was ahead of its time...
'The Dark Planet' is Uranus, inhabited by giant intelligent plants, and Galasphere 347 lands there to learn why a previous mission disappeared. Not a great story but the scenes on Uranus are suitably atmospheric and Husky and Slim's flight from the pursuing plants is something not to be missed...
'The Slaves Of Neptune' sees how far the series develops in just a handful of episodes with a packed and gripping story when colony ships bound for Pluto vanish. Investigating, Galasphere 347 also disappears from Earth tracking after sighting one of the missing ships...
'Space Patrol' has a tendency to be a little uneven when compared to slicker productions like 'Fireball XL5' but it has a tendency to grow on you. Darker and more mysterious than the action packed Gerry Anderson series, it will probably have a slower impact but it is one which stays with you for much longer.
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on 22 February 2002
The adventures of Captain Larry Dart of Galasphere 347, with his crew the Martian Husky and Venusian Slim. Often confused with Gerry Anderson's 'Fireball XL5', Roberta Leigh's 'Space Patrol' offers a quirky and light-hearted slant on the SF genre. Primarily a children's show with educational and moral aspirations mixed into its stories this eighth volume, featuring episodes from the second series, is a mixed bag revisiting ideas already featured in previous episodes.
'Deadly Whirlwind' is one threat to Earth, a Martian duststorm packed with fungicide that is blown into space towards Earth. The other is an artificial planet created by the Neptunians that will alter the orbits of Mars and Venus and cause them to collide with Earth too. Double jeopardy!
'The Jitter Waves' eminate from Uranus and are causing earthquakes all over Earth. Not an outstanding story, but the Duo plant creatures are fascinating to watch and Gabbler, the Martian parrot, gets a chance to shine in this episode.
'Sands Of Death' is probably the weakest episode on this volume, with the threat of a nerve gas very similar to that seen in 'Volcanoes Of Venus'. It offers little that is new or thought provoking.
'The Hairy Men Of Mars' is something of an out & out comedy. Follically challenged Professor Haggarty is given fruit from Mars that causes his hair to grow wildly out of control! This, coupled with scenes of a hairy Martian primitive who takes a shine to bearded hero Larry Dart, and an invisible Gabbler attempting to steal a cure for Haggarty, make this quite a laughfest.
Not the best selection of stories but the character writing comes to the fore in most scenes with offbeat humour.
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on 28 May 2002
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."
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on 17 February 2002
The adventures of Captain Larry Dart of Galasphere 347, with his crew the Martian Husky and Venusian Slim. Often confused with Gerry Anderson's 'Fireball XL5', Roberta Leigh's 'Space Patrol' offers a quirky and light-hearted slant on the SF genre. Primarily a children's series, 'Space Patrol' mixes entertainment from offbeat characters and situations with moral stories and attempts at scientific realism (astronomer Colin Ronan acted as adviser).
This fourth volume highlights episodes from the middle of the production and has a pedestrian feel. Often intriguing ideas languish in stories that do little justice for them, and show that the series could have benefited from having more than a single writer.
'The Walking Lake Of Jupiter' is possibly the nadir of the series, with an interesting idea - alien water that makes objects take on a life of their own - that is never really developed, although there are some wonderfully comic scenes.
'Time Stands Still' suffers a similar fate, with Professor Haggarty's theories on time being different in other parts of the universe (a very modern idea) leading to a very humdrum story about art theft.
Things pick up in 'Message From A Star' with the first contact with an alien ouside the solar system and there are some nice dramatic consequences of this, even if the solution is a little too easy.
'The Fires Of Mercury' is an early episode (fans please note the production order isn't followed by the video releases!) and shows the energy and ideas the series possessed when things started. While not the best example, being a little melodramatic in places, it does highlight the scientific and educational aspirations of creator/writer Roberta Leigh.
Probably only true fans will gain anything from this volume. If you're new to 'Space Patrol' try the first volume which introduces everything, or Volume Five, which contains five of the series best episode, to gain a better appreciation of this rare and intriguing series.
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on 3 June 2011
There are very few people alive today who remember this programme, or so it seems. I used to love this show as a child and was absolutely delighted to get a copy of it a few years ago. It ran at the same time as fireball Xl5 and was just as good. You will have to make some allowance for the quality of the sound and picture as it has been copied from the only surviving print which was recorded on 35mm film! it was written and produced by Roberta Leigh, who really deserves more recognition for her pioneering work in early childrens television, and was made on a shoestring budget. I highly recommend this show as being small on effects but BIG on imagination!
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on 17 December 2002
From the sixties when the space program was breaking new ground,I remember space patrol as a child was compelling viewing every Thursday night, despite being terified by it.Anything was possible.(We knew less about what might be out there in space).Space patrol stimulated the imagination in a way that fireball XL5 and thunderbirds could'nt,which was quite possibly a result of the lack of 'high tech effects' available then.Volume 2 was totaly enjoyable although its in black and white my 10year old boy prefers it to the thunderbirds vidio he has.
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on 22 February 2002
The adventures of Captain Larry Dart of Galasphere 347, with his crew the Martian Husky and Venusian Slim. Often confused with Gerry Anderson's 'Fireball XL5', Roberta Leigh's 'Space Patrol' offers a quirky and light-hearted slant on the SF genre. Primarily a children's series, 'Space Patrol' mixes entertainment from offbeat characters and situations with moral stories and attempts at scientific realism (astronomer Colin Ronan acted as adviser).
This fifth volume, as well as featuring an extra bonus episode, shows the series at its peak with a fine selection of thought provoking and dramatic stories.
'The Invisible Invasion' is one of the show's best, probably the only example of a direct though subversive alien attempt to take control of Earth, and without the slick effects work of the Gerry Anderson productions manages to build up a tense atmosphere in the best tradition of British SF.
'The New Planet' is one you'll either love or hate - personally, I love it. A malfunction on Galasphere 347 throws it out of the solar system where they discover a tenth planet beyond the orbit of Pluto. Some nice scientific ideas about how this planet supports life give way to a somewhat fanciful occupant but in all it's a good romp.
'The Human Fish' is an early eco-friendly story about fish on Venus evolving in intelligent creatures. A good story that signposts the problems of pollution without getting on a soapbox about it, though one is left wondering what happens to the 'human fish' afterwards...
'The Planet Of Light' is the first of two stories about visitors from the stars. The living light Lumina creatures from Sirius invite Larry Dart and Slim to visit their world and while the ideas are again interesting, a somewhat melodramatic story ensues when Dart runs out of oxygen on a planet where the gas is considered lethal...
'The Talking Bell' is a similarly melodramatic story but in this instance 'Mr Bell', a strange mushroom like lifeform from another star, is the moral protagonist in a tale of self sacrifice. While a little heavy-handed in its dealing of this issue, as a children's story it is nice to see the subject being tackled. We should perhaps see a little more of these aspirations in modern television...
Standing alone from comparison's with the more action packed Gerry Anderson series, 'Space Patrol' is the kind of series that would have got the kiddies talking in the playground for days afterwards and would hopefully have raised issues they could ask parents and teachers about. It may seem oversimple now, a slice of nostalgia from a time just before the sixties became 'the sixties' but it can still raise a wry smile and will hopefully find some modern appreciation with its recent release on video.
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on 3 January 2004
I thought that I was alone in fondly remembering this sixties puppet series... and then I find the super fan site and this wonderful DVD. If you have any interest in the various Sci-fi puppet seies of the 60s / 70s then this is a must for your collection. Captain Larry Dart, Husky & Slim are just as I remember them but what really suprises is the atmosphere created. At times genuinely spooky and evocative, the series works on many levels. I can reveal that the gun in episode 1 is the neck of a laboratory quickfit washbottle with two rubber bungs attached... but don't let that put you off, the mist shrouded surface (!!) of Jupiter is superb - far mor alien than the polystyrene rocks used in Star Trek and the like. The music is subdued and moody and predates Tonto's Expanding Headband by 10 years or so. How hip is that!!?
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on 19 September 2000
Gamma Rays - On. Yobba Rays On. For any science fiction fan of a certain age this is a blast of pure nostalgia. It took me right back to being a child in the early 1960's. Admittedly the production looks dated but the special effects still demand respect. For anyone who remembers this classic English puppet programme or is a fan of the later works by others such as Gerry Anderson, this video is strongly recommended!
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