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Joe 90 still seems to be a hit with todays pre-teen boys
on 4 February 2006
This 'supermarionation' puppet series offers 'Daredevil excitement every young boy dreams of'. Adopted nine year-old Joe McClaine becomes the "Most Special Agent" of the World Intelligence Network thanks to a device called the BIG RAT (Brain Impulse Galvanoscope - Record And Transfer) capable of recording the brain patterns of one person and transferring them to another. The series was first broadcast in 1968/1969, and it's set somewhere in the early 21st century. Unusually for the time, Anderson chose a real English boy, Len Jones, to provide the voice of 9 year old Joe 90 rather than use an actress. Anderson later commented that 'His performance was only adequate as he was got to repeat his lines parrot fashion, but more importantly he sounded authentic' - I would say his voice is definitely an asset to the series. Maigret star Rupert Davies provides the voice of his dad: Professor McClaine, and Sylvia Anderson is the voice of Ada Harris.
The DVD set has all 30 'digitally remastered' episodes. Audio is English only and there are SDH subtitles in English [no other languages]. There's also a few extras: Character Biographies [Joe McClaine, Professor McClaine, Sam Loover, Shane Weston], The W.I.N. Information files [e.g. The Big Rat, Mac's Culver Bay Cottage, W.I.N., Mac's Jet Air Car, Joe's Briefcase], Joe's glasses warning sequence, The unorthodox shepherd location recce, I love the 90s trailers, Original artworks [e.g. A14 tank, World Airforce Bomber, Missile recovery minisub, Presidents mono-train], Merchandise, Original end title sequence and Behind the scenes galleries.
Although nostalgia for lost childhood leads me to rate the series higher 40 years on, I wasn't such a massive fan of Joe 90 as a boy, although I happily watched all the episodes as I loved Gerry Anderson's earlier work [Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, and in particular FireBall XL5 and Stingray]. Really I was a bit too old at 12-13 for Joe 90, and at the time was watching the likes of 'Dr Who' and 'Time Tunnel'. Joe 90's script, production values, DVD picture quality and sound are quite good on this nicely presented set, particularly when viewed on the standard 14"/21" 4:3 CRT TV set it was designed for. Plus the `Danger Man' theme to the series is a bit different from GA's other projects [which often drew heavily on Captain Scarlet's plotline]. Captured and digitally remastered from 35mm film, the image colour is also nice and bold - I had to watch the original broadcasts on a B&W TV. The special effects are at least as good as GA's other series. Despite Joe 90 having some violent themes, it is rated U - and it isn't as dark as it's predecessor 'Captain Scarlet'. There was only one season of Joe 90 made (30 half hour episodes).
Anyway, as it was far cheaper than Terrahawks for around the same viewing time, I bought this set for my son (spookily then also 9). He rather liked the series, and busily went through the episodes at one or two before bedtime. I suppose he identified with the young boy lead. However he did lose interest after a (longish) while and so far hasn't got to watch the final DVD - and the same happened with his large Terrahawks DVD set (he has so many other TV/gaming choices, and we probably should have got these sets when he was a bit younger). However he quite enjoyed what he did watch, and for those nostalgic reasons I love the set as well. My daughter has no interest in these puppet series at all, much preferring the likes of The Worst Witch. So, recommended for today's youngsters, particularly pre-teen boys from 6 upwards - and of course any adults who watched this series as children back in the 1960s.