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on 31 October 2017
I was originally spellbound by this trilogy as an 8-year old. It is one of the few television serials before Dr Who that has remained clearly in my memory after more than half a century. Before buying this set of DVDs I could still remember the man on the moon who had been turned to stone, the dumbell-shaped spaceship, the lichens on Mars, the jungle on Venus, and the character played by George Coulouris. He played the part of a villain in many programmes of the period, and whenever I saw him on television in subsequent years I was reminded that he had remained behind on Venus. The haunting theme music has also remained in my memory ever since.

I note that at least one reviewer who remembered this serial from childhood regretted buying the DVDs, but when reviewing a product made so long ago, it is necessary to take account of the following:
(1) This production is a product of its time, when programmes were recorded on film, mainly in studios, and occasionally transmitted live. The flimsy sets are part of its charm, and didn't really matter at a time when programmes were viewed on 405-line black and white televisions with small screens.
(2) This was a series for children, so the children in the story were able to do things normally only possible for adults, such as travelling into space. Otherwise, many aspects of the stories are fairly plausible, based on the extent of scientific knowledge at that time.
(3) This was a serial, so an integral part of the experience of watching it was the suspense between episodes. I can still remember the anticipation before watching each episode on a Sunday afternoon, and the frustration in having to wait another week when it had ended.

Included with the DVDs is a very interesting Series Guide, which brings together information about the programmes that is not easy to find elsewhere. As well as providing interesting background, it has also solved a mystery for me. When I originally googled this series many years ago (before it became available on DVD) I was rather surprised to discover that it had followed an earlier series, entitled Target Luna, of which I had absolutely no recollection. The Series Guide explains why: the only ITV region where it was not transmitted was Tyne Tees, where I grew up. I am therefore very pleased to have discovered the reason why I have no memory of it. However, I was disappointed to see that the author of this Series Guide refers to the serial as a 'show'. This American terminology has crept into use on this side of the Atlantic in the last two decades, but would never have been used to refer to a television serial at that time, when a show referred to a programme with a live audience, and to my mind still does.

I would strongly recommend this DVD set to anyone who remembers this series from childhood and wants a trip down memory lane.
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on 22 October 2011
This is one of those TV shows that I remember from watching when I was 8 years old.

I never thought I would see again and think it is great that Network have been able to release it.

The acting and effects may at times be suspect but I found the stories to be so interesting that I had to keep watching. Certainly the acting improves as the series progresses and is better in the second story in the trilogy (Pathfinders to Mars).

The picture quality is OK and obviously no restoration work has been done on it. Nevertheless it did not detract from my enjoyment of the programme.

What is remarkable is that a few of the episodes were broadcast live and that of the remainder; each episode had to be recorded in two continuous segments. Any fluffs or problems were either ignored or the whole 15 minute section had to be recorded again.

I would recommend this series for anyone interested in seeing some vintage television as long as you take it for what it is.
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on 14 January 2012
I originally watched the last two "Pathfinders" series at ages twelve and thirteen. I hesitated a bit over buying the dvds - as others have noted, it's sometimes better not to try and go back - but in this case I have no regrets.

With fifty years hindsight, there is of course some disbelief to be suspended. Apart from the sheer unlikelihood of taking children (not to mention their pet hamsters) on such a voyage, the special effects, if they can be dignified by that name, are thoroughly 1950s, with the space rockets being all too obviously toys lifted up by a thread of cotton. However, being old enough to remember my family's first tv (a 14 inch black and white acquired when I was eight or nine) I was fully aware that they didn't have modern special effects in those days. I didn't let it bother me, and anyway it seemed to get better as the series' progressed.

The pleasantest surprise was the series I had not seen as a child - the first one, "Pathfinders in Space". As there was no element of "sentimental journey" attaching to that one, I did not expect to like it as an adult, and might not have bothered with it had the series' been marketed separately. That would have been a sad mistake, as I found it great. In particular, I was really gripped by the scene where the characters learn that the supply ship can return to earth - but only with one adult and one child. It was really well done. Having seen the later ones, I knew perfectly well that all the major characters, at least, must have survived, yet somehow it didn't matter. I was on the edge of my seat as I waited for the next episode to begin.

The series was of its time in other ways beside visual effcts. The news that all but two of them are, in effect, condemned to death, is received by adults and children alike with the stiffest of upper lips, and no one protests or argues when the names of those chosen to live are announced. Looking back, I get the strong feeling that attitudes to childhood and especially boyhood were rather different in those days. Well within living memory, a boy of sixteen had won a posthumous VC at Jutland, and there were many men (and women) still in their early thirties who had been in the French Resistance or similar at Geoff's age. Expectations were higher, or at least different.

Even so, though, it seems a bit much that no comment is ever made about the boys' conduct in the face of death. Apparently it was just expected that they would "naturally" (??) behave as their elders did. This despite the fact that Professor Wedgewood does not seem a hard or unfeeling parent. His children (even the mischievous Jimmy) are never punished beyond the mildest of rebukes. They seem to like and respect him, and to have absorbed his values willingly enough. Oh, I give up! PiS was made well within my own lifetime, but at times its human characters seem more alien to me than anything they could have found in outer space.

On a more human note, for me this scene is "stolen" by little Jimmy (Richard Dean) as he pleads for his hamster to be allowed to go back to earth, resolved to save his pet even if he himself is to die. I found it really moving, perhaps because it was so credible. I could all too easily imagine a child of Jimmy's age (11) behaving as he did.

I rather regret Jimmy's disappearance from the later series', though his place was in some ways well filled by Harcourt Brown, who rather anticipated Doctor Smith in "Lost In Space". Margaret was a good replacement for Valerie, and all the series' did well, especially for the amount of scientific, geographical and other knowledge which they managed to insert without ever holding up the plot.

Final oddity. Even when they make it back to earth, we never get a glimpse of the children's mother. I'd have expected to find her waiting at the base, probably with a few well chosen words for the Professor. It's small wonder that Jimmy and Valerie are absent from the later seasons. After what happened last time, Mrs Wedgewood probably (and quite understandably) wouldn't let either of them within a hundred miles of Buchan Island, and even Geoff may well have had to put up a fight to be allowed back.

I wonder also if this explains the Professor's own absence after Episode 1 of PtM. Was he just felt to be too unsympathetic a character to belong in a children's show?

All in all, PiS is remarkably "gritty" for something aimed at such a young audience, and it's possibly significant that nothing quite so stark ever happens in the sequels. Still, (and despite the ghastly 1960 visual effects) it is well worth a view. I have no regrets about getting the dvds, if only for the glimpse they give of us Brits as we were before, in Brian Aldiss' words "The Romans became Italians".

After this, the other two serials come as a bit of an anticlimax. But Pathfinders to Mars scores a few hits on the scientific front, guessing correctly that the Martian "canals" would turn out to be optical illusions, and that the atmosphere there would be thin enough to require the wearing of spacesuits, not just oxygen masks as then was commonly assumed. Those fast-growing lichens were also an interesting idea, and quite credible, as anyone who has heard of a "flash flood" will be aware.

The big change, though, is the introduction of a human villain (which PiS had done quite well without) in the shape of UFO-nutjob Harcourt Brown, who hijacks the fourth Moon rocket and takes it to Mars instead. Doubt if a Moon rocket could carry the food and oxygen for that, but never mind. He is an acquired taste, but interesting, and more than makes up for the absence of little Jimmy, whose inclusion in PiS must have strained the credulity of even a juvenile audience.

Pathfinders to Venus is the weakest of the three in scientific terms. It adopts the classic "jungle planet" concept which was dated even in 1961 and would be totally exploded by Mariner 2 the following year. It even makes cave men contemporary with the dinosaurs, Fred Flintstone style. However, it makes up for this for me by the further development of Harcourt Brown, who now emerges in a far more sympathetic light with his determination to protect the native Venusians from the conquest and colonial exploitation which he foresees. The "good guys" have also grown a bit. They started out by hating Brown, and with every justification, given his often outrageous behaviour; yet by the end they have learned to forgive, and they (and probably much of the audience) part from him in a spirit of understanding and even a degree of sympathy.

All in all, a great trip down memory lane, at least for this 64 year old kid. And a fascinating glimpse both into "the way the future was" and into the way a lot of Brits were well within living memory - and maybe one or two still are. If you're into a bit of nostalgia then these are for you.
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on 14 November 2012
What this series is strong on - quite apart from nostalgia, obviously - is ATMOSPHERE. It truly captures the sense of real excitement that people felt about the dawn of the Space Age in the late 50s and early 60s. Even watching it again now, as an adult, the camera-work manages to make you feel that you're actually there, in the Venusian jungle, as opposed to simply watching something on TV.
As somebody else has already mentioned, the acting is of its time (from certain members of the cast, anyway), but it's also true that this improves as the three series progresses. A wonderful childhood memory I have is at a friend's birthday party, when we all stopped for half an hour to watch the final episode together. I can still recall my feelings of exhilaration (and fear!)as the main characters were menaced by - well, I won't spoil things, but if you've still got an element of child-like adventure in you, buy this! I'm really pleased I did (and so are a couple of my old mates from those days, who've also re-watched it with me!!
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on 28 March 2017
Bought this speculatively based on my 56 year old memory of this series (I was 7). Did a double-take when a teenage boy was handed an electronic screwdriver, years before Dr Who. Black and white, quirky, and requiring suspension of disbelief it will be interesting how viewing the three series goes.
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on 4 April 2017
I remember watching this series when I was child I loved it I brought DVD trilogy for a trip to my childhood bait dated now but I still loved it
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on 24 October 2012
I can't say I'm an expert but I certainly enjoy my British sci-fi - and I've been delighted with this little find from childrens TV in 1960-61. The pack contains three disks each with a complete story, one set on the Moon, one or Mars and one on Venus. In the first story we find our heros, following various misdemeanours, landing on the Moon and discovering evidence of a previous visit by another civilization. I was truly surprised and not just a little delighted by the subtext which unfolded from thereon in. The subsequent two stories are variations on similar themes and equally enjoyable (without the sub-text).

All the presentations have the kind of "warts and all" early TV production values together with patina which some crave to be digitally removed - but not me. I think this only adds to the behind-the-sofa excitement and unashamed nostalgia.

If you like your interplanetary travel done by pipe smoking folks in sensible shoes, nice woolly jumpers, a glowing pride in Great Britain and a guinea pig called Hamlet, this stuff is for you.
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on 21 January 2015
I clearly remember watching these series on TV as a child, so I was pleased to be able to get them on DVD. I wasn't disappointed when I saw them again - yes the stories may be rather corney, but they did bring back some wonderful memories.
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on 11 April 2017
I remember watching this on tv in the 1960's, great to see it again
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on 28 March 2018
Watched one, still to watch the one I remember, but again takes you back.
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