It is 2062, and the World Space Patrol, located at Space City, watches the skies with the aid of its fleet of interplanetary XL rocket-ships. The hero of the half hour, Colonel Steve Zodiac, is the pilot of Fireball XL5 that protects Sector 25 beyond the Solar System from alien invasion. With Steve Zodiac in command, his crew consisted of Venus, a doctor of space medicine, Professor Matic, the science officer, Venus's pet Zoonie the Lazoon, and Robbie the Robot, the rocket's mechanical co-pilot (voiced by Jerry Anderson). I was 6 when Fireball XL5 aired and ever since I've been a SciFi and realSci fan, going on from XL5 to the likes Dr Who, Lost in Space, Star Trek and the moon landings. However despite the oddities of the witty 1960's script, the spaceship Fireball XL5, and its accessories like the hover scooters, are a fantastic iconic design (particularly in the colour stills). The storylines are quite strong for a kids series, and the aliens are quite convincing - although we seem to see many of them again quite soon as the fish people in Stingray. In many ways Fireball XL5 has a younger feel to it than later Anderson projects, so I expect boys nearer 5 to 7 would appreciate it most (or those now over 50 who first saw it at this age). The Fireball XL5 boxed set has all 39 original B&W twenty-five minute episodes first broadcast in 1962, total run time is over 16 hours, with English audio only (no subtitles).
My son at 6 really took to the two XL5 videos I had, and like me he really really loved the Steve Zodiac song sung by Don Spencer at the end of each of episode, and we often used to have sing-alongs with it in the car. Although it was nice and thoroughly `modern' to let Venus (voiced by Sylvia Anderson) leave the nappies and washing behind and come along as part of the crew, it's not long before the good Dr of Space medicine is making the coffee or tripping over and screaming for male assistance. Typical Dr Venus quote `Oh I am a Tootie' - which I presume must be some sort of 2060's space bimbo. So Venus provides the backup for the two bachelor men, like doing the ironing, cooking, cleaning up after them, while also juggling a highly successful career. Typical Professor Matic quote 'Now now, Venus, none of your feminine intuition. Let's stick to the facts' - I expect they had to cut what happened next.
My only gripe is that a colourised version of the entire series hasn't been made available as the XL5 spacecraft looks so great in the colour production stills - we have the very successfully colourised 'Bewitched' B&W seasons 1&2, and there's the one colourised episode on the newer Network six DVD set along with a booklet and other extras including two documentaries. The same single colourised episode A Day In The Life Of A Space General is also available in a superb hi-def Blu-ray. The older Carlton XL5 five DVD set was also digitally remastered but has no extras and no colourised episode. Despite admitting it is a good TV programme, my son (now 10) hasn't taken to watching the whole XL5 series though as he can't tolerate the black and white TV - however he absolutely loves the B&W AP Films co-production `Torchy The Battery Boy' from 1958 so perhaps he is actually both too young and too old at 9 for this level of SciFi sophistication. What do I care, I bought the series for my 50th birthday - and he's happy with Joe90, Terrahawks and the new Captain Scarlet in full `HudsonColour'. And even now "I wish I was a spaceman, the fastest guy alive. We'd Fly around the universe in Fireball XL5. Way out in space together, conquerors of the sky, My heart would be a fireball, a fireball, and you would be my Venus of the skies."
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