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Space Patrol
Also known as Planet Patrol (United States)
Genre Adventure
Children's
Space Western
Format Marionette puppetry
Created by Roberta Leigh
Written by Roberta Leigh
Directed by Frank Goulding
Voices of Dick Vosburgh
Libby Morris
Ysanne Churchman
Ronnie Stevens
Murray Kash
Composer(s) Roberta Leigh
Country of origin United Kingdom
Language(s) English
No. of series 3
No. of episodes 39
Production
Producer(s) Roberta Leigh
Arthur Provis
Editor(s) John Beaton
Roy Hyde
Len Walter
Cinematography Arthur Provis
Camera setup Single
Running time 25 mins approx. per episode
(excluding advertisements)
Production company(s) National Interest Pictures
Wonderama Productions
Broadcast
Picture format Black and white
Audio format Mono
Original run July 5, 1963 (1963-07-05) – June 11, 1964 (1964-06-11)

Space Patrol is a science-fiction television series featuring marionettes that was produced in the United Kingdom in 1962. It was written and produced by Roberta Leigh in association with the Associated British Corporation.

Contents

Summary

The series features the vocal talents of Dick Vosburgh, Ronnie Stevens, Libby Morris, Murray Kash and Ysanne Churchman, and comprises 39 half-hour episodes. This series is also known by its US title Planet Patrol to avoid confusion with an American series of the same name.

The series follows the actions of an interplanetary police force in the year 2100, and focuses on the crew of Galasphere 347 under the command of the heroic Captain Larry Dart. The crew includes elfin Slim from Venus, sausage-mad Husky from Mars, and the Martian parrot Gabbler (a Gabblerdictum). Providing technical support is Irish genius Professor Heggarty. Keeping them all on a tight rein are Colonel Raeburn and his super-efficient Venusian secretary, Marla.

In spite of the very low budget, which meant that sometimes the shadow of a puppet could be seen behind a "TV Screen" before the communication device was supposedly turned on, the show has garnered a huge following, with Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski stating that it was his favourite TV show as a child.

Background

Leigh had previously worked with Gerry Anderson on children's puppet series, and there are some obvious similarities between Space Patrol and Anderson's Fireball XL5, although Space Patrol was made on a lower budget. For many years it was believed that all but a handful of episodes had been destroyed, until a complete cache of 16 mm prints was discovered in the loft at Roberta Leigh's home. Despite their scratched and grainy condition, they were of sufficient historic interest to warrant a DVD release. Selected episodes were issued on DVD in 2001, and the complete series was released in 2003 on Region 0 discs. This complete collection (now deleted) is highly sought after, often fetching over £300 at the online shopping sites eBay and Amazon.

Original style of the series

Although compared (and often confused) with the Gerry Anderson productions, Space Patrol stands out on its own. This is mainly due to the boldness of a few creative choices. The only music involved is extremely avant-garde, being made by Roberta Leigh herself using electronic equipment she bought from a local store after asking an assistant for anything that made interesting noises. Final credits always showed panoramic views over a gigantic city of the future, and never featured any music; only the throb of some industrial machinery, sounding like a gigantic pump or a steam engine, beat in rhythm. The male characters from the planet Venus (Slim for example) presented obvious androgyne features (in contrast to the rustic, virile Martians). Thus the style of the entire series created an extremely eerie atmosphere, that remains rarely matched even by the best adult science-fiction on screen.

Episode listing

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Series One

  • The Swamps of Jupiter - Captain Dart and his crew are sent to investigate the loss of contact with a scientific base on Jupiter and encounter Martian fur trappers who are killing the local Loomi creatures for their heat-retaining skins.
  • The Wandering Asteroid - The Space Patrol crew accept a dangerous mission to destroy an asteroid deflected from its orbit by a cometary collision and heading directly for the Martian capital Wotan. Many have noted the extraordinary similarities between this episode and the Bruce Willis vehicle "Armageddon".
  • The Dark Planet - Professor Heggerty and his daughter Cassiopeia are baffled by a plant sample from Uranus with a mind of its own! Following the disappearance of a 20 strong survey team on Uranus, Colonel Raeburn dispatches the Space Patrol crew to locate larger versions of the plant, where they discover the adult specimens of the plant are far from friendly.
  • The Slaves of Neptune - The crew of the Galasphere are sent to solve the mystery of a spaceship sending colonists to Pluto which disappeared near Neptune. On approach to Neptune Dart, Slim and Husky fall under the hypnotic influence of Neptunian overlord Tyro who is using his powers to trap Earth colonists as slaves.
  • The Fires of Mercury - Professor Heggarty's device for translating the language of ants also converts heat waves into radio waves. Marla realises that this might provide a way of transmitting warmth from Mercury to the Colony on Pluto, where freezing conditions worsen as the planet nears the point in its orbit farthest from the Sun.
  • The Shrinking Spaceman - When the Galasphere crew are sent to repair the sonar beam transmitter on the asteroid Pallas. Husky succumbs to a mysterious shrinking disease after cutting his hand on a rock. Keeping him in suspended animation Professor Heggerty attempts to find a cure.
  • The Robot Revolution - When an undersea eruption at the Atlantic sea farm damages robot workers, Space Headquarters is overrun by the rampaging machines, determined to seize control of the city.
  • The Cloud of Death
  • The Rings of Saturn - Observing Saturn, Dart and his crew notice a meteor shadowing the Galasphere. On discovering it is actually a Saturnian spacecraft, Dart makes contact and bring a tape of Saturnian language back to Earth for decoding. When contact is finally made with the planet it transpires that Dart has inadvertently offended the Saturnian by pricking leaves of their sacred tree.
  • The Volcanoes of Venus
  • Mystery on the Moon - From a base on the Moon, Berridge threatens Space Headquarters with destruction by laser beam unless Raeburn agrees to send him a freighter full of gold. Dart is sent to Moon Station One to investigate and discovers an artificial crater.
  • The Miracle Tree of Saturn - A fungus is destroying crops at an alarming rate. By chance Professor Heggarty discovers a cutting from the Saturnian's sacred tree on Raeburn's desk destroys the fungus and Dart is dispatched to Saturn to obtain further supplies. However, their plan has been overheard by an unscrupulous technician.
  • The Forgers - Colonel Raeburn is baffled by a sudden influx of forged currency while investigating what appears to be a disease killing the vegetation on Mars. Dart and Husky stumble across the source of the forgeries ...

Series One/A

  • The Planet of Thought
  • The Glowing Eggs of Titan - Husky's discovery of a luminous egg of the Saturnian moon of Titan could prove to be the solution of the Martian energy crisis. While Dart and his crew are on an egg gathering mission, Slim falls and damages his air line. As he waits to be rescued he hears a strange humming ...
  • The Planet of Light - Dart and Slim are invited to the planet of Lumen. On their arrival Dart's oxygen cylinder is pierced. The planet's only oxygen comes from blister plants in the "cave of death". Dart and Slim must find the plants before dawn, or risk being boiled alive in the heat of the Sun ...
  • Time Stands Still - Stolen art treasures are being transported into space. Raeburn suspects that Venus millionaire Tara is behind the thefts, but his palace is too well guarded. Professor Heggarty develops a watch that speeds up the wearer's reaction sixty times which enables Dart to sneak into the palace unnoticed.
  • Husky Becomes Invisible - When Dart is sent to Mars to find the eggs of the Aba bird to help find a cure for a condition known as the "floats", he calls on Professor Zeller who has discovered that his new star-measuring apparatus can make objects disappear.
  • The Walking Lake of Jupiter - Scientists Dr Brown and Dr Smith discover that water from a Jovian lake has the power to cause inanimate objects to move as if with a life of their own. Dart arrives to witness the phenomenon. and ends up on the trail of the unfortunate Dr Brown, whose spacesuit has become energised by the Jovian water.
  • The New Planet - Galasphere 347 is in deep space. After a comet collides with the ship Dart and his crew discover a new planet beyond the orbit of Pluto. Touching down in the dense forest, Dart and Slim meet one of the planet's giant inhabitants.
  • The Human Fish - The Tula Fish in the Venusian Magda Ocean are evolving at an extraordinary rate and attack fishermen. The Galasphere crew are sent to help and discover that building materials, routinely sumped may be the cause of the Tula's accelerated evolution.
  • The Invisible Invasion - On Uranus, the Duo's are planning to seize power on Earth by taking over the minds of everyone at Space Headquarters, including Colonel Raeburn. The one person seemingliy unaffected by the Duo's power is Professor Heggerty, who is installed beneath his electronic hair-restorer!
  • The Talking Bell - On a hunting trip, Raeburn and Hegarty encounter a soft, bell-shaped object with a single extendible leg. It is a visitor from another planet, but Raeburn has accidentally shot its space vehicle down with his 12-bore! Dart is assigned to return "Mr Bell" to his mother ship.
  • The Buried Spaceship - "Operation Ice Cube" is put into action when Marla suggests moving ice through space as a solution to a drought problem on Mars. Galasphere 347 is sent to assist but develops a fault in the Meson Power Unit forcing the craft to land for repairs ...
  • Message from a Star - Signals from Alpha Centauri suggest intelligent life but it would take a Galasphere 3,000 years to cross the immense distance. Irya, a being from the planet Delta, teleports himself to Earth to fit a special power unit to the Galasphere, enabling it to travel as faster-than-light speeds. Professor Haggerty, however, has reservations about making the trip.
  • Explosion on the Sun

Series Two

  • The Unknown Asteroid
  • The Evil Eye of Venus
  • Secret Formula
  • The Telepathic Robot
  • Deadly Whirlwind
  • The Jitter Waves
  • Sands of Death
  • The Hairy Men of Mars
  • The Grass of Saturn
  • Force Field X
  • The Water Bomb
  • Destruction by Sound
  • The Shrinking Gas of Jupiter

Comic strip adaptations

Two comic strip adaptations of Space Patrol were produced:

  • TV Comic: 52 double-page strips forming the centrespread of each issue, in issues 668 to 719. They were written by Roberta Leigh herself and illustrated by artist Bill Mevin.
  • Beezer: from September 1966 to March 1967, illustrated by artist Terry Patrick.

External links

  • Space Patrol, the website provides a comprehensive guide to the series, including screenshots, episode guide, encyclopaedia of terms, behind-the-scenes information, and links to other Space Patrol websites.

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