October 5, 2008
My first ever exposure to the fantastic worlds of Science Fiction as a child wasn’t books or comics but rather two puppet shows. Circa 1963/1964 I was enthralled by “Fireball XL5” and “Space Patrol”. Although only viewed in Black and White on an ancient Ekco TV (with a 14″ screen in a much larger rectangular box) these two programmes were the highlights of my week. Incidentally the TV set was made by the British company E.K.Cole in the mid 1950s. Those were the days when Japanese/Chinese imported electrical goods didn’t exist. The cabinet maker was as important as the designer of the electrical bits. And “letting it warm up” was the period of waiting for the valves to build up enough to put a 405 line (50Hz VHF) picture upon the tube.
“Fireball XL5” is well known even today as the third in a number of Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionations. “Space Patrol” however seems to have fallen through a crack in time and space and has never been re-shown on TV since the 1960s to the best of my knowledge. I don’t know what brought the thought into my head but I’ve just looked on Youtube and, sure enough, there it is. The opening and closing scenes contain some of the first electronic music/sound effects as it was broadcast even before the first episode of the long-running Dr Who (another influence I suppose.) The alien characters in “Space Patrol” are peculiar, but, like “Fireball XL5” it does contain what I still imagine to this day “proper” robots should look like. There is a boxed set DVD now available but it seems quite expensive.
(PS:to prevent any confusion “Space Patrol” was apparantly called “Planet Patrol” in the States as there had already been a “Space Patrol” live action Science Fiction show on American TV in the 1950s.)