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Pathfinders in Space Trilogy, The

Review by: 
Black Gloves
Release Date: 
1960-1961
Studio: 
Network
Genre: 
Sci-Fi
Format: 
DVD
Region: 
2 PAL
Aspect Ratio: 
1.33:1
Directed by: 
Gut Verney
Cast: 
George Coulouris
Gerald Flood
Stewart Guidotti
Pamela Barney
Peter Williams
Movie: 
4
Extras: 
0
Bottom Line: 
4

These three rare black & white children’s science fiction serials from the early sixties, included on a superb three-disc set from Network, have long been of interest to fans of DOCTOR WHO, but were until recently believed lost. Now rediscovered and looking in surprisingly good shape, all three stand the test of time as fascinating precursors to the legendary BBC series they helped spawn.

The association comes about primarily through the involvement of producer Sidney Newman. Poached, as is well known, in 1962, by modernising BBC Director-General Hugh Carleton Greene, the Canadian émigré was charged with overseeing the reorganisation of the BBC’s drama unit in his capacity as the new head of the company’s Television Drama Group, and DOCTOR WHO was to become the first of Newman’s commissions under the new tri-part studio production system. Before that though, Newman had worked for ABC, also as Head of Drama, from 1958 onwards; during this time he helped devise, in its embryo form, the fantasy espionage series “The Avengers”, and produced one of the top-rated ITV programmes of the period, “Armchair Theatre” – an anthology strand of one-off plays that introduced a prime-time TV audience to the work of new playwrights such as Harold Pinter. This period also saw the production of the first science fiction TV anthology series, created under Newman’s auspices in 1962, and called “Out of this World”.

Although more lauded during these early years at ABC for his work in the world of adult drama, Newman did also bring his developing interest in science fiction to bear on a series he produced for the regular ITV Sunday afternoon ‘Family Hour’ children’s drama slot: this was “Pathfinders in Space”.

The seven-part adventure serial about a manned rocket expedition to the Moon was screened in 1960, and was actually the sequel to a six-part story broadcast some five months before (which is still lost to the archive) called “Target Luna”. In that story, three children spend the Easter holidays with their father, the brilliant Professor Wedgwood, at his rocket base on a remote Scottish island in the North Sea, and the youngest of them, Jimmy, ends up being fired into lunar orbit and having to undergo a number of harrowing trials in space in the course of getting back to Earth safely.

For some reason, the entire cast was replaced between productions when director Guy Verney took over from “Target Luna’s” director Adrian Brown for the follow-up series, despite the same family of characters being central to both stories.  The sometimes rather clunky  transitions caused by the combination of standard comic-book adventure plotting and the requirement for explanatory ‘educational’ digressions (the action regularly stops dead so that pipe-smoking adult scientists in tweed can explain some physics principle or other, usually involving ion rocket propulsion, or else theories about the formation of the moon etc., to one of the series’ trio of eager-to-learn child protagonists) obviously encourages comparison with the educational, ‘public service’ remit that lay behind the time travel theme that was essential to the format of DOCTOR WHO, and was intended to foment an enticing recipe of action-adventure, leavened by historical education aimed at the younger viewer.

But the series (and its two subsequent continuations, “Pathfinders to Mars” and “Pathfinders to Venus”) has an even closer connection to DOCTOR WHO than is suggested merely by the involvement of Sidney Newman and both series' intent to mix education with entertainment, though. All three ABC serials (and the missing “Target Luna”, which starred Michael Craze, who was later to play DOCTOR WHO companion, Ben Jackson) were early projects by an up-and-coming TV script writer called Malcolm Hulke, who would go on to be a hugely important name in the world of telefantasy fiction, co-penning many an early script for “The Avengers” (and later, ITC series such as “Danger Man” and “The Protectors”) alongside future WHO script editor Terrence Dicks, and authoring some of the more interesting politically engaged Pertwee era DOCTOR WHO stories of the 1970s as the man behind such memorable adventures as “Doctor Who and the Silurians” and “The Sea Devils”.

Hulke was commissioned to co-write “Pathfinders in Space” with Eric Paice, a working partner he’d been attempting to break into the business with since the late ‘50s. It is indeed fascinating to watch this first series back now, all these years later. We can see in the storyline that develops in the final few episodes, an embryonic precursor of the idea that motivates “Doctor Who and the Silurians”, but couched in terms that recalls the style and atmosphere of what was still at that point the most successful and influential British science fiction TV franchise of all: Nigel Kneale and Rudolph Cartier’s Quatermass series, produced for the BBC between 1953 and 1959. The general approach shares marked similarities to Kneale’s creation, particularly “Quatermass and the Pit” -- which it most resembles in construction. Indeed, first impressions would pin the series as very much a kind of ‘Quatermass for the Kids’ with a hint of Hergé’s Tintin circa 1953’s “Destination Moon” and “Explorers on the Moon” … In fact, one of the three child characters in “Pathfinders …”sports a distinctly Tintin-like quiff! 

The action takes place on Buchan Island, where a top secret rocket project staffed by a fleet of technicians in white lab coats and middle-aged, pipe-smoking patrician technocrats in tweed jackets and bow ties, is just about to implement Professor Wedgwood’s (Peter Williams) plan to make the first men on the Moon a British, Canadian and Irish team, via a two-ship space convoy -- one of which will be ferrying himself and his three companions (MR1), and the other, controlled remotely, which will be carrying all of their supplies (MR2). At this point of course, in real life, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had yet to become the first man to be launched into earth orbit, so rocket trips to the Moon were still in the realm of science fantasy even if recent Russian and American sputnik and satellite launches had made the whole idea seem that much more like an obtainable reality.

Although an affable science correspondent for a National newspaper, by the name of Conway Henderson (Gerald Flood), finds it difficult to gain entry to the establishment, Wedgwood and the team seem perfectly happy to let all three of the Professor’s children wander around the site unchaperoned. Geoff (Stewart Guidotti), Valerie (Gillian Ferguson) and little Jimmy (Richard Dean) who carries his pet hamster Hamlet with him everywhere he goes, have full run of the place as Wedgwood’s rocket flight prepares for lift-off, despite what happened the last time they visited Buchan island!

This time it’s Geoff’s turn to cause a mishap: after rocket genius Wedgwood, mathematical expert Dr O’Connell (Harold Goldblatt), moon surface mapper Professor Mary Meadows (Pamela Barney) and communications officer Ian Murray (Hugh Evans) successfully launch from Buchan island, their supply ship suffers a malfunction caused by Geoff literally  leaving a screwdriver in the works (?!) which ground control, headed up by white-coated and blonde-permed Jean Carey (Irene Sutcliffe), say will take a full six days to fix. The whole mission is about to be aborted when Henderson, a former RAF pilot-turned journalist, offers to step in and pilot MR2 manually. Wedgwood, already en route for the Moon, assigns Henderson the authority to hand-pick his own crew, and, displaying somewhat unorthodox (some might say foolhardy) thought processes he elects to take Geoff and Jimmy with him … but not Valerie of course -- taking a girl would be dangerous and just plain ridiculous!

Despite being fobbed off with late-fifties sexist condescension, Valerie stows away aboard MR2 anyway. The ensuing adventure and suspense comes mainly in the form of emphasising the dangers of rocket flight, with the two crews faced with various life-threatening situations en route for the Sea of Vapours. After MR1 successfully lands on the surface of the moon, they detect another object in orbit which they at first mistake for MR2, but which turns out to be another craft of advanced alien origin. When MR2 in fact lands over a hundred miles away, the two crews set out separately to explore the lunar surface and eventually meet up to discover various forms of alien intervention on the surface, first of all in the guise of man-made marks (which look like the ABC TV logo!) carved into lunar rocks, and eventually -- after Jimmy falls down a crater – in that of yet another abandoned alien ship surrounded by various artefacts, and even a calcified, eight-foot-tall humanoid figure.

The similarities, here, with “Quatermass and the Pit” are quite obvious by this point; much of the second half of the story concerns itself with Wedgwood and his crew investigating this vanished alien civilisation by piecing together its history through the artefacts they discover surrounding the ship in the crater; these consist of items such as a child’s spelling book and (absurdly) an alien child’s cuddly toy (a teddy bear with a snout and six legs!!), but Hulke and Paice’s spin on the idea eventually takes the form of an ominous warning about the danger to the world posed by the increasing build-up in tensions between the West and the Soviet bloc as the Cold War takes ever more of a grip. Any child or adult watching this in 1960 might well soon have been thinking its message was about to come home to roost during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Professor O’Connell manages to piece together an interpretation of the alien language by translating various figures and characters carved into the ship and the walls of the cave chamber housing it, while inside the ship Wedgwood discovers an alien form of film recording technology that imprints pictures on a coiled strip of wire. Together, these discoveries reveal that the aliens were in fact former inhabitants of the Earth, who evolved separately from humans over half-a-billion years ago at the time of the trilobites, but who eventually destroyed themselves in a nuclear conflagration. This is, of course, similar to the concept behind “Doctor Who and the Silurians”, except Hulke brought added drama to that scenario by exploring how the human race would react if a pocket of these former rulers of the Earth were discovered still living deep below the planet’s surface. “Pathfinders in Space” generates several episode cliff-hangers by appearing to be on the verge of revealing the aliens are still very much active, but in the end the only visual evidence of them is left by a preserved fossilized humanoid figure.

Although TV recording technology had developed considerably since the days of the three BBC Quatermass series, “Pathfinders in Space” was still a filmed-as-live production performed at ABC’s Birmingham studios although it incorporated the numerous pre-filmed model rocket film inserts; each transmission was telerecorded though, for later repeats and to enable overseas sales. Creating the lunar surface in a small television studio must have been a tough job, but considering how old the series actually is and the miniscule budget that must have been available, set designer Tom Spaulding does an amazing job, even if the resultant  jagged cardboard rocks and crater pits, with their velvet ’space’ backcloth, seem based more on a 19th Century conception of what the Moon surface looked like than the familiar, dusty grey surface of rounded craters we’re familiar with from the later Apollo Landing photographs. The whole educational science concept falters somewhat when it comes to recreating weightlessness live: this proved far too difficult in a live studio recording, so some unconvincing nonsense about the spacesuits being weighted to counteract the effects of there being so little gravity was written into the script, which failed to seem persuasive even to the young audience of the day by all accounts.

The limits of the production constantly necessitate script workarounds like this, which are clearly in conflict with the series’ attempts to be educational as well as entertaining. The suits themselves employ the time honoured practice costume designers on low budget science fiction shows were to resort to for decades afterwards, namely using motorbike helmets spray-painted silver. After it was realised that the actors’ voices were muffled by the visors, they were removed and replaced by a few crisscrossed strips of wire which, on the low definition sets of the day, would have looked like the edge of a solid face-piece (although the effect obviously doesn’t hold up when we watch the episodes back now). Elsewhere, an exciting space rescue in the final episode, when the crew are required to look as though they’re negotiating a tow rope in space, was achieved by having the actors hoisted along on trollies concealed by black drapes against a black background, with the camera angled oddly to try and create the impression of floating weightlessness.

There is a charming enthusiastic amateurishness about the production with its simple title cards, classical library music cues, animated rocket sequences and rinky-dinky model rocket and overhead island shots, but Hulke and Paice were clearly taking the conventions of children’s TV fiction and started to nudge them into more thought-provoking areas despite the reliance still on square-jawed heroes and pullover-wearing patrician experts with pipes.  

There is considerably less emphasis on the pipe smoking members of the cast in the follow-up series, “Pathfinders to Mars”, which started its run, again as part of the Sunday afternoon Family Hour slot, a few months after the end of the previous series, in December 1960.  Professor Wedgwood is quickly sidelined after an explosion at the start of the episode-run rules out Peter Williams’ character from heading up Buchan Island’s latest mission to the Moon, and therefore sees him disappear for good after episode one. This means Henderson is once again needed to take over as a last minute replacement, even though he’s initially only present at Buchan Island in order to cover the latest launch for a newspaper. Two of the previous series’ child cast have also been axed, with Stewart Guidotti (Geoff) being the only one remaining, once again employed as MR4’s radio communications officer. He’s joined by Henderson’s young niece, a rather prim & proper child astronomy expert called Margaret (Hester Cameron), who’s charged with looking after Hamlet on the mission. Professor Meadows is back though, and the final member of the crew is meant to be a rocket expert called Professor Hawkings.

But herein lies the main source of intrigue informing the content of the first few episodes: an imposter manages to wrangle his way on-board after having diverted the real Hawkings to the wrong location at the airport. By the time anyone realises on the ground, the crew have already blasted into space, and the imposter manages to sabotage the radio equipment and divert the rocket (intended to join its partner, which is already in orbit around the Moon) to Mars, after taking Margaret hostage while the rest of the crew are locked in the supply storage room!

The usual tension between the serial’s desire to both educate the audience and provide family entertainment is embodied in this new character, who turns out to be a fanatical believer in the theory that Mars is inhabited by an intelligent civilisation, and that UFOs are visitors from the Red Planet. Harcourt Brown (played by distinguished theatre actor George Coulouris) is the closest the show gets to an outright baddie, although he softens and gets more likable as the series progresses. He’s an author of outlandish pseudo-scientific books about life on other worlds and, convinced that life exists on Mars, has hijacked the rocket in order to prove his theory. Harcourt, and his wild conjectures, provides both the stimulus for Margaret and the others to discuss the science behind issues such as Lowell’s Martian canal network theory and the true derivation of ‘space chatter’ (which Harcourt believes to be alien signals), while also being the source of much of the drama, especially in the first three episodes, which all take place aboard the MR4 rocket and feature Harcourt willing to kill his companions in order to get to Mars. In reality of course, a flight to Mars from Earth would take considerably longer than the few days it takes here, so Hulke and Paice have to fudge the issue by giving Henderson’s team super-fast rocket flight without any specified source for such power.

Once the crew actually lands on Mars though, we do get a discussion of the differences in speed between Earth and Mars in their respective orbits around the Sun, and this generates one of the major strands of the plot, since there is only a limited amount of time the crew can stay on the planet surface before Mars and Earth move out of opposition, potentially leaving the group stranded until the planets line up again in sixteen months’ time.

The production design, by David Gillespie on this series, is a great step up from that of “Pathfinders in Space”. The episodes were recorded as-live at Teddington Studios (which was the home of the early videotaped series of “The Avengers”) and Gillespie comes up with a much more satisfying and convincing internal rocket design for MR4 this time out, and also a frequently astonishing studio set for the surface of Mars which combines strange-shaped ledges and pinnacles (and a surface that actually seems like a believable ground-surface rather than the floor of a studio) with painted glass backdrops that often really do succeed in creating the illusion of an alien vista stretching away into the distance. Hulke and Paice allow themselves the narrative luxury of having life exist on Mars, but only in the form of primitive but persistent water-seeking lichens, which threaten the astronauts with suffocation when they attach themselves to their suits. The middle episodes concern themselves with the crew attempting to stock up on water from the supposed Martian ice caps (since Harcourt’s unscheduled diversion has left them short of supplies for the journey back) while Harcourt later causes even more trouble by  going AWOL in search of his Martian welcoming party!

The final episode sees the crew missing their time window for getting back to Earth. The only chance for survival lies in attempting to use the Sun’s gravity as a sort of slingshot to divert them back onto a path that will allow the rocket to intercept the Earth’s orbit in its journey around the Sun. This takes them perilously close to oblivion as they head directly for the Sun itself, and our heroes find themselves suffering the effects of the solar radiation (goodness knows how Hamlet would be coping with all this, although he always looks singularly unconcerned by his surroundings whenever shown).

The series is moving much more forcefully towards being outright adventure drama, here. The decision to remove Professor Wedgwood from proceedings means that the second series episodes have a much less Quatermassy feel to them and fit into more of a broadly matinee-style Flash Gordon adventure pattern (with just a smattering of scientific gloss) than was seen last time. There’s even a budding romance between Henderson and Professor Meadows, while Harcourt Brown makes for a satisfyingly semi-villainous addition to the mix. Generally though, scientific verisimilitude takes second place to speculative fiction in the name of afternoon entertainment.

The kinds of travails the crew face as they make their way across the hostile surface of a South-West London situated, studio-built realisation of the surface of Mars feel much more in line with the kinds of events that would make up the content of some of the early ‘60s episodes of DOCTOR WHO. The formula tentatively seen here, in which the educational aspects of the series would start to take second place to the broadly imaginative, fantasy-based context in which they were situated, was clearly starting to develop and to take on the shape we would later become familiar with from 1963 onwards.   

That process can be seen continuing in the 1961 series “Pathways to Venus”, by which time Hulke and Paice have surrendered completely to the values of 1950s matinee adventure serials, with the half-hearted expositions by the characters on subjects as diverse as the evolutionary development of modern man and the age of the dinosaurs, now being inserted in amongst some otherwise quite fantastical science fiction adventure content. Harcourt Brown goes from being a completely absurd figure whose convictions about life on other planets are played mostly for laughs, to someone whose wild theories start to seem almost understated in comparison to the unlikely discoveries made when the intrepid crew of MR4 end up landing on the surface of Venus on their way back from their previous adventure on Mars.

The story is taken up again directly following on from the events at the end of the previous series, as Henderson and his disparate crew of school children, scientists and eccentric adventurers intercept a distress call coming from the vicinity of Venus. The Americans have apparently secretly sent a one-man rocket on a mission to the mysterious planet, but it’s been hit by a meteorite and is losing its oxygen reserves rapidly. Buchan Island Rocket Research Centre agrees to let MR4 divert course on its way back to Earth and Henderson and the crew now become a British rescue mission, set on picking up the lone occupant of the American rocket, one Captain Wilson (Graydon Gould). Once again, the wayward Harcourt Brown is responsible for complicating matters by faking an in-coming message from Wilson to suggest that the American has already crash-landed on the Venusian surface, in order to trick Henderson into following him, and so to land MR4 on the planet. It seems that Brown also has unshakable convictions about the likelihood of advanced life existing on Venus as well as Mars, and is prepared to risk Wilson’s life in order to trick Henderson into pursuing his latest theory.

When this series was broadcast in 1961, surprisingly little was known about what constituted the make-up of the surface of Venus, because of its dense atmosphere of carbon dioxide gas. Only in 1962 did the American probe Mariner 2 reveal for sure that the atmosphere is pure pressurised carbon dioxide and, in 1970, Russian landers showed us a harsh, inhospitable, scorching-hot landscape in which their most successful craft managed only to survive for half-an-hour. It’s fair to say, given what little was known at the time, Hulke and Paice were free to let their imaginations run wild about what might be found beneath those layers of impenetrable swirling gas, but it’s also pretty clear that they weren’t in any way worried about giving a plausible account: “Pathways to Venus” is pure matinee adventure hokum in which our heroes land their craft to discover that Harcourt Brown is to all intents and purposes mainly right this time. Venus turns out to be a home to teeming jungles filled with strange giant plants and toadstools, towering vine-covered trees and even living animals such as snakes and exotic looking insects. Brown is still convinced that advanced life must also exist though, and while the rest of the group attempt to track down Wilson’s craft (which by now really has crashed-landed in the Venusian Jungle), he sets out in search of the Venusian city he feels sure must exist beyond the rocky volcanic mountains on the horizon.

Once again, there is a vast improvement in the sophistication of the set design seen here, with the studio jungle in this series (created once more by David Gillespie) looking remarkably detailed and convincing for such an early TV production. This time Derek Freeborn was drafted in to make the model ships and to design the space sequences, and these too are a huge step up on the flimsy-looking animated shots we were given in the original “Pathfinders in Space” series. Now Venus appears as a three dimensional model, with multiple exposures used to create the swirling cloud-atmosphere surrounding it in the new title sequence. Freeborn would go on to make the model ‘future city’ in the classic marionette series “Space Patrol” and would even later go on to work on DOCTOR WHO itself.  

The eight-part adventure sends the established leads and new character Captain Wilson (who looks and dresses exactly like the Flash Gordon of the 1930s adventure serial, played by Buster Crabbe) off into a series of dangerous situations that nearly all involve setting out on a trek, either through dangerous alien jungle inhabited by hostile unseen forces; across rocky volcanic cave systems in search of a distant Venusian city; or across a hot desert plane in an attempt to get back to the ship when their previous route is cut off by volcanic lava flow. During their adventures they’re preyed upon by violent ape-men who seem able to appear from nowhere and kidnap various members of the group (although to what purpose is never revealed) and also have to fight off pterodactyls, a stegosaurus and a tyrannosaurus rex in footage taken from a 1950s film by Czech animator Karel Zeman!

 In terms of story structure the DOCTOR WHO fan will feel instantly on familiar ground here, since a lot of this clearly echoes the kind of thing Terry Nation was doing with his very first Dalek story: we have an impenetrable jungle setting; strange figures watching from the undergrowth and occasionally attacking the heroes; a trek through hostile terrain and through dangerous caves; giant reptiles (in the original Dalek story and the David Whitaker novelisation they were monster mutations; here they’re prehistoric dinosaurs) and a charismatic, cantankerous figure who is perfectly willing to sabotage the ship and risk his companions’ lives just so he can explore. …The only thing missing in the set-up are the Daleks themselves.

That last similarity, incidentally, refers to Harcourt Brown of course -- who, despite being the villain of the piece, is also a fairly close analogue to the first Doctor in terms of how he functions in the narrative. As the group discover more and more exotic forms of life, from a giant flesh-eating plant (which almost claims the hapless Hamlet) to a giant insect that bites Mary and forces everyone to have to carry her about on a stretcher for two episodes, Brown’s role in the drama subtly changes into something that actually makes him seem a little more sympathetic to modern eyes, and much closer to the Doctor in some of his later incarnations when imperialism became a regular theme with many of the series’ writers, including Malcolm Hulke.

As the group explore their surroundings further and get involved in ever-more threatening situations, their American friend Wilson -- who starts out being an uncomplicated heroic figure – seems to become incredibly giddy and exhilarated by the discovery, first of diamond deposits in the Venusian caves, then of Uranium ore in the desert, and starts enthusing about how Venus can be developed for economic gain and, basically, plundered of its resources. By this point, the viewer has become aware that Brown does not want the group to ever leave the surface of the planet, and has plans to sabotage the ship upon their return, after first broadcasting a message for Buchan Island intended to warn off any future rescue mission by claiming that everyone is dead and the surface of Venus inhospitable to life. Up to this point we’ve been rooting for Henderson and Wilson unreservedly, but there comes a moment when we suddenly realise that Brown is, in his own way, quite right about what will most probably happen to the planet once humans start going there en masse. The planet surface is actually home to a fauna that is essentially a microcosm of the entire evolution of life on Earth, all existing side-by-side simultaneously, from rampaging ape-like humanoids (a hairy arm is seen trying to gain access to the ship at one point) to  violent Neanderthals and their skin-&-fur-clad Cro-Magnon kin. The group even befriend a little Cro-Magnon girl they call Kiki (Brigid Skemp), who guides them through sulphur fume-infused caves and across beaches full of pterodactyl eggs during the course of their long journey back to the rocket, and gives an all too human face to the intelligent life that does in fact exist on the planet’s surface (even if Brown’s dream of a futuristic city housing a super race proves ill-founded) and which would almost certainly be wiped out after the Earth invasion and resultant wars that would most likely be fought across the planet in the ensuing battle for its resources.

In the end, Hulke reins in this strand of the storyline, which is threatening to take things perhaps a bit too far beyond the ken of a Sunday afternoon children’s adventure serial circa 1961, by concentrating instead on the optimism inherent in the idea that the rescue rocket that gets sent to Venus to rescue the group turns out to be a Soviet-manned one. All three Pathfinder series include at least one scene that demonstrates co-operation between major nations that are divided on Earth by rival political and economic systems, thereby offering the hope through example that space exploration might provide a means of nations coming together rather than taking their differences into space. This idea is most likely being offered by Hulke and Paice as an illustration of what they think should be the case; one gets the impression that Brown’s belief, that any unspoiled planet discovered by man would soon end up being ruined by human greed, is more in line with what they actually believe.

Brown’s concern to preserve and protect the planet Venus becomes a negative trait in the end though, because it eventually turns into pure misanthropy. His belief in advanced alien intelligence in the Solar system is driven more by his desire to escape the human race he despises so completely, and when he discovers that the only intelligent life on Venus is considerably less evolved than humanity on Earth, his mission becomes instead to keep anyone else ever finding out about it, even though he is the one who has engineered that discovery through his hijacking of the MR4, in order to take it to Mars in the previous series. In the end, Brown elects to stay on Venus alone while the others leave in the refuelled ship, although we’re still left with the thought that his fears about what will eventually happen to the planet once the crew tell of their adventures there, might still be realised.

“The Pathfinders Trilogy” turns out to embody a vital missing link in the conceptual evolution of DOCTOR WHO, and all fans of the long-running series will find plenty of parallels and differences to ponder concerning how Newman’s BBC commission eventually built on the foundation we see taking shape here (which proves that, with imagination, whole worlds could be created with no money, on sets built in tiny television studios) and how it  successfully freed itself of the shackles imposed by the need for cumbersome conventional rocket flight and smug-looking boy’s own action heroes. Both Gerald Flood and George Coulouris eventually had guest roles in DOCTOR WHO, and Flood and Stewart Guidotti were reunited for two other ABC science fiction series which came a year later, this time with Guy Verney producing: “City Beneath the Sea” and “Secret Beneath the Sea” – both also recently released by Network and to be reviewed here soon. The three- disc set features all the episodes of all three series, and they’ve survived in excellent condition. The press release states that an image gallery and a PDF of the screenplay for the missing “Target Luna” serial will be included in the set, although they don’t seem to feature on my review copy. A booklet of viewing notes by historian of archive TV Andrew Pixley is also to be included.

Read more from Black Gloves at Nothing But the Night.blogspot.com

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