I’ve decided to give this old post another airing so it’s been dusted down and the text has been tickled.
Space Patrol; known across the pond as Planet Patrol, was the creation of Roberta Lee with whom the great Gerry Anderson had collaborated on the earlier Twizzle.
Space Patrol was a sort of puppet rival to Fireball XL5, but thematically they were worlds apart.
Where Fireball was a typical gung-ho space opera of the, if you don’t understand it blow it up school, the heroes of Space Patrol were thoughtful, and tried to reason a problem out. Only using violence as a last resort (rather like a certain Colonel Daniel Dare), as well as Gamma ray guns they had a non-lethal weapon that tangled its victim in plastic.
The main character, Captain Larry Dart even had a beard, a trope usually reserved for the evil scientist or bad guy. He zipped about the solar system (leaving it only occasionally with help of alien technology) in a gyroscope-like spaceship called a Galasphere powered by a reactionless Meson Drive. Because travelling great distances took a long time they would enter suspended animation in a freezer room leaving a robot to pilot the vessel… and this was a children’s programme made in 1962!
The ship Galasphere 347 was part of the United Galactic Organisation, and had a crew consisting of Earthman Dart, a Martian called Husky and a Venusian called Slim; who was the pointy-eared second-in-command … hmm doesn’t this sound a bit familiar?
As you would expect of the 1960s it was a male dominated show, but the head of the UGO had a wily Venusian secretary called Marla. Also, the very Irish scientific genius, Professor Haggerty, had a level-headed daughter by the name of Cassiopiea (and where Fireball had the necessary comedy pet in Zoonie, Haggerty had a talkative Martian parrot or Gabblerdictum).
One thing that stands out is the panoramic view of an impressive city shown in the opening and closing sequences, with its travel tubes and moving buildings.The whole thing was built on a shoestring budget that made the rival XL5’s look astronomical; The show’s creator, Roberta Lee created the eerie music and background noises herself, using anything that could be purchased from an electronics shop that was capable of making a noise.
Did I mention the robots?
Spooky skeletal robots (who had a funky walk and their own theme tune) were the servants of this futuristic solar system and even rebelled in one episode.
The whole thing had an almost surreal look with its avant-garde music, at times reaching towards the heights of the Forbidden Planet; giving the programme an almost hallucinogenic quality.
“This is Earth the year 2100, this is the headquarters of Space Patrol and men from Earth Mars and Venus live and work there as guardians of peace!”
It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you haven’t seen it look it up on YouTube and discover its quirky charm for yourself.