Sunday, 24 February 2013

Sunday 24 February 1963

This week, Space City dogsbody Lieutenant Ninety (no relation to Joe, they spell it differently) is in the spotlight as he attempts to achieve his astronaut's wings.  Confusingly, the stages a would-be astronaut needs to go through to get these wings are in reverse alphabetical order of difficulty, with Stage A (the solo orbit of the moon in a space capsule) being the final test.  Ninety (who looks a bit like Robbie Williams, but not as puppety) is understandably nervous about it all, giving us the unusual sight of a sweaty puppet.

Ninety's boss, Commander Zero, is far from confident about his ability to gain his wings.  These two are almost like an old married couple, and the harsh comments Zero makes about Ninety's abilities ("Ooh, that tootie lieutenant's gonna crash Fireball, I can feel it in my bones!") are clearly used to screen his anxieties about his other half (sorry, subordinate) becoming more confident and independent.

With Ninety flying Fireball XL5, Steve Zodiac temporarily takes over his job in Space City - leading to a mind-boggling exchange between him and the Commander.  "How does it feel to be a backroom boy, Steve?" Zero asks.  "Not for me, Commander - I'm strictly an action guy" Steve responds.

Zero continues to pour water on poor Ninety's attempts to better himself: "Yippee! I commanded a ship!" "OK, OK Lieutenant, pipe down".  But a scene of him smoking and drinking coffee late at night (yes, more smoking puppets) shows us he's really just deeply concerned about the youngster's welfare.

Eventually the day comes for Ninety's trip round the moon.  He's piloting the antiquated XL1, which doesn't have artificial gravity like XL5 and has clipboards flying round all over the place, meaning a risk of severe papercuts I would have thought.

The flight's jeopardised when XL1's helpfully labelled atomic reactor starts to smoke and eventually comes loose.

This eventually leads to the ship exploding, and it looks like Ninety's gone with it.  It's an emotional scene, with more wet puppets.

Steve Zodiac doesn't cry of course, that would be a ridiculous idea.

It's always a pleasure to see Venus's outlandish medical contraptions (sorry, space medical contraptions), and we get a couple of classics in Flight to Danger.  Here's her equipment for carrying out pre-flight medical checks and her remote medical checking device, with which she can take Ninety's essential readings even when they're in different spaceships.

But perhaps the most memorable (and by memorable, I mean deeply disturbing) moment in this week's show is the brief appearance of Zoonie the Lazoon, playing with a gun (during a "musical relaxation evening" at Venus's beach house).  I think it's probably meant to be a toy, but it conjures up images of him going on a Martian Delight-fuelled killing spree, chanting "Welcome hoooooome" after each slaying, which are simply chilling.

If you want to be chilled and thrilled in equal measure, here's Flight to Danger for you.

Now for this week's pop charts: Frank Ifield's "The Wayward Wind" has climbed to number 1, but I featured that here last week, so here's Bobby Vee at number 4 with "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" (sadly not an adaptation of Cornell Woolrich's gothic crime novel of the same name).  You can see the full chart here.

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