Sunday, 10 March 2013

Sunday 10 March 1963

This week Prof Matt Matic's got a new gig: he's co-presenting (with the distinctly withered Dr Stamp) a new programme on Earth TV, broadcast from a space observatory.  The observatory's ultrascope will gaze on far-off worlds, and the images will be shown live on TV.  Our chums from Space City are all gathered to witness Matt's TV debut.

Look at the way they're all sat there: Steve Zodiac, thinking he's so cool; Zoonie, fast asleep in front of a box of Martian Delight, Venus, insouciantly draped on the sofa (because she really is so cool), and Commander Zero with his fag and drink like a puppet Father Jack Hackett.

Steve and Venus row about the merits of modern TV.  Venus thinks today's programmes are of "an amazingly high standard", whereas Steve laments "endless canned programmes from Mars".  It's an argument that resonates down the ages.

The first planet the ultrascope espies is Nutopia, "the most beautiful planet in any universe" - though what exactly is so great about it is far from apparent.  Certainly the two inhabitants (it's always two inhabitants) of the planet we meet don't seem to be specimens of physical perfection.

These chaps are incensed that somebody dares to look at what's happening on Nutopia.  Their names act as a handy reminder that they're from a perfect planet and like to be private: Perfectos and Privator (I'm not making this up).  They decide to put a stop to the Earth people's prying ways, and unleash their very own ultrascope.  Theirs features a powerful weapon which paralyses the observatory and puts an end to the broadcast.  Earth TV shows a short film instead.  Brilliantly, this is actually a clip from one of Gerry Anderson's previous shows, Four Feather Falls (surprisingly small TV screens they have in the 2060s).

The Nutopians make their way over to the observatory using their matter transmitter (which, unusually, allows them to discuss their nefarious plans while they're atoms shooting through space) and take over, holding the unfortunate Matic and Stamp captive.

Steve and Venus come to the rescue, but end up being captured too.  Steve's kept aboard the observatory, while Venus is brought back to Nutopia by Perfectos and Privator.  It emerges that the Nutopians are extreme misogynists, and the reason they consider their planet so perfect is because all the womenfolk were killed off years ago (at least it makes a nice change from the hoary old Planet-of-Dominant-Women cliché).  However, confronted with a lady of the female persuasion both Perfectos and Privator fall head over heels in love with her.  Each comes to her and offers to free her friends if she will be his "eternal companion" (I'm not sure if the comic effect of using identical dialogue in both these scenes is intentional,  but if so it's highly successful).  Here we see Perfectos proposing, and get a close-up view of his extreme bald patch.

Venus cunningly says yes to both her captors, which leads to the pair fighting a duel over her.  "I think this is the oddest situation I've ever been in," says Matt - a pretty strong statement considering the bizarre stuff we've previously seen in this show.  However, having written about this show for quite a few weeks now I think I can honestly say this is the most brilliantly bonkers episode yet.

Note Giacometti-type sculpture in background
The pair of perfect prannies end up shooting each other (though Steve reassures us "I substituted the stunning capsules for the death cartridges"), and our heroes escape, never to look the way of Nutopia again.  The episode ends with the Nutopians starting out in pursuit when their matter transmitter explodes (to comedy music, naturally).

And now, music.  The country's still thrilling to the sound of Frank Ifield's Wayward Wind at number 1.  Climbing up to number 2 is the theme from Cliff Richard's new smash-hit movie.

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