Sunday, 3 March 2013

Sunday 3 March 1963

This week's adventure begins with Colonel Zodiac and chums receiving a distress call from uncharted space.  Being kind-hearted souls, they risk life and limb journeying out to the unknown world (which, from what we've seen of it, looks suspiciously like both Voldanda, Planet of Volcanoes and the barren world of Kemble, seen in recent weeks).  "Zodiac may be as crazy as a spacecat, but nobody can say he hasn't got guts," Commander Zero approvingly notes.  Our heroes' perilous journey into deep space takes up half of the episode, and the time on board ship allows us some insight into the sleeping arrangements on Fireball, which in Venus's case at least appear rather lavish.

We also find out a bit more about safety arrangements on board as the ship's bombarded by asteroids: "Strap yourself in your safety couches, this is going to be a bumpy ride," says Steve, almost channeling Bette Davis.

Some of the shots in the bit where Fireball charges through the asteroid belt, plus Fireball Jr's eventual trip down to the surface of the unknown world are pretty impressive and feel a bit like Star Wars years in advance.

Steve goes in search of the poor soul in distress, and discovers a lavishly-decorated cavern that houses a Fenella Fielding lookalike with some truly remarkable eyelashes.

This lady is Aphros, former Queen of the Space Amazons (of course), now exiled on this inhospitable planet for unspecified crimes.  Her seductive entreaties to be freed fail to move the thoroughly upright Colonel Zodiac: "You've been legally imprisoned here by a properly convened Amazon court of justice," he sternly reminds her (though how he knows isn't quite clear).  Amazonia (well, what else would it be called?) and Earth are both members of the United Planets Organisation and helping Aphros to escape would cause "a major space diplomatic incident".

Aphros tries to make Steve come round by plying him with wine she's made herself from fruit she's found on the planet.  It doesn't quite agree with him.

It's clearly a rather strange kind of imprisonment because as well as her home wine making, Aphros has had the resources at her fingertips to construct a machine that could send a distress call, as well as another one which can make a nearby giant volcano explode (by bombarding it with atoms, apparently).  It's a shame we don't get to see the extremely glamorous Aphros occupying herself with these hobbies.  She threatens to set the volcano off and bury Fireball Jr in molten lava if the crew don't escort her to somewhere nicer (Venus isn't happy as she's clearly consumed with jealousy of Aphros).  An accident means it's actually Aphros' prison that's buried under the lava, but Steve comes round in time to save her.

We don't find out what happens to the wicked queen - the last we see of her she's collapsed on the back of Steve's flying bike.  There's just time for Steve to show what a cock he is again by making fun of Venus' difficulty in getting Fireball Jr to take off: "Just like a woman!"

And here it is for you to watch should you wish:

Now to this week's glance at the hit parade.  Frank Ifield's "The Wayward Wind" is still the nation's best-selling single.  Here's this week's number 5, Frankie Vaughan with the really rather irritating "Loop De Loop".  The full Top 40's here.

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