Sunday, 28 April 2013

Sunday 28 April 1963

The Fireball XL5 crew have had some splendidly outlandish adventures in recent weeks, but today's tale of interstellar intrigue is disappointingly mundane.  A string of freighters under robotic control have broken down, with the shady Briggs brothers of the Space Salvage Company always in the vicinity to haul away the wreckage.  The Briggses are a startling reminder of how widespread acromegaly will be by 2063.  And their ship looks like it was knocked up on an episode of Blue Peter.

Commander Zero's convinced that the Briggses are sabotaging the freighters, but proof of how they're doing it remains elusive.  Could it have anything to do with Space City engineer Jock's sinister Hispanic assistant  Edmundo? Why yes it could, thanks very much for asking.

From the second he appears it's blatantly obvious that Edmundo's sabotaging the freighters, though we're bafflingly kept in "suspense" about it for a while.  But then, in the still of the night, as the Space City personnel are sleeping, out he creeps to attach an explosive device to the latest freighter under construction.  As he goes about his furtive business we get to see both Jock and Steve Zodiac in their beds, and their contrasting choice of art.  Committed stereotype Jock has a traditional Scots painting (and a Tam O'Shanter nearby), while Steve has plumped for an abstract, modernist image.

"Edmundo is not so stupid as they all think!" chortles the evil engineer as he carries out his nefarious deed - referring to oneself in the third person being an internationally recognised sign of high intelligence.  Undoubtedly the best thing about the episode is the fabulous twangy guitar tune that accompanies Edmundo's hovercar flight to the Briggs Brothers' swamp hideout.

Steve accompanies the new freighter into space to see what happens to it, but the Briggses trick him into going to check out a fake distress call.  The next night he catches Edmundo in the act of sabotage, and ties him and the brothers up aboard a freighter with a device that will explode unless they confess.  Questionable ethics, to say the least.  It's a tense wait to see whether the criminals will crumble or blow up.  Commander Zero for one breaks into quite a sweat about it.

The hard-bitten Briggses are convinced Steve's bluffing but Edmundo, being a cowardly Latin type (blame scriptwriter Alan Fennell for that, not me) loses his nerve and confesses all.  But it's too late - the device is going to go off anyway!

Ha ha, that fooled 'em!

The Robot Freighter Mystery suffers from a distinct lack of, well, mystery, for one thing.  And Venus for another.   And (I can't believe I'm saying this) an even more distinct lack of Zoonie.  It's just not as fun as usual.  Thankfully, the same can't be said for this week's Noggin.

You may remember that last week we left a disguised Noggin and a dragged-up Thor Nogsson as they were about to trek across the sea of silver sands to the palace of Sheikh Ahmad-al-Ahmad.  This week they've reached their destination, but poor Thor's still struggling with the rudiments of camel riding.  While he's been waiting for them, Graculus has found some local birds to chat up.  Noggin wants to let him know they've arrived.  "You wave, Noggin, it's unladylike for me to wave," says Thor, showing an admirable commitment to character.

Graculus's friends have informed him of a blind sweetmeat seller who can show them the way in to the palace.  His list of wares is impressive: "Delights from Turkey! Farthing bananas! Cakes from Pontefract! Buy a sherbet dab! The eyes of bulls! All sorts of liquorice!" In exchange for a piece of gold he reveals the secret entrance to our heroes.  I love the peacock design on the outside of the palace.  Glorious.

Inside, Noggin and his friends watch as the Arab who stole Noggin's crown gives it to the Sheikh... only for him to crown Noggin's wicked uncle Nogbad!

Erm, that bodyguard's a bit dubious

But Noggin's attempt to straighten Thor's veil leads to a sneezing fit, alerting the villains to our friends' presence...

"Pull that veil over your face, you're supposed to be a lady!"
This week's hit parade: Gerry and the Pacemakers remain in the top spot, but hot on their heels is another Liverpool group, the very popular Beatles, climbing from 23 to 3 with their latest waxing, "From Me to You".

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