Sunday, 19 May 2013

Sunday 19 May 1963

The tone for tonight's Fireball XL5 is set by the snatch of incidental music it starts off with: a comedy arrangement of "Rockabye Baby" of the sort you get when someone's hit over the head in a Warner Bros cartoon.  It's used to illustrate Lt Ninety of Space City's tendency to fall asleep at his desk as he burns the candle at both ends working in space traffic control (or whatever it is he does) as well as studying to become an astronaut.

Considering the vital space work the leftenant (I spell it like that as a protest against the wholly unnecessary Americanism of everything in Fireball XL5) is meant to be space doing, this is a worrying development.  As is his new stubbly look, which we're treated to an enormous close-up of.

However, Commander Zero's extreme gittishness seems as unnecessary as ever: "You knuckle-headed apology for a spaceman! How do you expect to become a bachelor of space if you can't stay awake?!"

Zero pours brutal scorn on a drawing what Ninety had to do for his class, in one of the oddest fits of pique ever heard: "Who ever heard of a space radar scanner that could predict the future? We're not running a rest home for retired Mercurian Malidosauruses!"

I've long suspected Lt Ninety to be a confirmed bachelor of space, and his wounded response to Zero's tirade as he heads home seems to lend support to this theory: "Gripe, gripe, gripe - that's all he does these days!" Snuggled up in bed, Ninety fantasises about being Zero's superior for just one day, and falls into a slumber...

Yes, chaps.  It's a dream story.

Ninety dreams that he receives a letter telling him how utterly super his fortune-telling radar thing is, and that he's being promoted to the exalted rank of Space General.  The information takes him a bit by surprise.

Meanwhile, Sid James lookalike Commander Zero awakens blissfully unaware of this development, and giving us all a good look at his fascinating pyjamas.

We get to see Zero's bizarre family again, as well as their choice of TV viewing - it's Gerry Anderson's Four Feather Falls!

Lt Ninety turns up at Space City in his Space General uniform (I question the legitimacy of those medals), chomping on a genuine Space General cigar.

The new general immediately starts to throw his weight around, demanding that Space City engineer Jock be ferried to the holiday planet of Olympus in Fireball XL5 as a reward for installing Ninety's ridiculous machines everywhere.  Steve Zodiac's less than chuffed with this latest assignment: "How about some coffee, Venus?" he grumbles as they set off - turning the ship's highly qualified doctor into his tea lady.

On arrival at Olympus, Steve and Jock have an accident with their space scooter, with Steve flung into a swamp and Jock knocked unconscious (why Lt Ninety's dream should feature such an elaborate subplot he's not involved with is probably a question best left to his psychiatrist).

Back at Space City everything goes horribly wrong under the new regime, as the imminent invasion of Earth Space General Ninety detects turns out to be just a meteorite shower and the whole of the city eventually collapses on top of him.

Waking terrified from his dream, Lt Ninety returns to work only too happy to be subjected to continual volleys of verbal abuse.

And here you can experience A Day in the Life of a Space General for yourself.

Now for this week's musical update: The Beatles continue their chart domination with "From Me To You" at number 1.  At 3, here's Jet Harris and Tony Meehan with "Scarlett O'Hara".

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