Thursday, 25 July 2013
Thursday 25 July 1963
As a complete scientific ignoramus, I've no idea how plausible the plot of this week's Space Patrol is. I'd take a wild guess at not very, but you get the feeling that the show at least tries, and that seems laudable in itself.
After last week's success at teaching a bird English, Professor Haggerty's now created a machine to translate the language of ants. Although nominally employed by Space Patrol, Haggerty seems to spend all his time arsing about on barmy projects of his own, any help he gives to anyone else being incidental. That's definitely the case this week - when his radio (which looks a bit like a certain alien menace that would capture the imaginations of the nation's children in a few months) goes on the blink and his living room becomes unbearably hot, Haggerty realises that quite by accident he's invented a machine that converts sound waves into heat waves.
Colonel Raeburn's brilliant Venusian secretary Marla's round Haggerty's for a cuppa when this happens, and when the Colonel later tells her of the plight of colonists on Pluto (continuing a plotline from last week's episode) she realises how useful the Professor's new invention could be. As Pluto's orbit takes it away from the sun, the planet will become increasingly cold, until it's impossible to live there (I'm no expert, but it seems to me it would have been a good idea to address this issue before colonising the planet). It's not just the colonists that are the problem, though - Space Patrol's Galasphere spaceships are made from a metal only found on Pluto. So if it's too cold for anyone to go there and mine it there'll be a bit of a problem. Marla hits on the idea of using Haggerty's machine to transmit heat to Pluto from the fiery world of Mercury, at the other end of the solar system. As ever, it seems that Marla should be running the show rather than grumpy old Raeburn, but genius though she might be, she is still just a woman. She has to make do with a few scraps of praise from the old goat: "How felicitous to receive a compliment from Colonel Raeburn!" she giggles in her odd Venusian way.
Raeburn and Captain Dart visit Haggerty to set the plan in motion. "My dear boy!" the professor clucks, "You may be a captain of Space Patrol, but you know nothing at all about science," which is lucky for the viewer as it enables Haggerty to explain in great detail how the transmitter and receiver will be set up on the two worlds.
Dart and his crew are tasked with the unenviable job of travelling to Mercury ("the boiling planet") to install the transmitter. As they prepare to head off, crewmen Slim and Husky debate the latter's bottomless appetite. "Have some sausages, Slim," Husky insists. "No thank you," Slim responds, "Venusians never consume sausages" (don't tell me this blog never teaches you anything). Martian parrot Gabbler has no such sausage qualms, however.
Dart, Husky, and Slim board the ship and go to sleep for the duration of their trip to Mercury. Peculiar robots stalk the corridors of the Galasphere while they slumber.
The trip's set to take three months. It's good that the show tries to be accurate about how long space voyages will take, but this means that the episodes we've seen so far have already taken place over a number of years, and there are 35 more episodes to go. Presumably the Galasphere crew don't age while they're in the fridge, but one would expect Raeburn, Marla and Haggerty to all be pretty decrepit by the time the series ends.
Anyway, enough of such musings. On the forbidding world of Pluto we meet the colony's fur-clad, gloriously mustachioed Martian commander and his second in command, who has a bizarre gravelly voice of the like that wouldn't be heard on TV again until Phyllis Pearce joined Coronation Street. These poor chaps are banking on Space Patrol to save them from an icy demise.
When our heroes finally reach Mercury, they set to work getting the transmitter in place. Slim proves himself to be a liability once more by promptly falling down a hole. Wonderfully, this means that when his colleagues manage to haul him out of it, the extremely camp - sorry, androgynous - Venusian gets to exclaim "I'm free!"
Despite Slim's antics the mission's a roaring success, and the crew head back to the Galasphere before they get fried. "Speaking of fried, I could do with some chips!" exclaims dear old Husky. It's good to know that in the worryingly Americanised future of Space Patrol at least Martians (who,of course, all have Russian accents) still enjoy such reassuring British fare as sausage and chips.
You can enjoy the delights The Fires of Mercury has to offer here.