Thursday, 1 August 2013

Thursday 1 August 1963

The United Galactic Organisation's communications with Jupiter have been interrupted by a broken transmitter on an asteroid orbiting the planet.  As Captain Larry Dart and his crew happen to be passing, Marla rather curtly sends them to have a look at it, prompting a jolly spot of interplanetary misogyny.  "Well, for a woman she doesn't talk much," chuckles Dart.  "Venusian women never talk much, I'm glad to say," chips in co-pilot Slim.  This lot are even worse than Steve Zodiac.

Anyway, on reaching the asteroid ship's engineer Husky discovers the transmitter's been hit by a meteorite, and decides it's a job for a full space maintenance team.  Admiring the pretty colours of the meteorite, he decides to take a fragment back with him, but cuts himself on its sharp edge...

As you may have guessed, this isn't good.  The normally sausage-obsessed Husky loses his appetite for the first time ever.  When the crew gets back to Earth, Slim asks Husky if he'd like to accompany him on a trip to Paris. These romantic overtures are wasted on the unfortunate Martian, who's now feeling distinctly woozy.

Confined to a bleak hospital room, Husky's feeling decidedly lonely.  Calling for a pretty nurse to accompany him, all he gets is a not very pretty robot.

It turns out that the infection he got from the meteorite is causing Husky to shrink.  It's a concept Space Patrol's rather dim chief Colonel Raeburn has trouble grasping when Marla breaks the news.  "His body is getting smaller," she patiently explains.  Professor Haggerty's reaction, meanwhile, is a succinct "Bejeebers!" We don't get to see Husky getting smaller, though: it's specified that his head isn't shrinking, so the show's makers can just keep him under the bedclothes and pretend.

It doesn't look like there's much that can be done for the poor chap, so his friends decide to stick him in a freezer until someone works out how to re-biggen him.

Dart and Slim sadly head off for a mission on verdant Jupiter (picturesquely described by Slim as "a bit like the Everglades,  covered in Newfoundland fog" - which I'm sure would have meant a lot to the show's audience of British children), accompanied by an unnamed generic Martian replacement for Husky.  And what bizarre sights we see when they arrive! Jupiter and its strange denizens were introduced in The Swamps of Jupiter, intended as the first episode of Space Patrol, but not shown until later in the show's ATV run.  So here we're just expected to know who they are.  Jupiter's the home of the solar system's scientific HQ, headed by the plummy Dr Smith, not a million miles away from his Lost in Space namesake (and not a million miles away from Brian Sewell either).  A regular visitor is Joe, a member of the planet's bizarre Jovian race (Dart has to set his translator to "J" to be able to speak to him).

Childlike Joe has a bit of a crush on Captain Dart: "I hope you stay long time," he tells the astronaut, "You my favourite Earthman".  "You're Joe's idol," chuckles Dr Smith, "I think he goes for beards."  I know how he feels.  As Dart and Smith discuss the shortcomings of Jupiter's cuisine, consisting entirely of pills (Dr Smith has a supply of special ones for guests - "pink ones with blue stripes), Joe gets bitten on the foot by a (real) snake that happens to be slithering about the lab.

Dr Smith ministers to the injured alien, but Joe insists the only cure for a Jupiter snakebite is a Loomie stone -  a special stone used by the doglike, endearingly tatty Loomies to play water polo.

Dart manages to get hold of one of the stones and feed it to Joe, crushed into a powder.  It turns out that it cancels the shrinking effect caused by the snakebite, so Dart has the brilliant idea of taking some back to Earth for Husky (which is good, as the episode's main plotline seemed in danger of being forgotten about).  In the last couple of minutes Slim and Dart thaw the Martian out and bring him back to full size, and there's a bizarre explanation about snake venom somehow having seeped into the metorite Husky cut himself on.  All splendidly bonkers, as always.

Next tonight, a bit of a departure for TV Minus 50, as we venture for the first time into the world of current affairs programming.

This edition of World in Action focuses on the recently vanished Yevgeny Ivanov, the Russsian spy at the heart of the Profumo scandal.  As the very, very serious narration puts it: "Who is the obscure Russian sailor who helped, carefully and deliberately, to bring the British government to the brink of shabby disaster?" (I'm sure you'll agree there's no disaster worse than a shabby one).

The show uses interviews with Ivanov's acquaintances alongside contemporary footage of Ivanov and dramatisation to build up a picture of what he was like.  In a change to the usual way of doing things around here, I'm going to confine myself to pictures and quotes from the programme, which I think say far more than I could hope to.

"I knew him to be a man of great honour"
"He seemed to be the jolly kind of fellow who enjoys himself at a party"
"Very charming, very pleasant"
"One of the dullest persons I'd ever met"
"Enormous social charm and very profound sense of humour"
"I thought he was always on a job"
"My wife found him a most delightful fellow"
"A desperate and dangerous bully"
"I thought he was rather an unassuming little man"
A drinking club in the West End
"Obviously, for several scenes in this report an actor stands in for Ivanov"
"Ivanov, seen here enjoying the fruits of freedom with Jean, wife of Captain Thomas Watson-Murphy"
Bernard Chibnall, of the Scientific Films Association
"At diplomatic parties he was a champion vodka drinker"
Stephen Ward, "interested in getting a visa to go to Russia and draw pictures of Kruschev"
Ivanov's wife, Mya
"She was very amusing, we discussed clothes"
"He was particularly interested in Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men, though he felt they were not entirely suitable for children"
"The present Lord Astor's striking wife"
Miss Christine Keeler

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