Thursday, 8 August 2013
Thursday 8 August 1963
This week's Space Patrol opens with a memorable exchange between Galasphere crewmen Slim and Husky. "Ahhhhh, it's wonderful to eat pies instead of pills," sighs Husky as he gobbles down several of said pastry items. "Masticate while you can, Husky" Slim sagely advises, "I'm sure Colonel Raeburn will soon be sending us on another mission."
But in fact Raeburn's granted the crew two weeks' leave. Captain Larry Dart doesn't have to think twice about how he's going to spend his time: "I want to visit a farm!" Husky's reaction to the idea of visiting a place that produces "cream and butter and fresh fruit" is almost sexual. He wants to come too - even after it's explained that Dart will actually be visiting an underwater seaweed farm.
The farm's run by a chap named Jim, who looks suspiciously like Jupiter's Dr Smith,disguised with a pencil moustache and good ole boy accent.
The farm is supposedly manned by 5000 robots, but it's glaringly obvious there are only two robot puppets - the spindly, one-eyed one we're used to seeing performing various tasks (pictured below) and another one with an unappealing face but disturbingly shapely legs.
While Dart and Husky are visiting there's an underwater explosion that destroys a couple of the robots. Clearly deciding the seaweed farm's not that exciting after all, Dart takes a robot head as a souvenir and heads off for some salmon fishing (cue inevitable slobbering from Husky about how much he loves salmon).
Meanwhile, Slim's off to spend his leave on his home planet of Venus. It's implied for the first time that there's a budding romance between Slim and his fellow Venusian Marla, who we see in a natty new ensemble.
And at the Space Patrol lab, Professor Haggerty's engaged in the vital work of demonstrating his walking, talking vegetable from Venus to Martian parrot Gabbler. It's interesting to see that by the year 2100 those abstract string pictures popular in the 60s will be used for recording ultrasonic noises like those the plant makes.
Haggerty changes the frequency of the plant's voice and plays it back to prove to Gabbler that it really does talk. It sounds like a Clanger.
Back from his trip, Dart shows off his robot head to the Professor. Haggerty's aghast: The environmental changes caused by the underwater explosion have disintegrated part of the brain: the bit that obeys humans. Haggerty concludes that all the robots still in action must have lost this part of their brain as well - and only disaster can come as a result (it strikes me that this really a rather serious design flaw).
Haggerty's not wrong: Raeburn contacts Jim to check if the robots are behaving strangely, only to witness him falling victim to a crazed automaton. Jim's reaction to this is strangely listless: "Say, a robot's coming into my office now. Get out. Get out, I tell you. Ahh. Ahh."
And now, the robots are on the march to the city where Space Patrol has its HQ. Well, actually it looks more like they're having a leisurely drive.
This city's never named, but there's a structure there that's a dead ringer for the Post Office Tower, then under construction as London's tallest and most strikingly futuristic building. Could this then be Fitzrovia?
The crazily moustachioed general who refused Raeburn's entreaties to mobilise the armed forces against the robots gets his comeuppance when he's attacked in his office by a robot. See what I mean about the legs?
There's an especially wonderful moment as a robot clonks a switchboard operator over the head then strikes a flamboyant victory pose...
...and another as Dart traps the same robot (probably meant to be a different one) in a door (the door and corridor are the same ones we regularly see aboard the Galasphere).
Raeburn and Marla have both been captured by the new mechanical overlords, but Dart, Husky and Haggerty escape to the Galasphere (presumably everyone else in the city - including Haggerty's long-forgotten daughter Cassiopeia - needs to fend for themselves). But wait! Gabbler's been left behind, having headed back to rescue the Uranian plant. Cue the bizarre sight of the bird driving a futuristic monobile.
It looks like it's curtains for Gabbler as a robot follows him into the lab - but the plant's ultrasonic speech renders it motionless. Haggerty's overjoyed by this discovery: "As long as you're holding the plant they can't hurt you!" he explains, and returns to broadcast the plant's noises at full volume all over the city to immobilise the invaders. The sight of the same robots falling over several times as the plant merrily jiggles about on a screen is hilarious.
Yes, Earth's been saved by a parrot and a talking plant. I'm beginning to think that Space Patrol is one of the greatest shows in TV history. You can watch The Robot Revolution here and see what you think.