Sunday, 6 October 2013

Sunday 6 October 1963

Yes, everyone's other favourite TV puppet show about space exploration is back for a short run of episodes that were left out in the original broadcast.  Starting with:

Fireball XL5 seems to have been reduced to providing a taxi service, with Steve Zodiac ferrying a bushy-browed geologist known only as Fraser to the planet Electon, where he's to do some surveying..

Apparently the people of Electon are "a little backward" compared to Earth, but it still seems a bit rude not to have let anyone know in advance that Fraser was coming to find out what minerals they have that can be exploited.  The place Fireball Jr touches down in seems to be completely deserted, and the scenes of the geologist exploring the ghost town are effectively eerie thanks to little touches like a real spider scuttling over a cobweb-laden dinner plate, as well as Barry Gray's masterful use of that spookiest of all instruments, the theremin.

Fortunately Fraser finds a cupboard stocked with enough supplies to keep him going (apparently the 22nd century equivalent of supermarket value brands.

His next discovery is more bizarre: a strange, glowing rock (that looks a bit like a brain).  Examining it, Fraser decides it's electric, and rapidly heads off to uncover more of these electric rocks for himself.  He becomes completely obsessed with finding more and more of the rock, and as is often the case with men obsessed, hygiene and personal grooming rapidly go out the window (given his old-timey prospector accent it's a shame it's not Matt Matic undergoing this transformation).

It's not just Fraser who wants to get hold of the electric rock - a strange pair of space-gnomes from a neighbouring planet are heading off to Electon in their magnet-powered ship to collect some more of it to use as a power source.

The regular characters disappear for a big chunk of the episode as Fraser descends into madness and the alien pixies waffle on about how they've managed to clear out all the Electons to get the electric rock all for themselves, but finally they return to pick up their geologist friend.  Steve's shocked by the state Fraser's got himself into: Venus diagnoses a form of "space melancholia" (of course).

Fraser refuses to be dragged away from his rocks, and the Fireball XL5 crew stay the night in an empty house, where all sorts of hokey old dark house stuff happens during the night, including Venus's quilt mysteriously moving about and Matt's glasses being snatched.

Next day, the ever-more-doolally Fraser starts catapulting electric rocks at Steve and chums in order to make them leave.  But then he's mysteriously propelled into the sky...

When the ship descends with an unconscious Fraser, Steve meets the goblins.  It turns out the supernatural phenomena of the night before were a side-effect of the magnets on their ship (all perfectly scientifically accurate, I'm sure), which also made the Electons scarper.  Steve tells the little men off for trying to keep all the rock for themselves rather than sharing it with the Electons, and, ashamed, they agree to do so in future.

The Electons, who've apparently been hiding out elsewhere on the planet, return to their town.  We don't get to actually see them, just the rather pathetic banner erected to welcome them.  Note there's only one name on it.  What a glory hunter.

Fraser's taken back to Earth for a shave and a change of clothes.

It's not surprising Ghosts of Space was held back - it's well below the series' usual standard: a simple-minded story boringly told.  Shame, really: Barry Gray's wonderfully eerie music for the episode deserved a much better showcase.


  1. Sunday October 28th 1962,Fireball XL5,The Sci-Fi Series for ATV-ITC-APF Television Production and produced by The late Gerry Anderson and The Hero Steve Zodiac with the famous voice of The late Paul Maxwell.

    Venus,The Space Doctor,Professor Matthew Matic,Lt Ninety,Commander Zero,Robert The Robot,Zoonie,Jock and The infamous Mr & Mrs Space Spy.

    The Original 39 Black & White Episodes included Planet 46,Hypnotic Sphere,
    Planet of Platona,Space Magnet,The Doomed Planet,Plant Man From Space,
    The Sun Temple,Space Immigrants,Space Monster,Flying Zodiac,Spy in Space,XL5 to H20,Space Pirates,The Last of The Zanadus,Space Pen,Convict in Space,Wings of Danger,The Triads,Sabotage,Prisoner On The Lost Planet,Flight to Danger,Space Vacation,Mystery of The TA2,Robert to The Rescue,The Forbidden Planet,The Granatoid Tanks,Dangerous Cargo and The Fire Fighters.

    Terry Christie Sunderland

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