Thursday, 5 December 2013

Thursday 5 December 1963

While Space Patrol remains as endearingly potty as ever, the episode titles have started to get a bit boring in recent weeks.  Where once we had such poetic flights of fancy as The Miracle Tree of Saturn or The Glowing Eggs of Titan the last couple of weeks' have been prosaically descriptive.  Last week we had Time Stands Still and this week it's the equally functional

Now you know what happens, allow me to fill you in on how. Eccentric Martian scientist Professor Zephyr has invented a machine to measure the distance between stars.  Whether it's any good at this we never learn, as an inadvertent second function proves more interesting: when it's switched on, anything inside its little glass booth becomes invisible.

The excited Professor rushes to inform Colonel Raeburn, but the head of Space Patrol's got other things on his mind.  He's dealing with a mass outbreak of a deadly illness known by the inappropriately comical name of the Floats. This affects people living in low gravity environments.  And it looks like it could spell the end of colonising satellites.  As usual, Professor Haggerty knows what to do: the key to defeating the menace lies inside the square egg of the Martian Aber bird (eggs are always very significant in Space Patrol for some reason).

The Aber lays three eggs a year: two square and one round.  The round one hatches out into a baby Aber, and it eats the square ones.  Haggerty needs to get hold of some more of the square eggs in order to synthesise a cure for the Floats, but they could prove tricky to obtain as only 20 Abers are known to exist (perhaps they've been eating the wrong egg).  Abers are extremely fierce creatures, and the Martian president suggests the best way of getting hold of the vital eggs might just be to kill one of them (this attitude could be another reason there aren't many left).  But ecologically-minded Raeburn vetoes this idea and dispatches Larry Dart and his crew to get some eggs in the most humane way possible.

As Dart and Husky wait for the Martian game warden to take them into the Dictum forest to find an Aber, they're shown around Professor Zephyr's lab, where he proudly shows off his new invention - to which poor Husky falls victim.  And when the machine's switched off, he's not revisibleised!

The Professor explains this state of affairs to Dart with the use of some rather Op Art molecules.

Husky's not too bothered about his newly transparent state until he discovers his best friend, Gabbler the Martian parrot, is now utterly terrified of him.  What can be done to bring him back?

That's by the by for the moment - there are square eggs to be stolen.  Being invisible has clearly brought out Husky's naturist side, as he flings off his clothes and follows Dart into the forest without his captain's knowledge.  I'm not sure whether the game warden is a disguised Husky puppet: he looks a bit more wall-eyed.

It's time now for the Abler bird to make its entrance.  And what an entrance: shambling into view on its big, wobbly legs.  It's saying a lot, but this may be the most bizarre creature yet to appear in Space Patrol.  I'm not going to attempt to describe it, you can see it for yourself.  But it certainly looks nothing like any bird we Earth folk are familiar with.

The show enters the realm of pure slapstick as Dart makes two attempts to snatch the eggs, only to be savagely butted by the horned beast on both occasions.

Realising this isn't going to get anybody anywhere, Husky steps in and removes the eggs himself.

The Aber's wrath is incurred, but as it prepares to make its kill it collapses in a chortling heap.  Husky's only tickling it!

So that's the Floats sorted.  But what about Husky? Will we ever see him again?

Once more, Professor Haggerty has the answer, realising he can get Husky back to normal by sticking him in a portal freezer then putting him back in Professor Zephyr's machine.  As Haggerty himself modestly reminds us, he's not just a genius but an Irish genius.

The sheer weirdness of the Aber bird simply can't be captured by still images, so I urge you to watch the full episode here and see the creature in mind-boggling motion:

Anyway, enough of that nonsense.  Time for different nonsense.  Actually that's a bit unfair, as tonight's episode of The Saint is another of the show's more serious efforts, placing Simon Templar against the somewhat unlikely backdrop of local government in a seaside town.

Simon's come to sleepy Seatondean for a rest and a spot of fishing.  Of course, even in an out-of-the-way spot like this he meets one of the many old friends he's got scattered about the globe.  This one's Jack Bryant (Noel Trevarthen), Seatondean's star reporter.  When Simon arrives it just so happens to be the day of the town's mayoral election, and Jack invites Simon along to the big do to celebrate the result.  The victor, for the second time, is local coal merchant Sam Purdell (our old friend Leslie Sands).  Jack's fiancée Molly (50s child star Mandy Miller) is the daughter of defeated mayoral candidate George Hackett (Norman Bird), whose anger at his defeat, combined with his over-fondness for alcohol, lead to an embarrassing scene as he denounces Purdell for corruption in front of a previously jubilant crowd.

Roger Moore barely appears in the first half hour of The Well Meaning Mayor, which mainly concerns Hackett's attempts to prove that the town's beloved mayor is a crook.  Is he right? Or is he just a sour old drunk? It certainly seems a bit suspect that a local coal merchant and his family (Mrs Purdell's played by Mary Kenton, the two Masters Purdell by two anonymous curly haired moppets) live in the lap of luxury.

It certainly looks like someone's trying to make Hackett out to be an even bigger drunk than he is, and a complete loon.  Is it Purdell, or is there another sinister influence on the council? The crux of Hackett's suspicions is the mysterious Bellevue company, who seem to buy up every bit of land the council wants for the town's expansion just before they decide they need it.  Here's a look at Seatondean's projected civic centre.

An accident is arranged, with the clear intention of discrediting Hackett by making him look like a drink driver.  Here's a nice glimpse through his windscreen of the high street standing in for Seatondean, followed by a spot of fisticuffs between Hackett and the town's clerk of works (David Morell), who he collides with.

It's not long before Hackett and his car are discovered, both equally defunct, at the bottom of a cliff.  The uncredited artistes playing the mother and child who find the body deserve special praise, I feel.

Molly, convinced foul play was involved in her father's death, turns to Simon for help.  It's fairly clear to him that Sam Purdell's utterly corrupt, and he plans to catch him out by bribing him to take on a firm of electricians he's pretending to represent.  Simon's attempted bribe leads to a fight scene so extended it borders on the surreal.  Perhaps it's meant to perk up anyone who's felt uninspired for the last 45 minutes or so of local council wranglings, but despite the athletic perofrmances of the participants it's marred a tad by the fact that the one who's meant to be Leslie Sands very clearly isn't.

Five hours or so into this scuffle a very sweaty Simon decides to believe Purdell's violent protestations that he's not a crook, and they decide to track down Hackett's killer together.

Though his efforts to sound out the other council members fall on stony ground, Simon receives a mysterious summons to bring his bribe to the civic centre building site.  When he gets there he has a girder dropped on him from a great height (narrowly missing him) and is then forced into duffing up the town clerk.

Ascending the scaffolding to meet his would-be assassin, Simon finds it's none other than Purdell, who was (gasp!) lying about not being involved in the corruption rife in the town.

The climactic high-rise battle between Simon and Purdell is very impressive, and looks genuinely dangerous.  Though if taken out context one might wonder what exactly is going on in this image.

Eventually getting the better of Purdell, Simon threatens to drop the mayor to his death unless he confesses to all.  Which he duly does.

As someone who works for a local council, I can assure you that it's rarely this exciting.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if the writers had North East coastal town Hartlepool in mind when they came up with the name Seatondean? One part of the town is called Seaton (and is, funnily enough, where one of the town's two beaches is. And just a few miles further up the road is Crimdon Dene, another seaside area nowadays notorious for its caravan park full of bad council tennants.