Friday, 10 January 2014

Thursday 12 December 1963

Early on in this week's Space Patrol we're informed "The water in the lake doesn't move at all".  It's a bit of a blow.  If you can't trust the titles of 1960s children's TV shows for accuracy, who can you? However , the water of this Jovian lake does have strange properties: any object it touches begins moving uncontrollably.  This has been discovered by scientists Dr Smith and - the true star of the episode - Dr Brown, who sounds like Christopher Lee and looks like Bea Arthur (this may well be someone's ideal man).

Chaos breaks out when Larry Dart arrives to collect a sample of the water, an animated chair deciding to whack him in the crotch.  Then Dr Brown spills some water on his spacesuit and is drawn inexorably out to the planet's surface: "Stop me, somebody! My suit's heading for the swamps!"

Can the bewildered scientist be saved from his ambulatory garment? Yes, with the aid of a great big net.

The suit's sent to Earth to be examined by Professor Haggerty, but it's released from its cage by meddlesome Martian parrot Gabbler.  The sight of the empty suit gliding down a corridor is almost as eerie as it is ridiculous.

Its wanderings are curtailed when it drifts into a power store: it seems electricity cancels out the effects of the strange water.

This is discovered not a moment too soon, as the water can also increase its mass, and the area surrounding the Jovian laboratory is now quaking like a jelly.  Larry returns and saves the day by electrifying everything.  Curiously, Space Patrol boss Colonel Raeburn receives the good news while taking a relaxing Turkish bath.

A lake also features prominently in tonight's episode of The Saint, Simon Templar having embarked on a fishing trip with the express purpose of escaping the entire female sex (apparently, fishing is the one pastime that the "little dears" haven't yet muscled in on.

Also heading for Manitou Lake (which sadly has no connection to the barmy Tony Curtis horror film) is Professor Otto Muller (Gerard Heinz), who's subject to some horrific exposition when the president of his university (Evan Thomas) tells him "You know, you've devised an entirely new satellite guidance system!" It's clearly the kind of thing one would need to be reminded of.

East German Otto defected to the West on the condition that his wife and daughter would be brought out too.  So far there's no sign of them, so he's taken up the shady Mr Cleaver (Brandon Brady) on his offer to help the whole family find a new life together unpestered.  Mr Cleaver's body language suggests things may not end up all that happily.

This episode being set in the Americas, it's no surprise that the ubiquitous Bruce Boa turns up.  He plays a plainclothes Mountie who 's come to inform the Prof that his wife and daughter have escaped to the West.  Unfortunately he gets a knife in the back from Cleaver before he has the chance.

As is traditional, Simon's framed for the murder and takes all of a couple of minutes to convince the local police of his innocence.  Then he's off on the trail of the professor, who's been cunningly disguised and taken to Vancouver to meet Cleaver's boss, the secretly Commie-funded timber magnate Mr Pavan (Godfrey Quigley).

For the most part The Sporting Chance is an especially tedious 50 minutes, but there are a few things that help to perk it up a bit.  Firstly, there's Carol Cleveland as Pavan's secretary Marion, and more especially her remarkable glasses.

Unsurprisingly, Marion's won over to Simon's side by him informing her she'd look much better without her specs.

Secondly, there's the requisite mid-episode fisticuffs, which here end in spectacular fashion with Cleaver taking a dive through a closed window.

Thirdly, and most importantly, there's the always great fun Derren Nesbitt, who turns up towards the end as a hearty Russian pilot ready to fly the unwitting professor back behind the iron curtain: "Bottoms, er, down!"

Sadly his enthusiastic attempts to convert the kidnapped Marion (note the specs have been conveniently jettisoned) to the glories of Communism fall on stony ground.

And lastly, there's Roger Moore's creditable attempt to look suave in a pair of waders.

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