Monday, 3 February 2014

Thursday 26 December 1963

Well, it's Boxing Day here at TV Minus 50, but sadly there's no special Christmassy fare on offer this week, just the same old nonsense we get any other Thursday.

This week's Space Patrol introduces us to a character I hope we're going to see more of (as is the way with Space Patrol, we've seen the puppet playing him many times before).  Patra (not to be confused with the 90s singer of the same name) is a Venusian scientist whose walrus moustache belies his extremely feminine voice.  We join him giving the Venusian president a lecture on the evolution of the planet's Tula fish (as in Tula mayonnaise, I suppose).  It's not simply an academic matter - in just a few years the Tula have evolved at a rate that would normally take millions  "They're changing into something that could almost be called - human!" announces Patra.  Well, that might be stretching things a bit, though their intelligence has vastly increased and their fins have transformed into something remarkably similar to arms.

Along with these changes, the normally harmless fish have become decidedly hostile to the people of Venus.  The president rushes to the bedside of a sailor who was pulled overboard and badly injured by one of the creatures.  "I tell you, these fish have brains!" he cries.

The president contacts Colonel Raeburn at Space Patrol to do something about the underwater menace.  And he's got his heart set on a particular course of action for the United Galactic Organisation to "blow up the ocean and destroy every single fish in it!" Even Raeburn thinks this might be a tad drastic, and sends Larry Dart and his crew to have a look.  When the Galasphere submerges beneath the waves (who knew it could do that?) we get a proper look at the scaly fiends.  Larry even manages to kill one.

A probable explanation for the fish's rapid evolution is found in the shape of a giant heap of polydon, a building material that's been dumped by a local firm: the further away from this barrier, the less evolved the Tula appear to be.  Larry attempts to blow it up with depth charges, but the fish tamper with them before they can be exploded.  Frustrated by this defeat, Colonel Raeburn is moved to utter perhaps the most sublime dialogue yet heard in Space Patrol: "Outwitted by fish! We might have to use a nuclear explosion after all."  The situation proves too much for the Colonel, who's been generally a bit under the weather lately.  To Marla's extreme anguish, he collapses on his desk.  Raeburn's physician Dr Roberts reveals he secretly gave the Colonel a sedative in order to force him to rest (which all sounds very responsible).

This allows us a glimpse at Colonel Raeburn's bedroom (that fabric is extremely popular in 2100).

The Venusian president's put through with an urgent call demanding that he be allowed to set off a nuclear bomb (despite the potential loss of life and widespread contamination that will entail) - the fish are now walking, and attacking the people of seaside villages: "They're strangling everything within their reach!" (tragically, we don't get to see this scene for ourselves).  The sedated Colonel angrily refuses, threatening to kick Venus out of the UGO if he dares go ahead.  It turns out that the Colonel's actually talking in his sleep - if he'd been awake he'd have been more than happy to sanction the use of the bomb.

Fortunately, though, Larry's had an alternative idea in the interim, based on the Colonel's sedation.  The Galasphere sprays the entire ocean with knockout gas to incapacitate the Tula for long enough to blow up the polydon barrier.  It's not entirely clear how this is going to halt the killing spree of the already-evolved Tula, but everyone seems quite pleased by the outcome so it's probably best not to question it.

Disappointingly, there are no killer fish in sight at the next coastal resort we're visiting this evening.

Simon Templar's visiting the Riviera for the second time in as many weeks, but this time he's just planning to enjoy himself rather than catch any crooks.  But that wouldn't make for much of a Saint episode, so along comes his friend Bill (pointy-headed Gary Cockrell), an American jazz drummer.  Bill's engaged to the beautiful Meryl (Suzanne Neve), but their nuptials are looking increasingly far off, thanks to the extreme disapproval of Meryl's father, millionaire Elliot Vascoe (Sergeant Cork himself, John Barrie - who it's very strange to see with a naked top lip.

As well as refusing his consent to the marriage, Vascoe's flexed his muscles to have Bill banned from performing at any local venues - meaning he doesn't even have enough money to leave Monaco.  Bil's convinced something can do something to help, and the Saint soon starts work on a scheme to deal with Vascoe, an old adversary of his.

The millionaire has a vast art collection, which he's opening to the public in aid of charity.  As the press tour the gallery, it becomes clear that both his curator, Davos (Henry Vidon) and artist Delphine Chambers (Rachel Gurney), staying at Vascoe's villa to paint a portrait of Meryl, have reason to seek revenge on him.

As well as Vascoe (whose eternal enmity Simon earned by publicly accusing him of "knowing as much about art as a cow in a field"), there's another old acquaintance of the Saint's at the gallery in the form of former Scotland Yard detective Martin Grahame (Barry Keegan), now working as Vascoe's chief of security.  Paying a visit to the gallery, Simon antagonises Vascoe by betting that his supposedly impregnable gallery will be burgled within four days.

Both Vascoe and the members of the press assume Simon means he'll be doing the burgling, as does "the smartest police chief in Europe", Colonel Latignant, returning from last week's episode and played once more by Barrie's Sergeant Cork co-star Arnold Diamond.  Seeing them together in different roles is the most interesting aspect of the episode, and makes a good curtain-raiser for the new series of Cork, which starts on Saturday.

But, as Simon planned all along, a gang of local crooks, led by Jules Brant (Raymond Adamson), see the news of Simon's bet as an ideal opportunity to nick the treasures themselves and frame him for them.  To that end, they've managed to persuade Vascoe's chauffeur to work for them.  And they've got someone inside the villa as well...

Jules dispatches a heavy to keep Simon under guard for a couple of hours while he robs Vascoe, to ensure the Saint has no alibi for the time the crime's committed.

Simon, of course, rapidly disarms his guard - by getting him into this mind-boggling position.

As Simon heads to the villa, Latignant's men follow after him, but he manages to confuse them by transmitting his own messages to their radios.  Arnold Diamond hams it up a treat as the exasperated police chief.

Simon catches up with Jules, who's disarmed Vascoe's burglar alarm and nabbed a few prize exhibits.  If you ask me, the system doesn't look quite as secure as claimed.

Jules and Simon have an almighty ding-dong, thoroughly messing up Vascoe's garden while they're at it.

Having disposed of Jules, Simon returns the stolen items to Vascoe, and humiliates him by revealing the dislike his entire household feels for him - and exposing Delphine Chambers, deeply in debt to Jules, as the thief's accomplice.  But it seems that's not the only reason for her betrayal - she loves Vascoe, and was driven mad with frustration that he cared only for material things.

All ends happily with Vascoe undergoing a Scrooge-like change of heart, refusing to press charges against Delphine and welcoming Bill into his family.  Fairy Godfather Simon's work is done.

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