Sunday, 2 March 2014

Thursday 9 January 1964

This week's Space Patrol starts off in highly unusual fashion with some stock footage of monochrome and pleasant land.  It turns out that despite their constant mutual exasperation at one another, Professor Haggerty and Colonel Raeburn see each other in their leisure time, and this week they've taken a trip into the countryside together.  Some readers may be upset to learn that hunting remains a popular pastime in the year 2100, with the pair competing to shoot some decidedly flat looking non-specific birds.

Raeburn proves to be an absolutely useless shot, and endures much ribbing from the more successful professor.  He does manage to bag something, but it doesn't look much like a bird.  In fact, it looks very peculiar indeed.

As the pair examine their mysterious find it raises itself up on what looks like a leg (of a sort).  Whatever it is, it seems to be alive.  Asked for an opinion, Haggerty relies on the "say what you see" form of observation, as espoused by his fellow Irishman Roy Walker: "I'd say it was a bell-like object that can extend and retract its leg".  He takes it back to examine in the lab.

Later, the professor admits defeat: "It isn't flesh and blood, it isn't metal, and it isn't plastic.  When the colonel asks if it's intelligent, the strange being pipes up: "It's got a great deal of intelligence."

Having picked up enough English to express itself, the creature reveals that it originates from the Betelgeuse system, 190 light years away.  Colonel Raeburn boggles at this piece of information: "At the speed our galaspheres travel, it would take thousands of years to reach you."  When the bell-thing explains that his people's craft travel faster than light, Raeburn's disheartened: "Seems as if our solar system is one of the most backward in the universe," he sighs.  Clearly sensitivity isn't a key Betelgeusean trait: "I'm afraid it is," comes the response.

The Betelgeusean mothership is currently orbiting Neptune: the bell had been landing on Earth in a smaller craft when it was shot down by the colonel.  Raeburn promises to give it a lift back, but asks if it'll have a chat with some Earth scientists first: "Delighted, Colonel!" The bell's name is unpronounceable to any earth tongue (that old chestnut), but it's quite happy to be called Mr Bell.

The information Mr Bell gives on his people's space travel technology proves useless to a frustrated Haggerty: "We could travel at light speed if we had bloxene fuel, but bloxene fuel only works in a machine made of bonath metal!" Mr Bell has an unpleasant encounter with Gabbler: "What's that thing?" "My leg" "Who's ever seen a leg like that? Hahahahahahahahahahaha, what a funny looking thing you are!"

"Rude birds must be taught a lesson," announces Mr Bell prior to giving the Martian parrot a well deserved bop in the face with a glowing appendage that emerges from the top of his dome.

Haggerty's upset that Mr Bell didn't mention he possessed this curious antenna.  "You wouldn't tell me you had hands or feet," the alien quite reasonably responds.  It turns out the antenna possesses other abilities even more remarkable than teaching a lesson to rude birds.  Mr Bell uses it to cure Colonel Raeburn of a headache, explaining the way medicine works in Betelgeuse: "Every creature has energy inside them, and when you are ill, some of this medicine is lost.  But a creature who is completely well can give part of his energy to you and make you better."  There are no hospitals in Betelgeuse, the creatures there just share their energy with each other.  The damn bell-shaped hippies.

Raeburn summons Larry Dart to take Mr Bell back to his mothership, but shortly afterward contacts the Galasphere to request a detour to Jupiter to pick up some plant samples.  When the galasphere lands on Jupiter Larry heads out to get the samples, but rather stupidly trips and falls down a hole, where he's imprisoned by a rockfall.  Explosives fail to shift the rock - will he survive long enough for Slim and Husky to dig him out? It's Mr Bell to the rescue, as he extends his appendage to transfer vital life-giving energy.  Ding dong.

Mr Bell's energy keeps Larry alive, but the rescue mission takes so long that the poor Betelgeusean dwindles in size as he expends most of his life force.  On Earth, Colonel Raeburn marvels at this act of self-sacrifice: "For a man to give his life for a friend is the greatest thing he can do, but for a creature from another solar system to do it for an Earthman..."

Larry is finally freed and the galasphere takes off, by which time Mr Bell looks like nothing so much as a large turd.  Fortunately the ship makes it to Neptune in time, and Larry takes the Betelgeusean back to his ship, where its agreed that more bells will soon visit Earth to spread the benefit of their strange medical knowledge.  Agreeably bizarre as ever, it's a shame the episode didn't exploit the Betelgeusean craft's position over Neptune as an opportunity for the visitors from another solar system to tussle with the psychic baddies native to that world.  That would have been something to see.

Next tonight, an especially star-studded adventure for The Saint...

Lord Yearley (Anthony Quayle) is known as "the noble sportsman").  Simon Templar's come to watch him showjumping, but he's also a champ at golf, tennis, shooting and fishing.

Yearley's daughter Rose (Jane Asher) is Simon's girlfriend of the week.  After her father's triumph over the fences, she introduces her gentleman friend to her stepmother, Anne (Sylvia Syms, whose eyebrow is almost a match for Roger Moore's).

At dinner that evening, Yearley's sleazy German showjumping rival (an uncredited Donald Pickering) suggests that the 54 year old peer might not be as successful in all his activities: "A horse is one thing, you understand.  He carries the rider over the fences.  But, oh, that young wife of his - that is a completely different kind of fence, nicht wahr?"

How close to the truth he is we're about to discover.  Anne slips out with a headache, but she's actually gone to see Paul Farley (Francis Matthews), an architect with whom she's been having a fling.  She's come to tell him she's breaking off their relationship as she's expecting Yearley's child.

On being told of the pregnancy, Yearley practically explodes with expectations for the child.  He decides it'll be a boy, signs it up for Eton, and is determined it will one day win the Grand National.  His impending fatherhood's given him a whole new outlook on the world, and he incurs the wrath of a man named Bruno Walmer (Paul Curran) when he changes his mind about some land he was going to sell him.  Walmer and Kelly (Russell Walters), the manager of Yearley's property development firm, were brimming over with very early 60s plans for the land ("It'll be one of the finest shopping centres in London!" "Seven stores, and a central playground for children!" "Underground parking for a thousand cars!" "A supermarket and a cinema!").  Yearley has instead decided to accept a lower offer from the local council, who plan to build a children's hospital.  Walmer determines to change Yearley's mind... by whatever means necessary.

Yearley also has a disgruntled neighbour to contend with: Mr Bates (Martin Wyldeck, one of the Scott-Furlong board members from The Plane Makers), whose farmland adjoins Yearley's country estate, is deeply anti-bloodsports, and forbids Yearley's hunt from crossing his land (in truth there seems to be as much of class antagonism in his threats to the peer as there is concern for animal welfare).

And now, with a cast of enemies in place, it's time for the whodunit (or, rather, who-wants-to-do-it) to commence, as Rose discovers that her father's been receiving death threats.

Rose offers to put Simon at Yearley's disposal, but he brushes off the threats.  Until, that is, he and his daughter nearly have a very nasty accident - the brakes of his car having been cut in time-honoured fashion.

Yearley cedes to the insistence of the women in his life that he bring Simon in for help.  The Saint's first step is to take the note to a typography expert friend, Tom Crofton (Howard Douglas, whose look is one more people should aspire to in their later years).  Tom narrows the list of publications the words could have been cut from down to Photographic Monthly or Home and Design - the latter a magazine very popular with architects..

With a list of suspects drawn up, Simon suggests Yearley should invite Walmer and Kelly to stay for the weekend (Farley, who's been commissioned to remodel the house, is coming already).  Having found Anne at Farley's house on paying the architect a visit, he puts two and two together and makes some unpleasant insinuations to Lady Yearley about the possible fatherhood of her child...

He doesn't get to make good on his threat to reveal Anne and Paul's relationship to Yearley, as Anne's husband himself comes across the two of them together.  Simon's with him at the time, and all of a sudden the motive of Farley, who had the best opportunity of sending the notes, is all too apparent.

That night, a shot rings out as someone aims at Yearley from his balcony...

Having acquired Paul Farley's keys, Simon lets himself in to the architect's home and peruses his stack of Home and Design back issues, matching the threatening notes to the holes in the text with Dadaesque results.

Next day the hunt rides from Yearley's estate, and when Mr Bates tries to block the aristocrat's way he finds himself on the receiving end of his fury.  Despite his bluster, Bates' failure to shoot Yearley when he had the chance seems to dispose of him as a suspect.

And indeed it's not long before Yearley reveals himself as the culprit behind the anonymous notes as well as everything else that's been going on.  It's all been an elaborate plot against Paul Farley, who he's long been aware was carrying on with his wife.  Locking Farley in his study with him, Yearley encourages the architect to participate in one of his beloved games: he places a gun at Farley's feet to see whether his love rival can shoot him before he gets to his own gun, locked in his desk drawer.

Farley refuses to participate, and Yearley's gun turns out to be empty.  So the aristocrat turns to fisticuffs, only to be bettered by a swiftly-emerging Simon, who as always was several steps ahead.


As the police arrive to take Yearley away, Anne pledges to stand by him.  And Rose insists "I'll always think of him as a noble sportsman."  Yes, well perhaps it's best not to focus on his deliberately dangerous driving with you in the passenger seat...

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