While he was still at ITV, Sydney Newman created his first attempt at
a semi-educational science-fiction show for the whole family. They're
interesting to us nowadays because they give some idea of what Newman
wanted DW to be like, and what it could've been like if Verity Lambert
and David Whittaker hadn't done such a good job of ignoring him
Known today as the "Pathfinders" series, these connected serials never
had one overall on screen title. They were co-written by future DW
stalwart Malcolm Hulke, and one of the stars was Gerald Flood, later
to play the ill-fated Kamelion. I'm going to be looking at these
serials (or at least the surviving ones) one episode at a time, and
posting my thoughts here.
However, the first serial "Target Luna" is missing, so that won't be
included. Apparently it showed how rocket scientist Professor
Wedgwood treats every day as bring-your-children-to-work-day. When
his pilot falls ill, the professor's youngest son sneaks aboard the
one-man space rocket in his place. Somehow the ground staff failed to
notice that the man was two-foot shorter and his spacesuit was a lot
baggier! (These people clearly aren't as professional as Quatermass's
Rocket Group!) Anyway, it all results in little Jimmy as the first
person to orbit the far side of the moon, being talked through the
controls by mission control, "Airplane!"-style.
For some reason, the story was popular, and a sequel was
commissioned. But all the main roles were recast. The original
actors (including future DW companion Michael Craze) weren't
considered good enough. Considering how awful their replacements
were, I'd hate to imagine how much worse the originals were!
So, we'll pick up the story at the start of the next serial,
"Pathfinders in Space."
solar penguin <[email protected]> writes:
>Oh, and the theme music for the closing titles seems to be the old
>"Quatermass and the Pit" theme, or something very similar anyway. Bit
>of a cheek, borrowing the tune from a much better series like that!
Your description of the series is ringing faint bells with me. I think
that I saw it when it was first broadcast. My eleven year old self
thought that it was very good. But having been converted to SF by the
"Dan Dare" strip in The Eagle, at that age I'd have thought almost
anything set in space was very good. :)
Johnson: "Well, we had a good talk."
Boswell: "Yes, Sir, you tossed and gored several persons."
Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-84); James Boswell (1740-95)
"Lunar Bridgehead" is a rather weak title for a rather weak episode.
It's mostly concerned with the practical technicalities of lunar
exploration. And, with hindsight, gets most of them completely wrong.
The cliffhanger reprise is re-enacted, with the unidentified spaceship
being seen on the periscope once again. Yes, periscope. The rockets
each have a big submarine-style periscope for seeing out! (I can't
help thinking of that scene with Shatner in Airplane II.)
The actual shot of the spaceship from nowhere is different this time.
Not necessarily bettter or worse, just different. It's now a model
shot, rather than a painting. This means there's some parallax as the
camera pans past, but it's a lot less detailed. The original painting
re-appears soon after as a background for when the rocket shoots past
with a near-miss.
The mysterious ship difts on, apparently in a fixed orbit.
There's some discussion over the radio about what just happened. I
should've said something about the two-way radios before now. They
have 'futuristic' handheld microphones with three rings/discs around
the end you speak into, making them look like something you'd find in
George Jetson's house!
Anyway, the upshot of the discussion is the Henderson is told to land
the supply rocket to avoid another collision with the mysterious
spaceship. Landing is done with the same mix of model shots and cut-
out animation as before, except the shot of the rocket passing behind
the stars in the background has been trimmed to be a bit shorter.
The rocket lands is a deep crater, 150 miles away from the main
rocket. Dr O'Connell is upset when he hears how far away the supplies
are. He's supposed to be Irish but his accent might as well be
Scottish, and it's easy to imaging him doing a Private Frazer, "We're
Back in the supply rocket, Geoffrey carries out the show's educational
remit as he lectures the other children about radio waves not
travelling past the moon's horizon because there's no atmosphere for
them to bounce off. At mission control, a technician called Jean has
to act as telephone operator relaying messages from one rocket to the
The educational stuff continues on the other rocket, as Professor
Meadows lectures her colleagues on the height of the Lunar Apennines
and the hot temperature of the moon's surface. (It's 215 Fahrenheit
in case you were wondering.) They're need to know this because
they're setting out to walk the 160 miles to the supply rocket. Well,
all except Ian, who's too bland to come.
The supply rocket's crew have been told to wait for them, which annoys
little Jimmy who's impatient to get out onto the moon's surface. (You
can just imagine him going "Are we nearly there yet? Are we nearly
there yet?" all the way from the earth to the moon!)
But even though they're waiting in the supply rocket, they've all
changed into spacesuits anyway. (This is because they'll need to go
out later and the "recorded-as-if-live" format won't give the actors
enough time to change costumes then.) The suits' helmets don't have
visors, in order to avoid reflecting the studio lights. Instead they
have thin metal crosses to symbolise where the visors would be. These
are made from straightened wire coathangers. But not very well
straightened, as the close-ups show!
More educational talk about radio waves leads to Henderson deciding to
take the portable radio up to the top of the crater's rim to get
better reception. He decides to take Jimmy and Valerie with him,
leaving Geoffrey to monitor the rocket's radio. No-one thinks of
contacting Earth to explain what they're doing, but luckily Jean
radios in as they're preparing to leave, and they explain it to here.
The rocket doesn't have an airlock. Everyone (including Geoffrey who
isn't going out) will have to be suited up when the door opens. Good
job they were already wearing them then! Hamlet the guinea pig
(remember him?) will have to be put in a spare helmet so he can
breathe, even though it doesn't seem to be connected to an air tank.
Jimmy's also having problems with his suit's air supply. This seems
to be scripted ("Why don't they make spacesuits in my size?" he
complains) but in the end the actors don't manage to get connected
properly and he steps out onto the lunar surface with a lose airhose.
He also forgets to turn on his suit radio. The strange thing is, he
can still talk and hear normally standing in the open doorway of the
airless rocket, but not once he's stepped outside! I'm not sure how
Talking of bad science, apparently Sting and Sir Isaac Newton were
wrong. Giant steps aren't what you take walking on the moon. This is
lampshaded by a throwaway line explain that the idea is pure "science
fiction." Even though you only have one sixth your normal weight, the
extra weight of your spacesuit cancels that out.
So that means a spacesuit weighs as much as five people. And it still
doesn't explain how you can just stroll around normally, since the
suit would still give you six times your normal mass, therefore six
times your normal momentum, despite the lower gravity,
If the show goes out of its way to lecture us about science, it might
at least try to get these things right.
(OTOH maybe I shouldn't complain too much. Lunar gravity was still
causing trouble for the BBC over twenty years later in Star Cops,
where people would bounce around realistically in spacesuits on the
moons surface, but walked normally inside the moonbase building!)
The ad-break cliffhanger is actually quite effective as Jimmy
discovers a small triangle carved into the rocky ground. If he'd
discovered something big and melodramatic, like an abandoned alien
spaceship, then it would've been too boring, too much of a cliche.
But a small triangle is just enough to make us curious.
We return to mission control, where once again there's an establishing
model shot showing both rockets still on the launch-pads. You'd think
that whoever was responsible for that mistake last week would've been
given a right good bollocking and told not to let it happen again.
There's a press conference going on, hosted by Jean who seems to have
taken time off from radio operator duties to avoid the need for hiring
another speaking actor. The journalists ask questions like, "Was
there ever any water in the lunar Seas? That's what our readers will
want to know," allowing her to do her share of the educational
The journalists don't believe the claims about the spaceship orbiting
the moon or the symbol on it, especially since the main witness is
Conway Henderson. Apparently he's not a very trustworthy or reliable
science journalist, with a reputation for inventing stories, which
makes it odd that he was the only one invited to watch the launch in
episode one. (Combine that with the rockets on the launch-pads and
you've got the makings of a great conspiracy theory!)
Meanwhile, back on the moon, Professor Wedgwood's team have found
another triangle carved into a rock. Professor Meadows describes them
as "hieroglyphics." Well, they may be glyphs, but the word
"hieroglyphics"ought to refer to a specific system of Egyptian glyphs,
and there's no evidence that these triangular wedges were carved by
Egyptians! (Yes I am nitpicking now, but considering how didactic and
educational this show tries to be, it really ought to make the effort
to avoid mistakes like that.)
And Geoffrey has been passing the time by making a spacesuit for
Hamlet the guinea pig. It looks like something the Blue Peter team
might make, complete with a couple of mini-oxygen cylinders made out
of pen lids. But he hasn't been able to make a cooling unit for it.
Instead there's two layers of glass-fibre insulation. (Well, it makes
a change from sticky-back plastic.) But it only gives two-hours
protection. As Geoffrey explains, this means that if you keep Hamlet
out on the lunar surface for longer, you'll have to open up your
spacesuit and slip him inside to let him cool down. (Geoffrey's
clearly inherited his father's grasp of practical strategic planning!)
Then, job completed, Geoffrey chats with Ian in the other rocket over
the radio. There's a rather embarrassing moment when the picture cuts
from Geoffrey's rocket to Ian's, but the sound effects don't switch
from Ian's distorted over-the-radio voice until ten seconds later.
They discuss the possibility of life on the moon, and Geoffrey
suddenly becomes all scared and does some some very bad acting: "Do
you (*pause while he glances nervously over his shoulders*) think
(*pause while he glances over his shoulders again*) they're still here
(*pause glancing over shoulders once more*) whoever they are?" Even
after the conversation's over, he continues to act like a poor man's
Willie Best for a minute or so, until he suddenly snaps out of it, and
becomes his usual patronising self again.
We cut back to Professor Wedgwood's team walking across the moon. Or
at least standing still waiting for the floor manager to cue them to
start walking. Once the scene begins for real, the Professor says,
"Well, there are the lunar Apennines." This is followed by the same
model shot that represents the crater and every other part of the
lunar surface. That just might be a deliberate in-joke, since they
soon realise they're lost, and they've only got five hours of oxygen
left. Given that it will take them days to walk 150 miles over steep
mountains, and they can only have been walking a few hours at most,
they should've thought about the oxygen issue before setting off!
Anyway, it gives O'Connell another chance to anticipate John Laurie's
acting style, which is fun.
It's approaching cliffhanger time. Back at the supply rocket, Jimmy
takes Hamlet to the crater's edge to show him the view. And falls
down a very, very obvious hole that he should've seen even while
holding a guinea pig. But that's not the cliffhanger.
Everyone rushes over to the deep hole, which turns out to to be an air-
shaft lined with metal. "This must be man-made... or made by some
creature like man," they helpfully explain for the benefit of any
viewers who might think that metal air-shafts are a natural part of
the lunar landscape. But that's not the cliffhanger.
At the bottom of the shaft, Jimmy and Hamlet are unharmed (pity!) and
in a dark cave. Luckily he's brought along an electric torch, even
though it was daylight on the surface. The movement of the studio
spotlight representing the torchlight isn't quite in synch with the
actor's movements. At one point it illuminates the back of his head
even though he's holding the torch in front of him. Anyway, as you've
probably guessed, he finds an abandoned alien spaceship. And, yes,
that's the cliffhanger. Oh well...
Visually, the general impression of this episode is of Hartnell-era-
style production values, with the same "recorded as if live"
approach. Hardly surprising with Sydney Newman as the man behind them
both. Even the caption naming the writers uses the same font!
In terms of plot, however, the general impression is that Buchan
Island rocket base needs someone like Professor Quatermass to take
over and force a bit of no-nonsense common sense into everyone
involved in the project. Sadly, that doesn't happen.
The episode opens with an all-too-obvious model shot of the Buchan
Island rocket base. The two rockets aren't bad, but the base's
buildings are obviously cardboard boxes with windows drawn on with
marker pen. This gives way to a brief clip of location footage that
doesn't match up with the model at all. Then we're into the studio
where we remain for the rest of the series.
Science journalist Conway Henderson (played by Gerald "Kamelion"
Flood) arrives to find the base entering a state of maximum security.
As well as having his ID checked, something that's apparently never
happened to him there before, he has to hand over any matches or
cigarette lighters and not even wear metal-tipped shoes because of
fire risk. Despite this, we later see Dr O'Connell, one of the
scientists, smoking a pipe, so presumably the fire regulations only
apply to those irresponsible, non-scientist types!
Despite this, Professor Wedgwood's three children Geoffrey, Valerie
and Jimmy, are still freely "running loose in the rocket site."
Although Jimmy does get stopped offscreen by security guards when he
tries to get into one of the actual rockets.
The professor gathers his children together to tell them that later
this evening he'll "be going away for three weeks" on a flight to the
moon. This is the first the children have heard of his plans.
There's no mention of what domestic arrangements will be for these 3
weeks, where he's left money for food, or anything like that. But
what do you expect from someone who's never even heard of a nanny!
Still, at least he won't have to worry about the kids wrecking their
house with wild parties while he's gone. Despite being made in 1960,
they look as though the teenage revolution of the fifties never
happened. They dress like miniature adults and are very, very polite
and well-spoken. Which, of course, just makes them even more annoying
brats than they already are!
Meanwhile Henderson, the journalist who's presumably been invited
there to cover the launch, still doesn't know what's going on at all.
The mission control crew aren't telling him anything, due to that
maximum security clampdown, but no-one's worried about him just
casually strolling around the place, watching and listening to
everything. Luckily the children can't resist giving him clues, and
he pieces all it together. He has quite a nice little speech about
the wonder of man going to the moon, which works well because Gerald
Flood is possibly the best actor (indeed the only good actor) in the
This is then followed by a didactic educational bit where he tells the
children about the origins of the moon. Interestingly, he explains
how it was ejected from the Earth's still-molten crust during
planetary formation. This is all mainstream science nowadays, but
very controversial stuff back in 1960, and it's nice to see it being
included here. (Of course, as we all know, just 10 years later
Malcolm Hulke had changed his mind and gone back to the "rogue planet"
theory just as that was about to be discredited! Oh well.)
Professor Wedgwood and his team enter their rocket and take off, all
dressed in shirts and sweaters, with no spacesuits to be seen. The
model work for the launch isn't great but better than that in
Quatermass 2, since the rocket is lifted from above rather than by a
big stick from the side. But this is followed by a cardboard-cutout
animation of the rocket in flight, looking like a cross between
Captain Pugwash and Terry Gilliam's animations for Monty Python's
The professor's rocket is due to be followed by an unmanned supply
rocket with food and fuel for the return journey. (Nice to see he's
remembered food for himself, even if he's leaving his kids to starve
for three weeks!)
But the professor's eldest son Geoffrey is allowed to help fix the
broken autopilot, and accidentally leaves his screwdriver on top of
the autopilot's casing. This somehow causes it to short circuit and
burn out completely beyond all hope of repair. (The dialogue implies
the screwdriver fell inside the wiring, but it's clearly seen just
rolling about on top of the casing when the circuit inside burns out.)
With no autopilot, and no-one at the base trained to pilot the supply
rocket in case of emergency, it looks like curtains for the mission.
Professor Wedgwood and his team will have to turn round and head back
to Earth. But then Henderson volunteers to fly it himself. He was an
RAF pilot during his National Service, and in theory flying a rocket
can't be that different from flying a plane!
For a brief moment it looks like common sense is going to prevail as
Wedgwood tells him over the radio, "You can't pilot a rocket just on
theory." But then one of his crew, Professor Mary Meadows, says
"Isn't that just what we're doing?" Yes, all three people on the
professor's rocket are academic scientists. Not one of them has any
kind of experience as a pilot or engineer at all.
In addition to Wedgwood and Meadows, the third scientist of the team
is Dr O'Connell, the pipe smoker who was unable to go for a few hours
without his nicotine fix back at the base, despite all the strict fire
regulations. I hate to imagine how he's going to cope without it for
three whole weeks!
Meanwhile, showing more common sense than he's ever shown in his life
before, Wedgwood instructs Henderson to take a couple of trained
technicians with him. Henderson ignores him and decides to take
Geoffrey and Jimmy along instead.
Jimmy smuggles his pet guinea pig Hamlet aboard with him. Hamlet also
accompanied him in his previous "Target Luna" space flight. You'd
think that one one experience of rodent piss and shit floating past
his head in zero gravity would be enough to convince him it's a bad
idea, but apparently not. He's obsessed with the creature to a degree
that borders on mental illness, and has spent most of the episode
showing it to everyone all the time.
Hamlet isn't the only stowaway. Valerie, jealous at being left behind
because she's a girl, has hidden on board too. At least she's
bothered to get herself a spacesuit, while the others are still
dressed in the clothes they've been wearing all day. And they don't
seem to have brought along any change of clothing, so I dread to think
what they'll be like when the 3 weeks are up!
The episode cliffhanger has Valerie collapsing unable to reach a seat
to protect herself from the g-force of take off. Mind you, it's lucky
a rocket that's supposed to be unmanned has lots of seats in it
'The World of Lost Toys' is another great episode title. Again, you
could imagine it being used on something like DW nowadays, perhaps for
the return of the Celestial Toymaker, or a sequel to that recent
episode with the doll's house.
But back to 'Pathfinders', and there's no way this episode is going to
live up to that title. But it's still better than most. And it shows
the earliest signs of one of Malcolm Hulke's recurring obsessions:
First Professor Wedgwood identifies the statue as a stalagmite that's
formed on and around the corpse of one of the alien spaceship's crew.
The reason it looks like a human is because of parallel evolution.
"Humans are the most practical size and shape for life on our planet.
That's why we've survived and become the leading species." (Tell that
to the insects!)
Back at the base (with that model shot showing the rockets still on
the launch pads) , the technicians are talking on the radio to Ian,
who's getting bored stuck in his rocket on his own, playing chess
against himself. (Despite this, he remains obediently there, radioing
in on schedule, and not wandering off without telling anyone. He
clearly doesn't belong on this mission.)
In the cave, Valerie is now looking at something through the
microscope. "So that's what radioactivity looks like," she says. No,
we don't get to see what it looks like, but I'd love to know. "Let
Hamlet have a look," says Jimmy, holding the guinea pig up to the
eyepiece when she's finished.
Meanwhile, Dr O'Connell has identified the stalagmite's rock as being
similar to that of Cambian formations on Earth. (Although IIRC
Cambrian rocks are mostly shale and stalagmites are mostly
limestone.) From this he somehow concludes that the corpse is 400
million years old. (Nowadays scientists think the Cambrian was 500
million years ago, but maybe they thought differently back then. Or
maybe Hulke was just doing his standard 'Silurian' trick of randomly
mixing-and-matching of eras and their interesting sounding names.)
More confusion about prehistory follows, as the scientists explain
that 400 million years ago, the 'trilobites' that evolved into all
Earth's land animals were just climbing out of the sea! OK, OK, these
are rocket scientists and astronomers, not biologists, but even
so...! (Later the reporter Henderson will describe this as before
evolution started on Earth, but that's presumably his just
journalistic hyperbole, rather than claiming that our trilobite
ancestors sprang fully formed from the hand of God.)
Jimmy and Valerie explore the tunnels some more, and find some stuffed
toys that haven't been turned into stalagmites during this time. In
fact, they look clean and new as if just made by the studio's prop
department. They also find a children's picture book, which helpfully
teaches us the alien characters for "organic life" and "inorganic
Fresh from this discovery, Jimmy goes on to find an air inlet in the
side of the alien spaceship. Of course it's exactly the right size
and shape to work with the hoses from their air tanks. Once the
pressure has been equalised, it's finally possible to open the ship.
As they do so, Valerie screams that she can see something moving
inside, and we go to the ad-break. As this show uses the same music
as 'Quatermass and the Pit', I can't help imagining those Martian
insects. If it turns out to be anything less, I'll be very
Back from the ad-break, and we get a padding scene with Ian playing
chess by radio against the base technicians, who are cheating by using
the computer. Fortunately those nice, friendly Soviets have been
eavesdropping in on the conversation, and their chess champion,
comrade Federovitch, helps Ian win. An sign of Hulke's interest in
Communism, perhaps. None of the English characters show any objection
to calling Federovitch, "comrade Federovitch", even though Hulke
must've known the significance of that.
Anyway, back on the moon, the alien spaceship is empty, and the
movement was just an interior hatch being blown by the breeze. Yes,
I'm very disappointed. Well, it's not quite empty. Valerie and Jimmy
find a cupboard that the adults missed, containing a log book and a
coil of wire. Professor Wedgwood quickly guesses that the coil is a
magnetic wire recording of a video signal. (So these aliens hadn't
even invented videotape?)
I'm not the only one finding all this hard to believe. Back on Earth,
Jean is having trouble persuading the press that it's true. But then
her colleagues bring news that a meteor shower is heading towards the
moon, and could damage the rockets.
She tries radioing to warn them, but Wedgwood's team are all so
excited about the discoveries they haven't left anyone monitoring the
The picture quality is much worse on this episode, with many dropouts
especially in the first half. In fact, none of the episodes have been
restored, or at least not to the standard that the RT do for the DW
DVDs. But this one is worse than most.
Anyway, the cliffhanger reprise is different from the ending last
week. We don't get to see Jimmy discovering the derelict spaceship.
Instead, we stay at the top of the shaft, and he shouts up that he's
Henderson climbs down the shaft to investigate, telling Geoffrey and
Valerie to stay behind. But they insist on following him because, "We
should stick together, Mr Henderson." Naturally no-one thinks of
radioing in to tell the other party what's going on!
In the cave, they find a lever at the bottom of the shaft. Henderson
tells Geoffrey not to touch it, and right away, Geoffrey does. The
hatch closes, sealing the shaft, trapping them. And only then do they
start to worry how the others will ever find them.
Not that the others are doing much better. Professor Wedgwood and his
team are lost and walking round in circles. "I recognise that rock,"
complains O'Connell, beating DW's "All these corridors look the same,"
by a good many years!
Despite this, Wedgwood announces they've past the point of no return,
and are now closer to the supply rocket than the first rocket. Even
though has no way of knowing this, since they're totally lost!
(Perhaps it's just empty morale raising rhetoric?) Anyway, they find
more little triangles, and decide they must be arrows marking the way
through the mountains.
There are more symbols being discovered by the kids in the cave.
Jimmy asks Hamlet the guinea pig if they're guinea pig language. But
he doesn't get an answer.
Ian, who was left behind in the first rocket, is talking to Jean at
mission control over the radio. He mentions that the suits can only
hold four hours of oxygen. Dialogue later in the episode confirms
this is four hours maximum. Which is odd because last week the suits
were down to five hours oxygen remaining after being in use for
However, it doesn't matter, since the Professor's party have reached
the supply rocket, where they can rest and refill their oxygen tanks.
But down in the cave, Henderson and the kids are running out of
oxygen. Apparently one of the main symptoms of oxygen starvation is
wild, melodramatic overacting before passing out. When everyone's
unconscious, the cave's main double doors swing open flooding it with
We're treated to a pointless sequence of Ian playing chess against
himself back in the rocket. It's not even necessary for technical
reasons, (e.g. giving other actors time to get into position for the
next scene) since there's an ad break here!
Back in the cave, it turns out the doors were opened by Wedgwood and
his party, who'd found the entrance, and have now revived their
unconscious colleagues with spare oxygen. Including Hamlet somehow,
even though his suit should be too small to connect to their air
Once all the reunions are over, they decide to make the cave their
base. It's doors are airtight, and there's an airlock, which is more
than there is on their rockets. They can flood it with oxygen and
have a breathable atmosphere. (I'm not sure how much oxygen it
would take to fill the large cavern and all its side tunnels, but
probably more than the couple of cylinders we eventually see being
Back on earth, there's once again an establishing shot of the base
with the rockets on the launch pads. This is the third week in a row,
so it must be deliberate. But why? Are these a couple of extra
rockets that the technicians built from scratch immediately after the
first ones took off?
Or are the astronauts still on earth, being brainwashed with
hallucinogenic drugs to make them think they're on the moon, as part
of some sinister experiment? That's the only thing which would
explain the momentum-defying spacesuits, the inconsistent timings, and
the general stupidity. And I think I know who's behind it... When
the radio technicians are sceptical about the Professor's report about
the abandoned spaceship, Jean suddenly gets very, very strict and
orders them to release it to the press anyway. It's as if she's up to
Meanwhile on the "moon" (yeah, right!) they've set up their base in
the cave, and are now examining the derelict spaceship. (In case
you're wondering, it's roughly the same size and shape as the one in
"Quatermass and the Pit", what a coincidence!) Despite not being able
to get into it, Prof Wedgwood is certain that it must've run on
"atomic power, it couldn't have been anything else." Ahh, that early
sixties optimism about all things nuclear!
Conversation is cut short by the discovery of water droplets dripping
from the roof. Dr O'Connell looks at the water under a microscope,
and everyone (except Jimmy who's too small to see over them) eagerly
gathers round to watch him, as though looking at a man looking into a
microscope is the most exciting thing ever. As a result of his
inspection, he announces that the water was originally vapour that
condensed and froze onto the ceiling and has now been melted by their
body heat. (He can tell that just by looking at it?)
While all this was going on, Hamlet wandered off into the tunnels, and
Jimmy ran off after him him, calling "I told you to stay where you
were." None of the human characters have stayed where they were when
told (apart from Ian, the living personification of blandness) so why
should the guinea pig be any different?
Valerie notices that Jimmy is missing, and wanders off to look for
him. At the end of a tunnel she finds a statue of a man. And she
screams because it's the cliffhanger.
Sorry, I forgot to add that the previous episode was called "Convoy to
the Moon", beating Roddenberry's "Wagon Train to the Stars" concept by
Episode 2 is called "Spaceship from Nowhere". Now that's a pretty
good title which hasn't dated much. You could imagine it being used
on something like DW nowadays.
Anyway, the episode opens with the reprise of the cliffhanger, re-
enacted rather than replayed from telecine. However, this is followed
by some reused film from last week: the cardboard cutout animation,
this time representing the supply rocket, rather than the main one.
Good job both rockets are totally identical, despite having been
designed for totally different purposes!
There's a lengthy montage sequence showing people around the world
watching or listening to the news about the moon mission. The British
and French are in bars, while the Canadians, Germans and Australians
are doing more wholesome if lonely pursuits. Of course, the show's
recorded-as-if-live approach means these places are all just
represented by one very small set each, in a different corner of the
studio. We don't see the USA or Russia at all, implying nobody in
those countries is interested in news about space research!
Professor Wedgwood is upset when he learns that Henderson has brought
the kids with him. He orders the supply rocket to remain safely in
Earth orbit, while the scientists in the first rocket continue out to
the moon, land, study it, and take off again without any food, fuel or
other supplies. Instead of pointing out the obvious flaw in this
scheme, Henderson and the kids agree, then pretend they can't enter
orbit without risking burning up the rocket in the atmosphere.
All this time, everyone's walking around normally, as if under Earth
gravity. Then the rocket passes out of the gravitational pull, and
the gravity is just switched off, instantly. This is represented by a
bad overlay of Jimmy floating up and down, his arms and legs vanishing
and reappearing, since the video effects weren't up to the task.
Luckily everyone else is wearing magnetic boots, so they aren't
affected. They even fall down and sit down normally, although that
can't be due to magnets, since apart from the boots they're wearing
their normal clothes. Even Valerie has changed out of her spacesuit
back into her chunky cable-knit cardigan!
Anyway, crossing the sudden boundary of Earth's gravity means the
supply rocket is unable to enter orbit, and has to accompany the main
rocket to the moon after all. The children are pleased. The
Suddenly, another TV news bulletin is telling us it's 48 hours later.
It's being watched in the same British bar as the previous one,
although the two girls playing its only customers have swapped seats
to denote the passage of time. They both look about 14, so there is
some teenage rebelliousness in this world after all, as kids sneak out
for a night of underage drinking and watching the news!
We see the moon lunar surface from the professor's rocket. It's a bit
like the "rolling log" effect of the Voga planet surface in "Revenge
of the Cybermen". Only it doesn't look as crap as that. In fact,
it's almost good by comparison.
Anyway, Professor Wedgwood has now decided that the supply rocket will
remain in orbit around the moon, while his team lands, spends weeks
studying it, and takes off again without any food, fuel or other
supplies. This time Dr O'Connell does spot the flaw, and refuses to
let the landing go ahead. (Personally, I think his supplies of pipe
tobacco are in the other rocket and he's just desperate for a smoke.)
Talking of the professor's team, when I listed them yesterday, I
forgot one of them: Ian. But that's not surprising as he's just so
bland. Not the old grumpy one like Dr O'Connell, or the female one
like Professor Meadows, or the leader like Professor Wedgwood. He's
just there, with no characteristics of his own. Even now I can't
remember his surname.
There's brief scene back at the mission control, introduced by a model
shot of the base exterior, showing the two rockets still in place on
the launchpads! (Now there's something for lunar-landing-hoax
conspiracy theorists to think about!)
Back on the rocket, Wedgwood tricks O'Connell into pulling the wrong
lever, causing the rocket to swerve, and O'Connell to conveniently hit
his head and knock himself out. (He falls downwards, of course,
despite the lack of gravity.) I suppose I'd better say something
about the control levers. They're great big things, over a metre
long, like something from a signal box or the engine room of a paddle-
steamer. On their own terms they look wonderful, but it's as if the
designer has never heard of these newfangled things called switches
With O'Connell out of the way the rocket can land on the moon.
There's another cardboard cutout animation showing it manoeuvring into
position. But despite a clean star-free path for it in the background
picture, the animated rocket still ends up missing it and passing
_behind_ the stars instead!
Leading up to the cliffhanger, there's a very long, supposedly funny
sequence where both the landed rocket and the orbiting supply rocket
spot something on the radar, each thinking it's the other. They talk
at cross purposes over the radio for what seems like ages, before they
realise it's a mysterious unidentified spaceship. And it's on a
collision course for the supply rocket!!!
Oh, and the theme music for the closing titles seems to be the old
"Quatermass and the Pit" theme, or something very similar anyway. Bit
of a cheek, borrowing the tune from a much better series like that!
John Hall wrote:
> My eleven year old self
> thought that it was very good.
I think it's very good too, but in a "so bad it's good" way. It's
like what you'd get if you asked Ed Wood to make a cross between
"Quatermass" and "Lost in Space". How could anyone not love that?
This is actually my second time watching the episodes, since I watched
them all in almost one go after getting the DVDs for Christmas.
This time, I'm going through them one episode a week, since that's how
they were supposed to be seen.