"I wish I was a spaceman, the fasted guy alive." Unfortunately
for Anthony Clark the job's already been taken by that square-jawed
hero, Steve Zodiac...
XL5, the sequel to Supercar marks the start of
the truly great Anderson-produced puppet show. Its 39 episodes,
made way back in 1961, may be black and white but the show's
colourful style and presentation more than make up for the
monochrome picture. And with the show slated for a DVD release
there's never been a better time to cast our eyes back 40
years to the launch of a passed-over classic.
premise for Fireball XL5 is hardly rocket science -
Steve Zodiac is the pilot of the eponymous rocket, a fantastic
craft that takes our hero deep into space where he faces the
mysteries and dangers of the unknown. His crew and able companions
comprise of Venus - a space doctor - Robot the robot (voiced
by Gerry Anderson himself) and the slightly dotty scientist
Matt Matic. That's it - that's the premise.
when you sprinkle the episodes with humour, lace them with
action and tie them up with Barry Gray's fantastic music the
result transcends the show's rudimentaries, transforming it
into something enduringly special. You want proof? Okay, how
many other TV shows from 1961 warrant a remastered and restored
release of their entire run?
of the show will attest to the staying power of Plant Man,
Space Spy or the Subterraneanians. And even the slightly rickety
launch sequence - with the smoke from XL5's rocket engine
casting a show up the sky - can still quicken the pulse of
even the most sated aficionado.
truth Fireball XL5 is not as well made as its immediate
successor, Stingray, but its production values are
still very high and speak of a time when children's TV was
lavished with a level of care that is sadly lacking today.