FIREBALL   XL5

 

 

Fireball XL5 takes us out to the furthest reaches of the galaxy with the dashing Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Fleet. Together with Professor Matt Matic, space Doctor Venus and Robert the Robot, he pilots the superpowered spaceship Fireball XL5 through the distance frontier of Galactic Sector 25. There, he encounters many strange alien life forms and perilous situations, in Gerry Anderson`s first Supermarionation venture into Outer Space....

 

Episode Listing

1 Pilot (Planet 46) 25th March 1963
2 Spy in Space 1st April 1963
3 The Doomed Planet 8th April 1963
4 Space Immigrants 15th April 1963
5 Plant Man From Space 22nd April 1963
6 The Sun Temple 29th April 1963
7 XL5 to H2O 6th May 1963
8 Space Pirates 13th May 1963
9 Flying Zodiac 20th May 1963
10 Space Pen 27th May 1963
11 Space Monster 3rd June 1963
12 The Last of the Zanadus 10th June 1963
13 Planet of Platonia 17th June 1963
14 The Triads 24th June 1963
15 Wings of Danger 1st July 1963
16 Convict in Space 8th July 1963
17 Space Vacation 15th July 1963
18 Flight to Danger 22nd July 1963
19 Prisoner on the Lost Planet 29th July 1963
20 The Forbidden Planet 29th July 1963
21 Robert to the Rescue 12th August 1963
22 Dangerous Cargo 19th August 1963
23 Mystery of the TA2 26th August 1963
24 Drama at Space City 2nd September 1963
25 1875 9th September 1963
26 The Granatoid Tanks 16th September 1963
27 The Robot Freighter Mystery 23rd September 1963
28 Whistle for Danger 30th September 1963
29 Trial by Robot 7th October 1963
30 A Day in the Life of a Space General 14th October 1963
31 Invasion Earth 21st October 1963
32 Faster than Light 28th October 1963
33 The Day the Earth Froze 4th November 1963
34 The Fire Fighters 11th November 1963
35 Space City Special 18th November 1963
36 Ghosts of Space 25th November 1963
37 Hypnotic Sphere 2nd December 1963
38 Sabotage 9th December 1963
39 Space Magnet 16th December 1963

 

Episode 25 - 1875 - Professor Matic invents a Time machine, and when Steve, Venus and Commander Zero stumble into it, they're transported back to the Old West, in the year 1875. Steve takes a job as a sheriff in a one-horse-town, while Venus and Zero become bank robbers ...

This episode takes a great idea - the XL5 crew travelling through Time - and squanders it in an ill-thought-out, badly-paced runaround. The pacings the main problem with this episode; the main plotline doesn't start until ten minutes into the episode, with the intervening time spent in a lengthy comic-relief sequence as Matic tests the Tim machine. Now, I know that television was more slowly-paced back then, but in this instance, it doesn't leave much time for messing about in the Wild West - which is surely the point of the whole exercise.

 

Matters don't  improve much once the XL5 crew arrive at their destination. As soon as they turn up in the Old West, they immediately start acting out of character; Steve merrily takes a job as a Sheriff, while venus and Zero just decide, for no obvious reason, to become bank robbers. Not once do they show the slightest bit of concern for the fact that they're stranded out of their own time. Now, I`m not expecting Twelve Monkeys here, but it's as though the writer couldn't think of a decent reason why the characters would start acting out other roles - so they do so anyway.

Oh, and there's the fact that the plot is resolved by Matic twiddling a dial, Yes, it's a fun little runaround - but even a child in the target age range would pick up on the inconsistencies outlined above. Really, the problem with this episode is that it's a wasted opportunity - it could've been a great little Cowboys and Injuns story, but instead its just a mess.

 

 

Episode 7 - XL5 to H2O - Space City receives a distress call from an outpost under attack by a monstrous Aquaphibian and Fireball XL5 is despatched to investigate.

This is a simple, but very entertaining monster story. It seems to be something of a precursor to Stingray, with its early use of underwater effects, and the Aquaphibian monster, who would later lend its name to the species commanded by Titan, It's an entertainingly creepy creation, with its leering grin and gas-gun, although its motivation is, admittedly, a little shaky. We have no idea what its doing on the planet in the first place, or why it wants to do away with the scientists in the outpost - but hey, this is a 25-minute kids show, it's enough that its an Evil Monster. In any case, it makes for a deliciously dark opening sequence, as the creature gleefully massacres a group of innocent scientists.

 

The story packs a lot of incident into such a short time, as the crew of Fireball XL5 encounter a succession of obstacles; the corrosive gas fired by the Aquaphibian`s gun, rescuing the trapped survivors from the outpost, escaping the Aquaphibian itself. The pacing's slightly odd, but that's a hallmark of Anderson's work, what with the on-screen acting being dictated by the limitations of the puppetry. Consequently, we get a lengthy comic-relief sequence of Professor Matic testing out different methods of shielding the craft against the Aquaphibian`s weaponry. There's an odd little contrivance later on, when the XL5 crew and survivors of the massacre - who, incidentally, have the strangest accents known to man - hide out in a cave which just happens to be equipped with a TV screen. What are the chances, eh?

There's no denying that the effects are primitive, though what Anderson's crew was able to accomplish with its limited resources is remarkable in the context of the time in which it was made. It even has certain advantages, the Aquaphibian's puppet-walk lends it an unearthly air, and the effects employed when Matic's testing Fireball Junior's defences are undeniably impressive.