Fireball XL5

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Fireball XL5
Fireball xl5.jpg
Fireball XL5 title screenshot
GenreAction
Adventure
Children's
Science fiction
Space Western
FormatSupermarionation puppetry
Created byGerry Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
Written byGerry Anderson
Alan Fennell
Anthony Marriott
Dennis Spooner
Directed byGerry Anderson
David Elliott
Bill Harris
John Kelly
Alan Pattillo
Voices ofGerry Anderson (uncredited)
Sylvia Anderson
John Bluthal
David Graham
Paul Maxwell
Theme music composerBarry Gray
Charles Blackwell (lyrics)
Don Spencer (vocals)
Composer(s)Barry Gray
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Language(s)English
No. of series1
No. of episodes39 (List of episodes)
Production
Producer(s)Gerry Anderson
Editor(s)Gordon Davie
Eric Pask
CinematographyJohn Read
Ian Struthers
Camera setupSingle
Running time25 mins approx. per episode
(excluding advertisements)
Production company(s)AP Films
DistributorITC Entertainment
Broadcast
Original channelATV
Picture formatBlack and white
Film (35 mm)
Audio formatMono
Original run28 October 1962 (1962-10-28) – 27 October 1963 (1963-10-27)
 
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Fireball XL5
Fireball xl5.jpg
Fireball XL5 title screenshot
GenreAction
Adventure
Children's
Science fiction
Space Western
FormatSupermarionation puppetry
Created byGerry Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
Written byGerry Anderson
Alan Fennell
Anthony Marriott
Dennis Spooner
Directed byGerry Anderson
David Elliott
Bill Harris
John Kelly
Alan Pattillo
Voices ofGerry Anderson (uncredited)
Sylvia Anderson
John Bluthal
David Graham
Paul Maxwell
Theme music composerBarry Gray
Charles Blackwell (lyrics)
Don Spencer (vocals)
Composer(s)Barry Gray
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Language(s)English
No. of series1
No. of episodes39 (List of episodes)
Production
Producer(s)Gerry Anderson
Editor(s)Gordon Davie
Eric Pask
CinematographyJohn Read
Ian Struthers
Camera setupSingle
Running time25 mins approx. per episode
(excluding advertisements)
Production company(s)AP Films
DistributorITC Entertainment
Broadcast
Original channelATV
Picture formatBlack and white
Film (35 mm)
Audio formatMono
Original run28 October 1962 (1962-10-28) – 27 October 1963 (1963-10-27)

Fireball XL5 is a science fiction-themed children's television show following the missions of spaceship Fireball XL5, commanded by Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol. The show was produced in 1962 by husband and wife team Gerry and Sylvia Anderson through their company APF, in association with ATV for ITC Entertainment.

The show featured the Andersons' Supermarionation, a form of puppetry first introduced in Four Feather Falls (1960) and Supercar (1961) and used again in their subsequent productions such as Stingray and Captain Scarlet. Thirty-nine black and white half-hour episodes of Fireball XL5 were made on 35mm film: all future Anderson series were produced in colour.

Several Anderson series have been shown in syndication in the US, but Fireball XL5 is the only Anderson series to have run on a US network. NBC (the National Broadcasting Company) ran the series in its Saturday morning children's block from 1963 through to September 1965.

A similar program often confused with Fireball XL5 is Space Patrol (known as Planet Patrol in the US), produced by Gerry Anderson's ex business partner and co-founder of AP Films, Arthur Provis due to a number of similarities and settings.

The complete series is available on DVD in the UK, Australia, Canada and the US.

Contents

Setting

Set between the years 2062 and 2063, the series featured the missions of spaceship Fireball XL5, commanded by Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol. The crew included glamorous Doctor Venus, a doctor of space medicine; middle-aged navigator and engineer Professor Matthew Matic and co-pilot Robert, a transparent anthropomorphic robot who would most commonly proclaim ON-OUR-WAY-HOME.. Robert was the only character in an Anderson series that was actually voiced by Anderson himself, albeit with the aid of an artificial larynx.

In the series, the World Space Patrol is based at Space City, located on an unnamed island in the South Pacific, headed by Commander Zero. Zero is assisted by Lieutenant Ninety. For unspecified reasons the 25-storey T-shaped control tower at Space City rotates; in one episode a character inadvertently makes it rotate fast enough for those inside to suffer from vertigo.

Fireball XL5 patrolled Sector 25 of charted interstellar space (although there only appeared to be three sectors marked on the space chart seen in the Space City control room). The patrols were missions of three months duration but the ship was also on call when at base.

Fireball XL5 space ship

The patrol space ship Fireball XL5 takes off utilising a mile-long launch rail that culminates in a 40 degree incline, or sky ramp, which Anderson claims was inspired by an old Soviet design, a concept also used in the film When Worlds Collide.

The World Space Patrol included a fleet of at least 30 'Fireball XL' ships (an XL30 is referred to in The Firefighters episode), of which XL5 was the most famous. The ship itself is made up of two detachable sections. The winged nose cone, known as Fireball Junior contained the cockpit and separated from the main body to land on other worlds. The rest of the ship contained a navigation bay, laboratory, huge lounge, workshops and separate crews quarters, along with fuel and main nutomic rocket motors for interstellar travel. The ship would generally remain stationed in orbit after arriving at an alien planet. When Fireball XL5 returned to Space City, the whole ship would land horizontally (i.e. without separating) using its wings and retro-rockets. In the episode 'The Forbidden Planet', the aliens use a form of transporter (similar to that used in Star Trek, but of course pre-dating it) but this technology was not available to the World Space Patrol.

Inasmuch as the series used many classic early 20th-century science fiction themes reminiscent of the space opera of E. E. "Doc" Smith and because it was a children's show, it was not intended to be realistic. Fireball XL5 managed to travel handily around the galaxy without going faster than light (until the episode Faster than Light). The series observed few of the limitations of rocketry and only informed viewers that the ship's rocket motors were powered by a Nutomic reactor and that XL5 could safely travel at speeds of up to Space Velocity 7, which enabled her to reach the outlying star systems of charted space within a few months. Furthermore the crew never wore space suits; instead they took "oxygen pills" to survive in the vacuum of space, where they manoeuvred in zero gravity with the aid of thruster packs. They used neutroni radio, which allowed virtually instantaneous communication within the sectors of charted space. XL5 and her sister ships were fitted with gravity activators that generated artificial gravity fields within them.

Character voices

Regular characters were voiced by Paul Maxwell, Sylvia Anderson, David Graham and John Bluthal. In common with many of the Anderson puppet shows, most of the important characters have American accents, with some notable exceptions: Dr. Venus is French, Jock the engineer is Scottish and some of the aliens have remarkably sedate British accents (e.g. episode 33, the Day the Earth Froze). Language issues between alien races and Earth were rarely encountered as most races appeared to speak perfect English!

Theme song and merchandising

Fireball XL5 had separate opening instrumental theme music and a closing theme song. The closing theme, Fireball, written by Barry Gray and sung by Don Spencer, became a minor hit in Britain. Gray would have a long relationship with the Andersons' productions, writing themes for such series as Thunderbirds and Space: 1999. Don Spencer would become Australia's premier children's entertainer and founder of the Australian Children's Music Foundation. A group, The Flee-Rekkers, produced by Joe Meek, came out with an instrumental version in the style of Telstar.[1]

In addition to the theme song, the series spawned a number of other licensed merchandising spin-offs including toys, an MPC playset with rocket ship and figures, model kits including a plastic kit of Fireball XL5 itself, puppets, ray guns, comic strips and annuals. In Britain, a 2-page black-and-white Fireball XL5 comic strip appeared in the weekly TV Comic between 1962–1964 before moving to the newly launched weekly TV Century 21 comic in January 1965 for another 5 years. The strips that appeared between 1965–1968 were in colour only reverting to black-and-white in 1969. Four hard cover Annual books were published in Britain by Collins between 1963–1966 featuring colour and black and white comic strip and text stories, while in the United States Gold Key Comics printed a single-issue colour comic book in 1963. Little Golden Books published a hard-cover colour illustrated story book in 1964 (later released as 'Fireball XL5 – A Big Television Book' in Britain).

During the mid 1960s there were also three soft cover colouring/puzzle books published in Britain and one soft cover colouring/story book published in the United States.

Home video releases

Like most of Anderson's Supermarionation series, this one was given a "complete series" release in Region 1 by A&E Home Video.[2] A Region 2 version featuring new bonus material was released on DVD in those territories in 2009, superseding a 2004 release with no extras. On 22 October in Region B territories, an individual Blu-ray featuring a colorised version of the episode A Day in the Life of a Space General was released. The disc also includes an episode of Four Feather Falls and an extended version of the Wonderland of Stardust documentary released as a bonus on the Region B box set released earlier in 2009. [1]

Cast of characters

Planets

Many episodes of Fireball XL5 were set on exotic planets:

Episode list

Fireball XL5 in other media

Translations

References

  1. ^ http://www.rockabilly.nl/references/messages/flee-rekkers.htm
  2. ^ Amazon.com – Fireball XL5 – The Complete Series (1963)
  3. ^ YouTube video clip.
  4. ^ YouTube video clip from CBS channel

External links