Colonel Steve Zodiac was British TV's first real space hero.
A square-jawed champion of the underdog and protector of the
space lanes which he patrolled in Fireball XL5, the
flagship craft of the World Space Patrol. For 39 black and
white episodes Zodiac and his crew thrilled young British
viewers, in the process helping launch the career of Gerry
and Sylvia Anderson. The year was 1962...
40 years later and Steve Zodiac is back thanks to Carlton
Visual Entertainment which is issuing the show on DVD - loving
restored and digitally remastered. Fireball XL5 has
already been released as a five-disc set on Region 1 DVD by
A&E Video in the USA, with extras including photo galleries,
audio commentaries on two episodes by voice artist David Graham
and director Alan Pattillo, and a featurette on TV 21 Fireball
XL5 artist Mike Noble. Unfortunately, these are missing
from the UK release.
photo galleries are no great loss - they were just frame grabs
from episodes rather than proper production stills - but the
commentaries are great fun as is the Mike Noble featurette.
Just why this was included on the US release isn't clear as
TV 21 never appeared in the States which makes its
omission here all the more annoying. However, Carlton wanted
to keep the price down so Fireball XL5 gets a 100%
vanilla release in Region 2.
good news is that the PAL transfers looks stunning, noticeably
sharper than the admittedly crisp A&E discs. And better still,
the show really holds up well. Its mix of comedy and thrills
stands the test of time and some of the directing is really
excellent, especially the occasional use of deep focus by
Pattillo, a trick not employed in later shows.
essence Fireball XL5 - a name inspired by a brand of
engine oil - is not really that different to Stingray,
the Anderson's next puppet adventure. Perhaps it's a little
more playful and a little less slick but what it lacks in
polish it more than makes up for in energy and pace.
Anderson fans this box set is a must. Buy it or you'll be
a 'Real Tootie'.
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