Space Patrol out on Blu-ray

Friday, 13 August 2010 14:01

Well, would you believe it? A new release of a couple of episodes of Space Patrol on Blu-ray, available as a web exclusive from the Network website. This is a series that has been intertwined with the history of the Cult TV organisation. As part of the Student Union society at Wolverhampton University, we managed to get hold of a copy of an episode to screen. In 1994, in the run-up to our first Festival, we sought to find the original prints to encourage a video release. In 1998, those initial video releases were celebrated at our Festival that year. And now, through the miracles of technology, here it is given a new lease of life.

This is Earth. The year is 2100. And here we see this 1963 series in a quality you would have never thought possible, especially as it hasn’t been seen on British television since 1968. Only two episodes remain in their original 35mm film format and these have been freshly transferred in High Definition and restored especially for this release.

Space Patrol has two episodes appear on Blu-rayGalasphere 347 and its intrepid crew take exploratory voyages around the solar system, trying wherever possible to keep a thread of scientific accuracy throughout their adventures.

The characters and their voices include the heroic Captain Dart (Dick Vosburgh – a prolific comedy writer who appeared onscreen in an episode of Monty Python), elfin-like Slim, nosh-mad Husky and Irish genius Professor Haggerty (Ronnie Stevens – May to December, Rumpole of the Bailey); the boss Colonel Raeburn (Murray Kash – Danger Man, Out of the Unknown) and his super-efficient secretary Marla (Libby Morris – “United 93”, Mystery and Imaginaion, and Ysanne Churchman – Alpha Centauri in Doctor Who) and mad Martian parrot Gabbler (Libby Morris).

Also included, as a special feature, is a brand new 35mm HD restoration of the unseen pilot for Paul Starr. Despite regional and patchy screenings in the UK, Space Patrol (aka Planet Patrol in the USA) proved quite a success for the production team of Roberta Leigh and Arthur Provis. The interest from the American market in particular dictated that the pilot episode for their next concept in 1964 should be filmed in colour.  As the introductory tagline puts it:

Atomic explosions ... fire on land ... sabotage in the air ... introducing Paul Starr, Space Agent.  Wherever there's danger, you'll find the men of the Space Bureau of Investigation.

The story sees SBI agent Paul Starr attempt to save an atomic power station on Mars from attack. Voicing the dashing hero was none other than Ed Bishop, pre-Captain Scarlet. Peter Reeves (later a foil in It’s Tommy Cooper) uttered the words for Lightning, The Chief and a Martian Aide. Patricia English (a well known Cult TV face from appearances in the likes of The Avengers, Department ‘S’, Jason King, The Champions and The Baron) was Dr Lesley Mann. Finally, moving over from his lead role in Space Patrol, Dick Vosburgh voiced the opening narration, as well as Rex, General Darinx, The Martian President, and various Martians and Robots.

Reports of the death of Blu-ray as a medium again seem to be in error. There is a quantum shift in the quality of the production when viewed in this format, and although in many respects it unmasks many of the production techniques (and strings!), it simply adds to the enjoyment of watching these couple of episodes with such clarity.  Roll on Robin of Sherwood and Space: 1999, due later this year in Blu-ray from Network!

On this Blu-ray you’ll also find an extensive image gallery to drool over. One begins to wonder, when ITV4 goes HD later in the year, whether they will be looking to screen these and other gems of the 1960s and 1970s that survive as 35mm prints, and can therefore make the step up to High Definition. The current reliance on ITC filmed product peppered across ITV4’s schedules suggests that someone in programme acquisition MUST be thinking of this as a possibility.  After all, moving away from such a staple of their output isn’t necessary if they can sell the benefits of being able to view these wonderful old shows like never before.

That said, us collectors will continue to ensure we have these shows in our own personal collections – it’s the thing that people worried about the death of actual physical product in this high-tech era just don’t understand: we buy our programmes on disc as much for the packaging as for the product!

You can find a mine of further information at the Space Patrol website.

Space Patrol Blu-ray is out now from Network, with a running time of 75 minutes approx, a ‘U’ certificate, and a 1080p HD 4:3 ratio. The retail price is £12.99 or less, and is available exclusively from the Network DVD website.



Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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