Ultimate Fireball XL5 DVDs

Sunday, 28 June 2009 11:08

Covering the years 2062-2063, World Space Patrol starship Fireball XL5 is assigned to Sector 25, where intrepid pilot Steve Zodiac, ably assisted by uberbabe Doctor Venus and bumbling boffin Professor Matthew Matic, faces such dangers as planetomic missiles, explosive gas clouds, space spies, and alien races, both trigger-happy and benign.

This definitive six disc special edition box set, out now from Network DVD (and not to be confused with previous UK releases), comprises all 39 half-hour episodes of Fireball XL5, together with the first full-length colourisation of an episode, two brand new documentaries (one on the series, one on the comic adaptions of the early Anderson shows), a 60 page commemorative booklet by TV historian Andrew Pixley and much, much more.  This ‘Network’ treatment for the series has been well worth the wait.

The ultimate release of Fireball XL5 on DVD

 

Since the series got its first UK transmission in October 1962, and its networking across the USA, the series has for many Anderson fans of a certain age become one of their favourite TV moments of all time.  Indeed, Network DVD even organised a special launch event in London for this release, a first for the company, which gives you an idea of its significance.

The secret of its success is down to the characterisation. Steve Zodiac is more than just a square-jawed hero, he actually gets frustrated by authority and reveals his humanity on many occasions.  Love interest Dr Venus, voiced by Sylvia Anderson (who also directed the dialogue recording sessions), has an eastern European lilt to her voice. Whilst occasionally in storylines she does the usual female-trips-up into-trouble, and is subject to sexism in the dialogue (in particular from Jock the Engineer), rest assured that in 1962 having a strong female lead was a major innovation.

In support is Commander Zero, the head cheese of the World Space Patrol operation, who is gruff, short-tempered and doesn’t suffer fools gladly.  The enthusiastic but insecure Lt Ninety is his right-hand man, always wanting to please but aware of his own limitations.

Co-piloting XL5 is Robert the Robot, famously voiced by Gerry Anderson himself – and even this transparent-cased android has his own character, steaming up whenever he is given conflicting orders.

Finally on the regular cast list is the pet space alien, Zoonie the Lazoon.  Strangely, on the “Wonderland of Stardust” documentary, there is no love lost for this cute little creature.  Indeed, the number of production personnel who think that Zoonie is NOT cute is quite concerning – I am sure that children at the time loved him (and there’s even a picture of yours truly in his cot in 1964 with a Zoonie soft toy by my side!).  Zoonie, like many pets, is inquisitive and well-meaning, a combination that often leads to trouble (and yes, many times with ‘hilarious consequences’!).

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XL5 is a fun series, suitable for children of all ages (from 4 to 94), and even today has a charm that means that only the most cold-hearted wouldn’t enjoy watching an episode or two.  Needless to say, no doubt some Aspartame-haggled folk will moan that it’s in black and white, but the restoration of the episodes masks its age and makes up for this limitation.

 

SPECIAL FEATURES:

A WONDERLAND OF STARDUST - A brand new documentary about the making of Fireball XL5 featuring contributions from creators Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson, as well as numerous members of the crew including David Elliott, Alan Pattillo and Brian Johnson.

DRAWN IN SUPERMARIONATION - This new, exclusive documentary chronicles the comic strip adaptations of the early AP Films series and features contributions from director of merchandising Keith Shackleton and artists Bill Mevin, Mike Noble and Colin Page.

“A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SPACE GENERAL” - A brand new, colourised edition of the final episode Fireball XL5 filmed, taken from a new HD transfer of the original film elements.

BILL MEVIN’S SUPERCAR HOME MOVIE – A previously unseen footage filmed by TV Comic artist Bill Mevin during production of Supercar.

ZOOM ICE LOLLY ADVERTS - Two commercials, done at the time when fans of Fireball were fobbed of with collectors’ cards of aircraft and trains as freebie with their ices – not exactly a perfect fit with the XL5 brand!

IMAGE GALLERIES - Extensive promotional pictures from the show, many in colour (which were obviously used as reference for the colourisation of the final episode on this set), plus behind-the-scenes images.

 

As per several recent Network DVD releases, this release will be in special limited edition packaging, before a more traditional release follows it (as was the case with Danger Man and The Prisoner).  So, don’t leave it too long to grab hold of your copy.

The one question that is posed by this release is whether now the two biggest series in the Anderson canon – Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons – will be allowed by ITV to be given the ‘Network’ treatment.  You can guarantee that Network will want to work their spell over these shows (Thunderbirds, in particular, needs to be released in the UK in its new, digitally restored version).  We just need to keep our fingers crossed on this; giving the next release of these shows to anyone but Network will mean that prospective purchasers will be short-changed.

The running time for the episodes on this set of Fireball XL5 is around 975 minutes, certificate ‘U’, and the RRP is £59.99 – or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

FIREBALL XL5

39 episodes x 25 mins

APF/ATV/ITC (1962)

 

Cast:

Paul Maxwell – Col Steve Zodiac

David Graham – Prof Matt Matic, Lt Ninety, Zoonie the Lazoon

Sylvia Anderson – Dr Venus 

John Bluthal – Cmdr Zero, Jock

Gerry Anderson – Robert The Robot

 

Producer - Gerry Anderson

Directors - Gerry Anderson, Alan Pattillo, David Elliott, John Kelly, Bill Harris

Associate Producer - Reg Hill

Art Director - Bob Bell

Special Effects - Derek Meddings

Music - Barry Gray

Title Music Arranger - Charles Blackwell

Production Supervisor - David Elliott

Directors of Photography - John Read, Ian Struthers

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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