Forty years ago, the legendary producer Gerry Anderson launched a way-out series set a century ahead of its time. Far beyond the solar system, Colonel Steve Zodiac, commander of the spaceship Fireball XL5, and his trusty crew patrol the vast reaches of Sector 2Fans of Anderson's Thunderbirds and Space 1999 will be amazed by his early mastery of supermarionation techniques. Now all 39 otherworldly adventures of his groundbreaking cult hit have been re-mastered and arranged in original production order. In vivid black and white. 16 hours 54 min. on 5 DVDs.
Producer Gerry Anderson is something of a legend in his native England, based primarily on the popular TV series Thunderbirds
, its various spinoffs, and this, its 1962-'63 predecessor. All were produced in "Supermarionation"; i.e., they're puppet shows--not especially sophisticated ones (to say the least), but ones that many viewers seemed to adore. This five-disc boxed set contains all 39 episodes of Fireball XL5
, totaling nearly 17 hours (plus extras).
The stories concern the efforts of captain-hero Steve Zodiac and his crew (including Steve's love interest and a talkative robot, voiced respectively by Anderson's then-wife Sylvia and Anderson himself; the pair were also cowriters) to protect "Sector 25" of the solar system from alien invasion. They battle killer rays and alien criminals, visit mysterious planets, and escape from all manner of perilous circumstances... they use ray guns and fly around with "thrust packs" and on "jetmobiles" (reducing the need for walking, which puppets don't do so well)... in other words, typical sci-fi fare. But while the animation is laughable (little attempt was made to disguise the strings that hold up puppets and props alike) and the effects primitive, there's no denying the show's campy charm (indeed, people who study such things consider it to be an important influence on the sci-fi genre in general). Is it a bit too much of a good thing? Probably not for anyone willing to make the investment. DVD extras include photos, a couple of featurettes, and audio commentary on two episodes (voice actor David Graham on "The Doomed Planet" and director Alan Pattillo on "Space City Special"). --Sam Graham