Before Thunderbirds …
Before Star Trek …
And after Forbidden Planet, there was …
Yes, in the year 2100, Galasphere 347 patrols the solar system, making sure everyone’s safe from interplanetary extortionists, hostile aliens, rampaging robots and runaway asteroids.
Captain Larry Dart, the handsome Earthman whose beard actually saves his life.
Husky, the engineer, the perpetually-hungry Martian who sounds like a drugged-out Popeye.
Slim, the science officer, the always-logical Venusian with slanted eyebrows and speaks “with alacrity,” predating a certain Vulcan by four years.
The unnamed Robot, who marches in the engine room whenever the ship makes a landing.
Colonel Raeburn gives the orders, usually from his high-tech office, but occasionally from his Turkish baths. His lovely Venusian secretary, Marla, rarely makes a mistake and reminds him that blondes from Venus are not dumb.
Whenever United Galactic Organization is threatened, Raeburn relies upon Irish genius Professor Aloysius O’Brien O’Rourke Haggerty to whip up an invention to save the day.
Interplanetary travel still takes months to the outer planets, so the astronauts have to spend time in the “freezer,” in suspended animation. Miraculously, on Earth, the year remains 2100 for the entire series.
Produced in the U.K. by Roberta Leigh and Arthur Provis — with Leigh writing all 39 episodes — the series aired April 7, 1963 through June 11, 1964. In the U.S. it was known as Planet Patrol, to avoid confusion with the live-action Space Patrol radio and TV series from the 1950s. At one point the negatives were presumed destroyed, except Leigh had a cache of 16mm prints in her home, and two 35mm prints were found elsewhere. Now, thanks to YouTube, the entire series is available online for everyone to enjoy, and in color, starting with “The Swamps of Jupiter.”
The 18th episode, “The New Planet,” has our heroes visit a planet of giants. Four years later, Irwin Allen’s series, Land of the Giants, landed on the airwaves. Inspired by “The New Planet,” perhaps?
With the exception of Mercury, the planets in our solar system are occupied by sentient life forms. Saturn happens to have a swampy surface, under which live the amphibious Saturnians. These creatures are featured in three stories:
In Episode 08: “The Rings Of Saturn,” Captain Dart’s crew engages in “First Contact” with the species, but angers them when he takes some leaves for analysis.
In Episode 22: “The Miracle Tree Of Saturn,” a greedy video technician stows away on Galasphere 349 without going through decontamination. When they arrive on Saturn, he leaves the craft and infects the indigenous population with his cold. Pretty heavy stuff for kids.
Even though they’re puppets, I love the way the Saturnians move. Here:
In Episode 35: “The Grass Of Saturn,” the Saturnian leader Riga is ousted by his brother Simba, who blankets the earth with grass that emits carbon dioxide.
Our heroes need to eliminate the toxic grass and save the deposed ruler. Watch Husky knock out a Saturnian:
Click here for a comprehensive website that tells you a lot about Space Patrol.
One enterprising fan has constructed a CG model of the Galasphere, posted online April 16, 2013. Check it out:
So, what’s a Gabblerdictum? That’s a Martian parrot, owned by Husky, who spends a lot of time at Professor Haggerty’s lab. From Episode 34, “The Hairy Men Of Mars,” watch him visit Space Patrol’s “rest room” at 13:59:
What a clever bird, that Gabbler. He’s even smarter than Jar Jar Binks!