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Pathfinders in Space - To Mars - To Venus

Posted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:44 pm
by John
This ABC Television series from 1960 was one of the first that really excited me and led me to a love of Science Fiction. Something to dream about!

Gerald Flood starred as Conway Henderson, an ex-jet pilot who travels to the moon along with a mixture of scientists and children. Yes, children. We certainly have to suspend our disbelief when kids are taken along "because she's good at cooking"! However, despite some real howlers the basic premise of the serial is quite sound and it moves along surprisingly well considering its technical infancy.

The discovery of a lost civilisation on the moon is well carried off, as is the disovery of its abcient spacecraft, but the thousands-of-years-old children's toys found would have been better had they not been 20th century cuddly toys looking as though they had been bought by the props department that morning. I remembered quite a lot of the serial, which is imprssive seeing I had a 50 year gap before this second screening. We were amused by the linking pauses caused by the wait for some characters to quickly move to another set. This consisted of characters suddenly giving significant looks to camera and gazing meaningfully into space. Hilarious after a while....

The second serial becomes Pathfinders to Mars when Harcourt Brown (played by George Couloris) hijacks the spacecraft and they detour to Mars. Did I mention the pet Guinea Pig Hamlet? Hamlet went to the moon, and goes to Mars as well. Brown is of course a maniac, convinced that intelligent life is on mars and Venus. On the return journey, which becomes Pathfinders to Venus Brown hijacks the ship again to detour to Venus in search of that life. Venus is portayed as a prehistoric swamp, complete with monsters and primitive men, but that was the general opinion of early 1950s SF.

Brown stays on Venus and they escape thanks to a visiting Russian rocket. There's already an American one on Venus. Such a small solar system!

Despite the fact this sounds pretty dire, in fact it's done quite well, and the production crew and cast can hold their heads up high. TV was very limited in 1960-61 and what capability they had they used to the full. Creator was Sydney Newman, and his next project of course took him to the BBC and the creation under his wing of a new, better made serial called Doctor Who.

Rating considering the limitations: 4s