Tag Archives: supercar

[January 16, 1962] Accidents (un)happen (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 13-16)

by Gideon Marcus

It is common practice in statistics to average out data over time in a rolling fashion.  This gives you smoother lines, free of the jagged spikes of noisy data.  For the last several months, The Twilight Zone has shown a definite tendency toward the lower end of the quality scale, at least in comparison with its brilliant earlier seasons. 

But, I’m happy to report that the last month (ending January 5, anyway) showed a distinct and sustained improvement.  I’ll let the Young Traveler do most of the talking this time around since I find I don’t have much to improve upon her insights!

(Once upon a time, written by Richard Matheson and featuring the great Buster Keaton as a janitor who is propelled from the late 19th Century into the world of today…)

by Lorelei Marcus

Going into these four weeks, I was really dreading what was to come. Prior experience had given me doubts about the quality of these most recent Twilight Zone episodes. Thankfully, this time around, you will not have to hear me rant about how awful these past few episodes were!

To start us off, we had a charming little episode about a man from 1892. He goes to the present (1962) and finds a large scientist who just so happens to be obsessed with that earlier time period. I won’t say much more about the plot since I highly recommend you see the episode yourself. It did give us a lot of laughs, and was partly shot in the old, silent movie style. This was definitely a breath of fresh air from the usual grim twilight zone themes.

(Five Characters in Search of an Exit, adapted by Rod Serling from a story by Marvin Petal, whose title is literally descriptive…)

This second episode did return to a darker feel, but this time it was done fairly well. The episode started out with a small group of oddly specific but different people. A soldier, clown, ballerina, hobo and piper stuck in a completely metal prison, but with an open top. Despite guessing the answer at pretty much the beginning of the episode, it still managed to reveal just little enough information to keep it interesting.  At one point I wondered if this was a metaphor for depression, that feeling of being trapped with no exit, accepting the hopelessness of escape, and eventually giving up entirely.  Just to keep you on your toes, I won’t tell you the ending. I do recommend you watch this episode yourself. Even though me and my father predicted many things that happened, it never felt like the episode went on for too long, which frankly, is a real treat these days.

(A Quality of Mercy, adapted by Rod Serling from an idea by Sam Rolfe, in which an American platoon Lieutenant must weigh the virtues of assaulting a beleaguered Japanese position on the eve of V-J day…)

Unfortunately, this batch was not quite four for four. At least this episode was forgettable enough that I could pretend it didn’t happen at all! Alas no, I must do a review on it for you readers, so here I go. As I said before, the episode itself was entirely mediocre, but I did like the message and the effects. “Everyone is human, even if they are the enemy” is a great lesson that I think to be very true. The makeup was fairly impressive at making one of the actors look asian, and the Japanese accents weren’t completely atrocious. I would recommend spending your 20 minutes in a more productive manner, but I will not stop you from watching this episode.

by Gideon Marcus

My problem with this episode was absence of crisis.  Rather than allowing the Lieutenant to learn from his jaunt through the Twilight Zone, and then let the audience judge the wisdom of his actions, instead decisions are made for the protagonist, and the whole plot sort of meanders along without influence by the show’s participants.  More tightly written, and with actual consequences, this could have been a great one.  C’est la TV.

(Intermission, in which the Traveler family detours away from The Twilight Zone by way of The Twilight Zone…)

by Lorelei Marcus

Before we watched this fourth episode, my dad got caught up in the game show, The Price Is Right, where people were bidding on this cool looking soda fountain! When it ended we changed the channel and started watching. The episode had a much different feel this time, being more of a comedy sitcom rather than the usual Twilight Zone format. The twist seemed to be that one of the cast members was a talking horse! Oh wait a minute, we weren’t watching Twilight Zone, we were watching Mr. Ed! Oops.

So Mr. Ed finishes and we go to watch Twilight Zone. Perhaps, we thought, we would be able to catch the end of it, enough to make a review on. We were pretty sure we’d found the right show; it certainly was more true to Twilight Zone in that it had a lot of scientific themes. Still, it was very different, mainly in the fact that it was entirely cast with puppets!  Oops, again! Turns out we were watching Supercar, not Twilight Zone

That’s when we realized were still on the wrong network. So we turn to CBS, and find…The Andy Griffith show. Good enough. I like this show. 

Still, what happened to Twilight Zone? We start getting ready for bed, only then remembering that this was Monday, and Twilight Zone airs on Friday. OOPS. Darned winter break. Made us forget entirely what day of the week it was!

(Nothing in the Dark, by George Clayton Johnson, featuring a return of Mr. Death and the woman whose profound fear of him has kept her alive – so far…)

Well, the Friday after that wild goose chase, we did end up watching the last Twilight Zone episode. This episode was a lot more reminiscent of older Twilight Zone shows, which was really nice to see after all the lousy newer ones. Like the second episode, it had a good theme (“Things in darkness are the same as they are in the light, and should not be feared”) which I really appreciated. The episode was just long enough to tell a full satisfying story, and it was never too predictable. The acting was slightly off, but it was intentionally so, hinting at certain hidden truths, but not all out saying them. Over all it was a well rounded episode that I thoroughly enjoyed.

My episode scores, in order, are 4, 3, 2, and 3.5. This comes out to an average of 3 stars out of 5. I very much enjoyed most of these episodes and recommend you watch the first, third, and fourth ones. With such a good lineup, it’s starting to look a little more promising in terms of episode quality. Hopefully it will continue to be this way for the next few weeks!

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.

[April 15, 1961] London Calling (a peek at UK fandom)

Every once in a while, one comes across a supremely talented, like-minded person.  Ashley R. Pollard is a gifted writer from England who is shopping around her first novel.  I discovered her through her columns in a British ‘zine; I was so impressed that I asked if she’d like to join the Journey as a contributor, writing on fandom in the UK.  To my intense gratification, she agreed.  Here is her first article…

Out of the blue I received a letter from across the pond asking me if I would have a mind to contribute to Galactic Journey and that is how I came to find myself writing this entry for this journal.  To say I was delighted to be known to an American writer would be an understatement, but to be able to write for the Journey in such exciting times as these, the Dawn of the Space Age, is quite frankly a privilege.  When Sputnik took to the heavens on October the Fourth, 1957, my work colleagues could no longer pass off my taste for reading science fiction as some abnormal fancy but rather as a sign of prescience.

Now a Red star has risen in the East — Vostok — aboard the ship is the first human in space: Major Yuri Gagarin, who is now a Hero of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and by extension a hero for all mankind.  The local prestige of our former wartime allies had plunged due to the recent discovery and capture of the Portland Spy Ring, causing ripples of concern over secrets lost, so having Major Gagarin take over the headlines has been welcome change — if only from one kind of paranoia to another: Reds with atomic secrets versus Reds in Space!  And because it turns my liking for all things to do with rocketry into a respectable talking point at parties.

Certainly, Thursday nights conversation at The London Circle, a meeting of like minded science fiction fans, was of nothing else.  (The London Circle was the basis for Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales from the White Hart.  I will not be drawn into the recent fan feud that has split the group because I attend for the ambience of the pub and the chance to have a G&T with ice and a slice. How very non-fannish of me.)

Of course, this being Britain, we had to draw comparisons to Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass Experiment and the British Experimental Rocket Group and what happened to the hapless astronaut to leaven the concerns of those who see Soviet dominance in space as threat to World Peace.

As you can well imagine our conversations were more along the lines of aliens returning to Earth with Major Gagarin, and what would the Russian counter-part of Bernard Quatermass do?

Perhaps, it was opined, the reason that his landing site is undisclosed is because Russian forces are engaged in confronting the alien threat to save the world.  Though, as I said at the time this idea was broached, I imagined that if so then Pravda would be telling us all about the heroic actions of the brave Soviet soldiers who died to save the world.  As we’ve not heard anything to this effect it is simpler to imagine that secret of where Major Gagarin landed is merely something the Politburo do not wish to disclose for fear of Western spies — tit for tat being a common response.

As per my wont, I also mentioned a television series that had caught my eye, engaging fellow fans with a comparison and contrast of visions of the future and the impact of science fictional ideas upon.  I had my listeners’ rapt attention until I revealed that said show was Supercar a production using puppets produced by Gerry Anderson & Arthur Provis of AP Films for ATV (the London independent TV franchise) and ITC Entertainment (a production and distribution company).

I came across this Saturday morning show quite by chance when looking after a friend’s child who sat totally absorbed by the adventures of Mike Mercury, the pilot of the eponymous Supercar, and the science team who created it: Professor Rudolph Popkiss and Dr. Horatio Beaker.  Admittedly I missed some of the initial episode from being too caught up in reading my newspaper, the aforementioned headlines about the spy ring; but the catchy theme tune and more importantly the silence of the young boy watching kept drawing my attention from what I was reading.

What could be so fascinating that a six years old would stay still and quiet for so long?

I have since sat with him to watch Supercar together.  It’s a delightful concoction with a totally over the top opening sequence that can’t fail to attract the attention of the most jaded viewer.  The attention to detail is superb, for example, the opening sequence of events with Supercar flying up through the clouds banking over and then diving underwater are lovingly shot with music from Barry Gray that will stir the hearts of young and old alike.  More importantly it shows a future suffused with optimism…where cars fly!  I almost feel guilty for taking the babysitting money on Saturdays.  Almost but not quite.

Finally, to end this missive, and because I’m running out of blue airmail paper and worried about the cost of sending some photographs I acquired, I would like to mention another television show that has caught my eye.

It’s called The Avengers and features the rather hunky and adorable Ian Hendry who is supported by a debonaire Patrick Macnee, who looks vaguely familiar but for the life of me I can’t recall what he has performed in before.  I mention this show in passing because it riffs on the James Bond books, and with the Dr. No film coming out next year, I predict a spate of spy adventures gracing television and the silver screen.

However, the real excitement remains Major Gagarin’s achievement and the effects this will have on East-West diplomacy.  If only the world leaders could see the bigger picture here and (to bang on my favourite drum) hope for the future — something that the makers of Supercar caught in their children’s puppet show.  A future bright with possibilities from mankind’s ingenuity which will save the day whatever the adversity we face.

[February 4, 1961] Sputniks and Supercars!

A bit of a grab bag while I finish up the March 1961 Analog:

There was a rather unusual Soviet launch yesterday.  We’re calling it Sputnik 7 for lack of a better term, but it is still unclear just what the seven-ton satellite is supposed to be doing.  It is bigger than the capsules it has orbited before, the ones that carried dogs and mannequins.  It is also, apparently, not designed to reenter.  At least, it hasn’t, and the Russians have not indicated that they plan to retrieve it.

Per Professor Yevgeny Klinov of the International Committee for Meteoric Studies of the World Geophysical Association, the probe was designed “to study the earth as a planet and to make a study of its nearest environment, including that of meteoric dangers. 

That would suggest it is an orbital laboratory in the vein of Sputnik 3, but who needs seven tons to do that?  In any event, aside from Klinov’s reported comments and a bit of muted praise from TASS (the Soviet news agency), there’s been hardly a peep about the flight, which some observers are interpreting as a sign that the mission hasn’t gone as planned.  Usually, Moscow Radio gives lurid details of the cities Soviet probes will fly over and the radio frequencies on which one can pick up their beep-beeps.  This time, it’s zilch-ville.

Maybe we’ll know more in a week or so.

In other news, an exciting scifi kids show had debuted across the pond in Jolly Old England.  Supercar came out on January 28 (if ITC stuck to the schedule I read in the trade magazine I got from overseas), and it looks like a hoot.  The eponymous vehicle, piloted by American “Mike Mercury” can drive, fly, and even submerge.  Mike and his Supercar will be involved in a number of adventures, rescuing folks in distress, fighting bad guys, and helping the progress of science.  Interestingly, the world of Supercar is populated entirely by marionettes, using a newly developed technique called “Supermarionation.” It looks a little creepy, if you ask me, but perhaps one gets used to it.

Here’s hoping the show gets syndicated in the U.S.  I’m still waiting for Danger Man to come over…