PATHFINDERS ON TELEVISION

Written by Andrew Pixley,
with thanks to J. Jeremy Bentham, Stephen McKay and Dave Rogers.

Wedgwood (Peter Williams) with his three children, Geoffrey (Stewart Guidotti), Jimmy (Richard Dean) and Valerie (Gillian Ferguson) in PATHFINDERS IN SPACE

The germ of four early ITV children's serials, and another much more famous show that they indirectly spawned, seems to come primarily from one man. In 1958, Sydney Newman arrived at the offices of ABC to take up the post of senior drama producer. For four years he had been a pathfinder in forging ahead with videotaped drama in Canada for CBC. A batch of Newman's plays had been purchased for screening by the BBC and his name was well known in television circles by his first visit in 1957.

With his superiors, Dennis Vance and Howard Thomas, Newman made sweeping changes to the standards laid down that decade by the BBC, and followed by the young ITV companies. The terms producer and director had been totally interchangeable, but now Newman oversaw all ABC's principle drama presentations as producer, with other directors actually handling the recordings and live productions. His successes were many, most notably ARMCHAIR THEATRE which presented plays for the time as opposed to classic tales. Harold Pinter, Alun Owen, Clive Exton, Ted Kotcheff and Charles Jarrott all made landmarks with these Saturday night offerings. Newman spotted popular themes and exploited them. By combining the medical drama of EMERGENCY WARD 10 and the crime aspect of DIXON OF DOCK GREEN he outlined POLICE SURGEON with Julian Bond, and when this failed to attract ruthlessly kept the star and gave Leonard White orders to revamp it as THE AVENGERS. His interests in science-fiction led to the first serious British science-fiction anthology, OUT OF THIS WORLD coming from ABC in 1962.

However, it was not only adult drama of remarkably high and innovative standards which Newman was concerned with. ABC, which served London during the week from Teddington Studios and the North (ATV and Granada) at weekends from Birmingham, also had a contribution to make with entertainment for children. For the CBC, Newman had once before attempted a juvenile science-fiction adventure serial. The BBC had delivered some rather half-hearted attempts in the Saturday afternoon children's magazine programmes of the early 1950s, with serials such as STRANGER FROM SPACE, THE LOST PLANET, RETURN OF THE LOST PLANET and SPACE SCHOOL in shows like WHIRLYGIG, CHILDREN'S TELEVISION and SUGAR AND SPICE.

ABC's prime outlet for such a serial was in the late Sunday afternoon slot, which was traditionally used for more-or-less networked family viewing, often of the form of a film series adventure like the ITC/Sapphire production THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD and the like. There would be several drawbacks though for such a production. Most television was still done live, even in 1960. It was only in recent years that the equipment to record shows on videotape had arrived, and this was still rare and went to the most important shows. Tony Hancock's increasing necessity for recording breaks due to his poor memory for lines meant that his popularity had earned him the facilities when introduced at the BBC in 1958. Later that year, even technically difficult serials such as QUATERMASS AND THE PIT were still being produced 'live' by men like Rudolph Cartier, albeit with an increasing number of filmed inserts either on location or, in the BBC's case, at Ealing Film Studios.

The writers selected to attempt to bring juvenile science-fiction to ITV were Malcolm A. Hulke and Eric Paice. Hulke and Paice had been trying to break into writing in the early Fifties and turned professional at the start of 1958, looking for work in television as opposed to novels. Their big break was This Day in Fear, a play submitted to Associated-Rediffusion and rejected, but then snapped up by the BBC and produced by George Foa for the TELEVISION PLAYWRIGHT series in July 1958. The play starred an up-and-coming young actor called Patrick McGoohan as architect James Coogan, a man caught up in the vicious conflicts of Ireland. The team continued to write together with material submitted to Newman at ABC and also for NO HIDING PLACE at Associated-Rediffusion. Newman commissioned them to come up with a six episode serial for him, specifying some children lead characters and a space adventure.

The first scripts for TARGET LUNA were duly delivered to ABC, and in some respects bore a strong resemblance in early stages to André Norton's THE LOST PLANET, televised by the BBC six years earlier. In the 1954 production, Jeremy Grant, a sixteen year old, comes to stay with his uncle Doctor Lachlan McKinnon at a remote house in Scotland. Here, McKinnon was about to launch a rocket to the planet Hesikos, with Jeremy and young, pretty Janet Campbell, a university student, firmly involved in the journey, during which they faced the standard dangers of any 50s 'B' movies: meteorites and the like.

The basics for the Hulke/Paice storyline were similar, with this time three children, Geoffrey, Valerie and young Jimmy, all coming in true Enid Blyton fashion to spend the Easter Hols with their father, Professor Wedgwood, at his rocket station on a remote scottish isle. Adhering to technical likelihoods for long than Ms. Norton, Hulke and Paice envisaged a highly trained pilot, Flight-Lieutenant Williams, as the sole man fit enough to tackle the task of launching into an orbit of the Earth, let alone a group of kids heading off to the planet Hesikos. However, it soon becomes clear that the children will push their way to the foreground, and when Williams is struck down with a strange illness, little Jimmy is the one left to take his place in the rocket and go into the unknown. Naturally this has to be done secretly at first, as even Professor Wedgwood wouldn't risk his youngest son for his own experiments.

The director appointed for the show was Adrian Brown who worked with Mary Field, the consultant on Children's Programmes to ABC and Associated Television. One of the cast nominated by Mary Field was a seventeen year old lad called Michael Craze with whom she had worked before when making BLOW YOUR OWN TRUMPET for the Children's Film Foundation. Craze, born in Newquay in November 1942, had been a soprano and then a boy actor in rep and films, appearing in television since the age of fifteen. He recalls that the first serial, TARGET LUNA was done on Saturdays from the ABC Studios in Birmingham, but it is generally believed that these early episodes were live transmissions with pre-filmed inserts. Michael Craze later went on to land the part of Ben Jackson in DOCTOR WHO over the 1966/7 period, as well as appearances in FAMILY SOLICITOR, GIDEON'S WAY, NO HIDING PLACE, JOURNEY TO THE UNKNOWN and CROSSROADS before leaving acting in the 1970s.

Whilst adventure was foremost in Newman's mind, he also wanted something moral and semi-educational. Thus fanciful flights to lost planets as yet undiscovered by man were out. Wedgwood's rocket would be for orbits only, not even a lunar landing at this stage. The children were excellent vehicles for Hulke and Paice to allow their scientific experts to explain all the principles of physics to. Joining Michael Craze as Geoff Wedgwood were Sylvia Davies, age 17, as his sister Valerie and 13 year old Michael Hammond as little Jimmy. Both had worked on television before, Davies in a recent episode of KNIGHT ERRANT '60 from Granada, and science-fiction fan Michael Hammond on various schools broadcasts. The other principle cast were David Markham, a television veteran of fifteen years, as Professor Wedgwood, John Carney as his aide and radio operator Ian Murray, Deborah Stanford as computer operator Jean Cary, William Ingram as trainee astronaut Flight-Lieutenant Williams plus an up-and-coming character actor called Frank Finlay as a journalist by the name of Henderson.

Location filming was executed well in advance of studio work, and Brown elected to use the Essex coastline and nearby countryside to represent the remote Scottish Isle, Buchan Island, on which Wedgwood has established his rocket base. Never apparently preserved or shown abroad, little is known about this early six episode serial which began transmissions from 24th April 1960. The final member of the principle line up was Hamlet, a hamster kept as a pet by Jimmy.

Wedgwood has already sent a man into outer space and brought him back. At Easter, his three children arrive on Buchan Island to find him attempting to send a capsule around the moon. The island is soon cut off by heavy seas, and the children are unable to return home to London and their mother. Jean Cary shows the children around the rocket station, explaining the controls to them. Jimmy gets lost in a maze of controls and dials, and accidentally sets off the alarm, which sets the whole drama in motion. Geoff and Valerie are old enough to help their father, but Jimmy's big moment comes when Williams falls victim to a strange illness. Without telling anyone, he takes the astronaut's place as the rocket is about to be launched, and heads into space. Contact by radio is soon cut by electrical storms, resulting in fears that if Jimmy does not know how to activate the heating system, he will freeze in the shadow of the moon. Jimmy's orbit of the satellite is successful, but he faces more perils on re-entry with dangers that he may overshoot Earth altogether. Naturally, the Buchan Island crew help him to return safely with Wedgwood eagerly planning a trip to the moon.

Hulke was very keen to show a situation where the different nations of the world unite. "We soon see how the plight of one human being in an Earth-bound rocket catches the imagination of the whole world. Radar stations - Russian, American, British and others - are linked in a global effort to bring the rocket home.

"Space travel, it turns out, is a great unifying influence among the nations. The old law of the sea becomes the law of space too."

The serial seemed to be very successful family entertainment, and five months later, PATHFINDERS IN SPACE appeared on Sunday afternoons, billed as "A Sequel to TARGET LUNA by Malcolm Hulke and Eric Paice". For some reason though, the line up of cast seems to have been totally changed by the new director, Guy Verney, assigned to the seven episode serial. Newman remained as producer with Field as adviser, and David Gillespie's design work from the original also continued, augmented by contributions from Tom Spaulding.

A rehearsal shot of Hugh Evans, Pamela Barney and Harold Goldblatt in PATHFINDERS IN SPACE

The new star of the serial was now Peter Williams, taking up the rôle of Professor Wedgwood where David Markham had left off. In an interview with Derek Meakin of 'TVTimes' during the show's production, he seemed to enjoy the production, with one or two complaints. Unfortunately, Spaulding and Gillespie had failed to allow for the 6ft 2in actor's height when designing the take-off couches on board the Moon Rocket 2, or MR2. Spacesuits were required for most of the cast for this production, as opposed to only a couple for the solo mission of the predecessor. The suit wasn't exactly comfortable, as Williams revealed. "If this is what the first men bound for the moon are going to wear, they have my sympathy."

As a man still amazed by inventions like telephones and aeroplanes, Williams found the idea of space travel quite feasible, although doubted it would become commonplace in his life time, and would certainly be too expensive for Britain. Although he had read science-fiction such as the works of H.G. Wells, he admitted to being more interested in science fact with all the television broadcasts of space shots. Finally, he gave away nothing about the plot except promising "some exciting adventures before we get back to Baffin Island."

For the sequel, a new hero was found in the form of Frank Finlay's journalist Conway Henderson, now fleshed out to a far greater degree by actor Gerald Flood. Flood, born in Portsmouth 1927, had begun a career in the Admiralty drawing office before taking up acting on leaving the RAF in the war. Starting in Rep in 1948, his first television appearance was in ALL ABOARD as a drug addict.

The children too were recast in each case. Fourteen year old Stewart Guidotti now became Geoff, with thirteen year old Gillian Ferguson as Valerie and, curiously, fifteen year old Richard Dean as little Jimmy, a child actor of only 4ft 4in in stature. Hamlet the Hamster also underwent a change apparently, as Richard Dean announced that he had bought the pet with his own money. "And I won't part with him, even though he does cost seven shillings a week to feed." (As it turned out, it seems ABC kept Hamlet and dropped Richard Dean)

The other principle characters on the Moon Expedition with Wedgwood were Harold Goldblatt as geological and mathematical wizard Dr O'Connell, and a more motherly figure in the form of Pamela Barney as Professor Mary Meadows. Professor Meadows, sporting a mid-Atlantic accent in a possibly vague hope of international sales, was the world's leading woman selenographist, and became Hulke and Paice's tool for putting over lunar geography lessons about the Sea of Fertility, Haemus Mountains and the Crater of Ptolemaeus. O'Connell too explains how the remains they find in a lunar cave are 400 Million years old - from the time when trilobites lived on Earth.

In the parts of the Buchan Island personnel, Irene Sutcliffe took over as Jean Cary, Hugh Evans as Ian Murray, MR1's radio operator, and Astor Sklair as John Field, a character originally portrayed by Michael Verney.

Interviews of the time revealed that the writers had to probe more deeply into scientific books than for TARGET LUNA. "This is a more ambitious story," announced Paice, with Hulke adding "We're steeped in scienography." The new serial was technically more demanding, and director Verney opted for an increase in the amount of pre-filmed material. Spaceships were required to belch rocket flames as they landed, head into the blackness of lunar night and an alien vessel had to orbit the moon without signs of life. The spacesuits specially made for the cast were basically one-piece affairs, fastened up the front, with additional ribbing around the arms and legs. Heavy boots were worn by each actor or actress, and a back-pack held a small cylinder from which a tube coiled to the neck of hastily improvised helmets. These helmets were basically motor cycle headgear, with an extra cowl added around the chin to cover the neck area. Gerald Flood recalls years later how during the first episode's transmission, the production crew suddenly realised that when an actor had donned his helmet, his voice was no longer clearly audible to the boom mikes. To alleviate the problem, for the subsequent episodes, the transparent visors were removed and replaced by two thin pieces of wire, forming a cross wire. This gave the impression of a solid facepiece on low definition sets and allowed the cast to be heard clearly. Later episodes on the moon set the action in either the MR craft or the lunar cave, both of which were conveniently pressurised.

For spacewalking scenes, the black velvet principle was adopted. The actors and actresses lay on podiums draped in black velvet, against a black background, moving gracefully whilst the camera transmitted the images from a strange angle, trying to give the impression of weightlessness. It was a gamble within the confines of available technology which did not pay off. The MR1 and MR2 were not the only spacecraft to have cabins constructed, and by far the most impressive was the alien spaceship seen in later episodes with its strange angular design, awkward low seating and pyramid like projections from the walls.

The serial began transmission on September 11th 1960, now within the boundaries of a slot marked by the ITV regions as FAMILY HOUR. As a live production with telecine inserts, it was broadcast from Birmingham again, but this time was telerecorded during transmission. FAMILY HOUR, despite its title, could run for any length of time, often up to an hour and a half, with other items like short educational films, and the obligatory romp with a historical hero courtesy of the Danzigers or Sapphire.

In the new serial, Wedgwood plans to take a team of experts in MR1 off to land in the Sea of Vapours, whilst his children are again visiting for the school holidays. MR1 takes off successfully, and the supply rocket, MR2, is then set to take off by automatic pilot from Buchan Island six minutes later. At the last moment the MR2 mechanisms break down. The Wedgwood trio offer to pilot the rocket, with Geoff as radar operator and Jimmy with his previous experience of space flight and Valerie ... well ... because she won't be left behind just because she's a girl. Also on board is science reporter Conway Henderson, who has decided to pilot the craft himself manually, and becomes the new square jawed, steely eyed hero of the serial. Oh, and Jimmy smuggles a stowaway on board. Only Hamlet I'm afraid.

Whilst Jean Cary maintains contact with the craft and spends the bulk of the third episode keeping journalists at bay, the two rockets pick up a spaceship from nowhere on their radar screens. The two rockets land on the moon, some 150 miles away meaning Wedgwood has to trek across the barren desert to his children. Meanwhile, the MR2 crew find themselves trapped in subterranean caves where they discover a statue of a humanoid being, and other relics of a civilisation.

This is where the only existing telerecording (although only the three telerecordings referred to in the text exist, the other episodes of at least PATHFINDERS TO MARS and PATHFINDERS TO VENUS exist in negative form.) - The World of Lost Toys - begins, with a telecine insert of Jimmy and Valerie finding the calcified human being. Furnished throughout with stock music and sound, plus establishing slide captions of the lunar surface in artwork, the show's title sequence had the words superimposed over the Earth, and then swinging up to focus on the Moon. The caves the finds are made in are sealed by sliding doors, which cunningly bear the ABC logo. Also inside the caverns is a full-size spaceship: two geometrical spheres composed of triangles, connected by a tube to form a dumbbell. O'Connell reveals these are 400 Million years old.

Meanwhile, back at MR1, Ian Murray plays chess with Jean Cary and the ground crew via the radio, although the Earth team use a computer to plan their moves until Murray gets help from a concerned Russian Grand Master who calls in from the Kremlin.

In the caves, Meadows gets the kids to copy and try to decipher the hieroglyphics on the walls. Suddenly they notice eyes watching in the dark. The eyes are revealed to belong to a cuddly toy resembling an elephant with six legs. This is one of several toys, the others being a stuffed flying fish, a model of the spaceship - a "galumph" as Jimmy names it - and a book showing a human and the toys. Jimmy realises the symbols refer to inanimate and animate objects. Meanwhile the island detect a meteorite storm threatening the MR1 craft in the crater, and alert Murray.

Professor Wedgwood (Peter Williams) and the crews of the MR1 and MR2 at the controls of the alien ship

Wedgwood plans to open the alien ship with oxy-acetylene gear - much to the children's protests - END OF ACT ONE - the only surviving episode to bear such a caption as the others fade to black for commercials. Until, in ACT TWO, Meadows finds a small opening. Pumping in oxygen causes one of the larger triangles to open as a door to a sphere, which has the same amazing design inside. The crew find a hatch containing a reel of wire connected to a lens, and realise that this is a visual record of what became of the crew. The episode ends with them aiming to view this. The closing credits have a black background with white circles linked by white lines.

The meteorites bombard the moon, destroying MR1 on impact. It is decided that only Valerie and Henderson can return on board MR2, but then Wedgwood decides to try to master control of the alien ship. The team make it back to Earth safely.

As with most science-fiction of the time on television, it was apt to be criticised by sci-fi buffs and Joe Public alike. A letter in 'TVTimes' on 11th November 1960 comments on the unlikeliness of Ian Murray surviving a near atomic blast on the moon by hiding behind a rock. The writer then comments that the actor was in fact more substantial than the rock was!

The seven episodes' telerecordings were then marketed abroad, notably to the Australian market which screened this and the two subsequent tales well into the Sixties. These were sold through Associated British-Pathé Limited, and billed as thirty minute episodes although the final segment, according to several sources, had a duration of only thirteen minutes in a shortened FAMILY HOUR.

The best however was yet to come. The big step forward came with the introduction of a new key character in the next chapter of the Wedgwood rockets, PATHFINDERS TO MARS which Hulke and Paice delivered to ABC's production team in time for transmission mere weeks after the previous story. On 11th December 1960, Peter Williams made his final appearance as Professor Wedgwood in the first episode of PATHFINDERS TO MARS, handing over the limelight to Conway Henderson. Flood's new co-star was George Coulouris, a British character actor with much experience in films and television, including Orson Welles' CITIZEN KANE. Coulouris' billing for the early episodes was mysteriously given as 'The Imposter'.

PATHFINDERS TO MARS, despite its mistakes in production, seems to have been a recorded production, made shortly before transmission on a weekday at ABC's Teddington studios in London. The presentation was increasingly sophisticated, and due to the existence of Pathé telerecordings, technical observations of the serial can still be made. Recording though was continuous for two fifteen minute blocks, and so the script still had to be structured as if it was a live performance.

The most interesting development was Coulouris' character of Harcourt Brown, not exactly a villain, but far from a hero. Brown is a science-fiction writer, determined that somebody from Earth with intelligence and an open mind should be amongst those reaching out into space. His belief is that humanity is the only hostile species in the solar system, and is determined to prove that life exists on Mars. To this end he is convinced that any risk he takes with his own life, or that of the crew, is worthwhile. In the first episode, Wedgwood's broken arm from the last mission allows Hulke and Paice to retire him, and also to give Brown a way to join the crew of the MR4 moon expedition. Having entrusted the mission to Henderson, Wedgwood's replacement is to be an Australian scientist, Professor Hawkins [called Dyson in the press releases]. The Buchan Island crew await his arrival, but he has been lured to a London location and overpowered by Brown, who takes his place.

In PATHFINDERS TO VENUS, Conway Henderson (Gerald Flood) confronts Harcourt Brown (George Coulouris)

Staying over from the last mission with Henderson were Geoff Wedgwood and Professor Meadows, with Jimmy and Valerie disappearing totally, an indication that the emphasis was perhaps shifting away from the kids. To maintain balance though, Margaret Henderson was introduced. Margaret was Conway's niece, again conveniently on holiday at the right time, and persuades her uncle to let her join the crew. Played by young Hester Cameron, Margaret was highly intelligent and very observant. She also became responsible for taking care of Hamlet, who appears to be played by a large albino guinea pig as opposed to a hamster. Back in Scotland, Ian Murray and John Field appeared at times throughout the episodes keeping contact with MR4.

David Gillespie handled all the design work on the new serial, and constructed the most impressive spaceship interior to date with the MR4. This was a two-level set, twenty feet high, with the lower level consisting of general crew's quarters and the upper being a control room and observation area. The two were linked by ladders, with another ladder leading downwards into the stage from the larger lower area, apparently down to the engine rooms and airlock which gave access to the rocket from beneath. The main area was built around a large hatchway with removable cover. The other main prop on this level was a large circular radar screen, a motorised rotating disc with slit to reveal painted blobs on the screen behind as required. The walls were covered with dials. The upper level contained the periscope of the craft and some of the radio equipment, which could be connected to tape recorder banks. The model made of MR4 was taller and slimmer than its predecessors.

The spacesuits for the mission were revamped, now being a one-piece quilted anorak type jump-suit, zipped up the back, complete with hood. Backpacks again held two small air canisters with slim tubes leading to valves on the helmets. These helmets were now more substantial custom made props, again with crosswires in place of visors.

Gillespie's best achievement though was the transformation of the confines of Teddington Studios into a highly workable surface of the red planet. One large rocky outcrop was built, using ledges and pinnacles all placed before painted backdrops to enhance the feeling of distance. By careful camera angles, parts of the same set could be used time and again for different locations. When Meadows and Henderson reach the north pole, one part of the set is covered with jabolite to simulate a thin layer of snow. The script called for the duo to see an approaching rain storm, which causes an alien lichen to grow and grasp them. Executed with skill, Flood and Pamela Barney first look off screen to a caption slide of a stormy sky. Then superimposed telecine of rainfall is placed over the picture of them. Stagehands begin to inflate dark plastic tubes hidden beneath the 'snow', which seem to grow and move by themselves. More lichen is waved in front of the camera lens, obscuring the fact that the cast are in fact pulling the tubes over them as the growth seems to pull them down. The effect for 1960 was impressive, for children's television amazing, and gave a superb climax which is still remembered fondly by those who saw it over twenty years later.

Conway Henderson (Gerald Flood) pulls Mary Meadows (Pamela Barney) to safety in PATHFINDERS TO MARS

The serial was again shown in FAMILY HOUR, now introduced by Julie Stevens who in 1962 would become Venus Smith in ABC's other notable success, THE AVENGERS. The third episode was not transmitted as part of this slot, going out on Christmas Day 1960, and according to the production team in years to come, attaining a rating second only to that of the Queen's Speech to the Commonwealth.

The opening credits to the serial were still fairly basic, consisting of an astronomical photograph of a spiral nebula, rotated before the cameras. Over this were superimposed the caption slide giving the title, writers and episode title. The theme tune, as with all the music, came from stock and was a well known crescendo piece, signalling an ominous presence in its tingling notes. It had already been used to great effect as far back as QUATERMASS II and would crop up again on episodes of THE PRISONER [The Chimes of Big Ben] and THE CHAMPIONS [Operation Deep-Freeze] amongst others. As this quietened to lead into the episode, some Morse code bleeps of increasingly higher pitch were added to the soundtrack.

Closing credits were slide caption cards, bearing the programme's title, the title of next week's episode, cast and crew. These also all had a strange spiral pattern on them. The music at the episode's conclusion was again stock, a track previously used as the music from the reprise sequences in QUATERMASS AND THE PIT and to close the PATHFINDERS IN SPACE.

With MR4 en route for the moon, Brown's first act is to sabotage the radio and isolate the crew from Earth, so that although the recovered Hawkins makes it to Murray on Buchan Island, the ground team cannot inform the astronauts. When Henderson is occupied unloading the supply ship in orbit around the moon, Brown takes Margaret hostage in the upper control area of the craft. Here he is in coded radio communication with someone he refers to as "Sector Ten". He heads the rocket for Mars, but Henderson makes a daring scapulae to try and cut off the craft's refrigeration unit, forcing Brown's surrender. Henderson is almost flung into space, and as they near the red planet, Margaret falls ill due to shortage of water. For her sake, Henderson agrees to let Brown land.

The crew of the MR4 move along a narrow ledge above a pool of quicksand in episode 5 of PATHFINDERS TO MARS

The space trip had taken three episodes, but the fourth - Lichens!, the only surviving segment - was set purely on Mars with no flashbacks to Buchan Island. As the rocket comes in to land, one camera on the crew is turned through angles of 180O to demonstrate the manoeuvres, augmented by increasingly sophisticated model work as the MR4 came to touch down on Mars, its jet engines kicking up thick clouds of red dust. Once landed, a mock-up of its base had been constructed atop some scaffold legs. The cast inside the raised structure climbed down to the surface via a rope ladder, as opposed to a fixed ladder of the ship's exterior as in the previous serial. The rope ladder however was not Gillespie's best idea as the cast found that with its base unsecured, it was very difficult to climb only the few feet required and frequently in the background to a major scene, a helpless astronaut could be seen trying to struggle upwards and losing their footing.

Henderson allows the kids to eagerly be the first people on Mars, or the first Earth people as Brown corrects. Hamlet however has to wait until a small spacesuit can be made for him. Once on the surface, the mini lectures continue. When Margaret points out that the red dust MR4 had thrown up has taken a long time to settle, Geoff explains about Mars' lower gravity. Next they discuss relative distances of the sun and Earth from Mars whilst looking at a caption slide of a starscape in the sky. Mars however is depicted as a mainly daylight world, with a strange electronic humming background sound effect from stock.

Henderson decides they must head for the polar cap for water for the trip home, and they only have twelve hours. The crew take Mars as lifeless, yet Brown points out that if they landed in the Sahara Desert, Earth would seem equally as dead. Back to education, Mary Meadows explains that the canals on the astral charts are not really canals, and Conway comments on Mars having a magnetic pole, actually 10º off true north.

After the three adults set off pulling a sledge constructed to hold the water canisters, Geoff and Margaret see something approaching on the MR4's radar screen. In a typical example of his melodramatic acting, Stewart Guidotti harshly raps out the line "Look at Hamlet! He's frightened! He's sensed something!" which is followed by a cutaway shot to a singularly unconcerned guinea pig going about its business. The scanner has spotted a sandstorm, which strikes the adults in the commercial break, during which a recording break was scheduled allowing stagehands to pour a thin layer of sand over Pamela Barney and Gerald Flood. As they recover, it seems that Brown has fallen to his death in a bottomless crevasse. The two look down over a ridge, and the camera cuts to a chasm model of dark shadows. As Flood calls out, his voice is echoed in the studio. Highly effective.

Back at MR4, the repaired radio carries a message from Buchan Island saying that they must take off in seven hours, as Earth and Mars are moving apart. The strange bleeps are heard again, coming from outside in the manner that Brown had sent. Next, Geoff explains about planetary orbits to Margaret, drawing a brief diagram to aid the dialogue. He also tries to show Hamlet where they have landed on a map of Mars at one point, but the pet is totally uninterested. Something tries to enter the craft, so Geoff grabs a wrench to defend the girl, but it is only Brown who claims the others are dead, fallen into a crevasse. Whilst the two in fact encounter the lichens previously mentioned, Coulouris fluffs his lines some more and insists that they help him look for the Martians. He claims the natives will be their only source of help in leaving this world. Margaret is very reluctant and suspicious, but Geoff's scientific curiosity is aroused and they trio go out to search.

Having freed themselves from the lichen, Meadows and Henderson head back to MR4 and meets up with the others, who have proved Brown mistaken in his beliefs of a nearby Martian encampment. Traversing a narrow hillside ledge with the heavy water canisters, Meadows slips and falls, becoming stuck in the quicksand below. Geoff gets some rope to save her, but Brown has now reached MR4 first. With the deadline to launch up, the children, Henderson and Meadows see the craft readying for take-off. By pleading for Brown to take the kids, Henderson buys some time and a lichen tendril enters the spacecraft, overpowering Brown [as Meadows had pointed out, the lichen sought water and the human body is composed of this by 60%, hence the reason for attacking humans].

Margaret (Hester Cameron), Meadows (Pamela Barney) and Henderson (Gerald Flood) spacewalk in PATHFINDERS TO MARS

The crew get on board only to find the deadline overshot. Their only chance is to aim for the sun, and use its gravitational pull to help the ship reach Earth. Unfortunately, this results in the crew falling prey to radiation sickness and being unable to change course. Mercury luckily provides a shadow for MR4, during which Henderson recovers and places the craft under the control of Buchan Island. Already though, Brown is dreaming of the possibilities of life existing on Venus.

Brown's wish came true quite soon, in fact only one serial later. Hulke and Paice's new script, now written in association with Ivan Roe, was PATHFINDERS TO VENUS, an eight episode serial. Having read more scientific journals, the writers felt at home with the idea of spacewalks, which was again used, and also knew of the gas clouds around Venus. The serial was to be very impressive indeed, utilising the same standard of model work, this time handled by Derek Freeborn as opposed to the design team. Freeborn would later construct the memorable city for SPACE PATROL, and also handle model construction for some DOCTOR WHO material done at Ealing. The sixth and eighth episodes were directed, apparently at fairly short notice, by Reginald Collin instead of Verney. Collin later became producer of a variety of shows including PLAYHOUSE: MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION, CALLAN and SPECIAL BRANCH.

Joining Coulouris and Flood as stars was Graydon Gould as Captain Wilson, an American astronaut on a secret mission and clad in a spacesuit very reminiscent of the 1930's Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon costume. Gould at the time also provided Mike Mercury's voice on SUPERCAR for APFilms and later starred in the Canadian ITC/ASP co-production THE FOREST RANGERS.

The same theme with Morse code was used as for PATHFINDERS TO MARS, but this time the title sequence was more sophisticated. The camera fixes on a rotating and cloudy world, which due to multiple exposure seems to have different cloud levels travelling at different speeds. The title, animated, emerges from this. Slide captions of writers, script associate, episode number and title are then superimposed as the camera cranes down to fix firmly on the world's equator.

True to the spirit of the British cinema serials of the Fifties, the crew find themselves launched into an adventure as the only people who can come to the aid of a stranded American astronaut on a secret mission. Announcing themselves patriotically as "the British Rescue Mission", the MR4 heads towards Venus when an SOS call is picked up en route from Mars. The US craft under the control of Captain Wilson has been holed by a meteor and he is losing oxygen. His instruments are out of control and it is only Henderson's quick thinking that saves the MR4 from the same fate.

Captain Wilson (Graydon Gould) radios his SOS to the MR4 in Episode Two of  PATHFINDERS TO VENUS

Brown however is desperate to reach Venus and fakes a message claiming that the US ship has crashed already. Henderson takes the decision to descend through the poisonous clouds around the planet, and once down the crew find the air quite breathable. The area they have landed in is a jungle, very lush and thick with wildlife such as snakes - which actually appeared in the studio. A thin layer of mist covers the jungle floor, courtesy of dry ice.

It is Geoff and Margaret who see the US ship land on the radar after them, but on finding the small one-man capsule discover it has been ransacked and appears to have had its power cables bitten through. The children discuss alien life forms briefly, with Geoff pointing out in Malcolm Hulke's philosophy that "we might look horrid to them." This is where the only existing telerecording, The Living Planet begins.

The atmosphere of the unseen menace is sustained well, with a gallery camera high in the tree tops giving the feeling that Henderson's party are being watched from above. One by one they are kidnapped. Each hears something, looks upwards, and then turns to find that a colleague has vanished. The crew find Wilson's radio, but over it hear only a primitive belching sound. Wilson comes to and finds Brown, also kidnapped by the unseen inhabitants. Brown insists on travelling over the mountains to a city he claims to have seen on a periscope, but by now the audience knows that lying comes to him as easily as breathing. He also states his belief that mankind is the only hostile species in the whole solar system, a phrase which unfortunately reminds Wilson of a cranky book he read whilst preparing for his mission, and he wastes no time in identifying its author.

Kiki, Wilson and the MR4 team watch as Geoff examines a Pterodactyl egg in Episode Six of PATHFINDERS TO VENUS

The sets of the jungle were unfortunately not thick enough to disguise people moving into position in 'another part of the forest', and problems also arose with over-ambitious use of radio conversations. Distant parties can be heard talking clearly on the next set, and those in principle view have their voices distorted as if they are coming over the airwaves. Stock footage of jungles and trees in broad daylight was used, along with film of a smoking volcano as Brown gazes upon the mountain range he aims to cross. The other problem with the fake foliage is that, whilst it was used to great effect to indicate an unseen watcher pulling it aside, it also flew back into position very quickly, at one point totally obscuring Coulouris' face as he says his lines. The model work of MR4 on Venus was done on telecine, and multiple shots from different angles at one point indicate something advancing on the massive ship. The principle piece of music used for incidental tracks was Jack Trombey's composition "World of Plants" from De Wolfe Ltd. The closing music, heard over astronomical style photographs of Venus moving as blobs of light, was the same as closed the previous tale.

Henderson and Meadows' vague romance continues. After using the donning of a space helmet in the previous serial as a weak excuse to kiss the scientist whilst on Mars, this theme continues throughout Venus. Meadows again succumbs to a danger of the alien world: this time a carnivorous plant. Soon the crew find the aliens, a race of ape-men, glimpsed back in earlier episodes as a man in a gorilla suit shot from obscure angles. There are also Cro-Magnon type people living in the caves, and a girl of this tribe proves friendly to Margaret and Geoff, helping to rescue the party. She is nicknamed Kiki after the strange words she utters. Having passed through the now volcanic mountain, they must take the long route back to the MR4, and discover some pterodactyl eggs, earning themselves an attack from the owners. Next they see a stegosaurus battle a tyrannosaurus rex, the latter triumphing.

These telecine inserts were of a reasonably high quality, but were not from the studios of Freeborn and his crew. These actually came as extracts from a 1954 Czechoslovakian film called A JOURNEY INTO PRIMEVAL AGES. The stop motion animation of the dinosaurs was the work of fantasy master Karel Zeman, and although the film was little seen, it was released in a re-edited form in the US by 1966 as JOURNEY TO THE BEGINNING OF TIME.

After a sand storm, the crew are again short of water, and Kiki finds a spring in an area rich with Uranium. Brown learns with horror that the US have colonisation in mind to mine such minerals, and that man's evils and pollutions will now come and ruin Venus. He braves the inferno around MR4, caused by the volcano, and tells Buchan Island that the crew have died. He then sets the ship to self destruct, knowing that mankind will not venture out to destroy this world. Henderson again stops his scheme, and a Russian craft arrives with extra fuel for the journey back to Earth. But for Brown, Venus is a dream come true, and still believing in a higher intelligence elsewhere on the planet he elects to stay behind with Kiki.

Brown, Wilson, Geoff, Kiki, Margaret (and Hamlet), Henderson and Meadows at the conclusion of  PATHFINDERS TO VENUS

The presence of dinosaurs of various varieties and Cro-Magnon man allowed Margaret and Geoff to learn from Mary Meadows that these all came from different segments of Earth history, plus lectures on why the dinosaurs died out and a brief foray into the use of uranium for atomic power. Apart from the educational asides, this was still a true British adventure with steel-eyed, square jawed hero Conway Henderson and his loyal, if melodramatic sidekick, Geoff who would receive compliments like "Smart piece of work Geoff!" or "That was a bright idea Geoff, to lie doggo. It certainly saved us!" In this respect, the dialogue was little removed from the adventures of Dick Barton and his two pals Jock and Snowy, or Charles Chilton's exploits of Jet Morgan, Mitch, Lemmy and Doc which had plagued the airwaves the previous decade.

An interesting point is the experiment conducted by Cambridge University's Education Department to monitor the reactions of a group of children to the seventh episode, when shown a tape after a visit to the studios the day before transmission. The episode had been recorded with eight deliberate mistakes worked out between Cambridge and ABC which included microphones drifting into shop, and also - not planned - an actor lifting a papier maché boulder with embarrassing ease. At twenty pre-selected points, the children were photographed from a hidden camera, in a room where they had comics and biscuits on a small table. Three children were used in each test, aged thirteen in the first test, ten in the second. The children were interviewed after the screening to see how much they recalled, and one child was asked how much he remembered a fortnight later. Mary Field was in charge of ABC's side of the operation with Professor Arnold Lloyd of Cambridge.

The children showed surprising understanding of TV technique, even indicating at one point how Verney could produce tension of something watching in nearby bushes by three shots. "From the mouth of a babe, ten years old," says Newman in his observations, "Directors watch out, the viewer is beginning to call the shots!" The thirteen year olds were more inquisitive about each other and impressing the other children, as they came from different schools, and paid attention to only seven minutes out of twenty-five. They were highly critical of mistakes and quickly pointed out that the dinosaurs were models. "... the strain of journey into space is far too much for a child ... and even for a woman it would be far too much ..." commented one little chap. The ten year olds were more receptive though, admiring Margaret's courage at being on such a mission. One girl however could guess how a cliff-hanger with MR4 could be created for the final episode the following week, indicating children are shrewd enough to guess writer's tricks in structuring. Geoff was also highly admired due to Guidotti's acting. The children watched semi-interested in the pterodactyl scenes, read comics as Meadows and Henderson kissed romantically and discussed some of the more major plot details. Verney and Field drew up a series of guidelines from the observations.

And so the Wedgwood adventures were over. Again showing that children should not be written down for, a 12½ year old wrote to 'TVTimes' in April 1961 pointing out inaccuracies in the last three serials. MR1 had exploded with a terrible noise, yet sound cannot travel in a vacuum. Hulke and Paice countered by explaining this as ground shock waves. The rainstorm on Mars was queried, as the planet has no water. The writers claimed that there was evidence of water vapour, and isolated rain could occur. Finally on Venus, Brown had said plants breathed CO2 whereas they actually breath oxygen and use carbon dioxide as food. Here the writers admitted they should have said that plants actually absorbed both gases.

Gerald Flood went on to feature regularly on television, returning in a children's fantasy serial called PLATEAU OF FEAR, again as the hero, in September 1961. After episodes of TOP SECRET Guy Verney cast him in the Little Lost Robot segment of OUT OF THIS WORLD. Most notable though was his teaming with Stewart Guidotti again in CITY BENEATH THE SEA in November 1962, playing journalist Mark Bannerman with Guidotti as his sidekick Peter Blake. Freeborn again did the effects, Field advised and Verney was now producer in an underwater SF tale from John Lucarotti. Peter Williams also starred and again a sequel, SECRET BENEATH THE SEA was spawned by ABC in February 1963. By now, Newman had left for pastures new, and revamped the format of a cantankerous and selfish idealist, a Boys Own hero, a maternal teacher and an intelligent child - plus a rather bizarre space/time craft - into a new serial which still runs to this day ...

Hulke was approached to write for the new DOCTOR WHO serial and submitted a four part storyline called The Hidden Planet, intended as the third serial but soon dropped as technically too complex, calling for birds with two sets of wings flying backwards on a planet, hidden by the sun, the mirror image of Earth. It was not until 1966 that Hulke wrote for the show again with David Ellis and a story called The Big Store which ended up shown in 1967 as The Faceless Ones. Since 1962 he had also written numerous episodes of THE AVENGERS, some with Terrance Dicks, as well as on NO HIDING PLACE for A-R in 1965 and ABC's THE PROTECTORS in 1964. In 1969 he and Dicks concluded black and white DOCTOR WHO mythology with The War Games and Hulke then contributed moralistic scripts to Dicks until 1974 with Doctor Who and the Silurians, Colony in Space, The Sea-Devils, Frontier in Space and Invasion/Invasion of the Dinosaurs plus a rewrite of The Ambassadors of Death. After the attack of an old illness, he died peacefully in hospital on 6th July 1979.

Flood continued to star on television, becoming Colonel Mahmoud, the nemesis of Crane in Patrick Allen's series for three years. Over 1966 and 1967 he starred as Peregrine Pascale Smith in THE RATCATCHERS, with guest rôles in episodes of MAN IN A SUITCASE, CALLAN and RANDALL AND HOPKIRK [DECEASED]. Most recently he appeared as King John in the DOCTOR WHO serial The King's Demons for which he also voiced Kamelion, a part he reprised in Planet of Fire and The Caves of Androzani. He is still a prominent theatre actor. Guidotti's appearances have been less notable, most recently as an Italian police chief in an episode of STAR COPS. Coulouris maintained his stature as a foremost character actor, with appearances in DOCTOR WHO, DANGER MAN and THE PRISONER amongst others.

Eric Paice is still developing and writing drama series, notably for the BBC and was the creator and chief writer of Portman Productions' STAR MAIDENS in the mid 1970s. He was also a prolific writer for DIXON OF DOCK GREEN over many years as well as contributing to THE EXPERT and SECRET ARMY.

A kiddies show as a Sunday filler? Well, it's well remembered, and whether Hamlet followed his stage directions or not the serials broke new ground and were pathfinders not only in space, but on television.

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