This, arguably, is what started it all – from the creative mind of Gerry Anderson, Fireball XL5 was the first marionette sci-fi television show. Anderson would later go on to create the likes of Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Stingray, all of which are fondly remembered by those who adored them as children or even adults.
As far as early sci-fi television goes, Fireball XL5 is highly representative, following the adventures of Colonel Steve Zodiac (voiced by Paul Maxwell), pilot and commanding officer of the eponymous space ship and impressively square-jawed hero. Joining him are Doctor Venus (voiced by Sylvia Anderson), the ship’s medical doctor of French origin, Professor Mathew Matic (voiced by David Graham, navigator and ship scientist and Robert the robot (voiced by Gerry Anderson himself) as they patrol sector 25 of charted space on behalf of the World Space Patrol.
While obviously dated (most noticeably due to the series being filmed in black and white), the undeniable charm of this series still shines through every scene. Almost seeming to work as a prototype for the later shows, Fireball XL5 is noticeably clunkier than the likes of Captain Scarlet and Thunderbirds. The marionettes’ movement is a little more wooden and the strings are slightly more visible. Even so, apart from the lack of colour, Fireball XL5 still stands up to the later shows admirably.
Enjoyable, charming and endearing in equal measure – while asking for nothing from the audience in return – Fireball XL5 makes a great lazy Saturday afternoon’s television. People who watched the series in their younger days will obviously get the most out of this new limited edition boxset, but it can be greatly entertaining for anybody who enjoys classic sci-fi, so long as you can stand the hefty price tag.
Released on DVD on Monday 29th June 2009 by Network.