I don’t recognize Brian Blessed when he isn’t overacting.
This comes as a mild surprise to me, as I really couldn’t imagine watching something with King Vultan in it without immediately noticing his character and thinking, boy, he reminds me of Brian Blessed.
But here we have him playing someone almost normal, and doing so without a lot of sturm und drang. Strange. But I guess it was pretty early in his career.
This is one of the more obscure projects made by the legendary Gerry Anderson, who brought us such shows as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and UFO. It is a one-off TV movie less than an hour long which is often referred to as a pilot episode, although that isn’t quite right. The original idea was that they would make seven of these one-hour films — each of which would focus on a different scientific question — but there just wasn’t enough money.
I’m not certain whether it ran in Britain (although this does appear to be true), but NBC showed it in the US as a one-off movie. For a long time you could find this one on Youtube, but not any more: the Anderson family finally released it as part of The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson DVD set.
It was also supposed to be educational — and we all know how that cuts down on the entertainment value of any piece of fiction. This was meant to teach Einstein’s theory of relativity to children, but I really don’t think it does that good a job at it. Yes, it is discussed, in context of a space flight capable of travelling at light speed, but it lacks any real depth, and ultimately suggests — without confirming or contradicting it — that they might have ended up going faster than the speed of light.
But, hey, everyone passed out before the engines burned out so we’re good. Fig leaf firmly in place.
The basic story is very, very familiar. Did I mention that it is familiar? Very familiar? Two families are sent into space to test a new ship with a revolutionary new Photon drive system. it goes haywire and they end up Lost in Space.
Like I said, familiar. Although it also borrows heavily from Space 1999, which was in production at the time.
Unfortunately, it just isn’t that interesting. There isn’t a lot happening, and somehow even the more dramatic moments just don’t seem that compelling. It’s not bad, it’s not even dull, it just isn’t that it lacks any real spark. It needed something more to make this one a success. Which is a bit of a shame when you consider how good it looks, and the beautiful Anderson-style model work, effects and interiors. Gerry obviously put a lot of work into this one.
However, we do get a shot of Brian Blessed using a slide rule for his navigational computations.
I guess the computers in the future still need a bit of work.
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