The special effect for the series were made with very poor materials. For the ship controls were used, among other things, an iron and some desk pencil sharpeners. The robot's hands were made using an ice cream spoon and the effect of the planet explosions were made by blowing some rice and coffee with compressed air. Despite the effectiveness of the special effects for the extremely low budget, Bavaria TV canceled the show after seven episodes due to high costs. See more »
There is a large hole in the top of the glass helmets of the spacesuits which was used during filming to blow in warm air from a hair-dryer to prevent the glass steaming up. See more »
What seems like a fairy tale today may be reality tomorrow. Here we have a fairy tale of the day after tomorrow. There are no more national states, only mankind and her colonies in outer space. We settle on stars far-off, the bottom of the sea is developed as living place. With what are today unimaginable speeds, the starships of tomorrow transverse the Milky Way. One of this starships is the Orion, a little piece in the giant security system which protects the Earth from ...
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Easily one of the most impressive science-fiction televisions series ever produced
In September of 1966, a ground breaking science fiction series premiered on television, one that despite its sadly brief time on the airwaves, would remain a well remembered and well regarded cult favourite, surviving its broadcast demise for decades after with new adventures in prose fiction. Debuting on Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) on September 17, 1966, SPACE PATROL - THE FANTASTIC ADVENTURES OF THE SPACESHIP ORION was like nothing ever produced before for television.
The scope of the series, both in concept and execution was grand. The setting for the series was explained each week in the opening narration:
What sounds like a fairy tale today, may be tomorrow's reality. This is a fairy tale of the day after tomorrow. There are no more nation- states; only humanity and its colonies in space. Distant stars have been settled. The ocean floors are inhabited. Space ships cross the galaxy at unimaginable speeds. One such ship is the Orion - a small link in a great chain of defence against threats from space.
Unlike the disciplined heroes of contemporary American fare such as STAR TREK or VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, the crew of the Orion were incorrigible mavericks. In the very first episode the Orion is demoted from active service in the space fleet and relegated to space patrol, the equivalent of galactic traffic cops, for their latest act of disobedience. The Orion's skipper is Major Cliff Alistair McLane (Dietmar Schönherr) a war hero, a man of unquestionable ingenuity, courage and fierce sense of loyalty, yet he is dangerously reckless with little respect for authority and an utter contempt for bureaucracy. His crew would willingly follow him into hell, knowing that if any man could get them back out it would be McLane.
Despite McLane's habitual insubordination, his value is recognized by both his former superior, General Van Dyke (Charlotte Kerr) and General Wamsler (Benno Sterzenbach) the commander of Terrestrial Space Reconnaissance. It is Wamsler who arranges for the Orion to be reassigned to the Space Patrol, rather than have them face court- martial. However as a condition of this, he also assigns them a new crew member, Lieutenant Tamara Jagelovsk, a GSD (Security Services) agent to keep them in line. Initially at odds with his new watchdog, McLane discovers that Jagelovsk, with her cool efficiency and by-the-book nature, is not the millstone he expected and the two quickly develop a considerably less antagonistic relationship.
The other members of the Orion's internationally flavoured crew were weapons officer Lt. Mario de Monti (Wolfgang Völz), engineer Lt. Hasso Sigbjörnson (Claus Holm), astronavigator Lt. Atan Shubashi (F.G. Beckhaus), and communications and space surveillance officer Lt. Helga Legrelle (Ursula Lillig).
It is shortly after their reassignment to the Space Patrol that the crew of the Orion discover a new and unprecedented threat to humanity, on Earth and in space - a race of technologically advanced energy creatures, nicknamed the Frogs, bent on the destruction of mankind. The Frogs and their machinations would serve as the main threat for the duration of the series' run. Other episodes featured such familiar SF concepts as rebellious robots, deranged scientists and lost Earth colonies.
While many of the scientific concepts in the series seem incredibly simplistic today, if not patiently ludicrous, the stories themselves were highly inventive and entertaining. The series made full use of teleVISION, showing, rather than talking about space battles, exploding planets and alien worlds. Unlike other productions where the stories had to reign themselves in to what it was considered possible to visualize with the budgets and technical limitations of the day, the special effects people at Bavaria Atelier seemed to be up to any challenge the script writers could throw at them.
Technically SPACE PATROL was far superior to anything seen on American television, and, for that matter, in most contemporary theatrical films. The show abounded with complex matte shots, miniature work and optical effects, ranging from floating robots to the semi-invisible Frogs, to a giant super nova hurtling through space, to an entire planet ripping apart before the viewer's very eyes. Every opportunity was taken to make the show look more impressive. The Orion didn't simply launch from a pad, it rose from a gigantic hanger on the ocean floor, up through the aquatic depths, then emerged from a spinning whirlpool to lift into the sky. Even what could have been conventional sets were enhanced with complicated optical shots, such as the lounge in the frequently visited Starlight Casino which featured a transparent ceiling allowing patrons to watch giant fish swimming past as the relaxed.
Only seven episodes of SPACE PATROL ORION were produced, broadcast biweekly from September 17 through to December 10th, 1966. Unlike STAR TREK, which suffered from general viewer apathy, SPACE PATROL ORION was immensely popular during its initial run. Unfortunately in Germany the concept of audience size at that time meant very little. In 1966 there were only two television channels, WDR and ZDF; both non-commercial, government run public television services. And so, after the end of its first, all too brief run, the complex and very costly RAUMPATROUILLE ORION passed into television history.
The crew of the Orion continued to have new adventures in one hundred and forty-five SPACE PATROL ORION novels, later reprinted in TERRA ASTRA, published between 1968 and 1984. The original television adventures were released in Germany on VHS in 1993 and then on DVD a mere six years later. The DVD set remains available and is a highly recommended way to enjoy this classic television adventure series.
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