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The Big Shot (1942)
5/10
Big Shot No Big Deal
30 April 2019
There's some great shots and remarkable cinematography in this film that almost make it worth watching for that alone. Bogart is also very good as Duke. But I found the script had major flaws.

Bogart is recruited for the bank robbery because he is supposed to be some sort of mastermind in planning jobs. Trouble is the plan they come up with to rob the armored car is crap. It's a crappy plan! There's nothing that makes it very clever or likely to succeed. And I think they would need a spotter to be able to tell just when the armored car is coming down the street to know when to go. From their starting position they couldn't possibly see the armored car coming.

Then Bogart makes a plan to break out of prison. Again the plan is crap! Its a terrible plan and again with nothing clever that would make it likely to succeed.

And as far as their hiding place goes, its pretty but wouldn't the first thing Duke would have asked (if he's such a mastermind) is "does anybody else know about this place?"

There's also the embarrassment of fellow convict Dancer dressing in blackface and dancing with a black doll that makes this film probably unairable in most markets today.
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Wagon Train: The Greenhorn Story (1959)
Season 3, Episode 2
8/10
Andy Hardy Goes West
20 April 2019
If they had done a "Andy Hardy Goes West" I think it probably would have looked a lot like this episode, Mickey Rooney dominates the footage as a "young" greenhorn who decides to travel west with his Aunt Em (Ellen Corby). He has to learn how to handle a wagon, his horses, and all the details of a wagon train west. It really is an interesting episode in which they show a lot of details that the show doesn't usually get into.

Rooney plays a very earnest, eager to please character and gets to handle a lot of Andy Hardy-esque comedy, dance and fall in love. The only trouble is that at 39 Rooney is a bit long in the tooth to be reprising Andy Hardy again. It doesn't help that the actress playing his female love interest (Daria Massey) looks to be about 17. (She was replaced in the follow up episode with Olive Sturgess).

But if you can suspend disbelief a little and imagine Rooney is 19 or 20 instead of almost 40 (he looks about 45) this is an enjoyable and fun episode that gives most of the regular cast a light week of work as Rooney carries the ball through much of the show.
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7/10
Flying Nun Out West
21 May 2018
The first time Sally Field appeared as Clementine she got to co-star alongside her old "Gidget" co-star Pete Duel. This time Field gets to reunite with her old "Flying Nun" co-star Alejandro Rey (Carlos, the club owner in San Juan). This reunion kind of overshadows the rest of this episode, which is highlighted by a kiss between the old co-stars.

Both Field and Rey are good (in fact it had me wondering "what ever happened to that guy?") and despite Roger Davis' best efforts. the chemistry was just not as good as it was with the late Peter Duel.
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7/10
And Now for Something Completely Different
21 May 2018
This film deserved a better fate than the one it got--a quick release before disappearing into the void. The film isn't perfect by far but Simon Pegg makes a funny lead character, Kate Beckingsale is breathtakingly beautiful throughout and the Monty Python gang has a nice turn as well.

But the real surprise for me was Robin Williams. I have NOT been a fan and he's caused me more pain than laughs throughout his career. But in this, his final role, Williams is absolutely FABULOUS. He's funny and gives Dennis character a lot of heart. What a great way to go out.

A few reviewers have noted this is a "family friendly" comedy. But be aware there's a lot of unnecessary swearing that I found...well, unnecessary. But Jones delivers a script with more hits than misses and as a director keeps things rolling.

This is one that is well worth giving a try.
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6/10
Whole Less Than the Sum of Its Parts
14 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
There is some really great stuff in here. Really great. We see Lt. Ninety with beard stubble. We see him smoke a cigar. We see him shave. We see a 5 cent stamp with Space City on it and the XL5 landing. We see Steve in a thrilling escape from quicksand. We see two ships collide and explode and the XL5 crash into the Space City tower and both explode. It's all really great stuff.

However the story all this is tied to is pretty weak. After being yelled at by Commander Zero, and exhausted by studying for tests, Lt. Ninety dreams he is promoted to General and now outranks Zero. Predictably he doesn't know what he's doing and chaos ensues. The comedy scenes between Zero and Ninety are more painful than amusing.

Steve Zodiac is barely in this episode while Matt and Venus make little more than cameo appearances. At least there's no Zoony around.

Good direction by David Elliot and a lot of cool moments make this worth watching but the story is pretty weak.
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Fireball XL5: Space Vacation (1963)
Season 1, Episode 17
7/10
Vacation Drama
9 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This episode is full of peril, danger, suspense, smoking and treachery. And this is a kid's show! Steve, Matt and Venus are allowed to take the XL5 out on vacation. We get to see our crew dress casually: Steve in a black leather motorcycle jacket with a XL5 cap, Matt a Hawaiian shirt and Venus in a dress.

But before we even see our heroes we get 4 minutes and 41 seconds of set up to our story. Kanerick, the leader of a race that lives deep inside the planet Kembler, plans to invade Olympus, a beautiful planet ruled by Jankel. At a planned meeting Kanerick plans to poison Jankel's son Ergon while Jankel plans to blow up the visiting Kanerick.

Our crew comes to vacation at about the same time as the meeting and when Ergon is poisoned, Kenerick makes his escape by taking Venus hostage. Obviously not knowing Steve Zodiac, Jankel takes Mat prisoner and places him in a chair with a large crossbow pointing at him. If Steve does not return with the antidote and Kenerick in 3 hours, Matt will die. Steve obviously is going to go rescue Venus anyway, so he goes after Kenerick with the clock ticking.

It's a little slow at the top and things seem to drag a little before Steve goes to rescue Venus, but otherwise this episode has a lot going for it--including a cigarette gun and an exploding cigar!
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Fireball XL5: The Day the Earth Froze (1963)
Season 1, Episode 33
8/10
Baby It's COLD outside!
19 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This adventure starts off peacefully with most of Space City asleep when suddenly a general alarm goes off. Steve Zodiac rushes to mission control in his robe to find out what's going on. Turns out Fireball XL27 is returning to Earth and landing on remote. There's been no word from the crew! There's some nice suspense as Zodiac and Zero investigate the XL27. They find the crew unconscious, hit by a coma ray. Steve Zodiac is dispatched with the crew of the XL5 to investigate the XL27's last reported position: the ice planet Zavia.

Steve, Venus and Matt all dress in heavy snow gear to explore the frozen planet (oddly they never appear to have a problem with the cold of space when they gulp down an oxygen pill to go outside the XL5!). All seems normal when they suddenly fall down a crevice and are captured by Cardre and Rader, two members of the Jedums who reveal their evil plan to use a ray to deflect the Sun's rays from Earth and freeze the planet! The Jedums are seeking revenge from being banned from Earth after causing trouble several years ago.

On Earth the plan is working as Space City is covered in snow. Joc cannot get the heaters to give off enough heat. Everything is freezing. It looks like the end.

But Steve cleverly figures out a way to escape their ice jail, get back to the XL5 and destroy the deflection ray! This adventure is loaded with action, jeopardy, suspense and a lot of great shots. The underground ice lair on Zavia and Space City covered with snow are just great to see. There's a nice touch when Matt's glasses get steamed up because of the boiling water in the ice jail and adds to the jeopardy of their escape when he cannot see.

Strangely in the end Cardre and Rader are never really dealt with. Once the deflection ray is destroyed we never hear more about them. So I guess they are free to contemplate further revenge and consider perhaps their biggest mistake: if you HAVE a working coma cannon, don't disassemble it unless you are absolutely sure you will never need it again!
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Fireball XL5: The Fire Fighters (1963)
Season 1, Episode 34
7/10
In Joke?
19 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
In this adventure all mankind is threatened by a mysterious cloud that comes toward Earth and emits...well...Fireballs at the planet.

When the XL5 gets to close to the cloud Steve Zodiac finds the engine compartment on fire and he goes outside the ship to put out the fire while Matt battles the blaze inside before it can get to the fuel supply and blow up the entire ship. This of course makes no sense scientifically whatsoever, but heck it is exciting.

Once the fire is out we see the ship landing at Space City. Soon Venus' home is set ablaze by a fireball from the cloud. Fortunately Steve is able to smash a window and rescue both Venus and Zoony.

Matt comes up with a daring plan to suck the cloud into the old abandoned Space station Spaceport I (looking quite a bit like a smaller scale version of the Death Star in "Star Wars"). The plan almost works but at the last minute a fuse blows inside the death star--I mean Spaceport I and Steve must do a spacewalk and manually throw a switch--and hopefully survive the explosion that is sure to follow! This is an adventure that's full of mystery, suspense, thrills and adventure. It's interesting that Matt uses water to try and put out the fire on Fireball while Ninety uses foam to put out a fire at space city. We see Venus shed tears which looks pretty cool. But I have to wonder about Space City's fire department. Venus' house burns down completely and the fire department NEVER gets there! All in all a slammin' thrill ride of an adventure despite its usual scientific flaws.
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Fireball XL5: Space City Special (1963)
Season 1, Episode 35
10/10
Ground Contol to Major Todd...
12 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
If this wasn't the last episode produced in the series, it should have been. Great story, lots of action, the return of the Subterranians from Planet 46, good moments for virtually the entire cast and a musical ending.

The Subterranians have kidnapped Major Todd who is scheduled to fly the head of the Space program, General Rossiter to Space City for the Astronaut of the Year program to honor Steve Zodiac. They use a brainwash machine so that when his supersonic plane the SL6 goes to 80,000 feet, he will crash the plane and kill all aboard.

General Rossiter invites Venus to join him and thus get to Space City in time for the ceremony, but Venus has her doubts about Major Todd. Her exam reveals nothing but on the flight to Space City she realizes Tod has been brainwashed. Steve and the XL5 is dispatched immediately to come to the rescue as Venus and Rossiter struggle to get control from Major Todd. Steve tells them to do the obvious: smack him on the head with something THEN seize control of the plane. They do so and then Steve talks Venus into a safe landing of the SL6 and the Subterranians are foiled one last time.

Alan Pettrillo once again does a masterful job of directing and the story is nice and taunt, leaving a little room for some comedy (Zoony destroys Jock's bagpipes with a ray gun!) We see Fireball Junior separate from the XL5 main ship while on the launch pad--something I don't think we've seen before--and Steve sings the theme song while backed by Matt on piano, Venus on Sax, Robert on drums, Zero on trumpet and Ninety on bass.

There are a couple of minor errors in consistency--here Matt needs the help of a machine to play the piano while he actually plays it well in an earlier episode and when planning the performance Zero's ability to play the drums is noted but then Robert plays them while Zero plays the trumpet. But this is mere quibbling on a fine adventure that pretty much finishes off the Fireball XL5 saga in fine style.
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Fireball XL5: Ghosts of Space (1963)
Season 1, Episode 36
6/10
Zoinks! Call Scooby and Shaggy!
10 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The XL5 drops off Fraser on the Planet Electron where he is to do some surveying. Fraser discovers all the inhabitants of the local town are gone (except for the spiders--there are a considerable number of spider webs) without explanation. Fraser also discovers a glowing electric rock and decides this is how he'll make his fortune. So he begins to mine the rock.

In the meantime a pair of aliens from the planet Globeris show up in a flying car (looking suspiciously like a Supercar prototype). They are also there to get a supply of the glowing rock.

When the XL5 returns months later they find the town still deserted and no sign of Fraser. So Steve, Venus, Matt and Zoony get rooms in the local hotel. Floating bed sheets, vases and Matt's glasses indicate the place may be haunted.

However...there's no real suspense or jeopardy here since we already know the Globeris are behind it all. The adventure would have been far more effective if it began with the XL5 arriving to pick up Fraser, not knowing where he is, not knowing why the town was abandoned, and the audience not knowing anything about the aliens or even the glowing rocks. Instead of learning things at the same time our heroes do, we find out too much and it takes a lot out of the suspense.

In all its not a bad adventure but could have been so much better.
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Fireball XL5: Invasion Earth (1963)
Season 1, Episode 31
9/10
War of the Worlds
7 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This episode has a hint of mystery, suspense and a lot of action as well as some pretty nasty aliens.

A mysterious space cloud approaches the earth. When the XL18 and the XL24 go to investigate, they are destroyed. Commander Zero's efforts to contact Steve Zodiac are fruitless. The XL5 is on a medical mission providing vaccinations against space disease and is out of radio contact.

Three alien ships emerge form the cloud and a unnamed alien race with a strange language quickly takes over Space City. The defenders' find their weapons won't work against the invaders. They are helpless.

Fortunately the XL5 arrives and investigates. The aliens force Commander Zero to order the XL5 to land or else they will kill his son, Jonathan.

There's all sorts of jeopardy and suspense in this adventure which is skillfully directed by Alan Pattillo with a great script from Dennis Spooner. You don't even mind the ending is a direct lift from "War of the Worlds".

There's a great subtle visual at Space City headquarters. Notice the three coffee cups on the ground next to Commander Zero as he waits for the situation to unfold. They're never mentioned or highlighted, they're just there.
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7/10
Mr. Nobody
5 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Once again Perry gets involved in the world of show business when Herbert Simms (Linden Chiles) the son of a couple who helped him out when he first started is accused of murder. Simms wrote the teleplay for "Mr. Nobody" a pilot that unscrupulous producer Davis Crane (Ben Cooper) appears to be shooting using borrowed money. When Crane turns up dead, pharmacist Simms is accused of murder.

It's too bad the series didn't do more of these Hollywood stories. I always find them entertaining and fun to watch. "Hogan's Heroes" co-star and future director Ivan Dixon plays a witness who testifies for the pharmacy board and favorite character actor Dan Seymour (from "Casablanca") makes an all too brief appearance. Fans of Michael J. Fox might note the appearance of the autopsy surgeon. He is played by Michael Fox. Because two people in the union cannot have the same name, the star of "Back to the Future" added a "J." to his name. This actor is the reason why
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9/10
Nice Set Up
5 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Terrific episode shot in part at the Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles, this features a very good performance by Stuart Erwin as Clay P. "Sandy" Sandover, a accountant who's embezzled $201,000. He's ready to leave his wife and run off with hotty Lita Krail (Kathleen Hughes). On his way to meet her in Arizona, he discovers someone has loaded his briefcase with another $45,000 in cash. Realizing he's been set up, he hastens to get the money back to LA before its loss is discovered. His wife, Perry's good friend Beth Sandover, is accused of killing Krail and Perry goes to work proving she did not.

Erwin is great and the lighting for the early scenes is even better as they make good use of the Bradbury building. "Superman" fans should keep their eyes open for George Reeves' brother Richard, who shows up in a small part as a truck driver. The script by Jackson Gillis (who also wrote for "Superman" as well as "Columbo") is terrific, only falling down a bit at the very end when Erwin goes over the top in his confession, bragging he was smart enough to embezzle all that dough. Allen Miner did a great job directing most of this episode, but he really needed to reign Erwin in at the end.
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Fireball XL5: Space Immigrants (1962)
Season 1, Episode 3
7/10
Zodiac's Travels
5 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Dr. Venus is preparing to lead an expedition to New Earth aboard the Mayflower 3 to help prepare the planet for colonization. What she doesn't know is waiting for them on New Earth are a pair of annoying Lillispaceans, Minotran and Mindor who have already captured Lt. Ross of the XL7 and plan to make him and all the humans their slaves.

Joining Venus is Professor Matt Matic, Robert and Space City's engineer Joc, who has a very 19th century attitude about women being in charge. The Lillispaceans use a remote control to order Robert to dump all the ship's medical supplies as well as oxygen pills. They jam the radio frequencies so Space City cannot contact the Mayflower and using a voice modulator, imitate Steve's voice so Venus thinks Steve is on the way with the needed oxygen pills.

What the Lillispaceans don't know is Steve really IS on the way, since they have lost contact with the Mayflower 3.

Despite the ripoff of "Gulliver's Travels" this episode plays pretty well and fortunately everyone's attitude toward the Lillispaceans is not that they are fearsome, but mostly annoying.

This episode is shot extremely well and the operating room scene is a particular highlight as Venus works to save Joc's life. Note the operating tools floating to the ceiling due to the low gravity on New Earth! Sharp eyes will also catch a rare blooper at 17:15 into the show as we see the reflection of the camera operator in the window of a door inside the Mayflower 3.

Interestingly as the XL5 starts the trip back to earth Steve reports to Space City that they will return in a few days. Earlier the Lilispaceans reveal New Earth is 632 light years from Earth! That's fast even for the XL5!
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Fireball XL5: Trial by Robot (1963)
Season 1, Episode 29
9/10
Robot Rampage!
3 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Bill Harris directs this outstanding episode that starts with a mystery: why are all the top robots disappearing off 4 different planets? Zodiac suspects the culprit might be robot expert Professor Himber who is in Space City to do a lecture on robotics. Suspecting he may try and steal Robert, Matt rigs the robot with an alarm and a tracking device. When Himber leaves without Robert, Steve thinks he may have been mistaken. But then Robert steals the XL1 and the XL5 tracks him to the Planet Robotvia where Himber rules a planet of robots! Himber puts the crew of the XL5 on trial for destroying one of his robot tanks (a reuse of a Granatoid Tank from a previous episode) and his robot judge and jury find them guilty and sentence them to hard labor for life! This story reuses the Granatoid Robots, Al from "Space Gangsters" (he can be seen in the crowd during the Professor's lecture, as well as the news anchor character. It's really well directed with some very impressive shot selections (note the push in when the crew is behind bars as just one example).

Best of all, there's no sign of Zoony anywhere.

A fun, action adventure.
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Fireball XL5: The Robot Freighter Mystery (1963)
Season 1, Episode 27
7/10
Surprisingly Good
6 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Once again lousy security at Space City creates a problem that should easily been avoided.

But despite this and the rather comic Briggs Brothers, this is not a bad episode. Some of the highlights: the Briggs brothers blowing up the salvaged robot freighter to destroy any evidence of sabotage that could be traced back to them; Director David Elliot's building of mystery and suspense as the unknown saboteur approaches the (unguarded) robot freighter; a tape recorder floating in space to draw the XL5 away from escort duty of a freighter; a great shot at night through the window of the Brigg's brother offices so Steve can see them smoking cigars and playing cards; and best of all Steve kicking in the door to take the brothers prisoner! The adventure rises above the weakness of the villains and the obvious saboteur to be quite watchable and a lot of fun.
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Fireball XL5: Drama at Space City (1963)
Season 1, Episode 24
5/10
Not Much Drama
19 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
My favorite XL5 adventures are the ones that are pretty much straight science fiction space stories. But every once in awhile they do a story that reminds you that bottom line this is a kid's show. This is one of these episodes.

After a long mission, Venus and Steve go off on vacation to the mountains for skating and fun in the snow, leaving Matt to retrofit Robert while the Commander and his family--wife Eleanor and son Jonathan watch over Zoony. Interestingly enough the Commander and his wife sleep in twin beds--even though they are married and are well, puppets. But it was the time I guess.

In the middle of the night Jonathan and Zoony go exploring the XL5 and accidentally blast off going at "full power". They don't know the proper command to make Robert stop the ship and return to base (though they don't seem to try too many variations). Matt is asleep in his room on board and doesn't awaken due to a powerful sleep potion Venus prescribed for him before she left. After a time, going full power burns out the XL5's main engine. A fire starts on board and while Jonathan is overcome by smoke, Zoony comes to the rescue with fire fighting gear.

Zero and Ninety come to the rescue on board the XL1 and return everyone to Space City, with Steve blissfully unaware anything took place.

All in all this one is a bit on the silly side, but give credit to Alan Petrillo for still making it visually interesting. He's never one to just phone in his direction and always gives the XL5 his best.
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Fireball XL5: Whistle for Danger (1963)
Season 1, Episode 28
4/10
To Much Zoony
25 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This episode makes me wish Kudos had succeeded in "Last of the Zanadus" and destroyed all lazoons.

At the very least this adventure should have convinced Venus and Steve it was not safe to have Zoony roaming around free and have him/her/it put in a zoo or somewhere.

In this adventure the XL5 goes to a far off planet where a virus called Planetoid 3 has wiped out most of their vegetation. In the meantime Zoony creates havoc back at Space City to the chagrin of Commander Zero.

Fireball returns with specimens from the planet and it is determined that they can save the planet if a chemical bomb is exploded in the planet's atmosphere the virus will be killed and the vegetation will return. Zero makes sure the annoying Zoony is on board and out of his hair before the XL5 is sent on its way.

After setting the bomb off in the atmosphere, the crew goes down to the planet to see the explosion's effects. They leave Robert and Zoony in orbit, where Zoony creates havoc on board.

Steve, Venus and Matt are greeted by two of the planet's inhabitants, who welcome them and invite them to dinner but are later taken prisoner by the beings who believe they are there to conquer, not rescue their planet.

There are some nice moments in this adventure. I liked seeing the fire crew scramble. I liked seeing Zoony go to space jail. Director John Kelly has a nice eye for shot composition which is shown off well there. I liked seeing the crew escape out of their tower prison only to be attacked by man-eating plants! I liked seeing the XL5 fill with deadly gas released when Zoony accidentally knocks it over.

Lots of good moments and kind of a cool story with the aliens, but this adventure just has too much Zoony for me.
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Fireball XL5: Robert to the Rescue (1963)
Season 1, Episode 21
6/10
Minus 8 Minutes
9 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
If you can skip the first 8 minutes of this adventure, do it. In the first 8 minutes we get too much Zoony, too much weak comedy and too much bad science as the Professor discovers what he thinks is a new planet but ends up being a giant planet sized spaceship. When the mysterious ersatz planet comes into our solar system, Fireball XL5 is sent to investigate. This is 8 minutes in. Then suddenly the episode gets GREAT.

The crew soon finds themselves trapped in the mysterious spaceship and held prisoner by the alien species inside. The aliens plan to erase their memories and turn them into new crew members. It is up to Robert to save Steve, Venus and Matt.

The interior of the spaceship is very atmospheric and mysterious. The music and lighting adds a lot, as well as Bill Harris' crisp direction. Robert has to rescue the crew but first has to rescue himself as he is trapped on a conveyor belt of death. It's too bad they wasted so much time at the beginning of this story. It would have been interesting to find out more about the aliens and why they built this massive ship. But all in all a very fun and exciting adventure...just skip the first 8 minutes.
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Fireball XL5: Flight to Danger (1963)
Season 1, Episode 18
6/10
Ninety in Space
9 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Fairly standard episode has Lt. Ninety training to get his astronaut wings. With Steve Zodiac as his instructor, how can he fail? After almost crashing the XL5, Ninety takes the XL1 out of mothballs and has to pass the takeoff test. Borrowing the XL5's Robert, Matt and Venus, he successfully passes this part of the test.

It is only when Lt. Ninety has to take a solo trip around the moon in a space capsule that he runs into real trouble.

There's some nice suspense as Ninety's spacecraft begins to heat up from an interior fire from a damaged nuclear reactor (!) that he is unaware of, and some nice action as his ship goes wildly out of control. At one point, the Fireball crew believes their friend Ninety has been killed and the way it is handled is surprisingly touching and mature for a children's TV show from that era.
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8/10
Duel at Hadleyburg
29 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Peter Duel's last episode is a terrific one, clever and full of great guests. It is a real tragedy that such a talented actor took his own life.

This time Hayes and Curry are captured by of all people, Wally Cox! Cox is a struggling homesteader who plans to use the reward money to help grubstake his small family and purchase some land. However as the family (including wife Sheree North) gets to know Hayes and Curry, they get to feeling guilty about their blood money and decide to help the two escape from the jail (with Sheriff Andy Devine!).

Hayes and the Kid escape but they learn the family is being prosecuted for aiding and abetting their escape. So they have to figure out how to help the family without once more getting caught.

The supporting cast really brings it in this episode. Andy Devine was made for westerns and gives this story a lot of authenticity. Fresh from playing the police chief on "McCloud", JD Cannon is great as a private investigator who is investigating a crooked gambling saloon. Casting Wally Cox was inspired. He shows levels to his performance and no sign of "Mr. Peepers". Dave Garroway shows how underutilized he was in a great turn as the judge. Gene Evans and Adam West also add to the veteran support.

And at the center of it all are Duel and Murphy. Their timing and chemistry is at the top of their game. Reportedly ABC refused producers' requests to cancel the show and forced them to continue production, now with Roger Davis (the series narrator!) to take over the role.

Davis tried gamely, and the scripts were still good, but the magic was gone and the show was canceled 17 episodes later.
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Fireball XL5: Mystery of the TA2 (1963)
Season 1, Episode 23
8/10
In Search Of...
28 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Mystery! Action! Adventure! Peril! Comedy! This script by Dennis Spooner has it all and is a lot of fun.

While returning from a routine patrol, Matt discovers wreckage that turns out to be a part of the missing ship TA2 that disappeared 48 years ago (back in 2014!). In the hopes that Col. Denton may have survived the wreck, the XL5 goes to a nearby ice planet to investigate.

When Venus fails to respond to a radio call, Steve and Matt investigate and discover her jet mobile parked outside a deep crevice! They use the vehicles to fly down into the crevice, discovering it gets warmer and warmer the more they go down.

Once inside they investigate a cave and are overcome by some sort of fumes. Next thing you know the crew of the XL5 are tied up with deadly icicles hanging over their heads. The resident aliens fear they have come to take away their King and put them to the "test of truth". If they are lying, an icicle will fall down and impale them! As corny as that seems, it works and the sequence is very suspenseful. In fact other than having a wee too many Zoony scenes, I thought it all worked and made for a great Fireball adventure.
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Fireball XL5: The Granatoid Tanks (1963)
Season 1, Episode 26
6/10
That's Granatoid for Ya'
22 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Director Alan Pettillo does a nice job in building the tension and suspense of this adventure and creates a relentless new foe for Steve Zodiac in the Granatoids. However, he can't cover up all the holes in the script by Alan Fennell and in the end I found this adventure to be unsatisfying.

A couple of scientists at a Mineral Research Lab on a distant planet find the planet is under attack by the Granatoid robots (sounding suspiciously like our own beloved Robert the Robot!). They immediately call Space City for help and Steve Zodiac's shopping expedition for Venus' birthday present is interrupted.

The XL5 rockets to the rescue with Venus' birthday present aboard, as well as the woman who sold it to them, Ma Dougherty of the music store.

On the way Matt tries to create a device that might stop the Granatoids. Supposedly the only thing that can stop them is an element called Plython, which is in short supply in the universe.

Fortunately for the scientists at the Research lab, the Granatoids for some reason have decided to start their invasion on the other side of the planet, destroying rocks and any other obstacles in their path as they (slowly) make their way to the research lab. Why they didn't land near the lab (which appears to be the only target on the planet worth destroying) is left unexplained. In fact why they even bothered to attack this desolate planet is also unexplained.

When the Granatoids arrive, Matt's invention fails to stop them and it seems all is lost--though I would think a missile from the XL5 probably could easily stop these tanks--until Ma Dougherty steps up and saves the day by using a Plython necklace her father gave her years ago. This hardly comes as a surprise in that it is telegraphed a number of times early in the episode. The Granatoids retreat and go back to their own planet and the universe is once again saved.

Although it is Ma that actually saves everyone, Steve has a good moment when he tries to step in and save her as the tanks advance on the elderly woman. He knows there's nothing he can do, but he's going to try and save her anyway.

Also some nice music early on as Steve and Matt listen to a new disc they are planning to get for Venus and Matt displays his musical talent by playing a tune in the music shop.
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Fireball XL5: 1875 (1963)
Season 1, Episode 25
6/10
Space Cowboys
18 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Weird episode has Matt invent a time machine and sends Robert back to an old west town in 1875. Satisfied with the results, Matt decides to unveil his invention the next day but for some reason leaves the key to his lab with Lt. Ninety and goes to sleep. However Commmander Zero wants to see what the Professor has been working on and orders Ninety to give him the key. Zero, Steve Zodiac and Venus investigate and are accidentally sent back through time thanks to Zoony.

The three find themselves in a western town with no memory of the past, now dressed for 1875. Steve takes a job as Sheriff of this "one horse town" (an in-joke in that the puppeteers seem to have built only one horse puppet!) while Venus assumes the role of "Frenchy Lil" and she and Zero plan to rob the bank.

This has all the makings of a fantasy episode, especially when everything starts happening right after Matt goes to sleep, but I was surprised to find it was not. The problem with Matt's time machine is it appears to erase anyone's memory when they go back in time (in retrospect even Robert was not acting quite himself in his brief time in the past) while giving people entirely new wardrobes, suitable to the time they go to.

All in all this is a lighthearted, "fun" episode where everybody gets to try something a little different. It is fun to see Venus as "Frenchy Lil" robbing the bank, to hear the Fireball XL5 theme song played western style on a concertina, to see Zero ride a horse and watch the bank explode. I also thought the character of Doc looked suspiciously like Buddy Ebsen of "Beverly Hillbillies" and "Davy Crockett" fame.

Hopefully if our intrepid band of space travelers learned one thing from this adventure, it's this: next time, leave the lazoon at home!
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Fireball XL5: Prisoner on the Lost Planet (1963)
Season 1, Episode 19
7/10
Competition for Venus?
10 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Fireball Xl5 goes to uncharted space after hearing a distress call SDC--Space Distress Call--a call they stopped using 20 years ago.

To get to the source of the call, they have to go through the middle of a meteor shower--a highly dangerous proposition. Despite Matt's pleas they turn back, Steve is determined to rescue whoever is in trouble and manages to get the XL5 through the meteor shower safely.

The source of the distress call proves to be Aphros, the Queen of the Amazons who has been marooned on this planet by her own people for 5 years. She shamelessly flirts with Steve (5 years is a long time to be alone on a planet!) but when Steve explains he cannot take her off the planet because she was prosecuted and sentenced to this planet fairly and taking her off the planet would violate the treaty between Earth and Amazonia, Aphros turns on him and threatens to destroy Fireball Junior with lava that she can control from a dangerous volcano.

On board Fireball Jr. Matt and Venus have been listening to the whole thing via Steve's radio. But just as the lava comes down, they find they discover Junior will not fire retros and lift off! Nor will the hatch open to allow them to fly away in jet mobiles! They face being baked to death by lava while trapped inside Junior! There's a lot of jeopardy and action in this one and thankfully this episode is Zoony-free. Steve comes off very heroic (though a bit sexist and patronizing when he discovers WHY Junior would not take off "just like a woman...") and director Bill Harris keeps things moving and looking good throughout.

They never did explain why Aphros used a SOS call that went out of fashion 20 years ago when she's only been stranded on the planet for 5 years, but in the end its a small problem in a generally good episode.
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