Pathfinders to Venus (1961)
Article 5777 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Guy Verney and Reginald Collin
Featuring George Coulouris, Gerald Flood, Graydon Gould
What it is: TV limited series outer space adventure
A group of British astronauts go on a mission to rescue an American astronaut stranded in an orbit around Venus. They are all forced to land on the planet and explore.
This was the third of three TV-serials about a group of space-traveling people; in the first two stories, they explored the Moon and Mars (to the best of my knowledge). I’ve not seen the first two serials, but this one bears a certain resemblance to the U.S. TV series “Lost in Space”, what with the fact that a couple of the astronauts are children and that the character of Dr. Harcourt Brown (played by perhaps the biggest name in the cast, George Coulouris) is clearly the series’ equivalent to Dr. Zachary Smith. Alas, there’s no robot; instead the girl totes around a pet guinea pig named Hamlet who gets to share in the dangers, including almost being eaten by a carnivorous plant. Still, this series predated “Lost in Space”, so if there was any influence, it would have been in the other direction.
As for the story, it’s certainly not up there with the Quatermass stories (and given the fact that this is clearly a juvenile production, I wouldn’t expect it to be). Still, I was hoping something a little more interesting than what I got here; most of what occurs feels like variations on any number of space travel movies from the fifties. It’s also very cheaply made, and I suspect it had a rushed production; I’ve never seen as many technical gaffes in a production before. Yet somehow they do manage to cough up a little bit of stop-motion to add to the proceedings. Nonetheless, I found this one to be a bit on the dreary side, though if I’d seen it as a kid, I might have liked it better. As it is, the high point for me in this series was reading the credits for episode seven, which had so many technical gaffes they felt they needed to acknowledge it in the credits, a moment which certainly belongs in TV history.