“What may sound like a fairy tale today may be tomorrow’s reality. This is a fairy tale from the day after tomorrow: There are no more countries. There is only mankind and its colonies in space. People have settled on faraway stars. The ocean floor has been made habitable. With velocities still unimaginable today, spaceships are rushing through our Milky Way. One of these spaceships is the ORION, a minuscule part of a gigantic security system protecting the Earth from threats from outer space. We shall now accompany the ORION and her crew on their patrol at the edge of infinity.”
I’ll be honest here and admit that I had not heard of this series before yesterday but the footage I glimpsed sufficiently piqued my interest to hunt down everything and anything I could find out and pass it on to you, my faithful reader. This could possibly be the most ambitious and spell-binding science fiction television series I have ever witnessed. Just imagine Raymond Cusick (designer of the Daleks from Doctor Who) encouraged to expand on his ideas and granted the budget to support them and you may come close to the genius that is Raumpatrouille Orion.
The set design is just amazing and the vision of the future consisting of a unified planet Earth without boundaries is quite refreshing. In many ways, the series looks and sounds like a European answer to Star Trek, with its brave space commanders, explosive battles and mind-blowing technology. Space Patrol Orion (as it was known in its limited exposure to English speaking countries) quickly developed a cult status and with only 7 episodes in existence, it’s the stuff of dreams. Screened in the autumn of 1966, the series was more successful after its time when it had acquired that special status of cult hit.
The special effects were the same simple technique used in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, whereby matte paintings, models and backdrops were cut into the shot with live actors, giving a phantasmagorical visual such as the dance club at the bottom of the ocean. This type of trickery was very difficult to pull off effectively back in the day but is all but impossible in color television. Personally, I prefer it to CGi which even a five year old can spot a mile away.
If you are interested in cult sci-fi or vintage television, seek this out. You’ll be glad that you did.
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