Pathfinders to Venus. Episode Two – Into the Poison Cloud

venus 02

Convinced that Wilson is trapped on the surface of Venus, Conway and the others set out to rescue him.  But before they can do this they have to work out a way to negotiate the poison cloud that surrounds the planet.

After a few minutes chat, they seem confident so once again the dramatic stock music is cued as the sweet little model rocket slowly begins its descent.  You have to respect the abilities of the regulars (attempting to sell the illusion of danger with such limited resources is no easy task).

But although it’s easy to be critical of the effects, some are very effective.  The shots of the American rocket orbiting Venus are nicely done.  The rocket isn’t particularly detailed, but the fact it’s so small means that it contrasts well with the vast planet.  And our first sight of the planet’s surface – the camera tracks down to reveal the rocket nestling amongst surprising lush vegetation – is a decent model sequence.

Brown is convinced that Venus has a breathable atmosphere and – against the advice of the others – he emerges from the rocket without his space helmet.  And wouldn’t you know it, he’s correct.  This is probably the moment where it’s pointless to worry about scientific accuracy and simply go with the flow.  One obvious plus point about this is that it means our heroes don’t have to spend the entire serial wandering about with space helmets on (which I’m sure was Hulke and Paice’s reasoning).

Since this was 1961 you shouldn’t be surprised that the boys (Conway, Geoff and Brown) immediately go out to explore whilst the girls (Mary and Margaret) stay behind in the rocket.  But it isn’t long before the ever-squeaky Margaret gets her chance to take a look outside (albeit with Geoff as a chaperone).

Conway finds the place “menacing” although at present there’s no sign of life.  On the other hand, Brown is delighted – telling Margaret and Geoff that due to Venus’ slower orbit he could expect to live for another six hundred years here.  I’m going to have to think about that one ….

Poor Wilson.  Considering that the others had come to rescue him, now that they’re jaunting around on the surface he’s rather stuck.  So he too decides to make planetfall.  Geoff, manning the radio, can’t convince Conway that the blip he’s monitoring is a rocket (which is reasonable, since they all assume Wilson has already touched down).  The scene of Wilson’s rocket crash-landing is interesting.  Let’s assume that the planet’s surface is very springy (that would explain why his rocket seems to bounce up and down).

What should you never do on a strange new planet? Split up and explore.  So whilst Conway, Mary and Brown have stuck together (with Geoff and Margaret safely in the ship) what do the youngsters decide to do?  Yep, head off under their own steam for a spot of exploration.  Oh dear.

Towards the end of the episode we get to see a bit more of Venus’ lush vegetation (which seems to include large mushroom plants).  We also have our first sign of life – a snake – as Geoff and Margaret close in on Wilson’s crashed rocket.  But Wilson’s nowhere to be found and Geoff makes a disturbing discovery.  “This damage couldn’t have been done by a crash-landing. The rocket’s been ransacked by some creature!”

Stuart Guidotti’s performance, like Hester Cameron’s, is sometimes pitched at a level of extreme hysteria – as it is here.  Possibly they were both told to go for it (as in Doctor Who, end of episode acting was a specialised skill) and it’s fair to say that neither of them are holding back as this episode concludes.

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