Falling into the Sun doesn’t get off to the best of starts as a very obvious camera shadow looms behind our heroes as they make their way to the rocket. Luckily for them Brown isn’t able to take off, as the rocket is infested with that pesky lichen.
This lichen is a little animated (although the wires holding it up are painfully obvious at times). Henderson quickly works out a way to kill it off – heat – and within a matter of seconds it’s no longer a menace. Margaret and Geoffrey are very upset though – Hamlet was in the rocket and didn’t have a spacesuit, so surely he would have been killed. I have to confess to being slightly less concerned about the hamster’s fate than they are, but animal lovers everywhere needn’t fear as Brown shielded it from harm.
As Mary says (a little ironically) this is a point in his favour – he might have been ready to leave them all to perish on the surface, but at least he didn’t let the hamster die. It’s interesting that Brown’s anti-hero status is therefore still firmly in place – he didn’t decide to stay because he had a change of heart about those he’d be leaving behind, he was only prevented from leaving because of the lichen. The Doctor might have been a little untrustworthy in the early Doctor Who stories, but he was never so heartless.
How will they get back to Earth? Brown has the solution – they have to set the controls for the heart of the Sun. This possibly isn’t as crazy as it sounds (well not quite) as the Sun’s gravitational pull will generate the extra power they need. We drop back in on Buchan Island where they’re keeping an eye on things and it’s plain that Ian’s doubtful of their chances. But watch him when they make it – he starts jigging around like nobody’s business!
So they’re nearly home, but Brown doesn’t fancy going back to Earth (he thinks Venus looks much more interesting). The others look on with indulgent smiles, although if I was them – remembering how many times Brown’s actions have endangered their lives – I’d probably be less sanguine.
Pathfinders to Mars doesn’t quite have the same impact that Pathfinders in Space did. Harcourt Brown is the main reason for watching, since the plot is rather thinly spread over the six episodes. As touched upon before, after being teased about intelligent life on Mars it comes as a disappointment to find that there’s nothing there. So the later episodes turn into something of a run-around with various not terribly exciting dangers (lichen, crevices, quicksand).
Maybe Malcolm Hulke and Eric Paice were aware of this problem, as the trip to Venus sees them abandon the last vestiges of scientific credibility. If you want Venusians and Venusian dinosaurs then Pathfinders to Venus has them …..