Our ongoing look back at sci fi / fantasy TV shows that were cancelled way too soon or pilots that never made it to series.
In the late 60’s, U.S. television had the two live action space shows Star Trek and Lost in Space airing and apparently British television flirted with one of its own evidenced by the failed pilot for The Solarnauts. The premise of this show was simple: in a future where we have colonized the solar system, the Solarnauts are a special force dedicated to keeping us safe from alien (and presumably non-alien) threats. The dashing young leads are named Power and Tempo (no idea if those are nicknames or not) and they fly around the system in a very Flash Gordon looking spaceship while taking orders from the leader of the Solarnauts Tri-S (I got no explanation for that name). And former Bond girl Martine Beswick is onboard as well, though she’s not given much to do other than look pretty. The pilot is definitely super cheesy with its artificial-looking model sfx, jazzy theme music, stilted dialog, poor acting, and avalanche of sci fi cliches. But at the same time, it is a ton of fun in a so-bad-it’s-good way and I would have loved to have seen more episodes from this show. It’s definitely much closer to Lost in Space than Star Trek, and actually a better comparison would be to consider it a modernized (for its time) Captain Video or Space Patrol. Most interesting is the track record of the show’s creator–Roberta Leigh–which intersected with and paralleled that of Gerry Anderson. Leigh, like Anderson, had got her start in television doing puppet shows, and she created The Adventures of Twizzle and Torchy the Battery Boy which were the first two Anderson worked on (he was the producer/director). In the 60’s, she created the sci fi puppet show Space Patrol (not to be confused with the 1950’s live action series mentioned above), and the pilot for another sci fi series titled Paul Starr (with the lead voice provided by Ed Bishop who later appeared in Anderson’s Captain Scarlet and UFO). Then she jumped to live action sci fi in 1967–beating Anderson’s UFO by three years–with the pilot for The Solarnauts. It didn’t fly and she later focused more on novel writing and less on television. But the pilot for this show is still out there (you can watch it on YouTube at this link) and well worth seeking out. Just prepare yourself before watching this because it delivers a Velveeta-overload cheese-fest but also some bad-but-good sci fi from a simpler era. (You can read more about The Solarnauts at this link.)
Aired: Never Aired
Created By: Roberta Leigh
Starring: John Garfield, Derek Fowlds, John Ringham, Martine Beswick