Fireball XL5 Event - A Review

4th July 2009

Fanderson member Stephen Carson looks back at the theatrical screening of Network's new Fireball XL5 boxset in Covent Garden on 27th June.

Gerry Anderson poses for a photo with a fan while during the signing session at Network's Fireball XL5 theatrical screening in Covent Gadern, London

Having travelled down from Scotland the day before I arrived at the Odeon at 11.00am to find it all closed up and no-one around. I popped into a cafe next door with my wife and returned just before 11.30am to find a queue the length of the cinema, (with Richard Hollis waiting next to the entrance). It reminded me of queuing at Odeons to see James Bond when I was a lot younger!

When the doors opened we were ticked off as we filed in and those of us who had pre-ordered a Fireball XL5 DVD set joined another queue inside. There were a number of Network DVDs on sale as well, including Gerry Anderson's Monochrome set (which has Fireball, minus special features), The Secret Service, Space:1999 1st Series and Supercar.

We were then encouraged to go through to the cinema itself. I am not sure how many the cinema holds but it looked busy. The audience was mainly middle aged chaps (like me) but there were some younger attendees and a few families with children.

Cover artwork for Network's Fireball XL5 box set

The sequence of events was:

  1. Introduction by Richard Hollis
  2. A Wonderland of Stardust excerpt
  3. The Day the Earth froze
  4. A Day In The Life Of a Space General

The documentary was a good introduction to all attendees, although it took me a while to realise that the title was a line from "I Wish I was a Spaceman"). I was surprised to learn a few things, such as that it was originally intended that Supercar would fly in space. It was interesting to see John Blundall's heads and puppets which still survive, and clips of them in action. All in all it certainly whetted your appetite for what was to come.

The Day the Earth Froze was a new 35mm print. It was announced at the start that the cinema was not equipped to show 35mm and so a little was cut from the top and bottom. I personally don't think it suffered, although I know this is very important to some fans. A Day in The Life of a Space General followed in colour; it genuinely looked very good and was well received.

Following the films Gerry came to the stage with Richard Hollis, who set the scene with a few questions of his own before opening it up to the floor. Questions to Gerry included how he teamed up with Barry Gray, how Fireball XL5 came about, whether Supercar would be colourised, why Barry was not retained for Space 1999 Series 2, how Thunderbirds came about and what his favourite Fireball character was (Venus - as long as we are talking only about the puppet).

Following the Q&A Gerry signed DVDs in the foyer. Many of us had already opened our sets and were intrigued to see the liner notes printed in a TV21 style booklet (dated 26th June 2109). Gerry's glamorous assistant provided a silver pen for him to sign the Fireball XL5 DVD box, which was mainly black. To keep the queue flowing only one item was allowed to be autographed and I don't think anyone got any specific dedications.

I had to wait until later that night before getting back to Scotland and watching the disc of extras. I was surprised at the length of the main documentary and also realised that Sylvia was in it (as the excerpt screened did not show this). Similarly the "Drawn in Supermarionation" was a significant documentary that added numerous facts to what I already knew.

Overall, it was a well organised event and Network DVD sold all the Fireball DVDs they brought with them. For me it was a highly enjoyable day and future ones should be considered for other releases. Despite dragging my wife along she admitted that she had enjoyed it too (and was pleased to see me in my element).

Now my big decision is: do I keep all my other versions of Fireball on DVD?

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