Zone Of Danger

Phoenix FiveAfter a death defying re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere with a deliberately weakened heat shield, Captain Roke and Ensign Adam Hargraves emerge alive and victorious…with Roke not even upset that the heat shield was sabotaged as a test of his flying skill. The Controller on Earth not only welcomes Roker and Hargraves back, but introduces them to their new navigator, Cadet Tina Kulbrick and shows the three around their new ship, the Phoenix Five, Earth’s most advanced spacecraft. Its onboard sick bay and garden impress Captain Roke, while Hargraves and Kulbrick are simply excited to be flying the state-of-the-art ship…and learning to deal with the fourth member of the crew, a walking robotic “computeroid” named Karl.

Phoenix Five’s first assignment is the inhospitable planet Zebula 9, where would-be space dictator Zodian was finally brought to justice. Five previous missions to try to stabilize the planet’s atmosphere crashed. Zodian is imprisoned at Earth control, with a retinue of Martian guards keeping an eye on him. But a seemingly harmless arts & crafts project Zodian is undertaking in his cell has deadly uses, and he breaks out of prison to hijack the Phoenix Five – even if it means killing its new crew – to return to Zebula 9 and reactivate his headquarters, complete with its twin computers, Alpha and Zeta. Cadet Kulbrick shows her resourcefulness by programming Karl by remote to bring the Phoenix Five in for a survivable rough landing on Zebula 9 – rough enough that it becomes useless to Zodian’s plans. But it turns out that Alpha and Zeta aren’t going to help Zodian’s plans either.

Phoenix Fivewritten by John Warwick
directed by David Cahill
music not credited

Cast: Mike Dorsey (Captain Roke), Damien Parker (Ensign Hargraves), Patsy Trench (Cadet Kulbrick), Redmond Phillips (Zodian), Stuart Leslie (Karl), Peter Collingwood (Controller), Martin Bright (Martian Guard), Paul Bright (Martian Guard)

Notes: Filmed in 1968 and 1969 in Australia, but not broadcast until May 1970, Phoenix Five is part of a continuum with two previous shows, The Interpretaris (1966) and Vega 4 (1968), though each iteration of the show is more or less a rehash of Phoenix Fivethe series before it. The series was shot on film, and the Australian special effects industry didn’t exist yet, forcing the makers of Phoenix Five to devise some ingenious solutions to showing futuristic gadgetry. This was the beginning of a ten-episode run for producer Peter Summerton, who died unexpectedly after the tenth episode. As much as certain visual elements – chiefly the uniforms – resemble those of Star Trek, cancelled in the U.S. less than a year earlier, and as much as Phoenix Five was regarded as a children’s show, it was actually scheduled opposite the Australian run of Star Trek and Land Of The Giants on a competing broadcaster. Though produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the commercial Seven Network had rights to repeats of the show.

The Controller says that the usefulness of the Phoenix Five’s sickbay will be up to Captain Roke’s “specialized medical knowledge” – in other words, the show’s budget isn’t enough to hire an additional actor to portray a ship’s doctor. The voice artist performing Alpha and Zeta is not credited.

LogBook entry by Earl Green