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Fireball XL5 – The Steve Zodiac Diaries

The Fireball XL5 episode Drama at Space City opens with a short section of clips from previous episodes The Doomed Planet and The Triads. Almost certainly only included to boost the episode’s running time, the clips are presented as the memories of Steve Zodiac as he flicks through pages in his diary. Rather than simply show Steve holding the diary however, we actually see several pages of diary entries handwritten by someone at A.P. Films. On DVD it was difficult to read them, but on Blu-ray we can now fully appreciate the time and effort that went into producing the diary for this one scene.

Only seen briefly on screen, the diary doesn’t actually mention the events of The Doomed Planet and instead discusses Planet 46 instead, and with Robert referred to as Robbie throughout. It also provides a brief prequel of sorts to the series by telling us what the XL5 crew was up to the day before the events of the first episode, with the diary also giving us dates for the events of the two episodes Steve describes. Following the conclusion of The Triads on July 27th, July 28th is blank while July 29th and onwards are marked as ‘vacation’ which is when the events of Drama at Space City then start, offering us a rare moment of continuity between XL5 episodes – although in no known episode order does Drama at Space City air immediately after The Triads.

Steve has kindly allowed us to transcribe these sections of the diary here, and where his finger is blocking a word we have tried to best guess (in brackets) what might have been underneath.

June 12th

Most of us spent the time taking it easy. Robbie blew a fuse and started playing some old fashioned twist tapes that Venus found one day when exploring an old film (library) outside London. They were (such) a gas. Venus was quite sorry when Matic said he would have to repair the fuse. We radioed Space (City to) ask about Eleanor’s cold, and (Commander Zero) said she was a lot better.

June 13th

Venus and I landed on Planet 46 and had a look round on our jetmobiles. She said the place gave her the creeps. It really was a creepy place with nothing but rocks and craters. The Subterrains’ place is guarded by two men inside glass pillars, but to even get to them I had to cross a lake of burning lava. Half away across the motors of my jetmobile failed and I though I would never reach the other side. If I had known what was going to happen to Venus I would have been very (SOMETHING) ing to leave her there. I got knocked out by one of the guards’ ray guns, just managing to shout across to her to go and get help. She sped (away) but couldn’t get out of the ea(SOMETHING) because the electrodes barred (her) exit. All this she told (me) about when we had got off the (planet).

July 24th

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the landing on the Triads planet. It was a terrifying start to a very happy adventure. The planet looks the same as Earth, except that everything is three times the size – including the gravity pull! We had no sooner left Zoonie tucked up with Robbie in Central Control than we felt the pull. It was the final situation that really had me worried, what with having to use the emergency retros etc. Finally we landed with a terrific bump, after crashing through the undergrowth for several miles. Of course we would have to choose that part of the planet to land on. It’s funny how this always seems to happen.

July 25th

Matic and Venus carried out extensive botanical survey on the planet, and they say that the place vegetation-wise is exactly the same as on Earth with everything three times bigger. Of course I could have told them this only by looking. I liked the big teasels especially. Reminded me of the woods (near) the village of Jordans in England. Going through the undergrowth was wonderful. Now I know how an ant feels in an orchard.

July 26th

When we ran out of fuel we started walking, and Matic as usual knew better than us and went off in another direction. Suddenly Venus and I heard a scream and there was Matic being hotly pursued by a Triad lion. I shouted to him to use his thruster pack – which he did just in time. Meanwhile Venus and I had jumped up into the trees. Her branch snapped and she had to cling on for dear life with the lion licking his lips at the bottom. However Graff and Snaff came to our rescue.

July 27th

Matic really was in his element on that lab bench. He refused to let Graff and Snaff help him, and (typically) made Venus and me do all the work. She and I were carting test tubes and flasks filled with assorted liquids all over the place. The place was soon looking like Matic’s place back in Space City. The fuel was comparatively easy to manufacture but Matic insisted on making a big fuss. Perhaps it was purely because the equipment was about a hundred years out of date.

My athletes foot is much better.

Written by
Chris Dale

Writer, editor & voice actor on Big Finish's Doctor Who, Terrahawks, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet audio ranges. Host of the Randomiser on the Gerry Anderson Podcast.

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