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Top five Fireball XL5 guest villains

Across thirty-nine episodes, the crew of Fireball XL5 faced a variety of dangerous adversaries as they patrolled Sector 25. In addition to the show’s regular pair of villains, the Subterrains of Planet 46 and Boris and Griselda Space Spy, there was also an assortment of guest villains who each only ever made one appearance in the series. Some were renegade robots, some were plant men from outer space, and some were one-eyed brains in jars with ambitions of universal domination – so as you can imagine their success rate was variable! Here is our selection of the top five guest villains to ever tangle with the XL5 crew!

#5 – The Domeheads from Robert to the Rescue

When Professor Matic discovers a new planet through his telescope, XL5 is dispatched to investigate – only to find itself pulled inside the vast artificial sphere, and confronted by its two ‘Domehead’ controllers Megar and Proton. Fearful of their world being discovered, the pair decide to wipe the XL5 crew’s memories and put them to work as slaves – and it’s only thanks to Robert the Robot that they are able to escape, eventually recovering their identities but with no memory of what went on inside the sphere.

The Domeheads are among the more memorable XL5 villains because of how much we don’t know about them. Who are they? Where did they come from? Did they have another other plan beyond just keeping to themselves? At the end of the episode they decide to “leave this galaxy forever” in order to avoid being discovered again – but what happened to make them so paranoid in the first place? And why do they choose to live in almost total darkness?

“Wiping this Earth woman’s mind didn’t take as long as we’d thought…”

Yet it’s in their chilling treatment of the XL5 crew that the Domeheads earn a spot on this list. Seeing Matt, Venus and then Steve strapped to chairs that gradually strip them of their memories (not only of each other but of anything they knew before arriving in the sphere) and then enslaved as ‘honourary’ Domeheads is one of the show’s more nightmarish sequences – and that’s before they make Venus throw poor old Robert onto a conveyer belt leading to their furnace!

#4 – Koodas from The Last of the Zanadus

As discussed on our Spookymarionation video, Koodas is one of the most unsettling Supermarionation villains of all time, well at home in an unusually creepy almost dreamlike episode. Evidently the last survivor of the Koodas race of the planet Zanadu, he spends much of his time plotting revenge against the race that wiped out his people – the Lazoons. Yes, really. When not working on that, he likes to spend his spare time in the throne room of his ice palace, surrounded by terrifying portraits of his ancestors, giving speeches to pre-recorded cheers from the long-dead residents of Zanadu. That, coupled with his wide bulging eyes, presents an unsettling portrait of a genuinely and dangerously unhinged individual.

Having placed a curse on human explorer Jim Ireland, who made the mistake of landing on the forbidden world of Zanadu, Koodas then uses his new slave to deliver a virus to Earth to kill Zoonie, and from there all other Lazoons. And even when Ireland is getting some sleep after his long journey back to Earth, Koodas appears at the foot of his bed to yell at him to get on with the job.

Fireball XL5 taking the idea of a monster under the bed in a new and even more terrifying direction.

Thankfully the XL5 crew are able to obtain water from the Zanadu temple’s frozen fountain of eternal life in order to cure Zoonie, but smashing the fountain causes Koodas to spontaneously age into an old man. Rather than live with his failure or infirmity, Koodas chooses to commit suicide by blowing up the temple entirely – and the universe lost one of its leading boggle-eyed lunatics.

#3 – The Aquaphibian from XL5 to H2O

Was there ever a more efficient or fanatical Fireball XL5 villain than the Aquaphibian? Having wiped out almost the entire population of the planet Zofeit (apparently by himself, although given that this is Fireball XL5 there may only have been a dozen people living there to start with) this silent fish-man is obsessed with hunting down and destroying the last two survivors. Thankfully the Fireball XL5 crew arrive in time to save them, but the rescue is one of their most challenging missions. Armed with a weapon that can fire either toxic gas or a deadly beam ray capable of cutting into XL5’s hull, the Aquaphibian is an exceptionally dangerous adversary, equally deadly on land or underwater – as Steve Zodiac and Venus find out when Fireball Junior sinks into the waters of the planet!

“Well at least we’re safe down here Venus – oh, hell…”

Last seen taking a hit from the ray of Steve Zodiac’s jetmobile the wounded Aquaphibian still managed to escape, no doubt to enjoy the now-abandoned Zofeit in peace – as well as provide inspiration for the design of Titan’s Aquaphibian soldiers in Stingray!

#2 – The Granatoids from The Granatoid Tanks

An army of robots in tanks rolling implacably along destroying anything in their path, the Granatoids menace a pair of scientists looking to make Planet 73 habitable for human life – and yet, their ambitions extend far beyond that alone. The nomadic Granatoids are described as having “been seeking a home for years”, and their efforts to take Planet 73 are their latest attempt to find a world of their own.

In keeping with the standard Fireball XL5 presentation of its villains we only actually see two Granatoids, but the larger formation of tanks make it feel like our heroes are for once facing a genuinely massive invading force more akin to a swarming insect hive – an idea that is reflected in the insect-like appearance of the tanks themselves. Although there are only six of them, their awesome firepower means only a sheer fluke is able to prevent the marauding robots from taking the planet and destroying the XL5 crew.

Said ‘fluke’ being a little old lady and her pearl necklace, but still. They would have succeeded if not for that.

It’s mentioned that the XL5 crew had tangled with the Granatoids once before, while both of the scientists are also already aware of their devastating power, suggesting a tantalising history between humanity and the Granatoids that could have provided the series with another regular foe we would have loved to see make a return appearance.

#1 – Grothan Deblis from Convict in Space

Sporting a very sinister appearance, a deliciously evil David Graham voice, and an endearing tendency to wave his fist in frustration whenever his plans are foiled, interplanetary espionage agent Grothan Deblis is another character who is already known to the XL5 crew despite only making one appearance in the series.

Having stolen top secret plans Deblis is then captured by the XL5 crew but sprung while on the way to the prison planet Conva by Mr and Mrs Space Spy, who are looking for a half share in the sale of said plans. Deblis co-operates with them in retrieving the plans from the planet Voldanda – before abandoning them at the foot of an erupting volcano! Having already imprisoned their hostage Professor Matic in a tower right in the path of the oncoming lava, the stage is set for one of Fireball XL5’s most spectacular model effects sequences – while Deblis attempts to make his escape!

It’s in his teamup with the Space Spys that Deblis’ villainy is clearly highlighted, as for every plan or idea they have he always seems to be able to outdo them with suggestions of his own – often surprising them with just how far he is prepared to go. When even your regular villains are saying that the guest villain is being a bit too naughty, you know you’ve got a very special character who deserved to make at least one return appearance.

Tell you disagree, now that he’s got an axe.

Some memorable baddies in that gallery of space rogues – but did we miss out one of your favourite XL5 antagonists? Let us know who they were in the comments below!

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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