Pathfinders to Venus. Episode Eight – Planet on Fire

venus 08

With the jungle on fire, Conway and the others struggle to reach the safety of the rocket ….

Brown’s fanaticism – he broadcasts back to Earth a message that everyone else is dead and the planet is hostile – is plainly on show here.  His attempt to sabotage the rocket is a little half-hearted though (since Conway is able to quickly to reverse his damage).

There’s another example of Brown’s disregard for the others – Wilson is attacked by a Venusian in the forest and Brown elects to leave him there.  But what’s worse is that Wilson was looking after Hamlet at the time.  So poor Hamlet’s lost in the forest – clearly Brown is a monster of the first degree …..

Will Wilson and Hamlet make it back to the rocket before Conway has to blast off?  Hmm, I wonder.

The dramatic music goes into overdrive as Conway believes they can’t leave the planet as the Russian rocket, carrying the fuel for the return trip home, appears to have crashed.  So they seem doomed to spend the rest of their lives on Venus.  If so, how will they live?  Brown’s rather keen, but the others less so.

The sudden unexpected appearance of Colonel Korolyov (Robert James) therefore comes as quite a surprise as he tells them that there’s no reason why they can’t return to Earth.  Given that the Cold War was still icy at this point, it’s possible to view the image of Korolyov and Wilson, working together in harmony, with a rather jaundiced eye.

But there’s also a subtler reading that can be made.  Wilson admits that his secret mission in space was to establish an outer-space telephone relay system.  Korolyov genially tells the others that he’s glad there was no other motive for Wilson’s flight (which still leaves us with the inference that Wilson hasn’t been completely straight with them.  Maybe there was another – military – motive behind his mission).

Brown stays behind on Venus but the possibility that the Russians or Americans (or even the British) would return one day to plunder its natural resources remains a possibility.  Whilst Pathfinders to Venus generally presents an optimistic picture of space exploration, there’s still the hint that the future might see political or monetary concerns win out over pure scientific research.

Pathfinders to Venus might be a couple of episodes too long, but you can’t help but be impressed by it’s scope and scale.  Attempting to mount an epic tale with a less than epic budget took some nerve and whilst it’s easy to view all three of the Pathfinders tales purely in terms of the way they anticipated Doctor Who, they still stand up as engaging serials in their own right.  Pulpy fun, it’s true.  But fun nonetheless.

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