The second series of Journey into Space was set six years after man had gone to the moon and now the moon featured a base from where the next stage of man’s exploration into space was going to launch. Rather than just the one rocket like had gone to the moon originally there was a total of ten ships making the long trip to Mars. Jet, Doc, Mitch and Lemmmy were joined by some new characters for this story, which were even longer being 20 episodes in length.
Like the previous story almost half the entire serial was spent getting the characters to Mars with lot of things happening to stop them getting there in the first place such as a meteor-swarm which appears out of nowhere with no warning blocking their path to the red planet amongst others.
One of the new characters James Whitaker came to the fore in these early episodes as he began to behave really strangely, talking in a rather bizarre accent (and repeating the phrase “Orders must be obeyed without question at all times” at almost every opportunity), and scaring the bejesus out of the other crew members (and the majority of the listeners I will wager as well) apparently being born in 1893, seventy eight years previously and seeming to completely disappear in 1924 before coming back under the radar just in time for the Mars mission by Jet and co. It isn’t until later on in the serial when Whitaker dies and immediately turns into an old man do they start to believe that he really can be from the late nineteenth century.
When they finally get to Mars and land on the Red Planet things really start to get interesting as most of the main characters seem to have hallucinations with Jet dreaming of a ruined city and Lemmy believing that he was back home at his favourite Sunday market in good old London, and Mitch believing that he was back in Oz. Only Doc seems to be immune to all of this.
They also seem humans wandering around the surface of Mars without protective suits on, including some of their own crew and they even find a settlement on the planet that looks like it has come right out of the middle of the Australian outback. They even have a friendly flying Doctor who travels around in a flying saucer type contraption which looks just like a normal plane. The farm has sheep, actually creatures that resemble anteaters and dogs which are not dogs but strange beetle like creatures, but for all of the people living there it is Australia 1939 and not Mars in the year 1971!
This is where Mitch ends up with him almost believing that he really was back home (and also in his past as he would only have been very young in 1939 which from his point of view was 32 years ago) and not appearing to have any memory of the trip to Mars that he had just undertaken, and not even recognising any of the crew, which puzzles them no end.
The Flying Doctor then tells them what has been going on and it seems that the Martians (who are unseen in this adventure) have been collecting humans for more than a hundred years and using them to build an invasion fleet so that they can take over the Earth as their planet is dying. Once every 15 years the planets are in opposition and it is then that saucers came to Earth and picked up humans to take back. When taken there they are conditioned so that they can breathe the Martian atmosphere and they don’t appear to age during that period either.
This was in the penultimate episode but the tension had been wracked up so much over the intervening episodes that this wasn’t at all annoying that we had to wait 18 episodes to finally discover what was actually going on, and it all made sense in the end particularly with what happened to Whitaker and why it was possible for him to be 78 years old but look no more than 30 (as that would be a boon to the Hollywood set).
The story ended with the remaining ships of the Martian fleet limping their way back to Earth with the news of Martian invasion due to take place in 1986 with the third and final adventure completing this storyline.
Andrew Faulds continued in the role of Jet, as did Guy Kingsley-Poynter as Doc and David Kossoff as Lemmy. Bruce Beeby who was the original Mitch took over the role for this adventure. Anthony Marriot played Whitaker and David Jacobs, Miriam Karlin, John Cazabon and Madi Hedd played the other parts
I have to give all people involved in these productions full marks for bringing these stories to life and making them a full enjoyable experience. Who needs pictures when stories can still be as exciting as this merely by the power of words and sounds effects and music alone.
This is radio that just wouldn’t work on the big screen with quite the same effect that it still has listened to almost sixty years after its first broadcast