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|Raumpatrouille – Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffes Orion|
Hans Gottschalk a.k.a. W.G. Larsen
Friedrich G. Beckhaus
|Country of origin||Germany (West)|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||7|
|Running time||60 min each|
|Production company(s)||Bavaria Atelier GmbH|
|Original network||ARD, ORTF|
|Original release||17 September – 10 December 1966|
Raumpatrouille – Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffes Orion (literal translation: Space Patrol – The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion), also known as Raumpatrouille Orion, and Space Patrol Orion in English, was the first German science fiction television series. Its seven episodes were broadcast by ARD beginning 17 September 1966. Being a huge success with several reruns audience ratings went up to 56%. Over the years, the series acquired a distinct cult status in Germany.
In the series, nations no longer exist and Earth is united. Flying saucers, such as spaceship Orion, are flown by humans, whilst the aliens fly fighter jet-like aircraft. The titular ship of the series title, "Spaceship Orion", (German: "Raumschiff Orion") is portrayed as being a fast space cruiser (German: Schneller Raumkreuzer), the newest starship in mankind's fleet and the fastest spacecraft ever created by humans.
The show tells the story of Commander Cliff Allister McLane (Dietmar Schönherr), an Earth starship captain and his loyal crew. He is Orion's commander in the developing war against an alien race called the Frogs. He is notoriously defiant towards his superiors.
As the series' budget was comparatively low, the set designers resorted to using modified common everyday objects; for instance, electric irons, inverted clock pendulums, washing-machine console parts and designer pencil sharpeners were used as props control panels, sewing thread coils and banana plugs as futuristic machine parts, and plastic cups as ceiling lights. Many panels were produced by the then-newly invented thermoforming process. Lots of designer furniture was also used, notably Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's 258-type couch, Harry Bertoia's Diamond-type armchair, Yrjö Kukkapuro's Karuselli-type armchair, Charles Eames's Aluminium group #EA105 chair, George Nelson's DAF Chair and Eero Saarinen's Tulpe table/chair combo. Joe Colombo's famous Smoke-type drinking glasses were used throughout the series.
Orion's cockpit was a 2.50m high, 10m wide interior set, built within a 28m exterior diameter sound stage. It stood on a 60 cm high metal tube construction to hide the 10,000m cable harness that connected its 3,200 flashing light bulbs to a 40 kg, electric motor-driven pinned-barrel mechanical sequencer.
"We had no money available and yet we were instructed to produce an elaborate science-fiction series. We were forced to improvise in all aspects. This ruled out completely manufacturing the spaceship's equipment from scratch. So we used existing things that we could adapt," is how Zehetbauer described the design work of the set.
Rumours about the considerable costs of the series having led to its termination after only seven episodes were denied by the widow of the Orion's original screenwriter, implying that it was planned from the start to have only seven installments. More episode screenplays were written than were filmed. No official reason was given for not producing a second series of episodes, but there are several reasons that were aired in interviews many years later by those involved in the production. According to Hans Gottschalk, one of the executive producers, there was a "lack of exciting script ideas" at the time. Helmut Jedele, then boss of Bavaria Film, the production company, mentioned in hindsight that the company had already undertaken too much for its resources, both in terms of staff and finance.
Another factor in planning for a second series would have been filming in colour instead of black-and-white. While this would have been required for a successful international marketing of an extension, the German production companies were not yet prepared for the necessary investment for the new equipment.
Yet another impediment might have been that the controllers in charge at the state television channel ARD feared accusations of an excess of "militarism" and a portrayal of a system "akin to fascism". While this might seem far-fetched for foreigners, this issue was and is very sensitive in Germany with regards to the past history of the country, and executive producer Helmut Krapp admitted that the issue was considered and taken seriously.
Originally WDR, headquartered in Cologne, the largest regional broadcasting channel within ARD public TV consortium, was the sole commissioning producer on behalf of ARD group and in that position to provide complete production funding. However, the planned budget of up to 360,000 DM for each episode was considered too high by the WDR controllers. Bavaria Film chief Helmut Jedele looked for a co-producer to share some of the cost and came to an agreement with French national state TV channel ORTF. They contributed about 20% to production funding and some scenes, notably in episode 5, were re-shot for the French audience using French actors. In France the title of the series was "Commando spatial - Les aventures fantastiques du vaisseau Orion".
145 novels based on and continuing the series were published over the years, often with settings which were considerably different from those seen in the series.
A movie composed of various scenes from the original series, together with some new footage, debuted in 2003 but did not match the success of the original series. As described by Dietmar Schönherr in an interview, the series had tried to deal with serious issues, a fact appreciated by many of its viewers. The movie's producers tried to replicate the series in trash culture style, however, thereby alienating much of the original fan base. The title of the movie was "Raumpatrouille Orion – Rücksturz ins Kino". The storyline was about the invasion and attacks of the Frogs, the term now becoming an acronym for "Feindliche Raumverbände ohne galaktische Seriennummer" (roughly Hostile Space Combat Units Without Galactic Serial Identification Number). This description appears for the first time in the film and contradicts the series, where Atan Shubashi and Hasso Sigbjörnson, who were the first humans to see the Frogs, called them "Frösche" (German for frogs) first, but later switched to the English translation because "Frösche" sounded too familiar to describe the aliens.
Voice-over introduction in German:
|No.||Title||Original air date|
|1||"Attack from Space"|
"Angriff aus dem All"
|September 17, 1966|
|On their first mission after being reprimanded and transferred to space patrol service, the crew of the Orion investigate an outpost gone silent and promptly discover a new extraterrestrial threat.|
|2||"Planet off Course"|
"Planet außer Kurs"
|October 1, 1966|
|When the Frogs send a rogue planet on a collision course to Earth, only the Orion may be able to stop it.|
|3||"Keepers of the Law"|
"Hüter des Gesetzes"
|October 15, 1966|
|The crew of the Orion investigates a mining outpost not responding to calls and discovers a problem with the robotic workforce.|
|October 29, 1966|
|A human commander tries to defect to the Frogs, later saying he doesn't remember the incident. When the Orion is ordered to the sector where it took place, similar things happen to the Orion crew and loyalties are put to the test.|
|5||"Battle for the Sun"|
"Kampf um die Sonne"
|November 12, 1966|
|Variations in the sun's energy output threaten the Earth's climate. The Orion crew investigates and discovers a long forgotten colony of humanity which may be responsible.|
|6||"The Space Trap"|
|November 26, 1966|
|The Orion takes aboard a writer looking for inspiration for his next novel, which doesn't make things easier when the crew encounter a colony of outcasts with dangerous ambitions.|
|7||"Invasion"||December 10, 1966|
|Unusual behavior by high-ranking intelligence officials makes Commander McLane suspect a conspiracy. No one listens to his warnings until it is too late: the invasion by the Frogs is already underway.|
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