Plot: In the year 2063, mankind has moved beyond its native world and extended its reach into the depths of space. This is because of the efforts of the World Space Fleet, which has been the driving force behind the exploration of outer space. The exciting, but also dangerous task of moving into space and always looking into new locations hasn’t been easy, but the World Space Fleet has been dedicated and found immense success. Within the fleet’s armada, a number of ships can be found, but the unquestioned leader is Fireball XL5. The amazing vessel has always been at the point in the most important missions, thanks not only to its incredible capabilities, but the top notch crew inside that make it all work. The crew is led by the noble Colonel Steve Zodiac, who is brave and always poised to what is right, but he is just one member of this valiant team. Also on deck are the quirky robot Robert, the genius professor Matt Matic, and the beautiful, gifted doctor Venus, quite an imposing selection of crew members, to be sure. Those on Fireball XL5 patrol perhaps the most unpredictable section of space, the area known as Sector 25. Home to countless races of strange, mostly unknown aliens, Sector 25 is no walk in the park. But if anyone can uphold justice there, its Col. Zodiac and the others aboard Fireball XL5.
Entertainment Value: After the success of his first Supermarionation series, Supercar, Gerry Anderson decided to look to the stars for his next project. As we all know, Anderson would use space as the setting in numerous productions, but Fireball XL5 was his first effort to bring the magic of space to the small screen. The visuals are typical Anderson, which means detailed and striking, especially the sets and props used. The characters look good also, with solid sculpting on the heads and of course, cool sci/fi costumes. I hold Robert the Robot as my personal favorite character, but of course, Colonel Steve Zodiac is probably the best known of the lot. The visuals and just flat out cool factor of the production elements are the main draw for Fireball XL5, as the attention to detail is incredible. Anderson would polish his craft over time of course, but I still love to just marvel at how creative and interesting all of the little touches are and as a whole, the production design elements here are terrific.
As you can imagine, the animation isn’t as smooth and refined as in later series like Captain Scarlet or Thunderbirds, but as far as excitement and high tech thrills, Fireball XL5 proved to be another success for Anderson. At least in terms of end result, as this series wasn’t a smash hit at the time, or not to the level of his later work. But whenever I talk with someone about Anderson’s work, Fireball XL5 usually gets mentioned and rarely is it discussed in a negative light. So even if it wasn’t a record setting show as far as ratings, it was a favorite with many youngsters, most of whom still recall watching the show in warm memories. And in the decades since it was released, Fireball XL5 has cultivated a following and while most are general fans of Anderson’s unique style, I still think the show earns its stripes. I enjoyed revisiting Fireball XL5 once again and for fans of unique animation or Anderson’s remarkable career, it is well worth a look, even if it is a little unrefined at times.