BBC Radio 7, 12 May - 6 June 2009
Beware of programmes with rhe 'cult' label; they often turn out to be
disappointing, especially when they were first broadcast some time ago. The Goons (and Monty Python)
prove particularly resistible: much of their humour seems puerile when compared with their successors on radio and television.
After listening to this 1956 edition of Journey Into Space, I felt that
this 'cult' serial was not especially interesting in terms of plot or characterization, but told us a lot about
prevailing attitudes towards class, nationality and gender. Jet Morgan (Andrew Faulds) and his crew were a microcosm of British
society, led by the educated upper middle class captain with the nice-but-dim working class Lemmy (Alfie Bass) knowing his
place within the hierarchy. There was the Australian Mitch (Don Sharp), who might have proved a threat to the social
order, but like a good ex-colonial he knew when to keep silent, as does Doc (Guy Kingsley Porter). To run an efficient
ship everyone must understand their duties and not exceed them, otherwise chaos might ensue. This was especially true
in this story, as the intrepid crew had to deal with intruders from Mars. The serial's contemporary resonances were obvious:
in a country battling with aliens - which might be communists or (more likely) President Nasser's Egyptian troops (this was
the year of Suez), victory will only be gained if everyone pulls together, while acknowledging the importance of a strong
In this social structure there can be little space open for active women; by their
very absence in Journey Into Space they were relegated to second-class citizens. Although the first woman was launched
into space by the end of the 1950s, writers like Chilton could hardly envisage it in 1956. Ironically this proves how ignorant
most Britons were about the space race, although it was much discussed in the media.
Structurally speaking, Journey Into Space was the aural equivalent of the
blockbuster, as the crew dealt with crisis after crisis in each thirty minute episode. Given the sheer weight of problems
that had to solve, one wondered whether the entire universe had it in for the hapless crew. However Jet spoke with such calm
assurance, his finely clipped vowels ringing across the airwaves, that one felt confident that his leadership qualities would
ensure everyone's security. After all, what else could an educated, middle-class white British gentleman do?