The Adventures of Don Quick (1970) – Space, Comedy, Satire And The Benefits Of Earth!
In 1969, the space race was well and truly on. The front page of the Daily Mirror (see below) announces Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong as two of the astronauts selected for the first mission to the moon – planned for later that year.
Picture: Daily Mirror Front Page – 10th January 1969
Popular culture was also inspired by this story. David Bowie had a hit with his single Space Oddity – released in July 1969 – just nine days before Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Bowie would not have looked out of place wearing some of the costumes from this series – which have certain resemblance to some of those worn by his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust!
The 70’s era of space-men and glam-rock was just beginning.
Two years later in 1972, Elton John and Bernie Taupin would produce his own homage to space with his single Rocket Man – included on his hit album Honky Chateau – reaching #2 in the UK and #6 in the US. The song echoes the theme of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (both recordings were produced by Gus Dudgeon), but according to an account in Elizabeth Rosenthal’s book His Song: The Musical Journey of Elton John, the song was inspired by Taupin’s sighting of either a shooting star or a distant airplane.
The story goes on to relate that the notion of astronauts no longer being perceived as heroes, but in fact as an “everyday occupation”, led him to the song’s opening lines: “She packed my bags last night, pre-flight. Zero hour: 9 a.m. And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then.”
I guess we’ll have to wait a bit longer for that.
The Adventures of Don Quick
It’s within this context that the idea for The Adventures of Don Quick was born – a comedy/ satire set in space – giving Ian Hendry an opportunity to escape for a while from the ‘hard-man’ on screen persona.
The year before he had starred in the film Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun aka Doppleganger. With The Adventures Of Don Quick he was back in space again but in a very different ‘vehicle’.
Picture: Ian Hendry and Roy Thinnes – Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun (1969)
Picture: Title from the show’s opening sequence
The Adventures of Don Quick is a science fiction comedy television series that ran from October–December 1970, on ITV. Starring Ian Hendry and Ronald Lacey, six 50 minute episodes were made, shown in a 60 minute time slot. As of 2008, only the first episode exists, the other five are now missing. A technologically impressive 30 foot model spaceship was built in the studio for the series. However the first three episodes in a prime time slot failed to draw the required ratings so the last three episodes were in a much later slot before the show was cancelled.
The show is also notable for several performances by up and coming actors including a young Colin Baker – who would go on to play the lead in Doctor Who; Kate O’Mara who would achieve world-wide recognition as Alexis Colby in Dynasty and Anouska Hempel, the New Zealand film and television actress turned hotelier, interior designer and noted figure in London society. Anouska would appear as a guest on Ian Hendry’s This Is Your Life in 1978 and retell how he had taught her to ‘act with your eyes‘ when the part she was playing had no lines!
Ronald Lacey made numerous television and film appearances over a 30-year period and is perhaps best remembered for his roles as Harris in Porridge, Gestapo agent Major Arnold Ernst Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells in Blackadder II.
Picture: Ronald Lacey as Major Arnold Ernst Toht in Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
It’s also interesting to note that Mike Newell directed the forth episode . He’s perhaps better known, though, for directing Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), An Awfully Big Adventure (1995), Donnie Brasco (1997), Mona Lisa Smile (2003) and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) – to name but a few.
Surviving Episode #1 – The Benefits Of Earth – Broadcast 30th October 1970
The show was a science fiction satire based on the characters of Don Quixote, with astronaut Captain Don Quick and Sergeant Sam Czopanser, members of the “Intergalactic Maintenance Squad“. On each planet they visit, Quick attempts to set right imaginary wrongs, often upsetting the inhabitants of whatever society he is in. The plot bears some resemblance to the five Penton and Blake stories by John W Campbell, about two astronauts who travel the Solar System meeting strange races.
1 “The Benefits of Earth” 30 October 1970
2 “People Isn’t Everything” 6 November 1970
3 “The Higher the Fewer” 13 November 1970
4 “The Love Reflector” 20 November 1970
5 “The Quick and the Dead” 27 November 1970
6 “Paradise Destruct” 4 December 1970
The Benefits of Earth: The pair land on a planet with two extremely different races. One is technologically advanced and is warlike, addicted to human sacrifices. The others are beings of peace and sensitively, living in a dream world. Qwuick decides to reform them. Kevin Stoney as Betuchuk, Anouska Hempel as Marvana, Thorley Walters as Chief Dreamer. Written by Peter Wildeblood.
People Isn’t Everything: The pair land on the planet Ophiuchus and leave their rocket in the care of a robot who unfortunately likes to drink. Tony Bateman as Skip, Kate O’Mara as Peleen, Colin Baker as Rebel. Written by Kenneth Hill.
The Higher The Fewer: The pair land on Melkion 5 where the population live in 2,000 storey high skyscrapers. The upper floors are for the upper classes and the lower floors for the lower classes. Quick decides to change all of that with disastrous results. James Hayter as Hendenno, Hildegard Neil as Mrs Arborel, Derek Francis as Arborel. Written by Peter Wildeblood.
The Love Reflector: A planet populated only by beautiful women but the planet holds hidden dangers as an astronaut who landed there a generation ago proves, as he is now only six inches tall. Liz Bamber as Angeline, Madeline Smith as Leonie, Faith Brook as Queen Bee. Written by Keith Miles.
The Quick and The Dead: The pair accidentally land their rocket in a live volcano crater and Sam is convinced he is dead and this is the afterlife. They meet an assortment of gods who unknown to them have made them immune to the heat so they can survive, so Quick thinks the volcano is not real. Patricia Haines as Aphrodite, Pauline Jameson as Hera, Graham Crowden as Zeus. Written by Keith Miles.
Paradise Destruct: The planet is full of beautiful people and lush vegetation. Night and winter have been abolished in this paradise but Quick decides to change a thing or two with bad results. Kara Wilson as Jonquil, Lorna Heilbron as Willow, Roy Marsden as Sycamore. Written by Charlotte and Dennis Plimmer.
Picture: TV Times Cover October 31st 1970 – Ian Hendry holds the space helmet he wore in the film Journey To The Far Side of The Sun (1969) -resprayed in cream!
Picture: TV Times listing for 4th December 1970 – with pictures of Kara Wilson and Lorna Heibron
Picture: Kate O’Mara in episode #2 – ‘People Isn’t Everything’
Picture: Kate O’Mara – right. Episode #2 – ‘People Isn’t Everything’
Until next time.
Editor, Official Website of Ian Hendry
A detailed account of the life and work of Ian Hendry in the new biography: