Journey into Space was written by Charles Chilton and ran for over 60 episodes during the 1950s, entralling the nation. When it was broadcast first on the Light Programme, it was only intended to be an 8 week serial, but the success was so great that it was instantly extended to 18 episodes, with two a week instead of the originally planned one. First broascast was on 21st September 1953 (Monday evenings at 7.30pm, changing to Tuesdays for the last three episodes. Final transmission on 19th January 1954.
The first of the three stories, OPERATION LUNA, was set in the far flung future of 1965 and told of Man’s conquest of the Moon. In it, Andrew Faulds played Captain ‘Jet’ Morgan, David Kossoff, Lemmy, in the first three episodes, Wilfred Walter, Sir William Morgan, and Robert Perceval, MacKenzies. Guy Kingsley Poynter narrated in the first episode, played additional crew in episodes 2 & 3, and then played the Doc from 4 onwards. Bruce Beeby played extra roles for the first 3 episodes, and was Mitchell for 4, 5, and 6, with Don Sharp taking over the role from episode 7 onwards. Errol Mackinnon and Mark Baker also appeared early in the serial. Music was composed and conducted by Van Phillips.
To make things a little more complicated now, the BBC Transcription Service, had the serial re-recorded for overseas sales in late 1957, with the serial being tightened to 13 weeks (more suitable for weekly transmission over a season), and a slight change in the cast. This is the version that appears on the BBC cassettes and was broadcast weekly from 26th March to 18th June 1958.
In this serial Faulds and Poynter resumed their roles of Jet and Doc, with Alfie Bass taking the role of Lemmy after Kossoff had left for a stage show, and David Williams, Mitch. Extra cast were John Cazabon (1, 2), Alan Keith (2, 3), David Jacobs (all except 1, 2, 9, and 10) playing various parts, Duncan McIntyre (3) and Deryck Guyler from 9 onwards, credited as the time traveller in the final instalment.
The second serial, THE RED PLANET, was slightly longer at 20 episodes and was broadcast from 6th September 1954 to 17th June 1955. Faulds continued to play Jet, David Kossoff was Lemmy, Poynter, Doc, and Bruce Beeby as Mitch. David Jacobs and Anthony Marriott were both in the first 7 instalments and later on in the tenth. Set in the early 70s, this charts Jet Morgan, in his bright blue flagship Discovery, heading the fleet on a 35 milllion mile round trip to Mars.
The final part of the series, THE WORLD IN PERIL, ran to another 20 episodes, and was broadcast between 26th Spetember 1955 and 6th February 1956. Faulds returned as Jet, Alfie Bass as Lemmy, Poynter as Doc, and Don Sharp played Mitch. David Jacobs appeared in all the episodes apart from 8, and 9, with Alan Tilvern in 1, 13, 14, and 15, and Pat Cambell in 10 to 13 inclusive.
All the serials have been released by the BBC on double cassette packs (although the first two, Operation Luna and The Red Planet were released and repeated in the late 80s and early 90s as six single tapes in a boxed set). The releases are the nearest that can be found to the original broadcasts and run for nearly 21 hours in total. They can also be bought as a complete boxed set, so if you need something to fill the journey to and from work, and want to catch up on a true classic, then this is well worth it.
The latest release from BBC Worldwide is The Return From Mars. This is the very final adventure in the series, where Captain Jet Morgan and the crew of the spaceship Discovery return to the Earth after more than thrity years in space being missing, presumed dead. Coupled with this serial si a special half hour documentary that was aired on Radio 4 last year, Journey into Space… Again, where Charles Chilton recalls the writing and success of the Journey Into Space series.
TITLE ZBBC ISBN Price
OPERATION LUNA 2163 0563 557524 £12.99
THE RED PLANET 2164 0563 557575 £12.99
THE WORLD IN PERIL 2165 0563 557621 £12.99
COMPLETE TRILOGY 2168 0563 55777X £35.00
THE RETURN FROM MARS 0563 553618 £8.99
By the time that the series had finished, it had been translated into 17 languages, broadcast from radio stations worldwide, was novelised, and had attracted a larger listening audience than the TV audiences of the time – the last evening radio serial to do that.
On the 20th of July last year there was the broadcast of the documentary that is on the latest release. Called Journey Into Space… Again, this first went out at 11am, although there was a later repeat in the evening, and included Cahrles Chilton discussing the series.