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Series / Raumpatrouille

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Mario de Monti, Cliff Allister McLane, Tamara Jagellovsk, Atan Shubashi and Helga Legrelle on the bridge of the Orion.
"What still sounds like a fairy tale today could be reality tomorrow. Here's a fairy tale from beyond tomorrow: There are no more nation-states, there is just humanity and her colonies in space. Distant planets are being settled, the sea bottom has been won for habitation. With as yet unimaginable velocities spaceships speed through our galactic system. One of these spaceships is the Orion, a tiny part of a gigantic defence system that protects Earth from threats from outer space. Let us accompany the Orion and her crew on their patrol duties on the edge of infinity!"

One of three series internationally known as Space Patrol is the 1966 German TV show Raumpatrouille - Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion (Space Patrol - The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion), which was produced in collaboration with French TV, where it was entitled Commando spatial. It consisted of seven one-hour episodes (no commercials) and is practically impossible to find outside of its mother country. Like a certain concurrent American TV series, it was about a bunch of people who actually patrolled space. For connoisseurs of science-fiction and the related tropes, Raumpatouille is of interest because in some respects it enables one to test the popular hypothesis of how "cutting-edge" Star Trek really was at the time. Most notably, in the field of gender roles, Raumpatrouille showed that more substantial female roles than Bridge Bunnies actually were possible on TV in 1966.

Raumpatrouille was produced at the Bavaria film studios near Munich on a limited budget - Star Trek spent about 75 percent of the total Raumpatrouille production costs just on the pilot episode. To save costs the series was shot in black and white. But although they had to economize it looked pretty good as the people in charge were very competent. Set designer Rolf Zehetbauer won an Oscar for Cabaret, while special-effects man Theo Nischwitz had already worked on F.P. 1 antwortet nicht (1931) and Münchhausen (1942); the two would go on to collaborate on Das Boot. Still, they had to use quite a few futuristic-looking but commercially available household implements and such in building the Orion bridge; keep your eyes open for the famous handle of an electric flatiron.

The fast space-cruiser Orion and its close-knit crew initially belong to the the Rapid Space Unit commanded by General Lydia van Dyke, but because of their continual habit of disobeying orders and regulations, they are transferred to the lowly Space Patrol belonging to General Winston Woodrov Wamsler's reconnaissance command. To ensure that henceforth Major Cliff Allister McLane sticks to regulations, stern Lieutenant Tamara Jagellovsk of the Galactic Security Service is assigned to the Orion as a watchdog with the authority to give him orders if need be.

The seven episodes of the TV series are:

  • 1. Angriff aus dem All (Attack from Space): A First Encounter of the deadly kind, introducing the major recurrent threat of the series, the alien "Frogs".
  • 2. Planet außer Kurs (Planet off Course): The Frogs send a fiery planet on collision course with Earth. The crew succeeds in destroying it, but the Orion VII is destroyed in the process.
  • 3. Hüter des Gesetzes (Guardians of the Law): The first mission of the Orion VIII is a robot story set on a mining colony.
  • 4. Deserteure (Deserters): The Frogs have a mind-control device, but the Orion has Overkill.
  • 5. Kampf um die Sonne (Fight for the Sun): An encounter with a matriarchal former rebel colony.
  • 6. Die Raumfalle (The Space Trap): An outing with a science-fiction author runs into trouble when he is captured by a Mad Scientist who has taken over a penal colony.
  • 7. Invasion: A Manchurian Agent sabotages Earth's defenses and comes close to making the Frog invasion a success. But the Orion saves the Earth (again), and in the end is transferred back to van Dyke's force, and Cliff and Tamara finally get to kiss.

The series was very successful in Germany and was also exported to a number of other continental European countries. Still the executives of German (public) television decided against producing a second season. The more popular theory is that it was because they thought the series was too "militaristic", which in postwar Germany was something quite serious, although some also say that the real reason was that series creator Rolf Honold had run out of good story ideas.

However, that was not the end of it, as the series was spun off in print media:

  • Moewig Verlag produced 35 Orion paperback novels (1968-1970), which with one exception were written by veteran Perry Rhodan author Hanns Kneifel. The first seven were novelizations of the seven television episodes and have been reprinted a number of times.
  • Pabel Verlag produced 191 Orion pulp novels (1972-1984), Hanns Kneifel writing 111 of them.

Rolf Honold, the original creator of the series, wrote thirteen short stories that appeared in the 1970s in the soft-core sex magazines Freitag and Praline. There was often talk of a relaunch, but that never materialized while the actors were still alive. In 2003 an anthology movie, Raumpatrouille Orion — Rücksturz ins Kino, was released. It consists mostly of material from episodes 1, 2, and 7, linked by "newscasts" by actress and journalist Elke Heidenreich as anchorwoman Helma Krap.

There is an Orion-related website (mostly in German, but with English features), Starlight-Casino.

Raumpatrouille contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The TV series takes the crew of the Orion from 3000 to 3003; the paperback novels continued the adventures to 3012, and the pulp novels to ca. 3107 (and, briefly, to 3711, yes, time travel is involved); the pulp novels also chronicle the early adventures of the crew starting with McLane's graduation from space academy in 2988.
  • Adaptation Name Change: A minor example thanks to Hanns Kneifel: In the novels, McLane's second name is Allistair, not Allister.
  • All There in the Script: The military top commanders, Sir Arthur and Marshal Kublai Krim, are not mentioned by name in the TV series, but have names in the scripts and subsequently in the novels.
  • Ancient Astronauts: In view of the success of Erich von Däniken's Chariots of the Gods in the late 1960s, it is small surprise that the main cycle of Hanns Kneifel's paperback novels was about the Dara, an ancient alien race that was not only responsible for the civilization on Earth, but also for that of the Frogs and the Turceed.
  • Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving: At the end of episode 7, after McLane has saved Earth from an alien invasion by disobeying orders yet again, he gets a dressing-down followed by a promotion from Wamsler:
    Your departure to Gordon against my orders was plain misconduct. Misconduct that saved us from being killed or brainwashed. Talk about a stroke of luck. You would be discharged now, if you hadn't been right about that!
  • Artistic License – Space: Some of the science in the series is rather dodgy; for instance, the titular off-course planet in episode 2 is also referred to as a supernova.
  • BBC Quarry: Scenes set on the surface of planetoids were shot in the spoil tips of the Peißenberg coal mine.
  • Betty and Veronica: Helga (brunette) is the Betty and Tamara (blonde) the Veronica; in the final episodes Cliff and Tamara become a couple.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Obviously not in the television series, but in Hanns Kneifel's paperback novels McLane briefly cheats on Tamara Jagellovsk with entomologist Arlene N'Mayogaa, and, a couple of love interests later, Cliff and Arlene become serious partners.
  • Bridge Bunnies: An early aversion. Due to the small size of the crew, individual members frequently have to pinch-hit in each other's jobs when part of the crew is on a surface or space mission. Helga Legrelle thus can be seen piloting one of the "Lancet" shuttlecraft or installing machinery and weapons. Tamara Jagellovsk can hold her own in face-downs with McLane, while Lydia van Dyke, who appears in four of seven episodes, is the only real frontline commander among the otherwise male generals.
  • Bug War: The attacks by the Frogs (sic) in episodes 1, 2, 4, and 7 go into this territory, even though they have a vaguely humanoid shape.
  • Catchphrase: The command "Rücksturz zur Erde!" ("Return to base at once", literally: "Plunge back to Earth") became one. Also the metallic-voiced countdown that punctuated every Orion and Lancet launch sequence.
  • Compilation Movie: Produced in 2003.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: The launch sequence. The Orion took off from beneath the sea, rising through an artificially created maelstrom. The hand-held ray guns also look very cool and different with the barrel projecting below the grip, not above it, but it is unclear how you are supposed to aim the darn things!
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: O ja! Although it does come to bite them in the ass on occasion, such as in episode 3, where the crew does not pay proper attention at a course on robot programming.
  • Cool Starship: The Orion VII and Orion VIII obviously. The latter is described not only as the fastest ship in the fleet, but also the first one to be equipped with the Overkill projector. Why such a ship would be assigned to the lowly Space Patrol where it would be used for satellite maintenance and such is anyone's guess.note 
  • Culture Chop Suey: In Raumpatrouille Earth culture is generally futuristic Europeanized Western. However people eat with chopsticks. This may be a fortunate side-effect of the budget constraints: buying a few sets of chopsticks was obviously cheaper than to look for and buy cutlery that looked futuristic enough to come from the year 3000, and yet still would be completely unlike what European viewers in 1966 would have been accustomed to. It seems to have been a late change, as in episode 1, where Hasso and Atan come across two dead crew members of the space station MZ 4 still holding their chopsticks, one of them comments: "But you don't die that way, with a fork in your hand!"
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Lieutenant Tamara Jagellovsk to a tee.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: To save money the series was filmed in black and white. For the German and many other European markets that did not matter as there still was no colour television, but the decision did mean that no American network would buy Raumpatrouille and thus no English dub was ever made.
  • Desk Jockey: Quite a number of recurring characters fall into this category; for instance every officer above the rank of colonel (with the shining exception of General van Dyke), Wamsler's adjutant Spring-Brauner, Colonel Villa's nameless chief of staff, and the ground crew overseeing the launches from Base 104.
  • A Father to His Men: General Wamsler is this in the gruff-but-fair version. Though a Desk Jockey now, he is also enough of an Old Soldier to see through some of the tricks McLane and his crew use to cover up their escapades.
  • First-Name Basis: The Orion crew is on this, except of course towards Lieutenant Jagellovsk. In an off-duty conversation in episode 4 van Dyke addresses McLane by his first name, but he calls her "General".
  • Future Music: The producers apparently figured that the people of the future will continue to invent new popular dances. The dances in the Starlight Casino involve movements that look like warm-up gymnastics and may involve people dancing very close back to back. Watch it yourself!
  • Good-Guy Bar: The Starlight Casino, where fleet and GSD personell of all ranks congregate to chat, flirt, talk shop and dance some very odd "futuristic" dances. The Orion crew can usually be found here off-duty and has a fleet-wide reputation for its alcohol intake. The Starlight has a glass roof through which you can see the tropical fish in the sea above.
  • Gratuitous English: Starlight Bar, Frogs, Overkill, the Challenger...
  • Great Offscreen War: There are several references in the series to the two Galactic or Interplanetary Wars, which were waged between Earth and some rebel colonies. The pulp novelizations eventually related some of the pre-Raumpatrouille adventures of the older members of the crew, revealing e.g. that McLane served under General van Dyke's father in the Second Galactic War.
  • In-Series Nickname: The crew of the Orion derisively refer to Pieter Paul Ibsen as "PiePo" (pronounced "peepo"). The name of the hostile aliens, "Frogs", also started out as a nickname.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: One of the best-known in German TV, it remains popular and was played at the unveiling of the restored Brandenburg Gate in 2002.
  • Interspecies Romance: Cliff McLane and Ishmee 8431 of the Turceed in the paperback novels.
  • Kill It with Water: In episode 1, the Frogs are impervious to ray guns, can survive in a vaccuum, but are taken out by Hasso and Atan exploding an oxygen tank.
  • Mama Bear: General van Dyke in episode 1 is livid when McLane is transferred from her command to Wamsler's and does not hesitate to angrily defend her maverick subordinate: "Without men like McLane we would have lost the two Interplanetary Wars!"
  • Matriarchy: The pacifistic society on the Eden-like planet Chroma in episode 5 is an example of the enlightened variety. Chroma was settled by the former colonists of Neptune, who found themselves on the losing side in the First Galactic War and, after moving to Chroma, turned to the ways of peace under the guidance of their women. The planet is ruled by SHE (German: SIE, French: ELLE), perhaps the only woman able to resist Major McLane's charm.
  • The Mentor: Colonel Villa in many of his appearances.
  • Military Maverick: The crew of the Orion, to the dismay of their long-suffering superiors and their new 'watchdog' Lieutenant Jagellovsk.
  • Mother Nature, Father Science: All scientists are male, even the Chromans in episode 5 who come from a matriarchal society. But in one subversion, in episode 4, when it becomes necessary to repair a particularly advanced type of robot, Tamara Jagellovsk is the only one who has taken the necessary course and can do it.
  • Multinational Team: The crew consists of of an American commander of Scottish extraction, a Scandinavian, an Italian, a Japanese (?), and a Frenchwoman. They are joined by a Russian security officer.
  • Named After Someone Famous: Astronomer Dr. Schiller (presumably after Friedrich Schiller) in episodes 2 and 5 and science-fiction author Pieter Paul Ibsen in episode 6. Also very probably General Winston Woodrov Wamsler. McLane's old pal Commodore Ruyther (episode 3) and admiral Leandra de Ruyter (pulp novels) are most likely both named after Dutch admiral Michiel de Ruyter.
  • Nepotism: In episode 6 Pieter Paul Ibsen gets to accompany the crew because he is the space minister's son-in-law.
  • No Name Given: Many one-off characters and a number of recurring ones are never named, most noticeably Villa's chief of staff and the members of the crew of General van Dyke's ship, the Hydra.
  • Non-Indicative Name: There's nothing froglike whatsoever about the "Frogs". The closest connection might be the apparent sound of their footsteps, which is reminiscent of dripping water, but they resemble Energy Beings with a suspiciously human outline far more than they do anything even remotely amphibian. In the anthology movie, Frogs is stated to be an acronym for "Feindliche Raumschiffverbände ohne galaktische Seriennummer", i.e. "hostile spaceship units without a galactic serial number" (no, seriously). But neither television series nor the novels had used that explanation.
  • Noodle Incident: In episode 1 Wamsler quickly lists of a number of occasions where McLane had acted without authorization to explain why he is transferred to the Space Patrol and a watchdog is assigned to him. A few of them eventually were chronicled in the pulp novels.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Lieutenant Spring-Brauner, General Wamsler's aide-de-camp. Some of the members of the O.R.B. (Oberste Raumbehörde, i. e. supreme space authority) also verge on this.
  • Pen Name: The titles credited the screenplays to Rolf Honold and W. G. Larsen. Rolf Honold was the main creator of the series, "W. G. Larsen" was a pseudonym for a team consisting of directors Michael Braun and Theo Mezger, Bavaria studio officals Hans Gottschalk and Helmut Krapp, and producer Oliver Storz.
  • The Political Officer: Lieutenant Tamara Jagellovsk starts out as a non-political equivalent, but like her spiritual ancestress Ninotchka mellows soon enough.
  • The Power of Friendship: Big time. Not just among the crew, but the friendships of various of its members with those of the crews of other ships or space bases is often a plot point.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: After pulling one final crazy stunt too many, the Orion and her crew get formally assigned to "boring" space patrol detail for two years to cool their heels right at the start of the first episode. Of course, they wouldn't be the crew of the Orion if they didn't manage to keep finding trouble anyway.
  • Red Shirt: Averted.
  • Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: The military spaceships are mostly named after constellations that take their names from Greek mythology (Orion, Hydra, Pegasus). In Episode 3 one of the "Lancet" shuttlecraft is left behind to project a "Laurin", an energy imitation of a full-sized spaceship, to disguise the fact that the Orion has left its station. Laurin was a dwarf from medieval legends who could turn himself invisible.
  • Repetitive Name: Pedro Alonzo Pietro, commander of the Xerxes in episode 4; a combination of the Spanish and Italian forms of the name "Peter".
  • Self-Deprecation: The appearance of science-fiction writer Pieter Paul Ibsen in episode 6 provides an occasion for the crew to mock the genre. Also, is it a coincidence that two obstructive bureaucrats (Spring-Brauner and State Secretary von Wennerstein) have German names?
  • The '70s: Hanns Kneifel was quite sensitive to the change West German society went through following the 1968 student revolt. For a time he turned McLane into a bit of a space-age Hippie, letting him grow a beard, wear a medallion chain and spend time meditating.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The name of the newscaster in the movie, Helma Krap, is one to Helmut Krapp, one of the authors of the series, who died in the year the film was produced.
    • Because journalist Robert Vogel kept talking about Raumpatrouille while covering the production of Stargate, a spaceship in Stargate Atlantis was named Orion after the one in the old German series. It was introduced in the episode Inferno.
    • Hanns Kneifel's novels were full of shout-outs to the makers of the television series, then-current events, works of literature etc. For instance a 31st century composer called Tomas Peter is frequently mentioned; the TV series had been scored by composer Peter Thomas.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Averted onboard the Orion after Lieutenant Jagellovsk is assigned there, but played straight with General van Dyke, who is both the only woman belonging to the crew of the Hydra and the only female of the rank of general or higher shown in the series.
  • Space Clothes: Simply cut black uniforms for the spacefleet, grey for the GSD. Women usually wore knee-length skirts with long boots, but could put on trousers for missions.
  • Space Navy: Largely averted. Although the Orion is described as a "fast space cruiser", the officers have non-naval ranks (major, colonel, general, marshal) and the crew to a large extent behave like stereotypical air force combat pilots. They return to Base 104 at the end of every episode, go to the Starlight Casino and drink heavily. Also the spaceships generally have names from astronomy (see Stellar Theme Naming), unlike those of Star Trek, which are usually named after famous naval ships and admirals of the past (Enterprise, Essex, Farragut etc.).note 
  • The Spymaster: Colonel Villa, head of the Galactic Security Service. Often inscrutable, doubly so because he was cast against type with Friedrich Joloff, an actor best known for playing villains, especially cold-blooded killers. Cultured and a bit of a pacifist, he helps McLane to avert a war in episode 5.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: Subverted. Due to budget limitations, basically only two major warships were shown: the Orion VII, its practically identical sister-ship, the Orion VIII, and the Hydra. Though designated as fast cruisers, they are small craft compared to those of most other science-fiction franchises, crewed by four or five persons, although they can accomodate more. This type of spacecraft carries up to four Lancet shuttles, which normally carry two persons, and twice that at a pinch. In episode 3, when the Orion goes missing for a time, Training Fleet 18 is diverted to look for it; it is said to consist of 22 battleships (Großkampfschiffe), 40 space cruisers and 132 satellite-launching boats.
  • Stellar Theme Naming: The military spaceships are mostly named after constellations that are named for mythological figures (Orion, Hydra, Pegasus) and the GSD cruiser Tau after the Greek letter used to designate a star as the 19th brightest within a constellation.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: In the pulp novels the Orion crew undergoes a time-jump of 67 years, but the new characters introduced to take the place of General van Dyke, General Wamsler, and Lieutenant Spring-Brauner — Admiral Leandra de Ruyter, Han Tsu-Gol, and Brian Hackler — had little to set them apart from their predecessors. New GSD chief Tunaka Katsuro does have more of a distinct personality, and the ersatz Tamara Jagellovsk, Norma Russel of the GSD, at least has psychic powers and falls for Mario, not Cliff.
  • Third-Option Love Interest: In episode 4 General van Dyke is having a pleasant conversation with Cliff McLane in the Starlight Casino and notes with amusement the jealous look Tamara Jagellovsk is giving her from another table. In the paperback novels, Cliff eventually broke up with Tamara and for a time become lovers with Lydia, so maybe Tamara was prescient.
  • Three Laws-Compliant: The robots in the series are, although in the third episode "Guardians of the Law" the robots on a mining colony, after witnessing a murder, go haywire and imprison all humans to ensure that no harm befalls them.
  • Underwater Base: Spaceship base 104, the headquarters of the military and the Galactic Security Service as well as the crew's private homes are all situated at the bottom of the Gulf of Carpentaria.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The aptly named Overkill projector, first tested and used in combat in episode 4.
  • Women Are Wiser: Somewhat surprisingly for a series created in the 1960s and written exclusively by men:
    • Major McLane tends to become very irrational when the lives of people he considers his friends are endangered. An extreme example occurs in episode 2: The good commander is so obsessed with the immediate danger faced by Lydia van Dyke and the crew of the Hydra, that he wants to rescue them before dealing with the more serious threat of the planet set on a collision course with Earth by the Frogs. Even a direct order from General van Dyke is not enough to make him focus on the more serious threat, in the end Tamara Jagellovsk has to threaten to disable the Orion VII's controls to force him to set course for the Frog control base. In episode 7 the fact that Lt. Jagellovsk is held hostage by the bad guys is also enough to prevent him from taking direct action to stop the Frog invasion.
    • Episode 5 also has elements of this, as the pacifist and gynocratic society of Chroma is on the whole portrayed very positively and in the end war is averted mainly by Chroma's ruler SHE and Colonel Villa.
  • Zeerust: Raumpatrouille was the first German science-fiction TV series, and at the time science-fiction in Germany was a niche genre to a much greater degree than it was in America, which meant that a commonly accepted vocabulary for many futuristic concepts did not yet exist and the makers of the series had to invent their own terminology. Some of the neologisms created for the series therefore sound a bit odd for modern ears — e.g. the term Telenose ("telenosis") for the long-distance hypnosis used by the Frogs in episode 4 — while others now appear unintentionally funny, especially the word Exoterristen for extraterrestrials.note