March 30, 2008

Not on DVD: PHOENIX FIVE (1970) - an Aussie Star Trek!

(1969, Australia)

TV series - 26 x 25 minutes

Since mentioning this obscure Australian sci-fi show two years ago, I've been trying to track down more information. I was a little disappointed to discover that it’s aimed more at children. But here's an updated, expanded article anyway...

(Original 03/08/06 entry)

Wanting to be Star Trek, but with a budget closer to Star Maidens, was this Australian sci-fi adventure that brought us the intrepid interstellar explorers of the spaceship 'Phoenix Five'. The above picture of the crew of three and their computeroid robot (check out its legs) is from the website of Classic Australian TV - it's the first time I've seen anything from the show for nearly thirty years!

I was scouring the web for years until this site turned up a brief history of the show (and its predecessors), an episode guide and some great publicity stills, including images from the theme tune. To help jog your memory and maybe tantalise you further, get on over to
Classic Australian TV.

My own vague memories of Phoenix Five are of it running on ITV in the mid-seventies on Sunday mornings. I loved the theme tune (a groovy cyclical instrumental) and an alien planet surface looking like the Australian desert, but remembered little else - except that I wanted to see it again!

When even the frankly shoddy Star Maidens
is out on DVD, with even a soundtrack CD release, I fully expect other gems like this to resurface... eventually.

(Update - more about the series)
It's not a classic, but it's watchable in a Skippy, The Bush Kangaroo, Double Deckers sort of way. That is to say, this could still be of interest, if you're nostalgic for TV from the seventies, or can have fun watching low budget TV.

That said, it's not nearly as low budget as a lot of children’s TV today – it’s still got costumes, sets, location filming and is shot on film. It would be kinder to say it's over-ambitious - making an interplanetary adventure with three sets and one model. it also lacks logic, scientific accuracy, realistic characters and aims for the sort of fantasy adventure provided by early Doctor Who. If all that isn't a problem (I know that's a lot of ifs) you might still want to see it.

The opening title sequence (currently here on YouTube) may very well be the highlight of the entire series. Tightly edited scenes to a fantastic sixties track (see below for CD news). I noticed that the background music includes ‘library’ tracks (ready made music that has to be edited to fit your action - cheaper than getting a composer to write music to fit your action). Stranger still, it also uses tracks composed by Peter Thomas for the German TV sci-fi Raumpatrouille (1966, yet another show called Space Patrol).

The crew of the Phoenix Five consists of the unbearably smug Captain Roke and his crew of two cadets and a robot. The control room looks like the bridge of the USS Enterprise crammed into a broom cupboard. Ensign Adam and Cadet Tina sometimes act more like naughty kids, and are forever being scolded or patronised by the Captain.

They spend much of their time flying around in space trying to thwart an evil opponent, usually a guy in fancy dress talking to an unfunny computer. Bizarrely, the baddie's computer is the only one with an Australian accent, everyone else sounds very English.

Even more British is the commander at Space Control, only glimpsed on the viewscreen, notably lampooned in MTV's short-lived X-rated puppet series, the Super Adventure Team.

Despite the Star Trek uniforms, ther's very little space to be seen. Most of the action is described rather than shown. Even if anything happens on their viewscreens, we hardly ever see it – we just see the actors in their little sets describing what’s going on.

The modelwork is very basic but the spaceship sets are more interesting. The better episodes are the ones out on location, on outback desert planets.

Not essential, but not available either. Thanks very much to Peter for some invaluable material in learning more about the elusive Phoenix Five.

New update 02/02/09
There's now a whole episode of Phoenix Five on YouTube, with links to other 1960s Australian sci-fi shows.

New update 26/03/09
Thanks to Joe McIntyre's comment (below), I've finally (after thirty years of yearning) got the full track used for the theme tune on CD. It's called 'Strange Galaxy' and is on this Jack Arel CD, celebrating this French master of lounge music (another of his tracks was used in the final episode of The Prisoner!), with remixes of 'Strange Galaxy' on the bonus CD! It's available from Amazon, but I got mine from MovieGrooves. Result!


  1. The theme tune to Phoenix 5 is a track called Strange Galaxy by Jack Arel and Jean-Claude Petit. It'a available on CD, but can be difficult to find.

  2. Joe - Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  3. I haven't seen this show since I was a kid and my memories of it are extremely patchy but I've never forgotten the opening titles, nor the music. Glad to find out I'm not the only one who remembers it.

  4. I remembered this show, but not with nostalgia... Even as a kid I was well aware of just how cheap and stupid this was! When it wasn't being unintentionally funny, that is.

    Still, I'm going to check out the clips on YouTube, if only to remind myself of just how bad it was. I'm pretty sure I was right the first time, though!

  5. Bloody loved this show as a kid! It used to be on Anglia Television in the mornings during school holidays.
    I would definately buy this on dvd!!!

  6. Lulz. Was looking for what this was called (saw it somewhere). Thanks for putting it out there!

  7. Well Mike Dorsey was English so
    he wouldn't have Aussie accent.

  8. Sounds like ALL the main cast were English.

  9. Never released on VHS or DVD?
    Do we know if Australia still has these episodes?

  10. Used to watch this in the early 70s too. I'd definitely buy it on DVD but I'm not holding my breath.

    Episodes occasionally appear on YouTube. They're still kind of entertaining although Earth Space Control seems to consist of just 4 people, the crew of the Phoenix Five plus the guy on the monitor screen.

  11. The only moment I remember seeing on TV was when they actually landed on a planet. Must've been a rare episode when they made an effort!

  12. Used to watch this in the early 70s too. I'd definitely buy it on DVD but I'm not holding my breath.

    Episodes occasionally appear on YouTube. They're still kind of entertaining although Earth Space Control seems to consist of just 4 people, the crew of the Phoenix Five plus the guy on the monitor screen.

  13. I do know there is a team of enthusiasts making a hobby film using most of the character names and ship names from all three Aussie sci-fi series, Interpretaris, Vega 4 and Phoenix 5 and that they have started filming at various locations but the story is unique and not following any of the original stories.

  14. Hi

    Just came across this site by accident.

    So the story goes with Phoenix 5. Many years ago I compiled a album for Concept Records called " 30 Years Of Fantastic TV " and one of the track included was the theme from "Phoenix 5". It took a while to brach the title but the then sound library at ATN 7 was able to locate the track. Track at that time was through Chappell Recorded Music library.

    As for Phoenix 5 ever been released on DVD is a complicated one. The series was a co production between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and ATN 7 and was shot at Atransa Park Studios. Each year either one of the networks would show in either colour or black & white. The problem lies in the original contracts and who owns what rights and what those rights extended to. Unfortunately video tape or any form of video release was never covered since home video did not exist. There was also the issue of the actors residual fees.

    When I researched the album I cleared a bunch of black & White stills from the ABC (which still have on back up file) and 2 complete episodes for previewing, The first and last episode - Episode 1 titled "Danger Zone" and the last Episode titled "General Alarm".

    Hope this helps.