“Dan Dare” spaceship prop offered for sale from abandoned ATV TV series

Captain Zep's "Zep One", a prop originally designed for a Dan Dare project by Bill Pearson. Image: The Prop Gallery
Captain Zep’s “Zep One”, a prop originally designed for a Dan Dare project by Bill Pearson. Image: The Prop Gallery

An original prop used in the production of Captain Zep – Space Detective, the 1983 children’s science fiction television series produced by the BBC, currently on sale from the Prop Gallery, started life as a model for use in an abandoned Dan Dare project.

Produced by the BBC between 1983 and 1984, Captain Zep – Space Detective was constructed as part drama and part quiz game. It featured mysteries that would be solved by the child audience in the studio, along with a write-in competition for viewers.

The series, which has never been released on DVD, was also notable for its combination of live action and animation, where the cast would interact with drawn alien characters amidst drawn backgrounds, the work of Ray Ogden.

Production Design Visuals & Storyboard Frames, Captain Zep - Space Detective by Ray Ogden
Production Design Visuals & Storyboard Frames, Captain Zep – Space Detective by Ray Ogden

The miniature offered by the Prop Gallery was built by noted modelshop supervisor and model and prop maker Bill Pearson, who died last year, for an aborted Dan Dare project of the early 1980s and subsequently became the Zep One filming miniature used throughout the BBC series which was shot in motion control under BBC Visual Effects Department designer Jim Francis.

Captain Zep's Zep One, a prop designed by Bill Pearson, as it appeared on screen
Captain Zep’s Zep One, a prop designed by Bill Pearson, as it appeared on screen

Paul A. de Savaray owned both the TV and film rights to the Dan Dare character, and continued to do so into the 1980s. However, while the Prop Gallery description of the prop suggests it as being created for the feature film, as far as we’re aware, no model work was commissioned as the project never made it taht far in terms of development.

The style of the model suggests it’s far more likely this is an item intended to feature in the abandoned ATV Dan Dare TV series, as an online archive of Bill Pearson’s model work compiled by Rob McLane includes models built by Martin Bower for that planned show. Bill was Martin’s partner in Bowerhouse Model Associates, where they worked on projects such as the feature film, Outland.

The Prop Gallery notes the miniature, measuring approximately 21″ long and 15.5″ at its widest point including stand, is constructed largely from EMA plastics and is heavily detailed with various kit parts, tape and decals in typical Pearson fashion with a weathered orange paint finish, it features threaded holes to the rear, side and underneath to enable the miniature to be rigged for filming.

View the Zep One prop here on The Prop Gallery

An online archive of Bill Pearson’s model work compiled by Rob McLaine

downthetubes: The Lost Dan Dare TV Series

Captain Zep designer Ray Ogden is online at Rayogden.com

While accepting occasional illustration commissions, Ray now concentrates on adding to his range of limited edition prints and children’s book projects.

• The theme to Captain Zep Space Detective was released by BBC Records in 1983, credited to “The Spacewalkers”, former members of The Banned

The “Adagio” music used during Captain Zep “auditorium scenes” by Dick Mills features on Off Beat Sound Effects | Interview with Dick Mills here

Tim Worthington has a background feature on Captain Zep here

With thanks to Neil Kent

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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