Regular readers of downthetubes will recall we have featured news items on the The Adventures of Dan Dare radio show produced for Radio Luxembourg on numerous occasions, and that as far as we know, only two episodes of this much sought-after series have survived into the modern age.
The British Library now holds copies of both the episodes – “The Lost World On Mars” (Episode 53, in a poor state) and “Under Sentence of Death” (Episode 76, which was played during a Comics UnMasked event) which, as we reported back in 2012, were recovered during an appeal for the return of lost or missing TV and audio shows in 2011 co-organised by the Kaleidoscope’s website (www.lostshows.com).
Quite by chance, while trying to find the Library’s listings for these finds, I came across details of the album The Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra Volume 3, released by Vocalion in 2003. Listed as “bonus tracks” on the album are three pieces of music used in the radio show which starred Noel Johnson as Dan.
(Johnson took on the role after starring as Dick Barton – Special Agent for the BBC).
The Robert Farnon Society web site – created by fans of the Canadian composer, conductor and musical arranger – has a review of the album, explaining the tracks are the opening theme for the show, “Commandos”, plus “Radio Location” (an early name for Radar) and “Searchlight” – the latter used frequently as links in Dan Dare’s fights with the Mekon and other miscreants.
Charles Williams (who had also written the “Dick Barton” theme “Devil’s Galop”) was the composer of two of the numbers, with Clive Richardson’s atmospheric “Radio Location” providing the ethereal balance.
The Society says Vocalion included the tracks “just for fun” but hoped that they would provide some happy memories for the generation now rather disparagingly described as ‘silver surfers’.
Unfortunately, the album is not currently available from Vocalion but copies can be found on amazon.co.uk.
Aired on Radio Luxembourg between July 1951 and May 1956, The Adventures of Dan Dare, based on the first Dan Dare comic story from Eagle, was made on wax discs that were then sent to Luxembourg to be broadcast.
The Dan Dare Info site notes Bob Danvers-Walker announced the show. Noel Johnson played Dan (who died in 1999), Digby was played by John Sharpe, Professor Peabody by Anne Cullen. downthetubes reader Mike Dean has suggested the character of Sir Hubert Guest was played by the film, stage and TV actor Ivan Samson, who died in 1963. His final film appearance was as Admiral Loddon in the 1959 film Libel. He also appeared in television series such as The Teckman Biography, Operation Diplomat and Dixon of Dock Green.
Mike also notes that a character in some of the later episodes, Able Spaceman Ginger Watts, was played by David Kossoff, best known for his role as Alf Larkin in hit comedy series The Larkins. He was to become father of rock musician Paul Kossoff, guitarist with the band Free. Following Paul’s death in 1976, Kossoff established the Paul Kossoff Foundation which aimed to present the realities of drug addiction to children, and spent the remainder of his life campaigning against drugs.
Other parts were played by Kenneth Williams and Ralph Richardson. The series was produced in London by John Glyn-Jones.
The Dan Dare Info Site cites the Mekon as voiced by Francis De Wolfe, who went on to play numerous villains on TV and on film, who died in 1984, but one downthetubes reader says the actor playing the deadly Treen leader was Geoffrey Wincott, who played Mr Carter in the Jennings radio series by Anthony Buckeridge.
Wincott also appeared in one of the Dick Barton films inspired by the eponymous radio shows. He died in 1973.
The Adventures of Dan Dare was sponsored by drinks company Horlicks, who encouraged young listeners to enroll in the Horlicks Spaceman’s Club, and then marketed a series of related items that could be bought – usually for six pence and a label from a Horlicks jar.
Serial Thrillers by radio researcher Charles Norton, released in 2013, looks at four radio dramas of the 1950s, the BBC’s Dick Barton: Special Agent, Paul Temple, and Journey Into Space plus Radio Luxembourg’s Dan Dare. With interviews with those in front of and behind the microphones along with information from the BBC Archive and contemporary magazines, Charles has put together an in-depth history for the four radio dramas as well as detailed episode listings of each.
His book is available from the Kaleidoscope Publishing website and Amazon UK.
Track Listing Information
• COMMANDOS (composed by Charles Williams)
• RADIO LOCATION (composed by Clive Richardson, who died in 1998)
• SEARCHLIGHT (composed by Charles Williams)
“Commandos” also features on Charles Williams: Radio and Television Memories No. 2, which according to this post in 2003 on the Robert Farnon Society web site is only available direct from Evergreen Melodies, PO Box 52, Cheltenham, GL50 1YQ, England – tel. 01242 515156 or online at The CD costs £8.95 including postage; a shorter cassette version is available for £7.50. Non UK residents should enquire about extra postage costs. The album includes “Devil’s Galop”, the Dick Barton theme.
• Serial Thrillers (softcover, 280 pages, ISBN 976-1-900203-45-6) is published by Kaleidoscope Publishing at a cover price of £16.99. It is available from the Kaleidoscope website and from amazon.co.uk
Also on downthetubes:
• Wiped Web Site: http://wipednews.com
• Dan Dare Corporation web site: www.dandare.com