With social distancing being in force over the last couple of months, we’re used to sticking to a space of two metres. In the case of those awfully nice Century 21 Films people, the space which they’ve given us to date has been significantly more, and they’ve gone the extra mile. About 33 million of them, in fact, give or take.
That’s roughly how far the intrepid crew of the lockdown puppet series NEBULA-75 have been flung from home. It comes hand-in-hand with any sci-fi TV series that there will always be fact checkers or pedants, and the Century 21 Films team is probably sick of people pointing out that it’s not such a long way in relative terms (bearing in mind the distance from Earth to Mars).
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Thankfully, they’ve got a sense of humour about the whole thing, and as well as already addressing this head-on in the intro to the second episode, ‘The Storm Before The Calm’, they’ve also revisited it at the start of the latest instalment, by saying that 33 million miles is ”the minimum distance you need to go to miss the point”. It’s wonderful irreverence of this sort which has made NEBULA-75 a joy to watch during this period of social isolation.
Going the extra mile in another way, the Century 21 Films bods have even gone to the trouble of making authentic-looking adverts for fictional breakfast cereal Solar Smacks, featuring the show’s characters, and bookended this latest episode with them. You’d think that they’d both genuinely been made some 50+ years ago, with the colours looking washed out, and dirt and crackles added to the picture and sound.
It’s worth remembering that they didn’t have to do this in addition to the regular episodes, but then they didn’t have to actually do any of this in the first place. The fact they’ve given us a new series which is a potential classic literally in the making (as they’re working on future stories right now) is amazing enough, but to also put together all this bonus material and make it look so aged is quite remarkable, and it shows their dedication and attention to detail.
With ‘No One I Think Is In My Tree’, the series has dipped its toe into the late 1960s, with the cue being taken from the title: for those non-Beatles fans out there, it’s a quote from ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, which was made during the period when the group were (shall we say) expanding their minds through chemical means. One of the characters even quotes another part of the lyrics elsewhere, which is a nice touch.
Bearing in mind the overall aesthetic of NEBULA-75 is in keeping with the early Gerry and Sylvia Anderson era (like Fireball XL5), it might seem like something of a cultural clash to have a hint of psychedelia creeping in. However, anyone who thinks that clearly never saw the Andersons’ live-action programmes like Space: 1999 or UFO; even the titles of Joe 90 had something of a mind-bending feel at points, so it shows the Andersons weren’t so separate from the influences of counter-culture as you might expect.
In fact, for fans of the Andersons’ oeuvre, there’s a lovely little link back to their earlier stuff, indicating one of the team is descended from the star of an earlier show. Even though it’s now summer, it seems it isn’t too late for us to have an Easter egg. Of course, it now begs the question of how many Supermarionation series actually co-exist. Is it time for the Anderson Multiverse (the ‘Anderverse’, if you like) for the ones which potentially conflict?
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NEBULA-75 veers into somewhat darker territory than you might expect for a programme of its type, as the Andersons’ puppet heroes weren’t typically troubled by issues of guilt, self-doubt or inadequacy. However, it’s handled beautifully here, and with a lightness of touch that feels so faithful to the Andersons’ overall tone and approach, while also giving it enough of a contemporary spin: it seems that we like our protagonists flawed nowadays.
Another superlative effort from a show which just keeps on getting better and better. The next episode – already being teased via Century 21 Films’ social media – just can’t come soon enough.