If you’ve ever had occasion to wonder just what Stephanie Beacham would look like as a marionette, then this is the episode for you. Step forward, Lady Menteur.
The lockdown Supermarionation drama NEBULA-75 bows out temporarily with its latest – and longest – instalment to date. It’s strange to think that as little as three months ago, NEBULA-75 didn’t even exist, yet in that short space of time, the Century 21 Films team have managed to come up with the idea, use what they have at hand whilst stuck in isolation, and then write, film and edit five episodes.
It’s been wonderful to see the production getting ever more ambitious with each subsequent adventure, with this latest one – ‘Heist Society’ – running to about double the length of the series opener back in April. It’s truly been nothing short of joyous to see the production going from strength to strength, and it’s been a genuine highlight of lockdown to have each new story uploaded onto the internet, for the justifiably growing fanbase to lap up.
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In fact, this entire project has been an embarrassment of riches, as we’ve not only had nearly half-a-dozen chapters so far, but even ancillary material to enjoy, from mocked-up adverts for a fake tie-in cereal, Solar Smacks, to some behind the scenes ‘making of’ sneak peeks. They’ve even gone as far as making their own merchandise, in the form of Solar Smacks badges of the characters.
With all of this going on, not only keeping the quality of NEBULA-75 quite so high, but actually getting better all the time, is just remarkable. It’s good to see that there’s a huge sense of fun about the whole thing, and they’re not averse to gently poking fun at themselves, including the ongoing controversy about not knowing exactly how far 33 million miles is; it’s also nice there’s someone questioning why equipment is built that’s so inherently dangerous to use, as happens so often in these shows.
The breakout star has clearly been Circuit (Justin T. Lee), the sarcastic ship’s robot, who simply steals the limelight every time he’s on screen. Here, he not only manages to deliver a genuinely funny twist on the hoary ‘take me to your leader’ gag, but also actually combines it with a satnav joke, for a wonderful twofer. Circuit certainly brings a much-needed levity and wit, to stop the risk of the series getting too serious or po-faced.
In this episode, the crew pick up a distress call from Lord Menteur (Stephen La Rivière) and his good Lady wife (Liz Comstock-Smith), who appear to have hit a spot of bother with their ship’s engine. However, all isn’t exactly what it seems, leaving Commander Neptune (Justin T. Lee again) and his team in serious jeopardy, and it becomes a major race against time to prevent a major catastrophe.
With the previous tale – ‘No One I Think Is In My Tree’ – having a bit of a darker tone, this comes as a welcome gear change, and is a fun and entertaining romp. You can’t help but adore Lord and Lady Menteur, even though they’re such a pair of wrong ‘uns, and you just love to hate them. It’s rather telling that in just under 30 minutes, they both feel more fleshed out as characters than Rey seemed after the whole of the recent Star Wars trilogy.
It’s also wonderful to see the whole world of NEBULA-75 continuing to grow, as little-seen crew member Lieutenant Solstice (Lindsay Lee) not only gets a name, but a speaking part. There’s quite the ensemble building up, and it would be great to see them all having more of a group interaction in future episodes. Mind you, as Circuit pointedly remarks in the introduction, none of the fans’ suggestions to date have worked, so I’m sure they know what’s best.
NEBULA-75 is a slice of genuine old-fashioned (in the best possible sense) entertainment, with a feelgood factor that’s unmatched by anything else that’s currently out there. The end caption promises NEBULA-75 will return; when it does, we’ll be eagerly waiting.