You might think that the revival of the 1950s radio classic Journey into Space was a desperate move by Radio Four to cash in on the success of the new Dr Who. Even the title sounds incredibly dated. Who now cares about space? But when the serial first hit the airwaves via the Light Programme, millions were immediately drawn in to the adventures of Captain Jet Morgan and his ‘stratoship’, and it became compulsive listening, not just in the UK. Journey into Space tapped into something, a feeling, a spirit, a quest, which sent its vibrations around the world (the programme was translated into 17 languages).
Space exploration was then believed to be the Great Hope for mankind after the devastation of two world wars. The vast universe beyond our besmirched planet was innocent territory, a new adventure playground on a massive scale, an infinite opportunity into which could be poured all the volatile energy and technological invention that otherwise, it was feared, would be turned back into yet more military endeavour. To be an astronaut was the ambition of every self-respecting seven-year-old.
Tuning in on Saturday afternoon you could have been forgiven for thinking that you’d travelled back in time 50 or so years. The same scriptwriter, Charles Chilton, aged 91, had devised this new adventure for Captain Jet and his crew; and it starred David Jacobs, aged 81, who was in the original cast. (There’s hope for us all when so many 80-plus-year-olds are still in the media spotlight.) And at the end of Journey into Space: Frozen in Time, Chilton’s 2008 revamp of his original sci-fi drama, I was surprised to hear a credit for ‘Sound Design’, which took me back to the long-gone days of the Radiophonic Workshop, much-mourned since its Birtian destruction a decade ago.