Saturday, 14 May 2011

Joe 90

Joe 90 Logo
Joe 90 is a late-1960s British Science Fiction television series concerning the adventures and exploits of nine-year-old Joe McClaine, who starts a double life as a schoolboy turned spy when his scientist father invents a pioneering machine capable of duplicating and then transferring expert knowledge and experience to another human brain. Equipped with the skills of the foremost academic and military minds, Joe enlists in the World Intelligence Network (WIN), becoming its "Most Special Agent", pursuing the ideal of world peace and saving human life. Created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and filmed at Century 21 Productions, one 30-episode series followed the earlier Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.

First screened in the UK between September 1968 and April 1969 on the ATV network,Joe 90 is the sixth and last of the Anderson productions to have been made exclusively using the form of Marionette Puppetry dubbed "Supermarionation". The final puppet series, The Secret Service, also used this process, but in combination with extensive live-action footage. As in the case of its predecessor, Captain Scarlet, the puppets of Joe 90 are of a more naturally proportioned design as opposed to the more caricatured appearance of the characters from Thunderbirds.
Although not as successful as Century 21's previous puppet efforts, since its inception, Joe 90 has been praised, besides other aspects, for the charectarisation of its smaller Supermarionation cast and the accomplishment of its model sets and special effects. Commentators read into Joe 90's spy-fi theme and the selection of a child as the main protagonist, either proposing a "kids play Bond" connection or an enshrinement of children and the powers of their imagination. Criticism ranges from the violence depicted in a number of episodes to the frequent absence of female characters, which is viewed either as the inevitable result of Joe 90's development as a "boy's own adventure" or bordering on sexism.

As had been the case for its precursors, Century 21 based merchandising campaigns on Joe 90, including toy cars and comic strips dedicated to the continuing missions of Joe McClaine. Syndicated on its arrival in the United States in 1969, re-broadcast in the UK during the 1990s and released on DVD in most regions in the 2000s, the concept of a live-action motion picture adaptation of Joe 90 has been considered more than once since the 1960s, but without further development. A comparable format exists in the similarly titled Ben 10. While Joe 90 gains the abilities of scientists and pilots while wearing his glasses, Ben 10 gains the powers of aliens while wearing a watch.

Joe 90 is set either in 2012-3 or at another point in the early 21st century, or 1998, according to the official Writer's Guide. Nine-year-old British schoolboy Joe McClaine is the adopted son of Professor Ian "Mac" McClaine, a renowned computer expert. On the outside, the McClaines are an ordinary father-and-son pair who live in an antiquated Elizabethan-style cottage overlooking Culver Bay, Dorset, tended by their housekeeper, Mrs Harris. However, residing in a secret underground laboratory is Mac's latest invention, the "BIG RAT"

(Brain Impulse Galvonoscope Record And Transfer), a machine capable of recording knowledge and experience from leading experts in various fields and transferring it to another human brain. The central aspect of the design is the "Rat Trap", a rotating, spherical cage in which a subject is seated during the transfer of the expert "brain pattern". Sam Loover, a secret agent for the World Intelligence Network, persuades Mac, his friend, to dedicate the BIG RAT to WIN's pursuit of world peace by permitting Joe to assume such knowledge and experience and become a WIN agent. After the requisite skill is transferred, and provided that Joe is wearing special spectacles containing hidden electrodes storing the expertise, he is able to execute such missions as operating fighter aircrraft blasting off into space and performing advanced nuerosurgery, all the while appearing to be an innocent schoolboy to the enemies of WIN. Since no one would usually suspect a child of espionage, Joe is WIN's "Most Special Agent". Reporting to the Commander-in-Chief of WIN's London Headquarters, Shane Weston, he is also provided with a special briefcase, which on superficial inspection appears to be a simple school case but in fact conceals an adapted handgun and WIN tranceiver. There is some inconsistency as to why Joe assumes the codename "90". Promotional information states that, in the pilot, Joe joins another 89 WIN agents based in London, becoming the 90th WIN agent. However, the BIG RAT project is referred to as WIN's "File 90" in the episode "Project 90", and here (according to dialogue from Professor McClaine) Joe's designation originates from this.

In a manner similar to other Gerry Anderson series, Joe 90 features gadgets, rescue operations, secret organisations, and criminal and terrorist threats to the safety of the world. One example of advanced technology demonstrated is the "Jet Air Car", a land, sea and air vehicle invented by Professor McClaine prior to the events of the series. The pun of the "WIN" acronym for the World Intelligence Network is similar to that of WASP, the abbreviated name of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol that appears in Stingray. The Cold W ar, significant in 1968 due to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia that August has ended in the futuristic universe of Joe 90. Although, in the pilot, Joe is depicted stealing a new Russian fighter plane to expose its revolutionary design to the West, the story is later revealed to be a speculative scenario imagined by Shane Weston to demonstrate the kinds of espionage in which Joe may be involved if Mac consents to his son starting a second life as a secret agent.

Nevertheless, the Joe 90 universe still sees the Earth's landmasses politically divided into Western and Eastern regions. A recurring antagonist for WIN is the "Eastern Alliance", which dominates Asia and appears in the episodes "Attack of the Tiger" and "Mission -X41". Meanwhile, "International Concerto", "Business Holiday", "Arctic Adventure" and "The Professional" include villains who speak with Slavic accents. "Attack of the Tiger" combines the Eastern Alliance threat with the hazards of nuclear technology. In this episode, Joe must prevent an Eastern nuclear device from being launched into Earth orbit. However, an episode showcasing the benefits of such technology is "Big Fish", in which Joe struggles to remove a crippled nuclear submarine from the ocean floor when it strays into the territorial waters of a hostile Latin American Police state. The series ends on a clip show episode, "The Birthday", in which a number of Joe's missions are recalled as flashbacks when the protagonist reaches the age of ten.

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