DVD review: “Joe 90” (1968 – 1969)

“Joe 90” (1968 – 1969) 

Television / Sci-Fi

Thirty Episodes

Created by: Gerry and Sylvia Anderson

Featuring: Keith Alexander, Sylvia Anderson, Rupert Davies, Gary Files, Len Jones, Martin King, David Healy, Jeremy Wilkin, Liz Morgan and Shane Rimmer

Released recently on DVD is the 1970s science fiction series “Joe 90” (1968 – 1969), one of the many series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson using their self-named and patented ‘Supermarionation’ that has become a signature of most of their endeavours. It is very true that “Joe 90” was an in demand series which is proven by the fact that, in New Zealand at least, it was in heavy rotation on repeats for a number of decades. That is why it seems to get releases on DVD every so often. In fact all of the Anderson’s shows get releases on DVD to satiate their demand especially now that pop culture is such a huge demographic. 

“Joe 90” made its debut on ITV on 29 September 1968, the show introduced us to Joe McClaine, an apparently ordinary nine-year-old boy with freckles and a cheeky smile. But Joe’s stepdad, Professor Ian (Mac) McClaine, has invented a machine, one that could turn Joe into a whiz kid superspy. The BIG RAT device (Brain Impulse Galvanoscope Record and Transfer), housed in a secret laboratory beneath their clifftop home in Dorset, can receive the brain patterns of an expert in any field and transfer them to the occupant of this cerebral Faraday Cage. The head of World Intelligence Network’s London HQ, Shane Weston, persuades Mac via family friend Sam Loover to allow WIN to commandeer his machine, thereby making Joe their ‘most special agent’, one who will never be suspected by the enemy. The 30-part series saw Joe become, variously, a fighter pilot, brain surgeon, explorer, concert pianist, astronaut, explosives expert, even the heir to a Middle Eastern throne. In many ways it was a dream format, what kid didn’t dream of having instant prowess in any discipline? 

“Joe 90”, unlike many of the Anderson’s other shows had an emphasis on character and less on hardware than its predecessors, and in a present-day setting rather than the future, howeber there were futuristic flourished such as the family Jet Car.  With special effects from a team established by Derek Meddings and music by composer Barry Gray, Joe 90 is fondly remembered by those who were children when the show first aired, or when it was repeated. “Joe 90” is widely believed to be set in 2012 and 2013. The scriptwriters’ guide stated that the year is 1998, while other sources place the series at an unspecified point in the early 21st century. The episode “The Unorthodox Shepherd” is implied to be set in 2013. 


The video is presented in 1.33:1 full-frame, and like the previous releases of Gerry Anderson material, the image has been cleaned up and looks very good, despite the 34 year vintage. Anyone familiar with Anderson`s other animated series, will immediately recognise the visuals, featuring the slightly ungainly puppets with numerous ingenious gadgets saving the world from a variety of villains.


The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital Mono, and as you might expect is not particularly exciting, instead providing competent reproduction of the dialogue and effects.The lack of a multi-channel soundtrack results in a flat and lifeless tone, but the dialogue is clear and understandable throughout each episode.


The Most Special Agent: World Intelligence Network (W.I.N.) director Shane Weston explains to Professor Ian McClaine how nine year-old son Joe can utilize the brain patterns of professional experts to become W.I.N.’s most special agent.

Most Special Astronaut: Two men become trapped aboard a space station that is to form the hub of W.I.N.’s new orbital radar system.

Project 90: Dr. Conrad Darota intends to discover the secret of W.I.N.’s File 90 which details the BIGRAT project and Joe’s involvement as W.I.N.’s most special agent.

Hi-Jacked: Following the shooting of W.I.N. agent Ed Johnson while investigating the activities of ruthless gun-runner Mario Coletti, Joe infiltrates Coletti’s hide-out using Johnson’s brain patterns.

Colonel McClaine: Army supply runs ferrying U114 liquid explosive to the Kuchanga Tunnel have been plagued by sabotage.

The Fortress: W.I.N. agent Roger Fleming is captured in Santa Marina after hiding a top secret microfilm.

King for a Day: The Sultan of Ardaji dies in mysterious circumstances and his heir, Prince Kahib, is kidnapped by the Regent, Ben Shazar.

International Concerto: Concert pianist Igor Sladek is secretly one of W.I.N.’s top agents, but during a private recital at the Dolski Palace, his final engagement of a world tour, his cover is blown and he is arrested.

Splashdown: Two leading electronics experts who have been secretly recruited for a top security government project in Istanbul, go missing after being involved in air crashes, Joe takes on the brain patterns of a US Air Force test pilot to prevent Mac from becoming the next victim of a ruthless extortionist.

Big Fish: A U85 two-man atomic submarine is grounded inside Porto Guavan territorial waters and its discovery by Juan Chaves’ military dictatorship could jeopardise free elections in the police state.

Relative Danger: While searching for Uranium 534, Dr. Willie Loover is trapped with two colleagues in a mine tunnel in the Pueblo Mountains.

Operation McClaine: Writer Maurice Estoral urgently requires a brain operation, but the only neurosurgeon who can perform the procedure is badly injured in a plane crash.

The Unorthodox Shepherd: The Rev Shepherd has been passing forged bank notes but when he is confronted by Mac and Sam, he reveals that his verger is being held hostage by the counterfeiters in the church crypt.

Business Holiday: Joe is sent in to destroy an Army base that has been taken over by enemy forces.

Arctic Adventure: An air force B107 bomber is forced down inside the Arctic Circle by a freak storm, but only three of the four nuclear devices on board are recovered.

Double Agent: Three of W.I.N.’s top couriers have been killed and Shane Weston suspects an inside job.

Three’s a Crowd: Mac falls in love with a beautiful American reporter, Angela Davies, but Sam is concerned about their liaison and finds a willing ally in Joe.

The Professional: Kramer Foundation funds are being misappropriated and W.I.N. must recover the remaining money which amounts to eight million dollars in gold bullion.

The Race: An experimental brain transfer allows Mac and Joe to dream the same dream. In it, they are involved in a race from London to Monte Carlo against an Army team led by General Tempest, who will stop at nothing to win.

Talkdown: After the crash of an F116 prototype aircraft, Joe flies a second prototype to determine the cause of the crash, using the brain patterns of top test pilot Jim Grant.

Breakout: A couple of escaped convicts threaten the life of Canadian Prime Minister MacCormack, shelling a rail bridge as the Minister’s train is crossing.

Child of the Sun God: Four of the world’s leading statesmen have been paralysed by a poison developed by the Amaztecs, a tribe of South American Indians that was wiped out three hundred years ago.

See You Down There: Financial shark Ralph Clayton is using dubious methods to take control of rival companies.

Lone-Handed 90: While Mac, Sam and Shane argue, Joe falls asleep in front of the television. In his dreams, he becomes the Sheriff of Joesville, single-handedly taking on the infamous W.I.N. Gang as they plot the robbery of a consignment of gold from the mail train at Altuna.

Attack of the Tiger: W.I.N. discovers that the Eastern Alliance have built a secret rocket installation which will launch a nuclear device into orbit and hold the world to ransom.

Viva Cordova: W.I.N. is assigned to ensure the safety of President Juan Cordova who plans to expose the corruption of General Valdes.

Mission X-41: The Eastern Alliance have isolated the X-41 virus, capable of breaking down the molecular structure of matter and destroying everything in its path.

Test Flight: A new Orbital Glide Transport craft is sabotaged and crashes on the launch control building, trapping the flight controller inside with vital monitoring equipment – both will be wiped out if the OGT’s rocket fuel ignites.

Trial at Sea: The maiden voyage of the S.S. Friendship hoverliner is at risk when Sir George Harris receives a bomb threat.

The Birthday: It is Joe’s 10th birthday, but Mac has already gone to town before Joe wakes up and won’t be back until late.


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