Original run: TV Century 21 Issues #23 – #30
Artist: Ron Embleton
Writer: Alan Fennell
Mr. Fennell is the reason we’re here today. He is, after all, the man who created TV Century 21 and was its first editor. But before that, he wrote a hefty chunk of Fireball XL5 episodes and penned some of the best Stingray episodes ever. From such atmospheric titles as “The Subterranean Sea” and “The Invisible Enemy”, the pop culture send up “Titan Goes Pop”, and the weird dream-based episodes of “The Cool Cave Man” and “Tomb Thumb Tempest”.
Its a shame then that this strip of his, “The Ghosts of Station Seventeen”, is a bit of a let down. Having already dealt with ghosts in the on-screen adventure “The Ghost Ship”, “The Ghosts of Station Seventeen” feels like a rehash of that episode, even though it’s enjoyable enough on its own terms.
“The Ghosts of Station Seventeen” very neatly sums up what occurs plot-wise with its title. The Stingray crew are sent to investigate some strange goings on at one of their tracking stations located in a converted castle. The tracking station staff have abandoned the station after sightings of ghosts, but those ghosts turn out to have a far more sinister plan than scaring Marinvelle employees…
Were this a story made for the screen and not for the comic, it would be fairly bog standard stuff. As mentioned, Fennell made several goes with dream based stories, so why not the same for ghost stories? But “The Ghosts of Station Seventeen”, even with its pedestrian story, is still fun to read.
For a comic that placed action over plot, Fennell does a brilliant job balancing both elements where other writers sometimes put one over the other. There’s a lot of twists and turns in the strips seven-part run, and coupled with Ron Embleton’s thick, boisterous artwork gives the story a delightful drive.
However, another thorn in this strip’s side is not only its rehash feel of “The Ghost Ship”, but the fact that several plot strands are re-used in this very strip!
Aside from a haunted castle, there’s an ancient galleon involved that’s piloted by an underwater race of monsters who wish to destory Marineville and then overthrow the terrainean world.
There’s still enough spark and bounce in this strip for it to be enjoyable, as Fennell rarely let his standards slip – even in this case where he was ripping off his own work! “The Ghosts of Station Seventeen” was still one of the earlier TV Century 21 stories, so its unoriginality could be forgiven somewhat. The comic would go on to include more world-building and grander stories between the Anderson’s various space-age puppet heroes, making “The Ghosts of Station Seventeen” an adventures that’s downright dandy in its own regard.
Have you read “The Ghosts of Station Seventeen”? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments section below!
You can read “The Ghosts of Station Seventeen” in Ravette’s ‘Stingray – Battle Stations’ and ‘The Gerry Anderson Comic Collection Vol. 3’!