Skip to main content

I was an animal from space

MR NERDY strikes again. I discovered Internet auctions the other day and was able to track down a video of Gerry Anderson's Fireball XL5 "for my son".

Not everyone will remember this one: being in black and white, Fireball has not been repeated like Thunderbirds, Stingray or Captain Scarlet. It's about a spaceship, crewed by Steve Zodiac, Doctor Venus, Professor Matthew Matic, Zoonie the Lazoon (a space animal with a quavery whine) and Robert the Robot. Great stuff.

There are some slightly unpleasant memories associated with the show. Anyone who has seen Zoonie will recall at least one troublesome pupil who resembled him in looks or speech. Worse for me, though, was the time I worked with Professor Matthew Matic.

He was a PT early on in my days as a student teacher. Like the puppet professor, he was kindly and getting on a bit. I recall him as walking and talking in a similar way, though this was probably not the case. Stationed in a lonely planetary outpost, he was the only physicist for miles around and had probably never seen a student in 50 years. I beamed down, distinguishable from the older kids only by the world's dullest sports jacket, and proceeded to make a complete arse of teaching a second-year class.

By the middle of my stint I had worked out, with help, why I was making an arse of it and knew what to do to lessen my chances of making an arse of things next time round. I didn't seem to be making a mess of my other classes either.

The bluebird of optimism flew freely until one day Matthew Matic called me into his walk-in cupboard. ". . . and I don't think you'll ever be aggressive enough to be a teacher" was how he ended a dissection of my performance with the recalcitrant S2. The bluebird hit a plate glass window.

I didn't yell, "What's this about not being f***ing aggressive?", or grab him by the throat. It was terrible advice, well meant. Time has transformed the encounter in my head. The good-hearted, well-respected PT is a doddery marionette, havering semi-intelligibly.

But pan back so that I am in the scene and I do not appear as suave, bold astronaut Colonel Steve Zodiac. Rather, I am Zoonie the Lazoon, a Lazoon who had a lot to learn about taking criticism, that on many occasions was justified, gratefully and with grace.

Gregor Steele's friend and colleague Mr Andrew Nelson, BSc and member of the Institute of Chemistry, has pointed out that Robert the transparent robot could well have been the inspiration for the i-Mac computer.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you