Looking back at JUPITER MOON - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Looking back at JUPITER MOON

Wil takes a trip back to 1990, hooks up his Squarial and watches Jupiter Moon.

A science fiction show that ran for 150 episodes?
But you say you've never heard of it?
Ah, then you likely didn't have a Squarial.

1990 was a strange year in the United Kingdom. Walking around any given town you'd likely spot some 'yooths' in brightly coloured shell-suits, a few kids hanging on street corners sporting the 'Madchester' baggy scene, and if you looked up on the walls of rows of terraced houses you may even possibly have seen one of these...

The Squarial, a portmanteau of square and aerial, was BSB's answer to the round satellite dish. Just like the VHS/Betamax rivalry from a few years earlier, BSB and SKY were competing for satellite TV supremacy. No prizes for guessing who won.

But BSB weren't interested in importing US shows or remaking The Sale of the Century (with Keith Chegwin of all people), no, BSB wanted to offer alternative home grown entertainment, and their short-lived Galaxy channel was in need of a flagship soap opera to launch with. They wanted something to fill the schedule three times a week with a Sunday omnibus, just like Eastenders. So, would their new soap be set in a tough London suburb? Would it depict the average working northerner and their daily troubles? Would it revolve around a farming community and the drama of the countryside? Or would it perhaps be set in a hot sunny locale and give us a taste of the exotic ex-pat life?

No! Rather than just deliver a watered down version of 'Enders, Corrie, Emmerdale or Eldorado, BSB decided to go with one set in space.

Jupiter Moon was set in the year 2050 aboard the space ship Ilea, which was in habitat around Jupiter's moon Callisto. BSB initially spent some serious money on the show, the scale model of the spacecraft cost them over £200,000 to build and the impressive (for 1990) titles suggested things would be on a grand scale...

Unfortunately from there on out Jupiter Moon looked kinda cheap and very quickly petered out into half-arsed sci-fi. The Ilea was home to a university and so a lot of the plots revolved around student life, this meant the show basically tended to deal with down-to-earth issues despite its unearthly setting. it was all very much a normal folk in a abnormal situation kind of thing. Here's a pre-Eastenders Lucy Benjamin in the Ilea's rec-room, sitting in front of a Dixons TV and a picture of some fruit...

Ten Forward it was not!

As well as Lucy Benjamin, Jupiter Moon also featured a young Anna Chancellor (Spooks, The Hour, Penny Dreadful), and interestingly the character of Phillipe Gervais was named after associate producer Jane Fallon's partner... Ricky Gervais!

Jupiter Moon actually owed a lot of its style to the popular Australian soaps of the day, Neighbours and Home & Away, which spent more screentime on the younger members of the cast than the older ones. But, when the Lucy & co weren't organinsing sit-ins, chasing up their student loans, or dealing with problems with 'boys', Jupiter Moon did have science fiction plot threads. There was a space exploration theme running through in the form of an attempt to travel to an array of stars known as the Daedalus Project, but this was probably to the shows detriment. Mixing the two genres meant it was too soapy for science fiction fans, and too science fiction-y for soap fans.

At a time when the country seemed to have fallen out of love with science fiction - Doctor Who was cancelled just months earlier and Star Trek: TNG was being hidden away on BBC2 - you have to give BSB some credit for trying something as diverse as this. But unfortunately, like the Betamax format of the 80s, BSB's time in the spotlight was short lived. The company quickly merged with SKY, and so Galaxy and Jupiter Moon disappeared from the screen after just (just?) 108 episodes had been broadcast.

The show got a second airing in 1996 on the UK's Sci Fi Channel, and all 150 episodes saw the light of day that time. But just imagine if the BSB/SKY showdown had gone the other way. It's possible Jupiter Moon might have found a comfortable footing and still be around today, giving Corrie a run for its money - 'Space Rover's Return' perhaps?

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