Raumpatrouille Orion    ZUR DEUTSCHEN VERSION »

18.10.2010 #493en

by Guido Bibra

Title Raumpatrouille Orion
Studio Bavaria Film (1966)
Released by Eurovideo (1999) EAN 4-009750-266342
DVD Type 2x9 (7,80 & 7,70 GB) Bitrate ø 4,42 max. 8,0
Runtime 409:18 Minutes Chapter 6/Episode
Region 2 (Germany) Case Alpha Twin
System PAL | 576i | 25fps progressive
Image 1.33:1 16:9 ja
Sound Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround 448 kb/s 2.0 Mono 192 kb/s German
Subtitles None
Rating FSK 12
Extras • Bavaria-Special
• Music Video
• DVD-Video-Game
• Screensaver
• 6-Page Booklet

The Series

What today sounds like a fairytale may become reality tomorrow. Here is a fairytale from the future: there are no more nations, there is only humankind and its colonies in outer space. Far away planets are being settled and the seabed is developed as living space. With speeds unimaginable today, spaceships rush through the Milky Way. One of these ships is the Orion, a tiny part of a gigantic security system protecting Earth from the dangers of outer space. Come along with the Orion and its crew doing patrol duty on the edge of infinity!


Before World War II, the fantastic and utopian film genre had been well developed in Germany and even showed some signs of what would later become science-fiction. Directors like Friederich Wilhelm Murnau or Fritz Lang had reached the limits of the medium with movies like Metropolis, Die Frau im Mond, Nosferatu or Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari and showed a creativity which was far ahead of its time. But since 1933 the German film industry had neglected the genre - the only real science fiction productions Weltraumschiff 18 antwortet nicht and Zwischenfall im Weltall were cancelled at the beginning of the war in 1939 and the already shot material was only later assembled as a short film called Weltraumschiff I.

Meanwhile in the USA, science fiction was nothing unusual, but still on the level of dime novels in the beginning. Just before the war, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers were the precursors of the genre, who were brought to cinemas by Universal Pictures as serial movies with the same actor, Buster Crabbe, in the title roles. At the end of the 1940s science fiction boomed in America with space heroes, spaceship captains and cadets taking over not only the cinemas but also the television screens. Although simple entertainment still prevailed, there were already some sporadic beginnings of serious science fiction like the cinematic space opera Forbidden Planet in 1956.

Not much of this was heard of in Germany and even Europe, because the American productions made it to the other continent only years, and sometimes decades, later. Science-fiction in Germany was widespread in literature but apart from some exceptions like the harmless comedy Der Herr vom anderen Stern with Heinz Rühmann or the ambitious Polish and East German co-production Der Schweigende Stern, the genre was largely ignored. While the science-fiction- and UFO-surge gained momentum worldwide, only in Germany cinema and television were more fixated on crime stories by Edgar Wallace or Francis Durbridge - only Perry Rhodan managed to be successful in the area of trivial literature.

But there was somebody who had not let himself be influenced by this trend: since 1962, author and script writer Rolf Honold had tried to pitch the idea of a science fiction series to television producers, but at first he was ignored. There were no private stations in Germany in the 1960s yet and the state-run television did not like costly experiments. Eventually Günther Rohrbach, then head of WDRs drama department, got interested in Honolds bold and revolutionary idea.

Space Patrol

Looking back at Rolf Honolds concept of a science fiction series, it becomes apparent why the German television executives shied away from it. The author had of course looked around in the home country of the genre and found some examples, among them the mother of all science-fiction-movies, MGM's Forbidden Planet. Perhaps he had even heard of the simple American children's series Space Patrol or the puppet production with the same title from England - these had not much in common with his own idea, but possibly inspired him when he was looking for a suitable title.

Raumpatrouille - Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion (Space Patrol - The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion) later was the official title, but Rolf Honold might have preferred the more concise short version Raumpatrouille Orion (Space Patrol Orion). The name spoke for itself, because the concept consisted of the adventures of a spaceship captain and his crew - and much more than that. The author had created a complex futuristic world, which had its roots in the science-fiction of the 1950s, but was otherwise fully original and independent. There might have been no way around the typical spacefleet command structure, the shape of the spaceship or other details, but Rolf Honold had created something completely unique out of these elements.

The Orion is prepared for liftoff

Because a regional television station like the WDR was not able to provide the planned production costs of nearly 3.5 million marks alone, an alliance was forged with the other regional broadcasters NDR, SDR and SWF, each taking over 20 per cent of the costs. The final fifth share came from the french state television ORTF, who in return was allowed to produce a parallel version with some french supporting actors. The company commissioned to produce the series was Bavaria Film with their world-renowned studios in Geiselgasteig, in which, amongst others, the WDR had a stake. Since the 1960s many television movies had been produced there, so Bavaria was the best choice for an elaborate production like Raumpatrouille Orion.

While in the USA a season of a television series usually consisted of 24 or often more episodes, Raumpatrouille adhered more to the British conventions of a mini series: only seven hour-long episodes were planned right from the beginning. The scripts were written by Rolf Honold in collaboration with a team of authors under the moniker of W.G. Larsen, consisting of directors Michael Braun and Theo Mezger and Producers Hans Gottschalk, Helmut Krapp and Oliver Storz. Together with this experienced team of television producers the author was able to develop his concepts into full-blown stories.

The seven episodes were enclosed by a background story referring to the title of the series: Raumpatrouille - Space Patrol - is not an honour, but a penalty for the main protagonist, the insubordinate spaceship commander Cliff McLane. He and his crew are notoriously famous in the space fleet for their escapades, which are often heroic deeds at the same time. But they have crossed the line too often and are now sentenced to simple patrol duty instead of more exciting missions - much to the chagrin of McLane, who nearly quits and is only held back by his commander.

But the adventures of the Orion are not just boring patrol duty, because in the first episode the heroes already encounter aliens, who in Rolf Honolds universe are not as common as, for example, in Star Trek. The extra-terrestrials are dangerous invaders, who are so alien that they can't be communicated with and can only be fought against with extreme force. This quite simple black-and-white image of hostile alien life may be unreasonable and not one of the most original idea of the series, but it was a very typical element of classic science fiction, which had not only been used in the first episode, but also in the finale and a third story.

Rolf Honolds vision of the future is, however, distinctly limited to the military environment of the Orion's crew, so that the viewer does not get to see much of civilian life. The government structure is very vague and leaves the impression that earth is controlled only by the military. The space fleet seems to be organised by maritime principles, but the existence of a galactic security service called GSD, which is not exactly popular with the spaceship crews, gives the futuristic society something totalitarian. Nevertheless most of the stories do not take themselves too serious and humour is a very distinctive part of the series, which has a definitive light-hearted atmosphere.

The Space Cowboy

While other fictional spaceships were only able to be commanded with a crew size in the double or triple digits, a handful of people were enough for the Orion. This seems mainly to be an economic decision of the producers and authors to keep the cast relatively small and to avoid costly mass scenes. To expand the small group of main characters, another figure was added, functioning as a watchdog of the heroes. It was one of the first truly multinational spaceship crews, although mostly by name only, because the actors all hailed from Germany or Austria.

For the role of the charismatic spaceship commander an actor with the appropriate star qualities had to be found. The selection to choose from was quite large, because Germany's theater, film and television in the 1960s had a lot of young actors and long-time professionals to offer, although not many wanted to get involved in the risky project of a science-fiction series. But one actor had not let himself be influenced by the common aversion to the genre and thought that the role of a spaceship captain would be a unique career opportunity.

The Austrian Dietmar Schönherr had started his career involuntarily in a disreputable way, starring in a German propaganda movie during World War II when he was only eighteen years old. After the war he became an author, host and reporter with the Austrian radio broadcast service ORF and later went to Cologne, working as a narrator and dramaturge for the West German radio station WDR. In the mid-1950s Schönherr made his breakthrough as an actor, after which he appeared in numerous roles on the big screen and sometimes on television - mostly in sophisticated dramas, but also simple comedies, the occasional crime story and with The Longest Day even in a large American production. His characters were often of a doubtful nature, but he also had what it took for sympathetic and rebellious hero figures and was therefore the best choice for a classic spaceship commander.

Dietmar Schönherr's Cliff McLane is insubordinate, rebellious, a daredevil and sometimes a bit impertinent, while being entirely likeable. His great sense for justice often surprises his superiors, resulting in many clashes with them and occasionally he even threatens with quitting. Mostly he grudgingly accepts the chain of command, but sometimes ignores it, which gets him into hot water with the authorities. McLane has a distinct sense of humour, but it is often overshadowed by the cynicism of someone who has experienced a lot. Dietmar Schönherr brilliantly manages to show the different sides of his character and actually makes the impression of a competent spaceship commander, who seems entirely human especially because he isn't perfect.

The Best Crew of them All

McLanes Crew were not only his subordinates, but also his best friends. The characters were deliberately made international, but apart from the names this was not really noticeable because all parts were of course portrayed by German and Austrian actors. Although the monologue in the title sequence mentions that there are no more states in the future, Rolf Honold did include some hints about the origins of the characters.

By far oldest crew member, Hasso Sigbjoernsen is able to fix up the Orion even in the worst situations. The resourceful engineer, who is lovingly referred to by McLane as "the old buffalo", was played by Claus Holm, who was only in his late 40s when the series was shot, but proved to be ideal for the part. Holm had originally started his career as a boxer, but then became a successful actor in the 1940s. After his beginnings in the DDR he fled to the west and was cast in many small and big film productions. Raumpatrouille Orion was one of his last great roles and he is remembered by many as the down-to-earth engineer at the side of Dietmar Schönherrs Cliff McLane.

Mario DeMonti, weapons officer and computer expert, is responsible for two of the most important positions, but is also the jokster of the crew and something of a ladies' man. He was played by Wolfgang Völz, who was very busy as a supporting actor in many television series and also in some international film productions. With Raumpatrouille Orion he made his breakthrough as a comedian for the first time. Although his character was primarily conceived as a humorous diversion, he performed Mario DeMonti not only as a clown, but also as an officer who is not to be trifled with in serious situations. For Wolfgang Völz Raumpatrouille Orion was only a brief part of a long career, in which he played numerous film and television-roles and also became a much sought-after dubbing actor, providing the German voices of Walter Matthau, Peter Ustinov, Mel Brooks and many others.

Atan Shubashi is responsible for the navigation of the Orion and is referred to as an Astrogator. He is quiet, cautious and also more nervous than his crewmates but he is doing his job with heart and soul and would even let himself tear to pieces for his commander. He was portrayed by Friederich G. Beckhaus, who had an illustrious past career both in movies and television, where he mostly played serious roles and established himself as a character actor. His appearance in Raumpatrouille Orion was therefore more dramatic than humorous, because Atan was designed as a counterpart to the somewhat wilder Mario. After Raumpatrouille, Beckhaus had a long career and even returned to the science-fiction genre, providing the German voice of the Cardassian Garak in Star Trek - Deep Space Nine.

Helga Legrelle, the only female member of the regular Orion crew, is responsible for the communications, called Raumüberwachung, but is much more than a simple switchboard operator. Rolf Honold had designed her character far from common stereotypes, so that the little-known actress Ursula Lillig was a full part of the cast as a competent crew member and not only as a dark-haired beauty, who has much more to do than just receive radio transmissions. There were hints that Helga Legrelle was romantically involved with her Captain, but apart from a secret crush on her superior the authors did not go further into this aspect of the character.

Spies, Chiefs and Military Brass

Tamara Jagellovsk of the galactic security service has been assigned as a watchdog to the crew of the Orion, who at first consider her as an enemy in their own ranks. The pretty security officer is at first very icy and doesn't stop short of countermanding McLanes decisiony by Alpha Orders, but is eventually able to win the trust of the Orion crew. Tamara was portrayed by Eva Pflug, who was already very visible in German movies and television, but only became really famous with Raumpatrouille Orion. Together with Ursula Lillig and Charlotte Kerr she was celebrated as an icon of women's emancipation in the series.

General Lydia van Dyke was McLanes superior until his penalty transfer and is about the only one who is really able to give him orders. The tough, but fair officer also commands a spaceship and together with Helga Legrelle and Tamara Jagellovsk forms a trio of strong female characters, who were very unusual for 1960s German television. The dutiful general was portrayed by theatre actress Charlotte kerr, who was not very active except on the stage and played her role in Raumpatrouille Orion surprisingly serious and with much more pathos than her co-stars, but was also able to bring more realism into her character.

Other secondary characters of the military leadership were equally appropriate cast as the main figures. Benno Sterzenbach, a very busy actor in the 1960s, portrayed the gruff, but good-natured General Wamsler, who was often accompanied by his arrogant adjutant Spring-Brauner, played with much relish by Thomas Reiner. The unmistakeable Friedrich Joloff was the calm, but subliminally dangerous Oberst Villa, who is at first less present in the series, but later plays an important role in the finale.

Through the Galaxy with an Electric Iron

Raumpatrouille Orion was shot on black-and-white 35mm film mainly for budget reasons, but also because colour television had not been available yet in Germany when the series would be broadcast in 1966. Some selected scenes were, however, shot in colour, because the blue screen technique required it, but the final version was always printed in black-and-white. The series was shot in nineteen weeks between March and July 1965, with nearly all scenes being filmed in the Bavaria Studios in Geiselgasteig near Munich. Only a few sequences were filmed on location, among them some spectacular-looking landscapes of alien planets. Those were originally planned to be shot in Iceland, but budget restrictions made it necessary to relocate to a coal mining pit near Munich, which looked equally good, but turned out to be disappointing and much more uncomfortable for the actors. The only other location was the Bavarian castle Höhenried, which doubled for the residence of an extraterrestrial ruler.

Nearly all other scenes were shot in the Bavaria studios, where production designer and architect Rolf Zehetbauer had constructed the complex sets. The main set of the Orion command bridge was 28 meters wide and and was constructed with the help of the thermoform-technology out of acrylic glass, which back then was a completely new innovation. The interiors and parts of the outsides of the mini-shuttles called Lancets were also constructed in life-sized proportions. The sets of Raumpatrouille Orion became not only famous because of their futuristic shapes, but also for their many detailed fixtures, which mostly consisted of everyday items. The most famous one was the grip of an electric iron in the engine room, but there were many other occurrences of plastic cups on the ceiling, pencil sharpeners as control buttons and other common household appliances.

Into Space with Alka Seltzer

While the actual shooting of the seven hour-long episodes was completed in less than six months, the production of the elaborate special effects lasted more than a year. Led by Bavaria's special effects expert Theodor Nischwitz, 26 people worked on the complex scenes, which depicted the amazing underwater launches of the Orion and her travels in space and also some exciting action sequences, blown up planets and many other futuristic scenarios.

For a German television series from the mid-1960s, the effects were surprisingly complex and nearly reached Hollywood standards, but also used a mix of high tech and low tech methods. The famous underwater launch sequence of the orion was accomplished by combining a model shot of the ship with the bubbles of an alka-seltzer-tablet. For the explosion of a planetoid, a ball of rice, coffee and other ingredients were blown to bits by a stream of compressed air in slow-motion. Other effects required the extensive use of an optical printer, which even allowed the combination of special-effects and real shots. Many sets were enlarged with bluescreen methods, letting oversized fish appear in the transparent ceilings of the undewater habitats and making other strange things possible.

The costumes were designed by the Hungarian fashion designer Marget Bardy, who, like her German colleague Vera Otto, only occasionally worked for movies and television, but more for the European theatre. For Raumpatrouille Orion the two designers created the famous uniforms, which were admired by everybody - except by the actors, who suffered a lot in the extremely tight costumes, which were designed for the look, but not for comfort.

Space Jazz

Instead of a traditional orchestral score, the producers opted for a modern approach - not too modern like the electronic beeping noises of Forbidden Planet, but more in a jazzy direction. They hired Peter Thomas, who had become one of the most successful film and television composer in Germany since the beginning of the 1960s and had already composed many soundtracks for the Edgar Wallace series, the Jerry Cotton movies and the Strassenfeger Die Schlüssel and Melissa, showing an immense versatility. Peter Thomas had the reputation of using small and inexpensive instrumentations to produce a very distinct sound, which was described as futuristic even before he had worked on Raumpatrouille Orion.

For Raumpatrouille Orion, Peter Thomas had created a very special musical style, which was later called the New Astronautic Sound, but did not actually use many futuristic resources. The Peter Thomas Sound Orchestra was basically a jazz band with a large brass section, which often took the lead with sharp saxophone or trumpet sounds, but was also sometimes supported by soft string parts and even human voices. The basis for the unusual sound came from a rhythm section, which consisted of piano, electric guitar, bass and a very versatile drummer, who together created a true wall of sound.

What really represented the New Astronautic Sound were Peter Thomas' innovative sound experiments, which, amazingly, did not use any of the early synthesizers of the 1960s. To further refine the already strange sound a Hammond organ was employed and equally used as a rhythm and lead instrument. Set to provide sounds which were seldom heard from this instrument, the Hammond organ proved to be an integral part of the Raumpatrouille soundtrack, but was actually not used too often to reserve it for special occasions. Sometimes a vocoder from the 1940s was also used to distort some voices, including the famous spoken countdown. Peter Thomas' soundtrack became as long-lasting as the series itself and proved to be a great hit for the composer when it was released as a record.

Space Patrol On Air

The first Episode of Raumpatrouille - Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion was broadcast on September 17, 1966 in the Saturday evening prime time slot at a quarter past eight, further episodes followed every other week. Ratings up to 50% resulted in an unexpected success, which even surprised the producers and actors. While especially younger viewer were amazed and thrilled, the reactions of most critics were mostly negative. The series was attacked as dilettantish future nonsense or pseudo-scientific and mindless utopia, but was also seen as too complicated and difficult for the average German television audience. At first, only few critics recognized Raumpatrouille Orion as an innovative and promising television production, but in spite of the negative backlash the rest of the series was broadcast until the end of the year and was able to attract a lot of delighted fans.

Raumpatrouille Orion was not only broadcast in Germany, but also in France by the co-producer ORTF, but failed to attract as much attention as the German version. The series was, however, quickly sold to many international television stations, but with some exceptions: in England no one was interested and even less so in the USA, where the english-language genre top dog Star Trek had just started and its black-and-white German counterpart was already obsolete. Meanwhile Raumpatrouille Orion had already become a cult series upon its first rerun, but it remained a one-hit wonder in the German television business and remained virtually unknown in English-speaking countries with no English voice dub in existence.

The Short Life of the Spaceship Orion

Originally everyone involved had thought that new episodes of Raumpatrouille Orion would be made soon. On behalf of Bavaria, Rolf Honold even wrote treatments for seven new episodes, which would have expanded the Orion universe and have some aspects of the futuristic scenario which had not yet been addressed in the first seven episodes - but this did not happen. ARD and Bavaria Film backed away from the high costs of the now necessary colour production, but the partly massive criticism was said to have caused the end of Raumpatrouille Orion: Bavaria department head Helmut Krapp was especially worried about the alledged heavily violent, militant and even fascistic aspects of the series. In 1968 Raumpatrouille Orion was officially canceled and in spite of many rumours and attempts of restarts no more new episodes were ever made.

In 1972, six years after the premiere of Raumpatrouille Orion, Star Trek began to conquer the German television screens. The broadcast of the series in the USA had originally started only nine days before Raumpatrouille was first shown in Germany and proved to be somwhat more persistent, but was also canceled after three seasons even before it came to Germany. Star Trek and Raumpatrouille Orion had a peaceful coexistence, because the series mostly aired on different channels. But the parallels were unmistakable and ultimately Star Trek proved to be a distinctly bigger success in German television, which must have given those responsible for Raumpatrouille Orion something to think about. Nevertheless even with the growing popularity of science fiction in Germany, more episodes of Raumpatrouille Orion failed to appear.

New Adventures - in Literature

But Cliff McLane and his crew lived on in writing and experienced many more adventures. In the 1970s, Rolf Honold had written thirteen short stories for some magazines and even before that, in 1968, the publisher Moewig had bought the book rights and commissioned Hanns Kneifel, one of its regular science fiction authors, to work on Raumpatrouille Orion, now under the more neutral title Raumschiff Orion. At first expanded novels from the seven television episodes were published, after that Kneifel wrote his own stories and changed the former penalty patrol to a super space patrol, giving the Orion crew extended powers and letting them work as a kind of intergalactic fire department.

In his stories the author had often moved far away from Rolf Honolds initial ideas and sometimes had let himself inspired by other science-fiction scenarios, but this turn away from the roots of Raumpatrouille Orion caused the sales figures to drop sharply and the monthly publication of the novels was stopped at the end of 1970 after 35 volumes. A couple of years later the series was revived, allowing Hanns Kneifel to finally close a long story arc with the publication of his last six Orion novels. From this time on, H.G. Ewers wrote new adventures of the Orion crew with Hanns Kneifel only occasionally participating. In the mid-1980s the series was finally cancelled, but the television original had became very popular again.

The Orion Revival

During the Berlinale film festival of 1985, two episodes of Raumpatrouille Orion were shown as part of a science fiction retrospective, causing great excitement from the audience and a sort of chain reaction. Many Berlin art house cinemas made Raumpatrouille Orion part of their program and for the first time the series was shown on big screens thanks to having been produced in 35mm. The Sputnik Cinema in Berlin established a film distribution of its own and Raumpatrouille Orion became a regular fixture in small cinemas all over Germany at a time when the series had nearly been forgotten and television broadcasts were rare.

In 1993 Raumpatrouille Orion was released on videotape in Germany for the first time and in the same year, the series was shown not on public television, but on the private station Sat1. After that, the series vanished for six years from German television, until it resurfaced on some public stations in 1999, the year it was finally released on DVD. In 2003 an elaborate, but ultimately disappointing attempt was made to bring Raumpatrouille Orion back into the cinemas. Under the title Rücksturz ins Kino a 90-minute "producer's cut" was prepared, which tried to connect heavily truncated plots from three episodes with a newly produced Sternenschau news show starring Elke Heidenreich. It was met with strong disapproval even from the most persistent fans and became a financial flop.

In its original seven-episode incarnation Raumpatrouille Orion remains one of the most astonishing achievements in German television history and has earned its status as a very special cult series. Almost five decades after its development the series has aged well and at most appears only a little bit antiquated because of the sometimes unintentionally funny production design and outdated special effects - but Raumpatrouille Orion still remains fascinating because of its entertaining stories and likeable characters.

The Episodes

  • Angriff aus dem All (Attack from Space) - After spaceship commander Cliff McLane has repeatedly ignored orders, he and crew are transferred with the Orion to patrol duty as a penalty and even get a watchdog from the secret security service. But there is trouble even on the first routine flight when outpost MZ-4 is not answering. McLane sends two of his people over there who discover a dead crew and encounter strange beings, who are immune to their weapons. Suddenly the Orion is being attacked by alien spaceships...
  • Planet außer Kurs (Planet Off Course) - Cliff McLanes former superior, General Lydia van Dyke, is trapped with her spaceship in a magnetic storm and is barely able to send a message that a supernova has been discovered which is on course for Earth. It turns out that the mysterious aliens, now called Frogs, are steering the supernova and McLane begins to search for the source of their signals...
  • Hüter des Gesetzes (Guardians of the Law) - The Orion crew is pulled out of a training course about new work robots to check some space probes. During the dull task McLane is contacted by an old friend, the freighter captain Commodore Ruyther, who is worried about the ore mine on the planetoid Pallas - he is unable to contact them and only receives waste material from the surface. While Helga Legrelle and Atan Shubashi create an energy field in the shape of the Orion to conceal the absence of the spaceship, the rest of the crew sets off to Pallas, where they get into trouble with the robots of the mine, who seem to have gone crazy...
  • Deserteure (Deserters) - While the Orion is testing a new super weapon called Overkill, spaceship commander Alonzo Pietro is suspected of desertion to the Frogs. The Orion is ordered to install Overkill in the Vesta region and is accompanied by a brain specialist, who wants to investigate the many cases of space madness in this sector. Suddenly a crew member of the orion is also suspected of desertion, but cannot remember anything about it...
  • Kampf um die Sonne (Battle for the Sun) - The Orion makes a surprise discovery of some vegetation on a planetoid, which had not been there before on the last visit. The reason for this is quickly found out: the temperature of the sun is inexplicably rising, endangerin the climate of the earth. They speculate that the sun is being artificially heated and the orion begins a search for the cause of it, finding a strange Lancet with an armed crew, who are arrested for interrogation...
  • Die Raumfalle (The Space Trap) - A simple routine mission turns into a nightmare when the Orion is assigned to collect spores for scientific purposes and General Wamsler puts the writer Pieter-Paul Ibsen on board. Ibsen wants to gain experience for his next science-fiction novel and persuades McLane to let him fly a short trip alone in a Lancet - with disastrous results, because he is forced to make an emergency landing on a planetoid and falls into the hands of a group of exiled criminals...
  • Invasion - A space cruiser of the galactic security force with Oberst Villa and his staff on board gets into a photon storm and makes a distress call, in which Villa speculates that the phenomenon might be the same encountered by Cliff McLane during the MZ4 incident with the frogs. Villa and his people manage to pull through in a Lancet, but he behaves very oddly after his return. When he seizes more and more power, McLane has a grave suspicion...


For a long time, Raumpatrouille Orion had not been available on any home video medium. Only in 1993 WDR opened its archives and allowed the German distributor Eurovideo to release the series on three VHS tapes, which were available separately or as a boxset. A very exclusive laserdisc set limited to 250 copies followed in 1997, which was superseded by Eurovideo's DVD release in 1999. The image had not been restored, but had the broadcast quality of the original master tapes and was accompanied by a newly created surround soundtrack and a small handful of extras.

The DVDs reviewed in this article are the first edition from 1999 of the Raumpatrouille Orion 2-disc-set, which has not yet been replaced by a better version. The 3-disc-set released in 2005 also contains just the original DVDs plus a third disc containing the shortened cinema version. Ten years after their release, these DVDs are still the best incarnation of the series, because there are no other editions worldwide and even the television broadcasts today look worse. Unfortnately Eurovideo has confirmed that an improved new edition is not possible in the foreseeable future because of the high costs of a necessary restoration.

Cover Cover Cover


Raumpatrouille Orion was originally shot on 35mm black-and-white film. For this DVD the film sources have unfortunately not been newly transferred, instead old video masters from the 1960s, possibly the original broadcast tapes, were used. For their age the masters were in a good condition, but are not able to compete with a modern transfer because of the technological limits of that time. Since some time past different masters have used for broadcasts on German television, for which apparently new transfers were made, whose sources look much dirtier and unstable than those used for the DVDs. More about the differences between the DVDs and the new television transfers in a separate comparison.

The video masters don’t look all that bad, but are mainly attracting attention by the reduced sharpness, which causes a conspicuous soft video-like look. This is only the biggest problem, because electronic noise or video artefacts have either been filtered out or were not present at first, so the image actually looks quite solid. The source has also been properly digitized for progressive playback using 25 frames per second without any problems of ghosting or interlacing.

With the use of the original video masters the film sources are being shown exactly as they always were. While most of the time the image is relatively clean with only occasional dust specks appearing, the special effects suffer from the same problem as on Star Trek - a very messy image caused by the extensive use of optical printers, which is thankfully mostly limited to the special effects. The image is never completely stable, but often has a slight judder and sometimes a distinct wavering and fluttering is visible. But compared to the newer transfers used for current broadcasts the image is downright pristine and much more stable.

Brightness and contrast are not always optimal with black levels sometimes too bright, but nevertheless appear satisfactory and reproduce a remarkably large grey scale palette. The bitrate is very variable, but with an average of 4,42 mbit/s on the first and 5,38 mbit/s on the second disc not very high. However, no visible artifacts are be produced by this, because the image is not very detailed anyway.

The old video masters are by all means watchable and show the great potential of the hopefully still existing film masters. A new transfer and a careful restoration could surely produce a high definition version of Raumpatrouille Orion, but considering the bad condition of the source materials, visible on the newer television transfers, a lot of money would be necessary. Rights owner EuroVideo has mentioned that they have not considered a restored version of the series for exactly those reasons.


As a television production of the 1960s, Raumpatrouille Orion was of course mixed only in mono. Eurovideo obviously had access to the original magnetic tracks from the video-masters, but also to the separate dialogue/music/effects-sources, making a 5.1-upmix possible, which was surprisingly successful. There are no other languages available on this disc except the German original.

The original mono mix has not been forgotten and is available as a secondary audio track on every episode. The sound was presumably not much overhauled, but this was not really needed because except slighly elevated noise levels in quiet scenes the quality is remarkably good. Even the music can come up with a solid bass and undistorted trebles and only sounds a bit brittle in the credit sequence. While the sound effects lack a certain punch and are somewhat thin, the dialogue has none of these problems and doesn't sound as tinny as many big-screen productions from the 1960s.

The 5.1-soundtrack is not a complete remix, but an upmix from monaural sources, which luckily were available as multiple tracks so that dialogue, music and effects were able to be cleanly separated. The stereoization has been well done, but is not totally unproblematic. The music was unfortunately not mixed in from the existing stereo recordings, but from the mono sources. While the overall sound has been improved and the bass optimized, the single-channel master was spread out so heavily that sometimes distinct flanging artefacts are audible that were not part of the original recordings. The very pronounced instrument separation of the album versions was also impossible to achieve.

The sound effects of the 5.1-track were also heavily overhauled. In many scenes deep background noises were added to support the original sound effects, which would have sounded too thin on their own. This was surprisingly well done, because the added effects are not too evident and are mostly only noticeable in direct comparison to the original mono mix. Of course, the sound effects were also mixed in surround, making much use of the rear channels in appropriate scenes like the launch of the Orion and some action sequences. This sounds surprisingly good without seeming artifical and makes the soundtrack very lively.

The choice between the mono mix and the 5.1 conversion makes sure that the original is not lost and also a more contemporary alternative is provided. Unfortunately there are no subtitles available on this DVD.

Bonus Material

While the menu design has been very well done and with many animations creates a real Orion atmosphere, the bonus materials are a big disappointment, because there is actually not that much being offered here.

The Bavaria Special (3:28) is an unfortunately only very brief excerpt from a gala held in honour of the 30th anniversary of the series, in which Dietmar Schönherr, Wolfgang Völz, Eva Pflug, Friederich Beckhaus, Claus Holm and Ursula Lillig once again appear together.

The Music Video (3:58) by Peter Thomas & The Maxwell Imlposion has neither musically nor visually much to do with Raumpatrouille Orion and mainly seems to be a commercial for some Raumpatrouille-CDs from Peter Thomas.

Spielstation contains a very primitive shooting game, which could not have been designed more simple.

From the DVD-ROM part a not very well made screensaver with Orion motives can be installed.