31. Invasion of the Moon Creatures

Invasion of the Moon Creatures

8 December 1973

As we approach the midway point of the Goodies’ BBC run, the lads give us something akin to a perfectly representative Goodies episode—not necessarily the best, but one that most aptly showcases their many talents. It has all the classic elements and deploys them superbly. Note:

  • The bizarre flight of fancy that melds two unrelated ideas (moon missions and A Clockwork Orange) into one coherent—if loony—storyline.
  • Two of the Super Chaps being pitted against the third. In this case, it’s Tim and Bill versus Graeme—though instead of the usual grandiose descent into madness, Graeme here is merely a callous and incompetent scientist (affectionate towards the real-life rabbit Leonardo but sublimely dismissive of the prop bunnies; gloriously blasé in sending up spaceships he has no idea how to control).[1] Moreover, when his schemes go awry and Big Bunny sends Tim and Bill back to Earth at the forefront of an invasion force, it is Graeme who plays the sane part pulling the other two back into line.
  • The characters’ slavish adherence to form. Feature films like 2001: A Space Odyssey have conditioned the lads to associate sweeping classical scores with space endeavour. Thus, they initiate a rousing musical backdrop (Also Sprach Zarathustra) as part of the launch procedure, and take a gramophone player to the moon! They know they’ll need to collect moon dust—so they bring a vacuum cleaner. And of course, most fondly remembered of all, they recognise that ‘proper’ space shows have communicators that beep to indicate when one person has stopped speaking. Lacking this, the Super Chaps append their own, spoken ‘beep’ to each sentence… no matter what’s being said. (Bill: “You creep!! …beep.”)
  • Guest stars. These are more the province of the early series, but ‘Invasion of the Moon Creatures’ strikes a nice balance in having both a genuine cameo (astronomer Patrick Moore playing himself) and a ‘straight’ guest used primarily to drive the narrative (in this instance Roland MacLeod giving an impersonation of science reporter James Burke from Tomorrow’s World).
  • Antics to music. Bill and Tim’s ‘Transistorised Carrot’ rampage plays out across five glorious minutes to ‘Do the Bunny’, an extended funk-soul-rock fusion classic in the mould of ‘That’s My Home’ (from ‘The New Office’).
  • Slapstick. ‘Getting up, falling down’ was always high on the Super Chaps’ list of priorities. Here there’s perhaps less of it than standard, but the pratfalls are good ‘uns. Special mention to Bill’s falling out of the lunar module (“This is one small step for a man, one— auughh!”) and Graeme’s ill-fated dive into one of the portable rabbit holes—a recurring gag in Goodies lore but here perfectly executed.
  • Doctored footage: the clever cutaway that reveals Prime Minister Edward Heath leaving 10 Downing Street with a rabbit tail protruding from the seat of his trousers.
  • Background detail. One truly joyous aspect of The Goodies is that the episodes repay countless re-viewings. In modern parlance, they are packed full of Easter eggs. For instance, while the giant carrots are visually prominent and are actively deployed throughout the second half of ‘Invasion of the Moon Creatures’, the lads also see fit to leave an utterly extraneous giant lettuce lurking in the background…!
Graeme sitting on a giant carrot; Tim and Bill gnawing on giant carrots; Tim wielding a giant carrot. Tim and Bill strapped to a table... with a giant lettuce in the background.
  • A playful Monty Python dig. (“10:15?” Graeme exclaims. He manipulates the TV, clearly keen to catch a particular programme, and is just in time for the opening titles of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. “Damn, missed Moira Anderson.”)
  • A plethora of pop culture references: Doctor Who, Star Trek, 1984, A Clockwork Orange, Bugs Bunny, Jimmy Savile (host of Jim’ll Fix It; Graeme’s rule-of-three go-to source of help after ‘the police’ and ‘the army’). Some are obvious, some are rather more obscure. The name ‘Flopsy’, for instance, harks back to Beatrix Potter’s ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’ (clear enough) but is paired here with… ‘Spiro’—a reference, surely, to then American vice president Spiro Agnew! (More accurately, he was vice president when the episode was being recorded. By the time it was transmitted he had resigned in ignominy. This seems rather prescient of the lads, as Spiro the rabbit is similarly expunged from the record upon reaching the moon. It is Flopsy who becomes Big Bunny.[2])
  • Superb snippets of throwaway humour. (Bill: “And where is this rocket?” Graeme: “It’s that one outside the front door.” Tim: “Oh, that’s what it’s for. I’ve just posted two letters in that.”)
  • Plays on the lads’ established characters. Classic case in point:
Five pictures of Tim as he goes through a range of emotions.

Dialogue from the episode:
Graeme: This mission is too dangerous for rabbits, so—
Bill: We go.
Graeme: We go. Of course, somebody’ll have to stay behind to run things at Mission Control. I suggest it’s Tim because he’s so wet.
Tim: No! No. Oh. Ah, yes. Yes, I’ll stay here. You take all the glory. I don’t mind. Somebody’s got to look after things at home. God knows, I wish I was coming with you, but—
Graeme: All right then. I’ll stay, you go.

In short, ‘Invasion of the Moon Creatures’ has just about everything one might expect (and love) from a Goodies episode.[3] It is also highly proficient, technically speaking. The filmed sequences are top-notch, the moon set is convincing, and the mixing of live and fake bunnies works surprisingly well. The unfolding narrative is carried along with understated showman’s panache by way of switches between direct vision and screen vision (to and from the BBC news room) and direct speech and radio speech (for instance, the carrying over of Tim’s “I’m not going!” protestations from in-person to coming from the rocket).

The denouement is, perhaps, not the best. Bill and Tim are quite meekly imprisoned in their rabbit hole, and their final pursuit of Big Bunny (“Dinner!”) is the least convincing footage in the episode. But of course, that too in its own way is representative of the Goodies. For all their freewheeling brilliance, they rarely nailed an ending.

But who’s complaining? When you’re shooting for the moon and wielding giant carrots, it’s the journey that counts!

Jacob Edwards, 8 December 2023


Graeme, wearing a sign marked ‘Loony: handle with care’ around his neck, watches a TV news flash. Bill and Tim, dressed as human/rabbit hooligans and brandishing enormous carrots, stand in front of a Clockwork Orange poster rebranded ‘The Transistorized Carrot’.

Tim and Bill outside the office, hat stand in background; Tim and Bill entering.

Dialogue from episode:
Graeme: [recorded voice through speaker] Red alert! Red alert! Attention, this is a top-secret control area. 
Tim: Graeme!
Graeme: What is your authority for entering?
Tim: We live here.
Graeme: Personnel may only enter by giving the correct password.
Bill: Let us in, you great ‘nana!
Graeme: [recorded voice pauses] Correct. You may enter.

Bill sitting back in his purple suit, reading Cor!! magazine; the front cover of the issue in question (23 December 1972).

Two different versions of Graeme’s TV monitor. One shows Leonard Nimoy as Spock, the other Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor.

Dialogue from the episode:
Graeme: This is Mission Control. Are you receiving me? Come in, please. Please, come in! Push off, you!

Bill and Tim in space suits on the moon, saluting the flag, gramophone player deployed; the British space capsule landed nose-first in the moon’s surface; Tim, collecting moon dust with a vacuum cleaner.

James Burke (played by Roland MacLeod) holding a model of the Goodies’ space capsule; the capsule smashed; Graeme directing a couple of army officers out on Clapham Common—they are trying to position a bathtub to break the capsule’s fall!

Dialogue from the episode:
James Burke: Well, we’ve just heard that the Goodies’ space capsule is on its way back and has just re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. Now, in one minute’s time the capsule will make a splashdown here, on Clapham Common, like this.
Graeme: The fools! There’s no water on Clapham Common. We’ve got to go and help them. Come on.

Pictures of Bill and Tim, dressed as bunny hooligans, riding a motorcycle and sidecar; the 45rpm single ‘Nothing Better To Do’.

Graeme in scientist’s coat, cradling the rabbit Leonardo; Tim and Bill in yellow suits, strapped to a table, carrots in their ears, captives of Big Bunny.

[1] These traits will reappear in more caricatured form in Series 6’s ‘Black and White Beauty’ (1976) and Series 8’s ‘U-Friend or UFO?’ (1980).

[2] Albeit with a rather masculine voice and referred to by Graeme as ‘he’.

[3] Granted, the trandem is absent!

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