Aired on Radio Luxembourg between July 1951 and May 1956, the Dan Dare Radio Show, based on the first Dan Dare comic story from Eagle, was made on wax discs that were then sent to Luxembourg to be broadcast.
All episodes of the show were believed to be lost forever – but now, one, albeit a poor recording – has surfaced on the Internet (Mediafire link: I advise you should always scan for viruses before downloading anything from the Internet).
My source for the link tells me that one reason the quality is so bad is that, as well as it being recorded with a microphone next to a speaker (or more acurately, it sounds like the microphone is on the other side of the room), is that over the years the person who taped it recopied it from one tape to another several times (possibly with a mic next to a speaker again). One of the times this was done it was recorded at 15/16 speed which is the slowest a reel to reel will go, and that speed was almost never used as its too slow and quality is always bad.
My source also reports that two episodes of the Dan Dare show exist: recovered, it would seem, during an appeal for the return of lost or missing TV and audio shows in 2011 co-organised by the Kaleidoscope’s website (www.lostshows.com).
The purpose of the appeal was to track down recordings of otherwise lost TV and radio shows that might exist in the lofts, sheds and cupboards of the general public, and was promoted on Radio 4’s PM programme and with a spot on the BBC website. A full list of materials found is listed in this PDF: http://wiped.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/lostshowsappeal2011.pdf.
Sady, the recording of Dan Dare - Pilot of the Future: Episode 53 - The Lost World On Mars is described as "almost completely incomprehensible" (and I'm wondering if this is the episode that has surfaced online).
The other episode listed, Dan Dare - Pilot of the Future: Episode 76 - Under Sentence of Death aired on Radio Luxembourg on 21st January 1952 - but according to the PDF, the recording has been donated to Kaleidoscope "on the strict understanding that it will not be archived or otherwise distributed, without the owner's prior consent."
The Dan Dare Info site reveals Bob Danvers-Walker announced the Adventures of Dan Dare, whilst former Dick Barton actor Noel Johnson took the part of Dan, Digby was played by John Sharpe, Peabody by Anne Cullen, and the Mekon by Francis De Wolfe. Other parts were played by Kenneth Willams and Ralph Richardson. The series was produced in London by John Glyn-Jones.
The Dan Dare Radio Show was sponsored by drinks company Horlicks, who encouraged young listeners to enroll in the Horlicks Spacemans Club, and then marketed a series of related items that could be bought - usually for six pence and a label from a Horlicks jar. The Spaceman Club items included The Spacemans Club Handbook, a Dan Dare Tie, Spacefleet Service Identity Card, The Spacemans Club Badge, the Dan Dare Spaceship Cup (for drinking one's Horlicks, of course), and a Periscope.
However, like Doctor Who fans tracking missing TV episodes, there is a remote possibility copies of the show may exist elsewhere. Eagle, and many of its strips, was republished in many countries including Australia, France, Potugal and Croatia (to name but a few) and the radio show was also broadcast in Australia. The original scripts were also sent to Spain where they were translated into Spanish and broadcast by Spanish actors. (The name Dan Dare was quickly changed to Diego Valor).
In Australia, 4AK QLD and 4BK QLD Radio broadcast the show each Monday and Tuesday but so far, no-one has had any luck tracking copies down under. Unlike the Biggles radio show, the Australian National Film and Sound Archives does not appear to hold copies, but now fans are trying to find out of the series was ever broadcast or elsewhere.
It seems unlikely the show was broadcast in South Africa - as yet, no-one seems to have tracked down South African versions of Eagle comic - but New Zealand is a strong possibility.
The BBC’s Radio 4 produced a four part Dan Dare radio serial in 1990 - Dan Dare, Pilot Of The Future, again, based on the first comics story. This time Dan was played by Mick Ford, with Terrance Alexander as Sir Hubert.
John Ainsworth and Nichoas Briggs, who are these days better known for their work for Big Finish, produced a Dan Dare audio drama as a test, with David Banks (Doctor Who's Cyberleader) playing Dan Dare and Colin Baker playing Digby. Comic artist John Ridgway tells me he supplied Colin with reference for his to voice Digby and capture his Lancashire accent.
It's great to hear that at least some of these early shows do stil exist, and perhaps Kaleidoscope might consider passing a copy to the Dan Dare Corporation at some point so they could make it available to Dan Dare fans.
• Dan Dare Info Radio Luxembourg Page
• Wiped Web Site: http://wipednews.com
• Dan Dare Corporation web site: www.dandare.com