Parallel 9 began in April 1992. The premise of the show was that Mercator, an old alien prince with very long eyebrows, had been banished to Parallel 9 because of his thirst for knowledge when knowledge was banned on his home planet. He was allowed to be awake for only 2 hours a week - 9:00-11:00 a.m. on Saturdays - when he could ‘beam up’ guests to Parallel 9. With him lived Calendular - an earth girl who he had somehow called permanently to P9 against her will - and three other criminals banished from their home planet; Steyl, Skyn and Thynkso (I have no idea why they decided on such strange spellings), who spent the best part of each week trying to escape from Parallel 9.

Each week kids, celebrities and whoever else was prominent at the time could be ‘beamed up’ to Parallel 9 to be interviewed and each week two kids would receive a backwards watch (as time was supposed to go backwards in P9) and tickets to a Michael Jackson concert which, for some reason, were presented to them inside a strange stick. There was a computer games challenge each week where a celeb and a kid would battle against each other on a new computer game while reviewing it. Mercator would also put knowledge in the ‘Tope’ - which I guess was a kind of lake with a big glass thing in it! The set was supposed to represent outer space but on reflection it is rather reminiscent of the back drop to the National Lottery show. My claim to fame is that I sent Calendular a birthday card and it was shown on the notice board in the background! There were the usual cartoons you find on all Saturday morning kids shows, most notably ‘Toxic Crusaders’.

By far the best thing about the show, though, was its more-than-catchy theme tune:

It’s time for you to pay...
You’ve broken every rule...
Gonna take your time away..."

It went on for another verse or two. The last episode of the first series saw another bid to get off P9 but instead of Calendular returning to earth and the others returning to their home planet, they ended up the wrong way round and the viewers were left with Calendular’s voice coming from the Tope, wondering where she was.........

When the second series arrived the following year it had changed beyond recognition. The dark, moody space sets had been replaced with ones which looked like Lawrence Lewellyn Bowen had infiltrated a deep space mission with a collection of fluorescent paints, the theme tune had been replaced with something bland and forgettable and, more than that, every character had been replaced! There was still a Mercator as the main character but it was now being played by a young man who was a failed commander rather than a banished alien prince.

He was accompanied by Zee, a woman with a painfully sharp ginger bob; Dr. Kovan, who looked like Andi Peters with a bald head; and, of course, a token puppet, Brian the Dinosaur, who allegedly came from Rotherham. These were later supplemented by a dinosaur egg which hatched into Brian’s younger brother Derrick who specialised in impersonating farts. In addition to this, P9 also had an earth base in a caravan from which guests were beamed up via a shower cubicle. The caravan was first manned by an ex-Home and Away ‘star’ (I use the term loosely) whose name I believe was Richard Norton, and later taken over by Lucinda Cowden, who used to play Melanie in Neighbours.

This series was far inferior to the fast. Lines were fluffed like never before and there was no chemistry in the cast, or the series’ goal of getting out the dimension each week. Later an interactive game was added in which kids were encouraged to phone in and play ‘P9 Pinball’, a computer game they controlled down the phone with their touch-tone pad. That is, they did when it worked.

It was relief when the series ended but it was back the next year with, yes, you’ve guessed it, a new cast. Dr. Kovan and the dinosaur puppets remained but Zee and Mercator were out. Zee was replaced by a woman called Flynn who had bleach-blonde hair and a tendency for her bottom to expand when she was stressed, while Mercator was replaced by.... well, Mercator. Another one, this time played by the same guy who played Hamilton in Number 73. This was a bossier Mercator and it seemed P9 had become a research lab instead of a prison dimension. The series trundled along but it had lost its edge from the fresh first series. Lucinda remained in the caravan, replaced by someone else only whenever she went on holiday, usually by some other obscure Australian actor or actress. All in all, it ended on a low.

Miranda 2001