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Ultra Q

Entry updated 20 October 2021. Tagged: TV.

Japanese tv series (1965). Original title Urutora Kyū. Developed by Toshihiro Iijima (1932-2021). Tsuburaya Productions. Directors include Kôji Kajita, Samaji Nonagase and Hajime Tsuburaya. Writers include Toshihiro Iijima, Tetsuo Kinjô, Masahiro Yamada and Hiroyasu Yamaura. Cast includes Ureo Egawa, Kenji Sahara, Yasuhiko Saijou and Hiroko Sakurai. 28 25-minute episodes. Black and white.

The series centres on three investigators of the mysterious (though they are absent from a few episodes): Yuriko Edogawa (Sakurai), journalist and photographer; Jun Manjome (Sahara), pilot and sf author; and Ippei Togawa (Saijou), Jun's assistant; with Scientist Professor Ichinotani (Egawa) a semi-regular. Though it was originally intended to be in the vein of The Twilight Zone, pressure from the Television company led to Kaiju (see also Monsters) appearing in most episodes. As such, this is a Tokusatsu series, making frequent use of special effects, particularly models, with the Kaiju being men in monster suits.

Stories include a space probe returning from Mars with two spheres that hatch into giant slugs: the Professor ponders that Earth's probes might not be welcome and this was a display of Alien petulance; when Ippei suggests they should try to communicate, Yuriko observes – given humanity's record of racism and other abuses – they might not want to talk to us. Another probe, coming back from Saturn (see Outer Planets), has an unwelcome passenger. A slime transports people to the alien Kemur for absorption, to prolong their lifespan: Yuriko is taken and awakens in a deserted carnival where the Kemur waits – it is killed before she can be absorbed and its previous victims are restored ... all sitting on the Spinning Teacups ride. Those who find life unbearable find themselves on board a train that might take them to a better world. An alien who warns of an upcoming invasion by another species also mentions many aliens already live peacefully on Earth. Other episodes include a meteorite acting as a monster's brain; artificial life (unstable and being transported in a suitcase that looks just like Ippei's); vampire plants and giant moles, spiders and humans.

Though considered the first of the Ultra series – see Ultraman (1966-1967) – Ultra Q lacks any Ultra Warriors, the alien defenders of the human race: the main connection is the first appearance of several monsters that would also turn up in the later shows, such as the Kemur, Cicada Humans and the money-eating Kanegon. Ultra Q is generally more serious than most of the later Ultra shows, but there are humorous and Absurdist episodes such as the story of the boy who encourages his pet turtle to grow, and it does.

Though dated, some of the episodes still hold interest, usually those with the strongest sf or surreal elements: the routine monster-of-the-week or comedic stories are less successful. The series was popular but cut short because the television company wished to replace it with Ultraman. Sequels are Ultra Q The Movie: Legend of the Stars (1990; original title Urutora Q Za Mūbī: Hoshi no Densetsu) and the two television series Ultra Q: Dark Fantasy (2004; original title Urutora Kyū: dāku fantajī) and Neo Ultra Q (2013; original title Neo Urutora Kyū). There was also a 2003 Radio series. [SP]


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