I'm looking for a sf story that was broadcast on BBC children's TV in the early 1980's, probably as part of the long running Jackanory series. Based on what i recall of other events at the time of watching I think this was 1982.

The story is of a group of children who are either orphans or in a boarding school and who build a spaceship from the scrap of other ships and (I think) an asteroid. They launch it into space and have subsequent adventures.

One scene that particularly sticks in my mind was the oxygen failing on the ship and the children all falling asleep except for a girl who is bullied by a robot into fixing the problem.

I'm reasonably sure that the author of the stories would be British as it was an adaptation for the BBC. I also have a feeling that this was adapted from a series of children's books with each volume being compressed into one episode. It ran Monday to Friday for one week. I vaguely recall a female narrator.

The story was interspersed with still drawings and acted scenes with children. I'm looking for the title of the story (stories) in either TV or book form and the author. Note, the description of acted scenes and drawn illustrations makes this sound like Captain Zep: Space Detective, another BBC show. It was not this one although they would have been made at similar times. Hope there is enough detail here for a answer. Thank you!

  • Jackanory was usually just a person reading a story with still illustrations. Was that the format? Or were there actors and/or animation? Nov 23, 2015 at 4:31
  • Agreed, it usually just a lone narrator and illustrations so I do question my memory on that particular point. I definitely recall actors. It's possible that it was essentially a drama with no budget for special effects so relied on drawings instead.
    – skyjack
    Nov 23, 2015 at 5:49
  • Thank you for your feedback by the way and just to be clear I don't recall any animation. Child actors in very minimal sets and drawings.
    – skyjack
    Nov 23, 2015 at 5:54

3 Answers 3


This could be the Starstormers Series by Nicholas Fisk:

Published between 1980 and 1983 by Hodder, "Starstormers" consisted of five books; Starstormers, Sunburst, Catfang, Evil Eye and Volcano. Fed up of being left in a boarding school on earth while their parents colonize a new planet, a group of children decide to build their own spaceship out of obsolete equipment in order to join their parents, but in order to get there they will first have to deal with the mysterious Octopus Emperor.

There's no mention of it being dramatised on the author's page, but the Wikipedia page for Jackanory notes (in the section about the show's revival):

The original series had occasionally included dramatised material, in e.g. 1984's Starstormers by Nicholas Fisk, and increasingly so towards the end of its run in the mid-1990s.


Yes it is, it was jackanory, it was on for 5 days of a week: BBC1: mon to fri: 11th to 15th october 1982, as part of jackanorys auther book to tv story telling strand. It was only 15 minutes long intro outro not included.

It was from a series of 5 sci fi books written by nicholas fisk dedicated to the starstormers, there were 5 books in all.

One of the answerers was correct, the set designers did in deed use the recaro seats: in this starstormers production on the asteroid bridge set, these were indeed first used on the blake's seven Scorpio bridge set designed by Roger Cann, then they indeed were used again on Captain Zep there after.

In 1984 the uk itv tv series "the book tower" Also produced a short adapted tv series of same said book, it was terrible compared with the imaginative bbc jackanory version of the book, the starstormers.

The starstormers IS the series the original questioner has enquired about and other observers were correct tv adaption and regarding set design. I worked on this project. Cheers.

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. This seems more of a comment than a proper answer; an answer should be completely self-contained, and not rely on other answers.
    – DavidW
    May 26, 2023 at 20:43

I saw this little nicklas fisk story on bbc1, The Blake's Seven grey Scorpio bucket seats were used in the space ship set in starstomers, in that they stood out a mile lol I saw this in late 82, it was interesting for a jackanory story, as there were live sequences and some stills, shown 3 months before Captain Zep in jan 83 (whom also used the scorpio seats recovered in red and black material these things were easy to spot in those days as anything as modern as that back then stood out and you knew it was from b 7 lol). This adaption fired up the imagination too. Load of old tosh, but nice to see it When I was young At that time, it was on for a week in october 82 all 15 minute eps, I was young and loved bbvc sci fi then, it didn't matter what it was, I just wanted garish colour cso and silly dialogue lol.

  • 1
    Is this an answer to the question? That is, do you think this is the story that the question is looking for? Or are you trying to respond to Mark Bannister’s answer?
    – Adamant
    Sep 27, 2016 at 4:27

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