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I'm trying to identify a series of children's books from the UK/Ireland from the 1980's. It was a short (3 or 4) set of short (Ladybird-type-format) books, which in retrospect were probably a Dr. Who knock-off, featuring an archetypal super-scientist and his sidekick running around having adventures.

I can vaguely remember plot points from two of the books:

  • In one book, the Sun vanishes. It turns out it's been taken to use as one of a number of floodlights for a bunch of gigantic astronomical-sized space aliens to play their gigantic astronomical-sized space football under.

  • In another book, a planet (maybe the Earth) freezes over due to some nefarious outside forces. The situation is resolved by the scientist's magical/scientific machine spewing out black carbon to coat the surface of the planet to lower its albedo and thereby increase the surface temperature, breaking whatever feedback loop was leading to a Snowball Earth phenomenon.

There were a couple more books in the series but that is all I can recall from them. They would have been newly published around 1985 I would say, as that's when they came into my local library.

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I do believe I recognise these books. I don't think the series had a name - just the individual book titles - but Goodreads and Wikipedia refer to them as the "Professor Gamma" series, so let's go with that.

The authors were famous astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle and his son, Geoffrey Hoyle. And the books were indeed "Ladybird-type format", since they were published by Ladybird.

In one book, the Sun vanishes. It turns out it's been taken to use as one of a number of floodlights for a bunch of gigantic astronomical-sized space aliens to play their gigantic astronomical-sized space football under.

This sounds like The Giants of Universal Park. An Amazon reviewer describes it thus:

I think this book is perhaps the most odd out of the series, with the giants playing football inside a wacky world. It's about a villain called Lighto, who is trying to steal the sun! Once again it's an adventure for Professor Gamma, William and Kiryl. They journey to the strange world of the Universal Park ... witness a huge game of football, and Gamma must score to get the sun back

The second book would probably be The Frozen Planet of Azuron. Once again, I quote an Amazon review:

William, Professor Gamma and his daughter Kiryl set out along the energy pathways of the Universe to catch Absolute Zero, the fiend who has found a way to convert heat into action. Zero has been sucking up heat everywhere he goes in the Universe and using it for no good purpose.

Incidentally, the review also states:

The story is full of strange creatures and strange phenomena: a transparent dog which looks like it is made of crystal; ghost like entities that appear out of nowhere and an entire universe in a carrier bag.

The other two books are:

  • "The Energy Pirate", in which one of Professor Gamma's old friends has turned villain and is trying to steal the Earth's sugar.

  • "The Planet of Death", involving a villain called Viro and a virus (possibly artificially created). I think Earth was the planet targeted by the evil Viro in this book.

All four of the books in this series were published in 1982, so by 1985 they would not have been as new as you thought - maybe your local library bought the books several years after they were released? Or perhaps they bought a later printing or edition - a Google image search will reveal two different versions of "The Energy Pirate" with different cover art.

You describe them as "probably a Dr. Who knock-off". I've found a Twitter thread by someone who's read The Energy Pirate and agrees with you! He describes the book as:

feeling like a #DoctorWho s17 reject

and notes one scene in particular, where:

A boy tells his best friend Kirryl about the theft, and she resolves to tell... Her grandfather, who lives in a strange blue house with an indeterminate front door.

enter image description here

(link to Tweet)

"It's a barmy book" he concludes, "but I bloody love it."

EDIT: Comments on this blog post suggest that audiobooks of the stories were also released, in the form of cassette tapes.

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    Amazing! Thank you so much, that's been niggling away at me, ungooglable, for decades, particularly as one of them vanished off the library shelf permanently before I ever had a chance to read it. Off now to waste some of my adult cash on buying copies of them. Thanks again.
    – user71888
    Mar 29, 2022 at 10:30
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    archive.org/… These are the audio books, that I use to listen to as I fell asleep each night as a kid back around 1990.
    – Lee
    Sep 2, 2022 at 12:20

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