Fantasy adventure series for kids Ace of Wands had master magician Tarot along with two companions tackling a collection of fiendish villains most of whom seemed hellbent on world domination.
Tarot’s intial assistants were Lulli Palmer and Sam Maxted and Tarot was a renowned stage magician. The title of the show comes from one of the cards in the Tarot pack and the show actually had the working title of Tarot for awhile.
Although meant for kids the shows plotlines were aimed at everybody, with each story broken up into generally four episodes ala Doctor Who. Tarot was highly trendy, drove an e-type jag and lived in an apartment above a London warehouse for the first two seasons and then a houseboat for the third and final season.
Lulli, Tarot’s stage assistant shared a kind of telepathic link with him whilst Sam was Tarot’s right hand man. Two other regular characters were Mr Sebastian Sweet, a bookseller and last but not least Tarot’s owl Ozymandias.
All of Tarot’s tricks were actually devised by proper magician Ali Bongo although the actual earning a living as a magician side of things played almost no part in the proceedings, Tarot’s magic was most useful in battling Avengers-esque villains such as Madame Midnight and Tun-Ju who also appeared to have magical powers. Like much of Trevor Preston’s work there is a disquieting air of menace that often hangs over the stories – most of which are quite disturbing.
Ace of Wands was a very effects heavy show and in fact was one of the first to use Colour Separation Overlay techniques on a regular basis.
Season three (the final season) had some changes when both of Tarot’s assistants became unavailable (Judy Loe had become tired of just being the bit of glamour on the show) bringing in two new ones in the form of journalist Mikki Diamond (who also shared a telepathic link with Tarot) and her brother Chas.
Producer Pamela Lonsdale also had nothing to do with this season having been given the job of setting up Rainbow. Mr Sweet in this season no longer had his bookshop but instead was based at a university.
Unfortunately the first two seasons of the show are no longer in existence as Thames saw fit to wipe the masters to save on the cost of new tapes. Mr Stabs, a character who appeared in the story Seven Serpents, Sulphur And Salt would later appear in a one off episode of anthology series Dramarama, this was called Mr Stabs and was also written by Trevor Preston.
Ace Of Wands still remains as high quality television even if some of the filming techniques and special effects seem antiquated to a modern audience. The acting and devious plots allow you to lose yourself completely in the show. It also boasts one of the best theme tunes of the 1970s.
UK / ITV – Thames / 46×30 minute episodes / Broadcast 29 July 1970 – 29 November 1972
Creator: Trevor Preston / Music: Andrew Brown / Magical Advisor: Ali Bongo / Producers: Pamela Lonsdale(1970-71), John Russell(1972),
Michael MacKenzie as Tarot
Tony Selby as Sam Maxstead (1970-71)
Judy Loe as Lulli Palmer (1970 – 71)
Donald Layne-Smith as Mr Sweet
Petra Markham as Mikki (1972)
Roy Holder as Chas (1972)