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email BIG RAT

Last updated
9 April 2009

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NAME: Joe McClaine
AGE: 9
BORN: Hampstead, London
1st April
Special Agent
HEIGHT: 4’3"
HAIR: Sandy/blonde
EYES: Brown

Just an ordinary boy - that’s Joe 90. But through the genius of his adopted father, Joe has become the World Intelligence Network’s top secret agent. And Joe 90 is just nine years old.

Born in Hampstead, London on 1st April, Joe was orphaned at the age of 12 months when both his parents were killed in a car crash. Nothing more was known of his mother and father, but having no close relatives to take custody of him, Joe was sent to Caxton Manor Orphanage in East London. The orphanage became mother and father, sister, brother and cousin to the infant.

Life in the orphanage had its disadvantages, yet the boy they called, simply, ‘Joe’, thrived within the vast community of children his own age. But when he was old enough to grasp the simple values of life, he realised that something was missing. That something was a family life, a mother, a father, and a real home.

Like all small boys, Joe was very interested in cars. And it was his interest in cars that forced his presence upon Professor Ian McClaine. It was a summer in London, and the Caxton Manor Orphanage had arranged an outing in the city to see the sights. As the small party of uniformed children passed down Fleet Street, a gleaming green car caught Joe’s eye. It was certainly no ordinary car and Joe decided to investigate the unique vehicle further. Breaking away from the "Crocodile", he climbed inside the car and scrambled behind the seats to chance a glimpse at the twin aero turbines. To his horror, the car swept off, carrying him away as a stowaway. The driver of the car was Ian McClaine.

On reaching the McClaines’ house, Joe made his presence noted. Instantly, the McClaines and Joe became united in friendship. The friendship was stimulated so much that the McClaines paid regular visits to the orphanage and, in turn, Joe was allowed to spend weekends at their home in Culver Bay.

Joe adored his two new-found friends, and for the first time he experienced the family life he had been missing, becoming a real person instead of just another name in a register. And his new foster-parents grew fond of little Joe. So fond, in fact, that adoption procedure was started to allow Joe to cherish family life forever.

The adoption went through without a hitch. Joe became part of the family unit - he became Joe McClaine. He was now five years old and for the first time in his life he had a real mother and father and a real home in Culver Bay, Dorset. Joe became an ordinary boy, and went to an ordinary school, Culver County Junior School. But tragedy was to hit the McClaine household a year later, when Mary McClaine was killed in a car accident. It was a bitter blow to Joe, for it was the first time he had felt deep emotion, the loss of a loved one.

But thanks to his upbringing, tragedy slipped into the past. Joe continued his existence living to the full once more, only this time terribly conscious of his adopted father. He became very attached to his father, sharing the same love for electronics and scientific research. And he helped his father, during his vacations, to work on the brain child that was to become the BIG RAT.

At school, Joe was not academically inclined - one field in which he failed to emulate Ian McClaine. Instead, Joe’s love turned towards the football field, fishing and pop music, though he still appreciated the rather more classical forms of music.

In his spare time, Joe loved to go fishing or camping with his father and to help him in his laboratory. It was great to have someone to share his life with - a father. At the age of eight, Joe became engrossed with the exploits of a fictitious secret agent, longing to copy his literary hero. So engrossed in the idea of becoming a secret agent was the young eight-year old that he started a gang with his local friends. They sent coded messages amongst themselves and executed imaginary assignments, hoping that one day fantasy would give way to reality. It was Joe’s love of adventure and the outdoor life, as opposed to academic studies, that overjoyed Joe McClaine when he was chosen to become a secret agent for the World Intelligence Network, when Professor McClaine’s fantastic invention of the BIG RAT changed his life of an ordinary boy into that of real life spy adventures.

It was a dream come true, but just another of so many dreams that have come true in the nine year life of Joe McClaine, known throughout the world as JOE 90.

Biographical details taken from the Joe 90 "writers' guide", written by series script editor Tony Barwick and scriptwriter Shane Rimmer based on the format and characters developed by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson.

The puppet of Joe McClaine was created especially for the series, and did not go on to make any appearances in The Secret Service. Six heads were originally created for shooting: three 'normal' heads (one for each of the two puppet stages and one 'under-control' version for use in aircraft cockpits and cars), a 'frowner', a 'smiler' and a 'blinker'. An additional head was cast for the episode King For A Day and given dark skin and hair, to portray Joe in the guise of Prince Kahib (and also the Prince himself, with a slightly modified nose).

There are also photographs of a Joe that is broadly grinning! This particular head seems to have been prepared for publicity purposes only, and never appeared in the series (see below). Similar 'grinner' heads with fixed mouths were created for some of the Spectrum regulars in Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, but it seems only Captain Blue and Lieutenant Green were completed (and Blue is the only one to actually appear on-screen in the episode Crater 101).

Joe McClaine in the Rat Trap

Len Jones with the 'grinner' version of Joe (used only for publicity purposes)

Joe's voice was supplied by young actor Len Jones. Len guest starred in many television series in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Z Cars, Adam Adamant Lives!, Here Come The Double Deckers! and The Adventures of Black Beauty. Probably his most famous film appearance was as Wilfred, son of Rafe Crompton (James Mason) in Spring and Port Wine.

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