The joy of Space:1999

I used to love Gerry Anderson shows as a kid. Thunderbirds though was never my favourite, for me it was all about Captain Scarlet, but his live action stuff for years never seemed to find favour with me when I was older. Recently I’ve been swallowing up Space:1999 on YouTube.

I loved Space: 1999 as a kid. I even loved the flares.

I especially loved the die-cast toys of the Eagle spaceships.

Oooo, look at this beauty!

And this one, though I used to lose the wee containers.

Of course being the 1970’s there were AIrfix kits with the Hawk spaceship being my favourite.

Of course the programme itself is worth it’s weight in gold, the first series especially as it had a strange melancholy feel in many of the episodes that belied it was essentially an action-adventure series on Thursday evenings on ITV. The tone is set in the first episode.

Though the flares do somewhat overwhelm.

You could get lost in the swish of Martin Landau’s flared jumpsuit.

That first series is mainly wonderful. It’s a mix of big ideas, some good scripts, and of course action, adventure and 70’s fashions.The second series less so as the story is the American audience found the first series ‘too cerebral’ so stories became lightweight and trivial. One episode even had this title.

So here’s a word of appreciation for a great (first) series, and a series which as far as I’m concerned had the best title sequence of any programme in the 1970’s.

Rumours of reboots and continuations are a regular thing but they’ll never take away from the joy that is that first season…

 

 

Kenneth Willliams and Jimmy Reid discuss politics on Parkinson in 1973

Political debate in the 21st century is a series of shouting soundbites by a series of arseholes on all sides of whatever debate you’d care to discuss from Brexit to Scottish independence and so on and on. The BBC’s Question Time is a cauldron of bullshit with the occasional odd gem of informed opinion standing shining in a sea of shite. Everyone seems polarised. Identity politics rule. Nobody wants to see what they can do to make things better because they’re shouting at each other on television or online.

This wasn’t always the case. Back in the 1970’s political debate on television was vastly different and this episode of Parkinson from 1973 featuring Carry On actor Kenneth Williams and Glaswegian socialist (and a family idol when I was growing up) Jimmy Reid is amazing viewing. Moderated brilliantly by Michael Parkinson this is 80 minutes or so of fascinating debate between Williams and Reid that thanks to hindsight has more going on for the viewer in 2017 (Williams hidden homosexuality, Reid’s latter support for independence) than it would have in 1973.

I will warn you to make sure there’s a cup of tea next to you before watching this as you won’t want to pause it.

A word of appreciatiation for Culloden

No, I’m not cheering on the actual historical atrocity, I’m talking about the excellent 1964 film, Culloden, made by Peter Watkins who made one of my top ten ever films, Punishment Park.

Made 53 years ago for the BBC, looking at it now it looks as if it could have been made today as in style, as well as tone, it seems fresh and at the time was hugely adventurous in presenting the battle of Culloden in a docudrama style which at the time wasn’t even a genre of film-making. As a film, Culloden is a flawless gem. As a piece of history it follows the account of the battle by the historian John Prebble making it as accurate (though Prebble is accused of himself missing out facts to support his point of view) as possible which when talking about a battle which even today is shrouded in myth and lies, is some achievement.

So, here’s 70 minutes of groundbreaking television.

A word of appreciation for John Hurt

John Hurt has passed away, and the world is a wee bit darker today. I’m not going to go on as there’s better than me doing tributes for the man, but this is a little tour through what Hurt meant to me.

I first saw him as a kid in the superb I, Claudius, and I think at that point he became an actor who I deeply admired and over the years from there even as a young lad often unable to get into see his films I tried to keep up with his work but the man was prolific. It was however Alien that cemented Hurt in my mind forever in a scene that’s a classic in horror cinema.

From there Hurt seemed to pop up everywhere from the splendid Elephant Man, to even taking the piss out if his death in Alien in Mel Brooks Spaceballs.

Hurt dabbled with science fiction often his role as Winston Smith in 1984 is for me, utterly perfect, and although he ended up doing stuff like Harry Potter and Doctor Who, this just showed how astonishingly a versatile actor he was.

So cheerio to John Hurt, we quite literally will never see another like him again.

The Return of the Magic Roundabout is a glorious gem of a mockumentary

Back on Christmas Day 1991, Channel 4 broadcast The Return of the Magic Roundabout, and its a bizarre programme. Starring Nigel Planer; it was a half hour mockumentary broadcast early on Christmas morning in 1991 that must have fried the brains of those wee kids watching it. Telling an entirely fictional history of The Magic Roundabout with drug references, missing episodes and other mysteries, it’s a comedy treat which passed quickly into obscurity as being broadcast at 8.50am on Christmas morning (it did have a repeat at a later slot a few days later but that again was something most people missed)is not a time when people traditionally looked for comedy gems.

Thanks to the glory of 21st century technology we’re now able to see what is a lost classic. Enjoy.

So why does the BBC let producer, Alison Pedley, support the far right?

The BBC’s Question Time is a programme that helps shape public political opinion in the UK and has been running since 1979. In recent times the programme has frankly, turned into a freakshow where intelligent, or informed political discussion has vanished into the ether. Endless appearances of people like Nigel Farage ( as of the time of writing this, 37 appearances) and audience members seemingly culled mainly from the right of the political spectrum gives the impression that the UK, as a whole, is skewed to the right. Even so, Question Time retains a place in British political discourse, as well as society, few programmes have and any of the criticisms of right wing bias can feel a tad overwrought at times. After all, surely the BBC wouldn’t be as stupid to has a clear political bias on a programme like Question Time as that’d be a public scandal?

In the last week or so news has broke about a producer on the programme, Alison Pedley. Specifically she invites people into the audience after screening applications. This Bella Caledonia article covers the basics of what was discovered which is that Pedley wasn’t just supporting far right, anti-immigrant racist groups like UKIP and Britain First,

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Pedley’s been reprimanded by the BBC but the damage is done, and she’s still employed by the BBC on the programme, and til recently, her social media feed still displayed images like the one above. Her social media (her Linkedin still remains) has now been deleted but the damage is irreparable and very firmly done. The reaction to this from the left has been that of anger and wonderfully articulated by Jack Monroe.

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And in those Tweets there’s a point. Imagine if Pedley had say, booked figures from the left from say, the SNP, Greens, those leftish Labour people left or Plaid Cymru on a regular basis on the panel rather than a cursory one, maybe two per week? Imagine if she’d booked more left wingers, or even centrists rather than loons like this later revealed to be a member of the hard to far right Orange Order to the surprise of nobody. Imagine the horror and outrage from the Daily Mail had Pedley worked to skew Question Time with left wing, even liberal idea?

Yet the damage Pedley’s done to the national discourse in putting her own far right politics into her job could not just be far reaching, but a look at her IMDB shows the potential scale of her influence, as people may have missed that she’s also worked on other programmes as Alison Fuller. Seeing that she started the job on Question Time in 2007 and it was around then audiences seemed to swing mainly to the right, and it was around then Nigel Farage started what seems like a residency on the programme.

So I agree with the likes of Jack Monroe. A bollocking isn’t good enough. There’s been a conflict of interest, and Pedley’s used her position to corrupt British political debate to make it seem the far right are more numerous in the general population than they actually are. The BBC need to not just sack Pedley, but launch an inquiry as well as apologise for what they’ve done or whatever trust the BBC has left is going to go sinking down the drain.

A few more words about Ghostwatch

I’ve made it clear I’m a huge fan of Ghostwatch on my blog here, and recently over at That’s Not Current where most of my reviews now live. What is clear is that over two decades later Ghostwatch is still a massive thing, and in fact seems to be generational as I’ve spoken to people who were barely a crusty stain on their dad’s underwear at the time but are huge fans of the film.

Looking back at the BBC continuity now it really is looking at a different era. Everything feels, well, less jaded, less dumbed down but the film still fooled people.

Yet as writer Stephen Volk has said, Ghostwatch managed to ‘fool’ people by manipulating their expectations in this TedTalk.

In the above talk Volk talks about Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape as an influence, and indeed, what Ghostwatch influenced with the Found Footage genre of horror especially. I don’t think we’ll ever see something like Ghostwatch on the BBC again, they’re far too conservative now and the reaction to the film in 1992 saw them having to make assurances the programme wasn’t real later in the night.

Indeed, it’s taken on a life of it’s own and thanks to the internet, has entered horror lore as this YouTube video shows.

Yet the BBC do seem to be softening on the stance of ignoring it by finally offering it for download on their online store.

Next year is the 25th anniversary of the programme. It’d be an obvious time to not just have the BBC repeat it, but perhaps see if someone can work out how to do something that follows it up in the age where we’re all perhaps too cynical and jaded to not notice when something is a hoax or to be scared by such programmes? I’m not sure it can be done but it’d be interesting to see if someone could try it.