Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Dr Who: Terror of the Autons

High time we had some more Who. This one features Jon Pertwee with the Master, of course one of the Doctor's greatest enemies.
The premise of this one is relatively simple, but tends to become complicated when it is explained. The Master gains access to Nestene intelligence which allows anything plastic to become dangerous. It's really as simple as that. You can get as sci fi about as you like.
But of course that is not how I would approach it - the premise of dangerous plastics allows endless japes, like murderous toys, deadly flowers and chairs which eat people. Oh, and plastic police officers. You can approach this one as horrifying if you want - in fact it was given in Parliament as an example of how children's television had become scary - but watched as an adult, it is a jolly romp.

This Who calls in a feature of the TV of the sixties which I bang on about here - the ambivalence about the bright new scientific future which was otherwise all the rage at the time. Two points about this are made in the special features of the disc - that again this was horrifying because it made something dangerous which is found in every home, and that there was a fear this storyline would clash with Doomwatch's line about plastic deteriorating. It is commented that this fear was ungrounded because Doomwatch was completely serious, so perhaps I am not too far off in my approach to this show.
Blue screen filming is used extensively here, both to allow the effects but also for many scenes to give a backdrop. Of course it was the technology of the time, and can look very old fashioned. Otherwise the adventure is paced perfectly and four was the perfect number of episodes.
Can anyone reading this not have seen this? But if you haven't, do run away and watch it.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Billy Liar

This was very nearly a post about Tales From Fat Tulip's Garden, which is a delight and which I remember the first time round, although I was probably older than its intended audience. Tony Robinson (Baldrick), dissatisfied with the quality of story telling around at the time for his own young children, tells stories in a gorgeous listed house and garden. You can read about this show at the Curious British Telly blog here and here and about the sad story of the house here. I would recommend the show to children of any age.
Also in my current viewing heap is the TV series Billy Liar, which I have seen before and for some reason didn't take to. On revisiting it I have come to the conclusion that this show is also a delight. The Billy Liar meme lasted for a good couple of decades after the initial novel, about a terminally dreamy young man came out and encompassed film, play, sequel and this TV series. The idea is very simple, Billy Fisher leads a humdrum life still living at home and working as an assistant to an undertaker. His day dreams enliven his boring days and what makes it so good is that we get to see his dreams which often incorporate his family and employer in various fantastic scenarios. What makes this good TV is that we see all of these fantasies acted out, sometimes with the characters in very uncharacteristic roles, and this show must have stretched LWT's wardrobe to its limit!
In a change to my normal policy I do like that the actors in this show are virtually all familiar faces, because we get to see them in unusual roles. I particularly like May Warden as the sex-obsessed grandmother.
The series is set in that ethereal place I have mentioned here before, t'north, which as we all know is a symbol of poverty, lack of ambition, and gritty, kitchen-sink drama. All the better then that this show transforms its location into a place of dreams. We are also lucky that it was happily unable to escape from the early seventies and that the hair, the clothes and the decor are all of the period and marvellously reminiscent of the period for those who remember it.
The illustration is what happened in Billy's fantasy world after his father said, 'I' ll eat my hat'.