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Showing posts from March, 2016

Railways on TV: 'The Railway Station/Assignment Two (Sapphire and Steel)

I have posted about this Sapphire and Steel assignment here before, episode -by-episode, and I have made a conscious decision not to re-read those posts before writing this one. There is a sense in which all the locations of Sapphire and Steel adventures play at least one role which railway stations or trains often play, that of a contained environment in which the action can take place. This pertains for the house, the block of flats, the garage, and so on. But this function is extended in Sapphire and Steel to become a plot device where this contained environment can be attacked by forces outside it, usually time. This is a very imaginative way to capitalise on a relatively cheap setting to produce, and its low cost is documented as being one of the things which made Sapphire and Steel attractive to start off with. It is also what makes this show so different from a straightforward detective -type use of the train to create a closed environment. Unbeknown to me, there is a term f

They Came from Somewhere Else

The remaining episodes of Doomwatch are being released as a boxed set at the beginning of April. I’ve hummed and ha’ed, pre-ordered it, cancelled it, and at the time of writing still have it on order. Anyway, I read around what was being said about Doomwatch on t’internet, and found that there is a hope expressed (sorry, in my excitement I have lost the particular blog where I found this) that this will lead to the release of other little-known shows, and examples of those shows were named. And that was how I found it. I have been trying to find what this show was for literally thirty years. I remember watching it the first time round, and it being incredibly formative on me. I was the only one of my circle who watched it, and I didn’t half get teased at school for watching it, but on rewatching it for the first time all these years later, I remain convinced that it is quality television which has stood the test of time much better than most 1980s TV. The show is It Came From Somewh

The Comic Strip Presents: Five Go Mad in Dorset/on Mescalin

I’ve been watching one of the Children’s Film Foundation’s series of a Famous Five adventure, Five on a Treasure Island, which is the first one of the two films they did. I have posted before here about the 1970s redaction of the Famous Five, but hadn’t seen the 1950s CFF version before. It is played completely straight, and so to modern ears is absolutely hilarious. The bit where Uncle Quentin told George that she was quite as good as any boy had me rolling around laughing. Anyway, it has turned my mind to these two parodies by The Comic Strip Presents, which because of the embargo on Enid Blyton in my school actually formed my introduction to the Famous Five. I must have been a revolting child, because I was almost certainly too young to see Five Go Mad in Dorset or Five Go Mad on Mescalin, and can’t for the life of me think how I persuaded my mother to let me, but I remember them as hugely enjoyable and very formative. As a child I think I would probably have identified most wit

The Adventurer: First Impressions

Yesterday I bought the boxed set of a series I had heard of but never seen, The Adventurer starring Gene Barry. These are merely my first impressions, since I am watching my way through the set at the moment, but I want to rush my humble opinions into print because it seems to me that this series gets an unfair thrashing on t’internet. In fact, while I’m not slow to express my dislike for a TV programme (although when I think a programme is such a dud that it isn’t even worthy of thinking about, I won’t tend to blog about it here), I’m slightly surprised at the sheer extent of the venom this show has attracted. You will read that it is the worst ITC show ever – granted, there always has to be a worst, but the venom with which this is expressed surprises me – and that Barry plays the least likeable action hero ever. Let’s get the main problems with the show out of the way to start off with. It didn’t work out as it was supposed to, largely because Barry took a dislike to most of the

Railways on TV: The Web of Fear (Doctor Who)

This one has, of course, been chewed over at length on the Internet after the discovery of more fortuitously -preserved episodes in Nigeria in 2013. Since this is a series of posts on railways as portrayed in cult TV, I feel it is easy to stretch the definition of rails to include the London underground, the location for much of this story. In fact I find the whole set-up of this adventure very interesting. London is apparently completely deserted apart from the characters necessary to the story. This is an interesting echo of the 'unreal' England depicted in later series of The Avengers, to the extent that I'm wondering whether this Who was partly an inspiration for the approach. In fact this Who almost exactly embodies the look, the feel, the characterisation of The Avengers; of course unless the BBC had actually discovered time travel at this point it is likely Doctor Who receiving the influence, unless both shows picked up on something in the zeitgeist of the time.

Doctor Who: The Face of Evil

True to form for my viewing and blogging, I have managed to get distracted from my planned series of posts on railways. One of the reasons for that is that I don’t want to skimp on the remaining posts I’m planning on that subject, so will hopefully return to it at some unspecified point in the near future. What has distracted me is this Doctor Who series, which is new to me as of last week. I have realised to my surprise only recently that I tend to take to the Doctor Who adventures taking place on Earth rather than ones taking place anywhere else. This can’t conceivably be an issue of realism, since daleks, androids, and other staples of Whovian adventures on Earth can hardly be described as realistic. I was thinking that some of the Earth-bound Who adventures can feel very much like Sapphire and Steel, another series I greatly admire, since they feature things not being quite ‘right’, only the Doctor is the one who puts it right. I think also the Earth-bound Who adventures featur

Railways on TV: 731 (The X-files)

My apologies for being absent from here for some time: my work life has been busy (in addition to continuing mired in conspiracy and controversy worthy of The X-Files), but now I am on annual leave and have the mental and physical space to think about some TV programmes. I am focussing on 731 here because despite being the second of a two-parter, it is the one in which a train features more highly. I know I keep banging on about how blogging about TV shows helps the viewer to think about them in a different way, but it happens to be true. The X-Files has been something in the way of duvet viewing for me for the twenty years since it was first broadcast here in the UK, and I have probably seen this episode dozens of times, but my reading around the subject has only today made me realise what this episode is based on. I had no idea that the very title of the episode is taken from real experiments carried out by Japanese during and after World Ward 2, which were co-opted by the US gov