11/01/2019

Space 1999 Force of Life


First shown 11 September 1975. Written by Johnny Byrne. Directed by David Tomblin.

Director David Tomblin gives enormous urgency to this somewhat trippy episode in which technician Anton Zoref is taken over by an unknown alien force that seems to feed on energy. The production is top class turning what might have been something of a run of the mill story into much more. Tomblin utilises a battery of camera techniques to convey the strangeness of the alien while guest actor Ian McShane successfully menaces several Moonbase Alpha personnel sometimes with fatal results. At times its surprisingly graphic for what was seen as mostly a kids series with sudden freezing effects deployed to the alien’s victims. At the climax when Koenig orders all power to be switched off to try and isolate Zoref we see medical staff attempting to manually resuscitate a patient. Even more extreme, after a beam that was meant to finally fell the visitor resurrects him as charred with glowing eyes the results are a match for any horror movie of the day. That all this takes place in the comparatively bright environs of the base makes its use of scare techniques even more impressive. 

09/01/2019

Top of the Pops 5 Jan 1984


Watched by Chris Arnsby. John Peel: "Well hello fans. Now you might think what we've got here is some kind of tribute to Mike Read but actually what we're celebrating is the 20th anniversary of Top of the Pops. " David Jensen: "And I think we really look fab gear." John Peel: "Yeah, there is that. This is very 1984 though this. Frankie Goes To Hollywood." David Jensen: "Take it away boys."
[35] Frankie Goes To Hollywood: Relax. We're 38 seconds into the first Top of the Pops of 1984 and there's a lot of stuff to unpack. Let's deal with the important stuff first. Who's been fiddling with my picture settings?
John Peel and David Jensen are suffused with a nuclear glow. Threads won't be shown until September so this can't be pre-publicity. A quick trip into VLC Media Player settings reveals a ticked box labelled Image Adjust; unticking it makes John Peel and David Jensen 300% less lurid.
The magic of CSO is used to add a shower of glitter behind the exploding TV screen in the opening titles. This is followed by a caption; SPECIAL EDITION.
The presence of certain DJs normally makes it impossible for BBC4 to repeat special editions of Top of the Pops. The last acceptable Christmas Day show was presented by Peter Powell in 1979, along with some bloke called Kid Jensen. BBC4 also missed out the 1000th edition, 05/05/1983, and the Radio 1 15th anniversary special, 30/09/1982.
Michael Hurll seems more keen on celebratory back-slapping than his predecessor Robin Nash which might explain why special editions dry up pre-1980. Coming up later (30/08/1984) is a live edition following an Intercity train on a speed run from London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads. On arrival in Bristol leading power car 43002 was named Top of the Pops. Don't bother looking for this on BBC4 as J*mmy S*v*l* was the DJ on the train. It all sounds a bit high concept but this sort of thing was needed to keep up national morale in the long gap between royal weddings.
Relax is a single more notable for its absence from Top of the Pops, and the performance here only makes the subsequent ban seem even more ridiculous. Still there's something pleasingly circular about the first song of 1984 also being the most controversial.

08/01/2019

They Call It Nutbush!


One of the most striking hits of 1973 was Tina Turner’s `Nutbush City Limits` with its fuzzy guitars, strutting beat, high pitched synth solo and vividly sketched portrayal of a “one horse town in Tennessee”. It was significant for the singer on three counts as it was the first self written song she recorded, being inspired by her upbringing and also the last single released credited to Ike and Tina Turner before the couple’s divorce. It has been described as her declaration of musical independence. The song has been covered by a number of artists and Tina Turner herself has re-recorded it. There is even a dance named after it that originated in Australia. The real Nutbush doesn’t actually have city limits as it’s not a city but `They call if Nutbush unincorporated rural community” just doesn’t sound anywhere near as catchy!

04/01/2019

Space 1999 Breakaway NEW SERIES!


Intro: In 1975 television fantasy was thin on the ground. Most popular shows from the States were either police based or else Earthbound stuff like The Six Million Dollar Man. The Star Wars boom was still a couple of years away while in the UK apart from Doctor Who these sort of shows sat mainly in the children’s programme slots. It’s important to mention this because when it arrived Space 1999 seemed like a breath of fresh, colourful air. People watched it with enjoyment at the time and it is only later that it came to be seen in a somewhat less appreciative light. Personally I loved it and had models of the Eagles (the spaceships not the group) and those poster magazines with gorgeous colour photos of weird alien locations.

Many of the criticisms of the series are at least partly valid- there is certainly a lack of empathy amongst the main characters (especially in the first season) and some of the plots are hugely derivative. The science is of course all over the place and you have to smile at the idea that what was then a view of 30 years into the future depicted everyone still wearing the flares and hairstyles of the mid -70s. At the same time, the series is enormous fun to watch with its gaudy alien planets and impressive model shots.  And can you really dislike a programme whose opening credits give away half the plot, all the exciting bits and depict one of its leads staring into space while slowly revolving on a platform. I mean everyone does that at home don’t they?

So over the next 24 weeks (gasp!) I’m going to be watching every episode of the first season, one per week to see what I find then nattering about it on here. It’s important to point out these are not intended to be either episode guides or definitive reviews of the series, just reactions and observations as I journey alongside Commander Koenig (no relation to Ezra or Walter) and a remarkably smooth flying Moon through the Universe. If I survive the G Forces I’ll probably do season two next year. So let’s go back to 13 September 1999 or to be more precise 4 September 1975 when the first episode was originally broadcast….

02/01/2019

Doctor Who Resolution review


As series 11 unfurled, I got the impression that Chris Chibnall was holding back, pootling around the block rather than going in for the shot. If he was a footballer – and he’s penned some soccer related stuff for sure- he’d be the player with dazzling midfield skills which don’t quite end up amounting to a goal for the team. I recently re-watched `The End of Time` and whatever you think of the story it is jam packed with incident, excitement and drama. It involves you every step of the way and it’s exciting. 2018’s Doctor Who has been fine, good but never properly exciting. It has been polite but on a leash,  just a bit too careful, a bit too concerned with making factual sense when all that really matters for a programme like this is fictional sense. `Resolution` from a more melodramatic opening to thrilling climax seems to make amends. Is it simply a finishing flourish or a taster for next series? Hopefully it’s the latter.



Spoilers beyond this point..

30/12/2018

Top of the Pops 15 and 22 Dec 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. 15/12/1983.

Simon Bates: "Thursday night on BBC1. Welcome to Top of the Pops. With some familiar faces." Janice Long: "We're going to have a great party time tonight starting at number 25, it's Status Quo and Marguerita Time."

[25] Status Quo: Marguerita Time. Bad news. This is a pre-recorded episode of Top of the Pops so Simon Bates won't tell us the time. However, he does helpfully namecheck BBC1 for any viewers whose TV set is missing a channel tuning knob. Marguerita Time is the song that reveals Status Quo don't know how to spell Margarita but, more than that, it's also one of those rare Status Quo songs that doesn't sound like other Status Quo songs. (Fact John- Actually you can spell it either way according to Googlepedia. I think in this case it’s a cocktail. I can’t really imagine der Quo drinking cocktails though, it'd be more like Brown Ale Time) It joins Pictures of Matchstick Men, Living On An Island, and In The Army Now in a small pile vastly overshadowed by Status Quo's 3,623,217 other songs which all go dun-der-dun-der-dun-der-dun.

[24] UB40: Many Rivers To Cross. The promo film.

[3] Slade: My Oh My. Slade are in the charts twice. Merry Christmas Everybody is currently lurking down at number 35 for its 1983 rerelease. Slade have bought scarves for everyone in the studio to wave. They have Slade written on them, obviously. Director Gordon Elsbury (Michael Hurll is away for Christmas) forces Simon Bates to hold a Slade scarf but Simon Bates is incorruptible. He is sickened by crass attempts like this to curry favour with the audience. Observe the scornful way he holds the scarf and then throws it over the side of the balcony as soon as his introduction is over. In fact the balcony seems to be a bit of an anti-Slade zone. At the far right end, just behind Noddy Holder, is an incredibly bored looking teenager. She and a friend each have one end of a Slade scarf and they give it a few desultory waves before the whole thing becomes too much effort. Maybe they're Status Quo fans. Or maybe they're less than impressed by Noddy Holder's theory that a women needs a man and you should "try and catch one if you can."

28/12/2018

Reacting to HMV going into administration


So HMV may not make its century anniversary after all. We’ve been here before of course. A major well known chain announces administration and in most cases cannot out run the inevitable but some may have viewed HMV as the great survivor. Until the past year predictions that physical media would no longer exist by the end of this decade have seemed wide of the mark. Though Bluray never really took flight DVDs and even CDs are still being bought in their masses whether in shops or  online. The glimmer of hope for HMV was that this could continue- and that the increasing resurgence of vinyl might help- but something in the past year has changed that. 


18/12/2018

My Favourite TV Show of 2018- Strictly Come Dancing!


I’m not joking or spoofing you one little bit. Ok I don’t get to watch a massive amount of television and I literally don’t have time to watch dramas that run for more than about 10 episodes but I recently realised I have seen most of every season of the juggernaut which is still the BBC’s most popular programme. So I must like it. When you think about it its success is obvious. It plays against everything that critics, `serious` televisual commentators and` experts` tell us is good. You know what they like- tense, gritty four or six part serials in which every scene is set in semi darkness or which brings some harrowing subject to the fore. Obviously there’s a place of that sort of thing but lately we seem to have been overwhelmed by it. The opposite is those treacly series- often scheduled for a Sunday evening- which aspire to be feelgood. I’m turning away from drama to some extent because there is little in between these extremes. Plus when your life is not exactly filled with sunshine at the moment the chance to watch something uplifting is irresistible.