Space 1999 - Last Sunset & Voyager's Return

Last Sunset
Just as the Alphans look into the possibility of settling on a planet called Ariel, an alien probe attaches itself to an Eagle and once esconsed in the base suddenly releases what appears to be gas but turns out to be air. In record time this spreads initiating a speedy (and well realised) terraforming that gives the Moon a blue sky, a Sun and fresh air. It doesn’t take long before people start messing around in swimsuits. Its rare for an episode to contain so much that is incredulous yet to centre around a narrative that proves to be reasonably gritty for the series. The new look lunar landscape turns out to be something of a convenience for the show to undertake a `main characters stranded` episode which it does rather well.


The War of the Worlds Episode 2 review

This production is making the most of a story most people watching would know something about and is doing so by showing just how chaotic and dangerous things are on the ground. Every shot we’ve seen so far of the Martian war machines has been from a character’s perspective and this aspect is carried through in the second episode’s signature sequence in which hundreds of panic stricken people on a beach are attacked by one of those machines. It’s a brilliant miasma of fire, panic and mayhem set against a backdrop of plumes of black smoke over a choppy sea. Just to add to the cinematic feel of things, George and Amy’s reunion takes place across the upturned wreckage of a boat; remind you of a major film? Likewise, George’s initial view across the beach is a homage to Dunkirk, both the real thing and the movie. Moving back and forth through time, the story unfolds gradually yet if you were to look at synopsis very little happens. This is more than anything a mood piece- every scene could be an album cover or a painting.


His Dark Materials Episode 4 review

This is the most conventional episode so far which means its ideally placed to keep viewers who might have been feeling the series was meandering a little. Those of us who regularly review these sorts of programmes sometimes forget the simple things that appeal to larger audiences and part 4 has them in spades. Taking its cues from classic Western scenarios with an icy replacing the sand hinterlands of classic films, we have strangers on a mission arriving in a town where the reception is frosty in every sense. Lyra becomes even more proactive effectively persuading both Lee Scoresby, an Indiana Jones style aeronaut and a large armoured bear to accompany the Gyptians as they head even further North. There’s a bar fight, a cooped up formerly powerful figure and the authorities are not far behind. If we lose some of the less conventional aspects of the story we gain a self- contained tale of characters eventually banding together to head into danger.


Top of the Pops 15 Nov 1984

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Mike Read: "Hey, lucky you caught us. Me and Bruno here are in a mellow mood, luckily we're going out nightclubbing later on."

Bruno Brookes: "Absolutely. I feel in a cocktail mood already. Tell you what, let's go with Matt Bianco right now."

[34] Matt Bianco: Half A Minute. Mike Read and Bruno Brookes are both wearing dinner jackets, and Mike Read has adopted what he believes is an American accent. Is all this talk about nightclubs and cocktails a clever reference to Matt Bianco and their music for wine bars? I neither know or care. Matt Bianco are on the main stage, the one with the audience at the front and back. I wouldn't dream of suggesting that this performance leans a tiny bit in the direction of possibly being not very interesting, but this is a good time to study the studio lighting grid. It's been upgraded. The lights above the performers are organised into geometric shapes that project down through the studio smoke. It looks great in wide shots.

The new lighting layout was introduced last week and premièred above Limahl and so-called Mandy. I didn't notice at the time because I was distracted by Richard Skinner mouthing "help me" at the camera while Simon Bates told me what time it was in 1984 and went on and on about Spurs and got Never Ending Story's title wrong. Bill Millar is credited with Lighting on this and last week's edition, so I'm going to assume the new lighting layout was his idea. Well done Bill.


Space 1999 - Alpha Child

When the first baby is born on Alpha celebrations soon turn sour as the child grows by five years in a few seconds though everyone except Koenig seems to take it in their stride. By no coincidence whatsoever an alien spaceship also turns up and the commander is the one who spots a connection between the two events. You never know which way this episode is going to turn. At first the kid- named Jackie Crawford- seems relatively normal but director Ray Austin captures some spooky shots of him that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror movie. It soon seems that the child has some psychic powers which also set up the weekly argument with Alan Carter!


The War of the Worlds Episode 1 review

You’d think that this story would be too familiar to re-tell, too associated with a soft rock stage show or various adaptations that have struggled to do justice to the power of the original story. However you’d be wrong. This opening episode is a stunner alright, building up for quite a while, simmering and heating until it explodes in a sequence that certainly justifies the warnings that this is not suitable for younger viewers. If you thought Martian invasions of this kind were cumbersome, cosy games of hide and seek while those familiar tripods loom on the horizon then watch this one.


His Dark Materials Episode 3 review

What makes this series work so well- and this is true to the source novels too- is that the fantastical element is woven into a narrative that has enough familiarity to drawn the viewer in. A lot of fantasy show go the other way trying to dazzle with visuals depicting things that don’t seem relevant to right now. This measured third episode combines the tension running through the second with the movement of the first yet at its heart is a very human drama. A mother missing her stolen child, a community debating how to fight back against an oppressive regime, family secrets brought into the open. These could feature in a more conventional drama so we understand them. What the series also does well is share the perspective of a number of key players. The 8 episode format allows space for character beats and conversations that head off in interesting directions. Quite how one tv critic can call it “an uneventful hour” surprises me.


Ad Break#15 John Lewis vs Mariah Carey!

One’s a dragon that breathes fire which burns things to a crisp, the other’s a singer who uses her high pitched voice in order to get some crisps! Yes, Noddy, its Chriiiiiiiistmas again and John Lewis have a rival for the 2019 season’s best ad in the form of Walkers Crisps and yer actual Mariah Carey her very self. Last year to have us in tears John Lewis teamed up with a big star, Elton John , for an ad centred around a piano even though they don’t actually sell pianos. This time though they’re back on more familiar ground while Walkers have somehow managed to persuade Mariah to do an ad you sense just wouldn’t work quite as well with their usual muse, Gary Lineker. And do you know what? Walkers have nailed it with a frothy, funny ad that trounces John Lewis’ (sorry John Lewis and Partners) (sorry John Lewis and Waitrose and their Partners) somewhat mixed up offering.


Top of the Pops 8 Nov 1984

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Richard Skinner: "We are live tonight from Television Centre. In the studio Eugene Wilde, Billy Ocean, stars all of them."Simon Bates: "And we also have a new number one tonight. [looks at watch] It's exactly what? Twenty minutes past seven tonight. Here's never ending song Limahl. The lady with Limahl over here happens to be called Mandy and she's a Spurs supporter. She sings quite well though."
[10] Limahl: Never Ending Story. The effort of speaking and checking the time appears to make Simon Bates throw a cog in his brain. Richard Skinner throws several knowing looks to camera as Bates rambles through what can only be described as a never ending intro.
Meanwhile, Wikipedia credits Beth Anderson and not Mandy as the female vocalist on this song. Why would Simon Bates lie about that?
Regardless of who is, or isn't singing, Limahl and [finger quotes gesture] Mandy have been placed on a circular rostrum with alternating black and white stripes around the edge. It looks like a garden trampoline and I keep expecting Mandy and Limahl to start bouncing and doing pikes and tuck jumps. Obviously this doesn't happen.
During the musical break the pair start slow dancing in a way that gets whoops of approval from the audience, but possibly not from Producer Stanley Appel in the studio gallery.
Finally, although I bear no personal ill will to Limahl I hope he doesn't appear on Top of the Pops again. I find his name very fiddly and irritating to type. Although it's not as bad as Kajagoogoo.


How to demolish a flyover!

Flyovers are not for life- just about fifty years and the time soon comes round for them to either be repaired or demolished. In Liverpool we have a large flyover called Churchill Way that takes traffic into the centre of the business district avoiding many more congested roads but half a century after it was built it is coming down. The 240 metre long stretch of flyover was opened in 1970 supposedly as part of a larger city ring road project that was never finished. Last year inspections revealed issues involving drainage, barriers, internal support and bearings and the edifice was closed for further examination. So it had to come down!


His Dark Materials episode 2 review

After the bustle of the opening episode, the second is predominantly set in Mrs Coulter’s well- appointed London apartments which Lyra soon finds to be a gilded cage. The nature of her character is being trusting and adventurous so the promise that Mrs Coulter will help find her missing friend Roger was enough for Lyra to believe in. Thus the scene is set for a tense episode in which Lyra soon becomes suspicious that Mrs C is far from the helpful patron she seems. With rules aplenty, a locked lift and plenty of locked doors something is up. The episode is a showcase for both Dafne Keen and Ruth Wilson whose performances are nuanced and interesting with each turn of the plot.


Space 1999 - Guardian of Piri & Force of Life

Guardian of Piri
You can’t accuse this show of stinting on the unusual when you see a planet like Piri. With a red sky and lots of white globes sitting about like exotic lollipops this has to be one of the more unusual planet surfaces of the era. It may well be a set but it’s a busy and impressive one so perhaps it’s the design that lures the Alphans to the place! The episode opens with an Eagle taking a look to see if the latest planet to pass by may be suitable for the Moonbase crew to move to. Suddenly the ship starts to malfunction and appears to crash while Alpha itself is suffering multiple computer related failures. They don’t switch it on and off again and the sole IT expert David Kano vanishes quite soon after we learn he has the equivalent of a microchip in his head through which he can directly connect to `Computer` as its unimaginatively named. I suppose its better than an embarrassing acronym.


Top of the Pops 18 Oct 1984

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Janice Long: "Hello and welcome to Top of the Pops. Some great stuff on the programme tonight including Ultravox and Meatloaf, and the very first appearance from Julian Lennon." Gary Davies: "And it's almost exactly four years ago that this band first appeared on Top of the Pops. They're with us tonight. Spandau Ballet, Highly Strung."

[25] Spandau Ballet: Highly Strung. Gary Davies’ "four years ago" comment is calling out for some diligent fact checking... He's right. Spandau Ballet first appeared on the 13/11/1980 edition with To Cut A Long Story Short. Here's what one perceptive critic wrote about that first appearance. "Spandau Ballet arrive in the Top of the Pops studio a month after Adam & The Ants. Too slow boys. The New Romantic movement has already been invented." Steve Norman is overdoing it a lot. If he keeps waving that saxophone around he'll have someone's eye out.
The Spands- "Tony, mate, it's over there!"


His Dark Materials Episode 1 review

The first attempt to dramatise Philip Pullman’s exceptional novel didn’t work because the film exorcised the one of the main themes of the story for fear of offending anyone. It looks like this lavish 8 part tv series will not make the same mistake. While modernising some aspects of the setting- at least from what I recall reading- the opening episode conjures up exactly the sort of world we imagine Pullman created. There’s the airships gliding over a slightly exaggerated Oxford, the slinky deamons beside or above people and there’s the whiff of academic panic when Lord Asriel presents Jordan College’s finest with facts they’d rather not hear.


How Europe Stole My Mum review

However serious Brexit may be, the whole thing is also becoming increasingly absur which makes it the perfect time for this one off special  by comedian Kieran Hodgson. He tries to make sense of how we came to this pass and filters it through the idea that his mother voted Leave whereas he voted Remain. The results are an often funny, always light yet equally informative and perceptive trip back in time to the 1970s and our joining what was then the Common Market. Turns out we had as much hassle joining as we are leaving. Helped by excellent turns from Harry Enfield and Lisa Tarbock and peppered with pin sharp impressions of bygone political heavweights this is a must see for anyone with an interest in this divisive topic.