Saturday, April 28, 2012

How I returned something to the BBC.....sort of!

After I wrote my article for A for Andromeda, I promised my next article would be about the BBC adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles starring Tom Baker. I found myself getting into a bit of a writer’s block about it. I just didn’t feel like I had anything to say about it nor could I get excited about program. I wrote probably about a page and a half about Episodes 1 & 2 but it was really flat. It would take me hours to get just as far as that. I decided I needed to let this one go. I am no professional writer but if I can’t publish an article I felt like I put the best effort into, then I just need to step back. I will say about The Hound of the Baskervilles is that I watched it from a recording that was done at the time of the original broadcast of the series on BBC1. It included the BBC continuities which made it fun. I own almost as many different versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles as I do The Five Doctors. Sadly, I couldn’t muster the excitement of writing about this serial though if it is picked again, I will give the article a go once again. While doing some research into this ill-fated article, I did make a fascinating discovery.

Before I talk about the discovery, the month of May is traditionally a time where I look at a final episode in a series or a season depending on what I have and what exists. The first one will be the final episode of series two of Sherlock The Reichenbach Fall. It’s funny how I cannot escape the world Sherlock Holmes at the moment! I will publish that article around May 12th. So for the May 5th article, I will publish one of my “banked” articles. What is a “banked” article you ask? Well, you probably didn’t ask but I will tell you anyway. When I watch something for my blog such as a TV series, I may try to find something else to watch or listen to for contextual reasons or because I know I might enjoy it plus it fits what I am watching. For example, if I am watching a James Bond film, I will also listen to the film soundtrack plus any documentaries I have so I can get fully immersed in the experience. Conversely, if I am watching something Disney related, I may watch or listen to something that doesn’t exactly tie into the episode or film I am watching but it’s in the same genre. My point is I am also writing articles on these little “side” gems. They are not as long as the main articles but are still good but I keep them off to the side and not publish them. I figured I would publish them if I picked something to watch that I already did an article on or to fill a gap when I am not writing. These are meant to be built up over time so I can keep this blog moving and not have too many long periods of absences. This is the case for next week and what I am about to go into here is the result of me picking something that I was going to write for one of my “banked” articles.
One of the best purchases I have ever made was the Kaleidoscope’s Guide on BBC Drama, ITV Drama, and Comedy. Basically they are huge electronic books that detail all of the series that fall into these genres, give cast details and, what I love, the archival status to these programs for Radio & TV. To learn more about them and purchase them, go to I get a ton of programs from other collectors and I love checking to see the archival status on the programs. When I was preparing to watch the Tom Baker The Hound of the Baskervilles, I decided I would also listen to one of many Holmes stories I have in audio and I started to check through my folders of what I had. I came across a folder in my Sherlock Holmes library that was titled BBC. Inside that folder was a radio play called The Valley of Fear. I thought to myself, this would do and just for fun thought I would check the Kaleidoscope Guide to get some more information on it.

The Kaleidoscope Guide listed the serial as 90 minutes and broadcast on 31/12/1960. It was a BBC radio production for BBC North Home Service and it stars Carleton Hobbs as Sherlock Holmes and Norman Shelley as Watson. The oddest part of the entry for the program showed that the production was missing from the BBC archives! I think anyone who is into any kind of British Television or Radio archival programs would love to be able to hand something over to the BBC that was missing. I needed to make sure that what I had matched the listings in the guide. I went through the program. First the duration of my file was 1 hour and 22 minutes. Going to the end of the file, the credits certainly do list Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley as Holmes and Watson respectively. This matched what was in the Kaleidoscope guide. Obviously, the guide must be mistaken. My next step was to get in touch with Kaleidoscope and check to see if it was a mistake. Before I did that, I thought a good way to know if it was a mistake or not would be to go to sites where you are possibly able to download stuff perhaps generally unavailable if you know what I mean. I went to a few that are well travelled and this version of The Valley of Fear was not among them. If it was at one of those sites, I could have told Kaleidoscope that they made a mistake in their book but now I could go to them saying I might have something that was missing. Even with the facts I mentioned above, why would I even doubt that I have something rare or missing?
You may have picked up that while I was describing the above events, I keep using the word “File” oppose to recording. What I have is an MP3 of this radio production. If something is a missing BBC program from the 1960s, I hardly imagine that it will be found on my computer as an MP3 file! That was what I knew would make it impossible that it would be truly lost. So how did I come across this file? I obtained it on April 30, 2002. Almost exactly 10 years ago. It was through a peer 2 peer service which I can’t remember the name of but it wasn’t Napster. It had a monkey or gorilla name to it. So if I had it, surely others did too. Yet, as far as I could tell, it was not available anywhere else. I would soon have the answer.

I got in touch with Chris Perry at Kaleidoscope. I wanted to see if the entry in the guide was an error. You could imagine my joy upon hearing that it was indeed missing! In fact Chris had to do a little bit of checking to verify it was indeed gone. The problem is that it is known that poorer MP3 copies exist of this production.  Another gentleman got a hold of me which I believe was from Kaleidoscope, Charles Norton, to let me know they would be happy to get a copy or the original if it was an off-air recording or the original tape. I let Mr. Norton know that it was an MP3 file (which I originally told Chris too) . At that point, I sent Chris & Charles the radio play so they could hear it themselves. Charles did get back to me and wrote:
“Although the recording is a little better than some Mp3s I've heard, it still doesn't seem to be any better than that which is currently in circulation on the internet.”
This certainly is not surprising. But I hope the BBC archived an MP3 copy of this in its archives just because it does technically exist. Regardless of the quality, this serial does in fact exist and it should be noted as such. Even in the Kaleidoscope guide for future volumes, the entry for The Valley of Fear should note this radio production as existing and perhaps as a footnote it can say it exists only as a poor quality MP3 file.  It is not broadcast quality but it is listenable.
In fact, I wonder how many people who are reading this may have a copy of this story too and probably have no idea it is missing. Maybe you know someone who recorded it on a reel to reel in 1960 and they still have the tape or you recorded it from a reel to reel tape to make a back up. Maybe you have the original recording where these MP3 files came from. The production is missing and if you have it, let us know. If you have a file of this production on your computer, listen to the section of my recording below. Is it better than mine? Is it clearer? If so, let me know at or contact Kaleidoscope It’s out there. Let’s return it to the BBC!

Next week: Next week will be a banked article I wrote back in 2011 at the time I wrote the article for During Barty’s Party. I examine the unofficial pilot for Beasts with looking at the episode of Against the Crowd:  Murrain.
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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Yay for Andromeda! A Look at the 1961 BBC Masterpiece!

On February 18, 2012 we lost a real treasure of British television when Peter Halliday passed away at age 87. To say he was in a lot of programs would be insulting. The truth is, he was in a lot of programs but what a significant contributor to them. Here is a list of just some of the programs he made better just by making an appearance. Armchair Theatre, Ghost Squad, Secret Agent, The Saint, Softly, Softly, Man in a Suitcase, The Avengers, Out of the Unknown, UFO, Doomwatch, Colditz, Z Cars, Oil Strike North, Beasts (I forgot he was in Buddy Boy), The Tripods, and of course Doctor Who. He appeared in 5 stories totally 23 episodes. I had forgotten that he was the Alien voices in The Ambassadors of Death.  My favourite Doctor Who appearance is easily the character Packer from The Invasion. I love the Cybermen, I love UNIT, and Peter Halliday is great. Packer is incompetent to a high degree yet he is in charge of security. Yet, the Doctor and Jamie seem to come and go as they please in and out of International Electromatics. I have a theory why Packer was so incompetent. There had to be a reason as he would have to be pretty good to be employed by Vaughn. Simply put, Packer was so frightened by the Cybermen and Vaughn’s partnership with them that he could not perform his job well at all. He was so terrified of them and didn’t want to die. But, we are not here to talk about Doctor Who.
Up until I started to really get into British television, most everything I saw of Peter Halliday was more of a supporting actor. Anything he was in, he made an immediate impression. Even seeing his name as the voice of the Silurians made me happy.  I wanted to celebrate his work this week on something I thought he made a substantial contribution and where he played the lead role. Something came to mind immediately. It was A for Andromeda. This series, to me, joins in the rankings of the higher echelons of British Sci-Fi television. Before studios started to release some of the more rare series on DVD, this has always been one of the few series I had only seen images of but no episodes. There is a reason for this and it will affect how I watched the series and how I will write this article.

A for Andromeda is simply not all there. Just like so many of our favourite series from the 1960s, episodes of this series were lost. In fact, as recently as 2005 no complete episodes of this series existed at all. Finally with the help of Ian Levine, episode 6  The Face of the Tiger was returned to the BBC archives. Quite a bit of clips from the other episodes (except episodes 4 & 5) exist.
For this viewing, I watched it from the excellent 2006 DVD set. While The Face of the Tiger exists in its entirety, the other episodes were handled in a different way. If you are a fan of 1960s Doctor Who, you should be well aware of a means of presentation called a Telesnap Reconstruction.  It is a way to recreate as best as possible a missing episode. One key ingredient to this is telesnaps. Telesnaps was something only John Cura did. Very briefly, John Cura made his living by taking stills of a television screen and selling them to BBC producers, artists or anyone who actually worked on the program he was employed to make telesnaps. Productions from the BBC and ITV would pay Cura to take these stills and they would get prints to add to the production files as reference to the programs that were made. Producers knew that either their programs were transmitted live or eventually would be junked and telesnaps was a great way to keep a record of the production.  Cura did this service from the late 1940s to 1969. Telesnaps was his name for what he provided to his clients. Anyone else doing this at the time of broadcast were just taking off-air stills. Cura actually adjusted his camera to be able to take his pictures. Luckily he was hired to take telesnaps of A for Andromeda. Because of this, we are able to have a telesnap reconstruction of the series.

Telesnap reconstructions originally were created for the missing episodes of Doctor Who. Legend has it that it all started back in the 1980s when the first recon was from Richard Landen with The Power of the Daleks Episode Two. The more fans saw recons the more they wanted them. It was also vastly helped by crystal clear audio recordings of the episodes that came to the attention of everyone in the mid-1990s. In fact a ton of Doctor Who telesnaps were found in 1993 by Marcus Hearn working for Doctor Who Magazine. Stories from the latter half of Season 3 through the first part of Season 6 were located in one big book at the BBC Written Archives. As a side note, not all recons include telesnaps. One of the first tapes I got when I seriously got into tape trading in the late 1980s was The Tenth Planet. It had on it a recon of Episode 4. This recon used clips from the first three episodes with fans reading the scripts and they had heavy Australian accents!
Part of a Telesnap Sheet for Episode 5 of The Web of Fear
The telesnap reconstruction for A for Andromeda is very well put together even though it has two things that separate it from a usual telesnap reconstruction. Firstly, there is no audio recordings of the episodes (well, I’ll clarify that in a bit) and secondly because there’s no audio,  the duration of the episodes are a lot shorter. The structure of the story is presented with descriptions to move the story along but with very little actual quotes of dialogue. This is alright as it gets to the point of the story. I am not wondering what is going on. Wherever clips exist, we get them and they look great.

The Message TX: 3/10/61      The Machine TX: 10/10/61
The Miracle TX: 17/10/61      The Monster TX: 24/10/61
The Murderer TX: 31/10/61   The Face of the Tiger TX: 7/11/61
The Last Mystery TX: 14/11/61
To give the series an air of realism, the series takes place between 1970 and 1972. Each episode opens up with an interview with Professor Ernst Reinhart who is a character in the series. He is looking back on the events of the series which we have not seen yet. The series may have happened 10 years previously possibly longer.  
As the series opens, Reinhart oversees the construction of a new radio telescope designed by John Fleming (Halliday) and Dennis Bridger. Fleming is a bit of a hot head and is very passionate about what he is doing and what he believes in. They pick up a signal from the Andromeda Nebula. Fleming believes it is a computer program. Fleming deciphers further to realize that the message is to build a more powerful and complex computer. Fleming gets the help from a young assistant named Christine. Meanwhile Bridger has sold out to another international organization called Intel. It’s actually kind of funny that Bridger gives information about a powerful computer to a company named Intel. Don’t forget this was 1961! Intel is represented by a man named Kaufman played by John Hollis. You may remember Hollis in other roles where a bald headed man was required such as Sondergaard in the Doctor Who story The Mutants and also as Blofeld in For Your Eyes Only! Meanwhile as we discuss bald actors the computer has been built and switched on.

This new super computer is now sending out instructions for the creation of living cells. This is where Fleming gets nervous. It’s a new life form that may be treacherous to human life. Reinhart brings in his old friend biologist Number 2. Actually the character’s name is Madeline Dawnay played by Mary Morris who had also played Number 2 in The Prisoner. Dawnay follows the code given by the computer to create this new form of life. Bridger has been found out the by the British government about giving secrets to Intel . Being confronted while at the military establishment in Scotland, Thorness, where all of these messages are being received and deciphered Dr. Bridger slips and falls to his death.  

It’s now been about a year since this project has started and a life form that Dawnay created is being cultured. They call him Cyclops because….well he has one eye.  The new computer has two terminals on either side that affects people’s brainwaves. Cyclops and the computer mesmerize Christine who grasps both terminals and is electrocuted and killed. With Christine dead, the team at Thorness tries to move on with their work. The Computer orders the creation of a human embryo which Dawnay agrees to do. The embryo rapidly grows to become a human woman. In fact, the form of Christine with the exception of her hair no longer black but long and blonde. She is named Andromeda which is the nebula the messages originally came from. Andromeda learns quickly and is soon the intermediary between the Computer and the humans. This gets Fleming really nervous as it is clear that there is a bigger plan that the computer wants Andromeda to carry out. Essentially Andromeda is an upgrade from Cyclops. The Computer destroys Cyclops.
Cyclops! Which in fact was director Michael Hayes' eye!
Andromeda quickly gains the interest of the British government. She creates a program that helps deter the enemies of the UK who are firing missiles over the country as a show of power.  Andromeda is even going to create and enzyme which will heal damaged cells. No one is listening to the warnings from Fleming. He is worried about the Computer and Andromeda. He doesn’t trust either of them and knows that whatever their plan is will be dangerous to the human race. Fleming goes as far as trying to trick the computer into thinking Andromeda is dead. Once the Computer knows she isn’t, it punished Andromeda by making her touch the terminals on the Computer and she badly burns her hands. Yet she heals herself with the enzyme. As a way to get back Fleming, Andromeda does something to the enzyme to make everyone ill who is working on it. This includes Dawnay. It is too much for Fleming who finally gets access to go back into the Computer room and destroys it. It no longer has a hold over Andromeda. We learn that Andromeda hated the Computer but had no choice but to do what it wanted. Fleming knows that although the Computer is destroyed, the original code to make it still exists in the room. He persuades Andromeda to go back to the room and set fire to all the notes and codes. Troops at Thorness begin a massive hunt for Andromeda. Fleming tries to save her and they flee on boat to an island. It all ends suddenly as they try to escape Andromeda falls into a deep pool and apparently drowns.

I would have loved to seen this series in full. It has a lot of great elements to it that I love. Even though it is set in the 1970s, it is clearly made in the 1960s. This is not a bad thing. Although the sets are not overly designed or complex; they look great and serve the purpose. I don’t think it would have looked too different if the series had been in the 1970s except in colour. Also, sad to say, it probably would look better in the 1960s because if it was made in the 1970s, it would have been the same computer props from the 1960s but very beaten up by now! I also like a sci-fi series that has part of the story preoccupied by the involvement of the British government. It even has a flair of espionage as we see the mysterious Kaufmann working in whatever angle he can to get the secrets of what is going on at Thorness.  In fact by the time the series is over, Intel is actually doing business with the British government and in a sense Intel wins. There are a lot of scenes in British ministerial offices as well as with the Prime Minister. There is a great exposition in the story of traditional administrative British government vs. the sci-fi element of Andromeda and these messages from the nebula. Nothing looks dated about this production. Even the characters are cool looking. Andromeda with her long blonde hair is attractive and dangerous. Even Kaufmann with his bald head looks cool. Almost Blofeld-esque without being over the top!

The cast is really enjoyable. Peter Halliday is a great leading man but he does it on his own terms. He is a troublemaker. He doesn’t make anything easy for anyone. Once Fleming realizes that Andromeda and the Computer is a serious threat to mankind, he does nothing but try to get someone to listen to him. The problem is no one does listen to him. They are too busy making plans on what Andromeda is going to do for them. Fleming is eventually ousted from the group and has to rely on sabotage and trickery to try and get people to see his side of things. The sad fact is that by the end of the series, still only a few people believe his warnings about Andromeda.

Andromeda herself was played by Julie Christie. This is her first professional role and director Michael Hayes knew instantly that he had found someone very special.  She was a student of the Central School of Speech and Drama. By the time the series was done, it was known a sequel was in the works. Hayes suggested to the BBC that they need to sign on Christie now to play Andromeda again. Watch The Andromeda Breakthrough and you will see how much the BBC took to his suggestion.  I need to point out another favourite actor of mine. Jack May. He played the security chief Major Quadring. He has appeared in Doctor Who The Space Pirates, and had a regular role in Adam Adamant.

The series was devised by Fred Hoyle and he wanted to work with the BBC to get this produced. A lot of meetings took place which eventually led to the series being dramatized by John Elliott. John Elliot wrote the scripts with the idea of the series being made as 7 x 30 minute episodes. Once Michael Hayes got onboard, he thought the scripts were running long but didn’t want to cut anything. He requested the series be changed to 45 minute episodes. Of course now the scripts under run and filler had to be put in to get it to the right length. With almost all the episode presented here as a reconstruction, we don’t notice the filler in the scripts.

How is the reconstruction? I think it is done very well. The telesnaps were arranged (and I assumed produced) by Derek Handley. Derek is one of the front runners to the Loose Canon line of Doctor Who reconstructions. I have a lot of respect for Derek. Mostly because he has a lot of attention to detail on anything he works on. I have worked with him on a couple of projects. He has been kind enough to give me reference materials and other things that I needed to create the best possible product. He loves these shows and gives them his all. When I saw his name at the end of the presentation, I knew why I liked it so much. The reconstructed episodes move along. I never got to the point of wondering when they were going to end. Without audio, making text for every line of dialogue would be tedious. Here, there is enough to give a strong feel to the story yet not enough to be bogged down.

The film material looks great. The Face of the Tiger is wonderful looking. Film is clean and sharp. The series was recorded onto 35mm film and also 16mm. It never was recorded to videotape. So there is no tape drop out. The clips that exist from the other episodes come from a variety of sources but some come directly from 35mm film and are exceptional. From The Machine, there is a sequence shot at the computing rooms of IBM which gives the series a feel of authenticity. It’s not sci-fi with people wearing funny hats “from the future”. It’s designed to look like it can happen in our world. Clips exist from The Message, The Machine, The Miracle and the last two reels from The Last Mystery exist plus the full episode The Face of the Tiger.

A Plea for Help:
One thing that has come to light since this series was released on DVD was the discovery for the audio of episode seven, The Last Mystery was recorded off-air in 1961. It also includes the BBC continuity announcement prior to the start of the episode. I am a keen collector of all aspects of British television. I do not have this audio episode in my collection. If anyone has a copy of this episode and would like to trade for something, please e-mail me at I really would like to add this to my collection.

If you have not had a chance to see this series, I highly recommend picking it up. Sadly the set no longer appears to be anywhere. It may be out of print. The set had A for Andromeda, The Andromeda Breakthrough, Andromeda Memories Documentary, and Photo Gallery which has the full suite of music. It also has a wonderful set of Viewing Notes written by Andrew Pixley which is where I got some of the information for this article.

Next week: When is Tom Baker not a Doctor? It’s when he is Sherlock Holmes. Next week I take a look at the first of a two part article on the story of The Hound of the Baskervilles. I am going to view this from the original BBC 1 recording with the first two episodes next week and the other two the following week!

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Is Moonbase 3 Barry & Terrance's Achilles Heel?

It’s a nice change to get away from writing opinion on a political thriller and this week we go into outer space with Moonbase 3. What is really interesting is out of the two series, To Play the King and Moonbase 3, it may be surprising which one of the two is fantastical and the other trying to be more realistic. The one set on Earth in the 20th Century is meant to be more fictional and perhaps even sensational while the one is set on the moon is actually meant to try and be more realistic even to the point of bringing in James Burke as a script advisor.
Moonbase 3 is the short lived series that ran in 1973. It was produced by Barry Letts and script edited by Terrance Dicks. This was a successful partnership with the two men doing the same roles on another little known series called Doctor Who. Alright, so Doctor Who wasn’t a little known series. In fact it was more popular than it had been in years. Jon Pertwee was the Doctor and the series had just celebrated its tenth anniversary. It was a prosperous time for the series. Barry & Terrance were smart. They both had been working on Doctor Who for a very long time and both wanted to move on. Most successful people, in any arena know that to continue to be successful you need to make your own opportunities. The two men started to come up with ideas for a new TV series so that they could transition away from Doctor Who. The first attempt was created from an idea of working with the Navy as they did on The Sea Devils. Just as they were about to present their ideas, a similar series known as Warship was commissioned. The two men decided on a different approach.

What if there was a way to do a series on the Moon but not make it fantastical science fiction? The point being that it was people who deal with the same problems as they do on the Earth but this would be set on the Moon. Plus the technology and living arrangements on the Moon were displayed as accurately as could be thought at the time. It could work. One person thought it was worth a go was BBC Head of Drama Shaun Sutton. The series was Moonbase 3.

Achilles Heel TX: 23/09/73
Whenever I watch this series or I should say dip into this series, it seems like there are 10 or 15 main cast members. I don’t know why, it seems like a lot of people. Well, I was wrong. There are only 4. Dr. David Caulder who is the director of Moonbase 3 and is in charge, Deputy Director Dr. Michael Lebrun, Director of Operations Tom Hill and Psychologist Dr. Helen Smith. On Moonbase 3 there are multiple projects going on at once. I think one of the points of this series is that when human nature is involved, it doesn’t matter where in the universe you are, some things never change. For example, have you ever seen Star Trek: First Contact? There is a scene on board the Enterprise-E where Picard tells the newly arrived Lily that from the time he comes from, there is no need for money. I think that is a very inspirational traditional sci-fi futuristic sort of concept. On Moonbase 3, money is a huge problem. There is never enough money and during a time of economic unrest in the UK in the 1970s, a lot of the money issues on Moonbase 3 is understandable. They rightfully show that money and government spending will always be around.
Dr. Caulder is directed to complete the projects he has going on at the base on time and under budget. Money is tight for the UK government. I like how in this future there are no World governments. There are still all the same World powers as there were in the 1970s. Caulder is directed this initiative by the Director General who is played by Peter Bathurst or better known to some of us as Chin from The Claws of Axos. Of course, as usual, Chin would make things difficult for the working man, even in the future! The pressure is on.

What makes things difficult is that there have been some accidents on the base. All the accidents have been confined to the CORA project. One accident has a very expensive and complex piece of equipment overload. It looks like it could be operator error. Professor Kate Weyman is very careful but what else could be the problem? It appears to have been her fault. Kate is played by Anne Ridler. Anne is known to Doctor Who fans in the memorable role of Dr. Gemma Corwyn in The Wheel in Space. Sadly, a few of the crewmembers question if part of the problem for her mistake was due to her age. Nice! Kate is only a middle-aged person. She is not that old. Then there is Bill Knight who nearly died on the surface of the Moon because he did not have enough oxygen in his suit. Luckily there to save him was Adam Blaney. Adam, Kate, and Bill are the only ones on the base to work on the CORA project. Adam seems like a nice enough man yet he is still getting over the crushing despair of being left of the mission to Venus because he doesn’t have a healthy heart. Adam is also a talker. You know the kind. The ones who seem to go on about giving advice and opinion on people and then you realize that they are really talking trash.  It is Adam who is suggesting that Kate is getting old and that is what caused her from making the mistake with that piece of equipment and now he is also working on Bill.

Adam has told the newlywed Bill that he wouldn’t be surprised if Bill’s wife Dodi would be looking for someone else since Bill has been on the moon for so long. This causes Bill to resign from the Moonbase and demand to go back to Earth immediately. Even after having a video conference with his wife Dodi to get him to stay on the moon,  Bill is not convinced. The only person who looks like things are going well is for Adam. Adam is happy to give out advice to everyone, even if they don’t ask for it and also has started a relationship of sorts with Helen Smith. Unfortunately for Adam, looks are deceiving.

Dodi was able to get Bill to stay with the Moonbase. Everything seems to be working out alright except all the equipment breakdown needs to be fixed. While that is going on, Bill and Adam drive one of the moon buggy’s to another research outpost where Bill is going to stay and monitor progress. I have to admit that the special effect for the moon buggy’s drive on the moon’s surface isn’t that bad. I think it was on par with any Gerry Anderson Supermarionation effect of the day with the exception this is shot on 16mm film instead of 35mm. Even the music is easy going while the buggy is leisurely travelling the moon’s surface.

Once Adam gets back to Moonbase 3, he has a videolink with Bill and gives him some info Bill previously didn’t know. Previously, the Director General Chin told Caulder than no one can leave the Moon and needed to finish their projects. No leave for anyone. That Director General Chin, if he is not trying to hoard Axonite for the UK he’s disrupting people’s leave from the moon! That Director General, what a Plonker! Anyway, Adam assumes this is why Bill was forced to stay which is not the case. Adam continues to get into Bill’s head. Bill becomes furious and become very unstable. He is threatening to destroy the outpost base he is at which would destroy a ton of research unless he is allowed to go back to Earth now. Caulder agrees to send Bill home and sends Adam to pick him up. Helen decides to go with him. It is thought that Bill is the danger but that is the mistake.

Adam really likes Helen and it is not really clear what Helen thinks about Adam. When they get to the research outpost, they subdue Bill and get him to sleep for a while. Adam seduces Helen and although she says no he still persists until she slaps him. Adam is crushed but it is not about Helen rejecting him, It is more complicated than that. It is about the Venus project rejecting him and he is overlaying that emotion over everything else. On the way back in the moon buggy, Adam is so distraught he tries to veer the buggy of the “road” to kill everyone in it including himself. No one is seriously injured but Helen works out what happened. Adam was more upset over being rejected for the Venus probe than he let on to other people. He subconsciously sabotaged everything else on the project including Bill’s spacesuit and the equipment Kate was using.  
When the complete set of episodes of Moonbase 3 were found in 1993, legend has it that Ian Levine called up Terrance Dicks to enthusiastically let him know that the series was found only for Terrance to say “Oh no!”.  I had even heard the story where Terrance tells Ian to tell them to lose it again! I didn’t even know about Moonbase 3 until it was found in 1993. The series was a co-production between 20th Century Fox, BBC and ABC affiliates.  One day, I was watching the Sci-Fi channel (not Sy Fy, we will have none of that here) in 1993 or so and a promo came on for the “Lost” British sci-fi classic Moonbase 3! I was intrigued and I think they promoted it as part of their Archive Series or Signature Series. Can I just say that although I never thought the Sci-Fi channel was great and I really deplore Sy Fy, once in a while they would show something you would never see anywhere else. In this case it literally was true.

If I understand it correctly no one, not even the BBC, knew this series existed until Sci-Fi announced they were going to show it. Somewhere in the vaults of 20th Century Fox television, 6-2” NTSC videotapes were collecting dust and no one knew they were there. Do you think more lost British TV is out there on shelves of TV libraries, I don’t; not anymore. So I was watching this episode from the Second Sight DVD release of 2002. Of course I needed to remake the cover because theirs was garbage. What I am watching and all that is publically available are episodes of 625 line PAL masters that were converted to 525 line NTSC and re-converted back to 625 line PAL for this DVD release. Sadly for me, when the series was shown on Sci-Fi I did not tape it. Even if I did, it would have been at EP quality back then. Sci-Fi would have shown it in NTSC which would have been higher quality than what is on the DVD set only because of the conversions back and forth. That said, I don’t think it looks that bad. It’s not great. The series is set in dark rooms and since space can be dark too, well things don’t look that bad. Since the DVD release there has been tremendous leaps in restoration technology! A process called Reverse Standards Conversion (RSC) was created, originally back in 1994 which would unpick the fields of the NTSC conversion to try and reverse the video to PAL. In this regard the achievement is the fluidness of movement which is lost with the conversion to and from NTSC to PAL. I spent a considerable time looking through old articles because I thought it was mentioned that the process for RSC won’t change. The side effect of RSC is the considerable amount of video noise it generates and how that is dealt with may evolve. The reason why I am looking through articles is because I thought I read somewhere that all NTSC material that resides in the BBC archives that originated from a PAL source which is now lost have been converted using RSC and exists in a raw state to be worked on when the time is right. This would mean that Moonbase 3 possibly would have been converted and could be restored. The problem is, is there still a market for the series. Is there a desire for a re-release of this series?

Moonbase 3 isn’t bad. I certainly don’t think as bad as what some people say. Director David Caulder is a little lax on some of the rules. He sees the people on his base as human beings and understands the sacrifice they have given to spend extended periods of time on the moon away from all family and friends. The reason why Terrance talks so unpleasantly about Moonbase 3 is that the series loses the wonder of being in outer space. He says, “The trouble was we built a too restrictive format for ourselves…” and that the series "lacked a sense of wonder and outrageousness". I can agree with this. A lot of the budget troubles miring the Moonbase wasn’t too far from the economy in the UK during this era. I can see when people tune into a series set on the moon or in space they may want some escapism and not government downsizing and bickering but only in space. I always thought the people, costumes and sets look like they have come straight out of Frontier in Space Episode Three. There are no monsters. This is a serious program to tell us what it could be like if we really tried to live on the moon. I like the scale of the production. Sets are small and cramped. Not overly lit and minimal. The series takes place in 2003. The clothes people wear are not outrageously different to what was being worn when the series was made. Small personal computers were all over the place on the base. Even though they look hideous the point is taken. No one would have ever imagined that touch screens would be real, or is that just me? It was a scientific research and administrative stations; no frills!

The effects look reasonable. You want a buggy to drive across a moon surface? Get a miniature. The shots of the actors on the moon were done quite well. Although space looked like it was nighttime on the Earth. Moonbase 3 space has all the stars in the sky and it is bluish and there is no intense glare from the surface. It worked for me; I liked it even if it is not accurate. Luckily this wasn’t called Moonbase 2003 because that would really date the series. 2003 has come and gone. The space race really is out of the hands of the government and it looks like it can be more of a private venture now. Will we ever colonize the moon? Obviously, I do not have a crystal ball but sadly, I really can’t see it happening in my life-time. The closest I will get is Moonbase 3, or The Moonbase (just not episode 3 or 1), or Space 1999… get the idea.

New Episodes of Yes, Prime Minister

It was announced on March 29th that Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay will be reviving Yes, Prime Minister for the UK channel Gold. It will be based on the writers’ 2010 stage play. I love this series very, very much so obviously I am not sure what to make of this. It seems to me you can make this show any number of ways and it doesn’t necessarily need to be those characters. Part of the fun of Yes, Prime Minister was from the time it was set and the time it was made. It’s funny that the BBC themselves don’t know about their own original series. In their article it says, “The original Yes, Prime Minister series ran from 1980 to 1988 for 38 episodes.” Not quite true but it does hit on something I brought up in my Yes, Prime Minister article from November. I said that I have always considered Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister as one series. Clearly these people do too but accurately, it was Yes  Minister from 1980-1984 and Yes, Prime Minister from 1986-1988. Get it right BBC!

You know how athletes have their numbers retired when they retire from sports because they contributed so much to their team and no one else can ever wear that number for that team again? I think they should do that with TV characters that have been played so amazing by an actor, so definitively, that no other actor can play that role again. My case in point is Nigel Hawthorne as Sir Humphrey Appleby. I do not ever want to see anyone play this role again. Nigel’s interpretation and delivery was impeccable. He was a villain to Hacker’s good but Humphrey was extremely likeable even when he was doing stuff behind the Prime Minister’s back. As much as I think Paul Eddington is irreplaceable for Hacker, this new series have their work cut out for them to cast an amazing Sir Humphrey. How much do you want to bet the character is re-tooled to be a woman? I wish them the best of luck. I look forward to seeing what they come up with for this series.

Next week: Do you know who Peter Halliday is? He played a myriad of roles in television from the mid-1950s to early 21st century. He passed away in February. I loved him in everything he had done and for me my favourite program he was in was playing Packer in the Doctor Who story The Invasion. Next week, I will write about the 1961 series A for Andromeda. I am going to watch the whole thing. Most of it is telesnaps and one episode exists along with a lot of film extracts. It will be fun; I hope you come back and give it a look.
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