Saturday, January 26, 2013

All Gas & Gaiters: It Deserves Better!

All Gas & Gaiters is a funny series. It’s not one that I will burst out laughing with every joke and it won’t be one that I will remember all the lines or even recite the lines. It’s a good solid comedy which is very consistent with the series coming out of the BBC at the time. Don’t get me wrong, even if I am not bursting lavish praise upon the series it doesn’t mean I don’t like it. The thing I keep thinking of is that this series deserves so much better than what it got.

Back in 2010 I wrote an article about the first 2 episodes of the series. If I may be so bold, I thought it was a pretty good article. I went into a great bit of detail about how the series was created. I spoke about the concept of The Comedy Playhouse and went into that sad subject of how a great deal of episodes of this series is missing. It’s important to talk about because I think this is one of a zillion great examples of the waste of material and profit the BBC could have been making because this series is all but wiped.
I am not one of those nutters who are angry with the BBC for destroying its episodes. It was an appallingly disappointing practice but there are reasons for why it was done. The problem was that I believe this series was destined for better things than what it got. In the previous article I spoke about how this series would have been exported to the US and ran on PBS if more episodes existed. For this article, I watched 2 episodes from the fifth and final series and it just solidifies my belief in why this series needed to be treated so much better.

The Bishop Shows His Loyalty TX: 06/06/71
The Bishop is talking with Noote about how he was once invited to lunch with the Queen. Right before he was able to have that lunch he fell ill and couldn’t make it. He was never invited back.  Noote has a crush on Princess Anne. He cuts out pictures of her from the newspaper and adds it to his own scrapbook. Regardless the Bishop is still a little sore that he was never invited back which makes it more painful when the Dean comes in let the Bishop know that he is going to Windsor to deliver a sermon. The Dean wants the Bishop to cover for him Sunday while he is away.

The Dean also received a motorized lawn mower as a gift and is mowing, mowing and mowing until he hits the root of the Bishops tree in the Bishop’s yard. It breaks the mower blade. The Bishop is thrilled as he doesn’t have to hear the noise of the mower anymore. The Dean wants to cut down the tree and this created a big fight between the Bishop and the Dean. The Bishop is stubborn and the Dean is just plain rude. Finally, the Bishop thinks he could get his way by allowing the Dean to cut down the tree. The Bishop thinks that the Dean going to Windsor would be able to put in a good word with the royalty about him or even allow him to come along. What the Bishop knows and the Dean doesn’t know is that the tree is dead anyway so it really doesn’t matter. The Dean comes over to cut down the tree and stands on one of the branches of the dead tree. The branch breaks and the Dean falls. He badly sprains his ankle. He is in a ton of pain. It’s kind of odd that we see a program where someone in the Bishop’s position allows the Dean to do something so dangerous and honestly really doesn’t care when he gets hurt. In fact, Noote even reminds the Bishop about it but he does absolutely nothing to warn the Dean. That actually is the funny part.
The Dean is in no shape to go to Windsor to deliver his sermon so the Bishop happily takes his place. The only problem is that the Dean’s trip is not to Windsor palace but just Windsor. The Bishop has some very specific views on the Methodist split. The sermon the Dean was going to give was about that subject but with an opposing view to the Bishop’s. The Bishop ended up at Windsor Methodist!

One of the great parts of this episode comes from the supporting cast which is made up of one  Joan Sanderson. She is one of those great British actresses who is so much more than the “crabby old woman.” Of course she did play a crabby old woman in the episode of Fawlty Towers called Communication Problems. In All Gas & Gaiters, she plays the very faithful and supportive wife to the Dean. She wasn’t the first person to play the role of the Dean’s wife or otherwise known as Mrs. Pugh-Critchley. That role originally was played by Ruth Kettlewell in Series 1-3.
The Bishop Has a Rest TX: 10/06/71

In this episode we see how lazy the Bishop and the Archdeacon are on a Saturday, though frankly I think this is an everyday occurrence. The two men just enjoyed a nice Saturday afternoon meal but have no desire at all to help Noote clean up the dishes or the kitchen. In fact, they make excuses that they must meet to discuss important church business while Noote does all the cleaning up. Church business include such pressing agenda items as the Archdeacon bringing over small pillows so when they lie back in their chairs their heads can rest gently on the pillow.
Suddenly, the bells of St. Oggs start going off. The bells have not rung in years, even before the current Bishop took over the church. It is the Dean. He wants to start a small group that will play the bells prior to mass. Church bells playing from a church tower is quite nice but the Bishop wants nothing to do with it. He wants his restful Saturdays undisturbed. The Bishop is immediately relieved when he finds out that this new little group will only perform for a half an hour prior to the Sunday service. After the Bishop agrees to this, the Dean throws a bit of a curve ball. Yes, they only perform for a half an hour prior to service but they will practice for 3 hours every Saturday afternoon. The large amount of noise will drive the Bishop and the Archdeacon mad.

One thing that Noote reminds the Bishop about is that there is a reason why the bells cannot be played at St. Oggs. The tower is unsound and will crack. Noote knows this because it is in an old song about St. Oggs. Armed with this ammunition, the Bishop interrupts the practice at the church and keeps trying to tell the Dean that the reverberation of the bells will cause the tower to collapse. The Dean counters with letting the Bishop know that he had an architect in to make sure the building was safe.
There is something intersting about the system of the church back then and I am not sure if this is still the case today. If you are wondering why the Dean is just going ahead to do what he wants in the church, it’s because he has every right to do so. In the church, the Dean is responsible for the building and the grounds whereas the Bishop is in charge of the clergy. That is where the separation lies. As soon as the practice begins again for the bells, the Bishop notices a great big crack in the wall and interrupts practice for the Dean yet again. When the Dean sees this he freaks out and calls the architect. After he leaves, Mrs. Pugh-Critchley realizes that it’s not a crack at all but a great big cobweb.

Back when the Bishop is home, the Dean stops by to let him know that although the church was sound, the Dean’s house adjacent to the church wasn’t and the reverberation from the bells could do more damage to the house. Even though the Dean cannot play the big bells in the tower, he has decided to keep the group going by playing hand bells. Before the Bishop knows it, the group is practicing in his house. The Bishop and the Archdeacon take the attitude of if you can’t beat them, join them.
Like I mentioned above, the comedy really isn’t uproarious laughter but the comedy is softer and very enjoyable. In The Bishop Has A Rest, the Dean is explaining to the Bishop about how he and his wife are going at it practicing the bells. The Archdeacon comes in and mistakes the discussion as if the Dean is talking about how he and his wife are making love. Perish the thought! The Archdeacon nearly loses it when the Dean expresses how they want to do this in public on a Sunday in church! The Dean, played by the wonderful John Barron, is so awkward; it is hard to see how he could be friends with anyone or even married! If he does have friends, do they call him Bunny? William Mervyn is the Bishop who, to me, plays it a bit pantomime but that what gives him great character. Derek Nimmo as Noote is not nearly as dumb as I think he originally played it. In fact, his knowledge of certain things in these episodes such as the dead tree in The Bishop Shows His Loyalty and the bell issue in the tower in this last episode really progresses the plot of the episodes. Most of the plot is focused between the Bishop and the Dean.

At this point Pauline Devaney and Edwin Apps who wrote the series were getting great feedback from viewers. At first, many wondered if having a comedy in the church was going too far. Then, as time went on Devaney and Apps were getting letters from clergy members explaining that’s how life really is in the church. The one thing I noticed about this series when I started to think more about it was that we never see or hear anything from the congregation. It’s always some kind of situation and battle between the Bishop and the Dean. There never is a member of the “flock” who tells the Bishop how to run things. There isn’t a busybody or a Mary Whitehouse kind of character.  I think that’s part of the charm. It’s more of an internal battle than including members of the public. It wouldn’t work if the Bishop had any problems with people who were directly part of his congregation. Even though they argue with each other a lot, there are still loveable characters.
This is why I think this series would have been perfect for PBS. Not that PBS is the end all be all of broadcasting but I am thinking about viewers over here in the US who will never see this series. Even in the UK, it’s not exactly easy to see this. I had been curious about this series for years only to see that the existing episode had been released on DVD. I noticed this just by chance. At the time the DVD was out of print but it looks back in now. If more episodes existed and were exported to the US, I think a lot of people would enjoy it and it would easily be fondly remembered over here in the US. I think it easily fits into the same type of comedy as Dad’s Army or even Last of the Summer Wine. There are some gentle similarities that are echoed in Bless Me Father too.

The 11 episodes that make up this set are a mixture between black & white and colour. There has been no work done to any of the episodes. In fact, the title sequence for the episodes I watched looked like the film was run through dirt first. It looks horrible. Horrible is being nice! Also the video quality is faded and soft. It is clear no DVNR was applied to these episodes. Surprisingly, I am fine with that. As much as I love stuff to be restored, I would rather have them available to watch rather than not available at all. Just like Devaney and Apps, I prefer the black & white episodes over the colour ones. It feels better suited to the series in black & white.
This is not a series I think everyone will like. That is not because it has to do with it being a comedy set in church but more because the comedy is pretty simple. It’s not hilarious but funny. Then again, does it have to be hilarious? No, it just needs to be enjoyable to make it good. Let the interesting and likeable characters do the rest.
Next week: Here’s a comedy series that was meant to be my first article when I started this blog but I got so nervous trying to write it, I gave up! I look at two episodes of the ultimate classic series Dad’s Army as I watch Command Decision and The Enemy Within the Gates from Series 1. Now, listen very carefully, I shall say this only once, this is not the only World War II era comedy I will be covering in the next few weeks………

Have a great week!

Do you have feedback, article requests or want to talk about a program but do not want to leave a public comment? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at
I now have a regular column on DVDTalk called Brit-Streaming. Please check it out here: Brit-Streaming.
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Monday, January 21, 2013

Blu Ray Review: Red Dwarf X

Red Dwarf Series X DVD - 2 Discs/Blu Ray – 2 Discs (180 min + Extras)
Released by BBC Home Entertainment on January 8, 2013. SRP $34.98 (DVD) $39.98 (Blu Ray)

I do have to ask why Doug Naylor seems to have devoted his life to bringing Red Dwarf back to our screens. I guess he thinks there is more to tell for the story of Rimmer, Lister, Kryten and Cat. For years, there was no new Red Dwarf but he was behind trying to get a film version of this series produced. This series is his life’s work. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter as it is his business and to be honest I am happy to see these flawed characters make a return visit but as with the rest of the series I do approach it with some kind of bemusement. How will a new series of Red Dwarf come together?

Red Dwarf for being a series about the last human alive stuck with a hologram man, a human-like manifestation of a cat, and an odd robot has never been a consistent series. I feel like after Rob Grant left after Series 6 the series kind goes through some kind of identity crisis. The way Series VII was produced and shot plus the type of stories we got were a big departure from what we have seen previously. I think some of it worked and some was a flop. Series VII had some great ideas but we still didn’t have the ship Red Dwarf. We were introduced to an alternative universe Kochanski and we saw the departure of Rimmer. Although still enjoyable it didn’t feel like Red Dwarf to me. Stylistically, it was more like a film than a sitcom. We move on to Series VIII where we see not only the return of the ship Red Dwarf but also all of the crew who were resurrected by overly-active Nano-bots. Not only did we get a crew that has no idea about the tragedy that fell on them over 3 million years ago but we get an all-new Rimmer too. This is important because we get Rimmer but no baggage since he has no knowledge of what happened to his hologram self. With the crew back on the Dwarf, this series focused more on life back on board the ship albeit in the ship’s prison. It was an interesting premise but one that still didn’t feel like Red Dwarf. The series ended on a cliffhanger that revolved around Rimmer trying to save the ship. The cliffhanger would never get resolved. In fact historically whenever a series of Red Dwarf ended on a cliffhanger, it seemed to signal the series being on hiatus for years. Something similar happened with Series VI.

It would be 10 years before we would see the return of Red Dwarf with a special set of episodes titled Back to Earth. Things have changed substantially since Red Dwarf VIII, Rimmer doesn’t appear to be the same one from Red Dwarf VIII but the return of the hologram character that left in Red Dwarf VII. Also we find out, initially, that Kochanski was dead. Back to Earth tried to bring some of what was essential to Red Dwarf back in the fold yet I am not so sure that succeeded. Maybe what I think is the story of Red Dwarf is different from what Doug Naylor thinks. I thought of Red Dwarf as the relationship of Lister and Rimmer. They have very polar opposite personalities trying to exist together.  Rimmer was the last stand of authority for someone like Lister who has no need for authority as he is the last human alive.  
It was after the transmission of Back to Earth that it was announced that Red Dwarf would return for a full series of episodes. Just like Back to Earth, Red Dwarf X would not be broadcast on the BBC but would be broadcast on the cable station Dave. When I heard that Red Dwarf would be returning, I was apprehensively happy. I always find something enjoyable about Red Dwarf but how would Series 10 stack up? Obviously there was only one way to find out.

Series X of Red Dwarf is actually pretty good. It’s not great and it is by no means the worse. For me it falls in the middle. I am an inconsistent soul myself, just like Red Dwarf, where even though it would appear their best days have passed by; I still want to see them make new Red Dwarf. When the series is at its best, it is hilarious and when it’s not cohesive it can be abominable. With Series X it is clear that Doug Naylor is just trying to recapture what makes this series fun. Having the four main characters together makes that a pretty easy chore to tackle. I find Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, and Robert Llewellyn just as good as they ever have been. Yes they look older. You may wonder why an android has wrinkles under his eyes but who cares? We are given another 6 episodes of Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, and Robert Llewellyn in Red Dwarf. One thing I keep thinking of is I can’t believe these guys (minus Llewellyn) have been playing these parts since 1987. Judging by the comments Craig Charles made in the making of, We’re Smegged, I don’t think he believes it either. There is also the fun of being on Red Dwarf, the ship, itself. It is clear that the ship is getting older. It is fun that these characters interact with the ship by just living in it. For example, when Lister seems to be flirting with the Snack Dispensers in the episode Dear Dave. It’s silly but it’s fun. It gives us a further glimpse into how pointless and boring their lives are just wandering through space on Red Dwarf.
I think the episodes themselves are generally pretty strong.  My problem is when I watch any series that was once popular come back; my first thought is whether it is relevant to the new people watching it. At this stage with Red Dwarf and 10 series in, there is going to be some continuity and with something as continuity heavy as Red Dwarf, some of this background might leave new viewers scratching their heads. Hopefully that was not a concern for Doug Naylor or the channel Dave. For me, probably the one where I had to stop and think about where the continuity came from was the second episode Fathers and Suns. The episode plays off the knowledge of Lister leaving his own infant self under a pool table in a box to be found by other people. That episode was from a Series VII episode called Ouroboros. It’s a weird episode where Lister is listening to recorded messages he made to himself just the night before while he was drunk. These drunken messages is speaking to Lister in a fatherly tone and deriding him for not living up to his full potential. It’s an interesting, if not strange story. Although I think the premise is rather odd, Craig Charles really does an amazing job on it. In Red Dwarf X there is no Holly. Holly was the ship’s computer played by Norman Lovett (Series 1,2,7,8) and Hattie Hayridge (Series 3,4,5). Holly is very much missed in these episodes and we don’t get a real answer as to what happened with Holly. In this episode, Rimmer and Kryten try out a new computer mainframe named Pree and right from the start she is bad news for the crew. She can anticipate conversations which makes having them altogether unnecessary. She fixes one of the decks to the quality Rimmer would which of course means the repairs are horrible. She does this because she anticipates how he would requests the repairs to be done.

The opening episode to Series X is a good start but is let down by some hammy acting. The episode called Trojan is a great start to the series which re-establishes the characters we love. The Red Dwarf crew finds an old derelict ship called the Trojan. While on board the ship, they get an emergency may-day rescue request to save someone. This someone is no other than Howard Rimmer, Arnold’s brother. Mark Dexter plays Howard and I found the performance to be Hammy, just the way he plays the part was kind of generic and not really funny. I would also say the same for the character Simulant Crawford in the episode. In fact, I would say the general on screen supporting cast for the entire series was not great for the most part with some exceptions.
Probably my favorite episode of Series X is Lemons. It involves time-travel, ingenuity on the part of the Red Dwarf crew and Jesus. It’s fun and James Baxter who plays Jesus does so in a very subtle performance. When he needs to be over the top he is but otherwise plays the part well. The script is crazy and fun; there are parts that are hilarious. It’s a very strong episode and one that I think should have started off Series X. Entangled is also fun. I hate terms like “this is classic Red Dwarf” but I don’t know how else to explain it. This episode involves Rimmer enforcing Red Dwarf rules upon Lister. Lister is completely irresponsible and his irresponsibility directly affects Rimmer. This is exactly what I am talking about above, this is why I think Red Dwarf works so well and it is so much fun to watch. We see an appearance from Steven Wickham playing the BEGG (Biologically Engineered Garbage Gobblers) chief. He last appeared in Red Dwarf in Series VI Emohawk: Polymorph II as the Gelf Bride.

Dear Dave and The Beginning are more personal stories for Lister and Rimmer. In Dear Dave, Lister gets mail from millions of years ago from an old girlfriend who thinks she might be pregnant with Lister’s child. It is a very heartbreaking moment for him as he doesn’t know if he has a kid with this girlfriend or not. In The Beginning, Red Dwarf is under attack with the crew needing to go on the run from a Simulant Death ship. Rimmer takes with him a device that will show Rimmer a hologram message from his father. Is this really the right time to play it? There is good reason why this episode is called The Beginning and hopefully opens up the character of Rimmer to different possibilities. Of course, this title is also noteworthy since the first episode of the first series was called The End.

We’re Smegged: Making of Documentary
This is a must-see program! Running in at just over 2 hours, this is a great and brutally honest look at the making of Red Dwarf X. The first immediate impression you get is that they are behind the gun just from the very start. Even before anything really got going. Doug Naylor is given the choice from the outset of working with a greatly reduced timeline to get the series made or not make it at all. As someone who works in film production (obviously, nowhere near his level), it is easy to get ridiculously behind on a schedule that has a lot of time but to start off behind the gun like that is crazy.

It talks about how Doug Naylor really wanted this series shot in front of a live audience. We get great behind the scenes shots of setting up the main sets and how the whole studio was laid out. We get a glimpse of setting up for the audience to come in and watch. What I found funny was the shooting crew who were lamenting the fact that for a show as technical as Red Dwarf that they were going to record in front of an audience yet that was generally how it always was made! The show was technical and complex back then too. I wish there was more energy from the studio audience but it appears that the script for some episodes were not completed by the time they went in to shoot episodes so some stuff was done after the initial recording and an audience was brought back in to watch the finished episodes and add their laughter to them. Back to Earth did not have laughter of any kind on the episodes and I felt like it suffered from it. Red Dwarf needs laughter on the episodes and I am glad it’s back.
Possibly the biggest surprise for me was during this making of feature was that all the ships we see in the episodes are real models opposed to all being done on computer. This includes Red Dwarf itself. I remember watching the episodes and thinking how amazingly real Red Dwarf ship looked thinking it was a CG model.  Like everything else on this series, shooting the models were a pain and they needed to do this twice. It was nice to see the Red Dwarf model. I think this was the model that they made for Red Dwarf VIII. Unfortunately, the model of the ship was super long, possibly because the Nano-bots made Red Dwarf way too big when they rebuilt it. Because the ship was too long, Doug Naylor had the effect guys cut out a section of the model. That was painful to watch and hopefully that section was retained.

Finally we get a great insight into the costumes designed by Howard Burden who had been doing this for Red Dwarf since 1989. He is great at it and clearly loves it. Even Howard Goodall returned as composer of the music. He was music composer on the series from Series 1 – Series VII.  The making of extensively covers the making of all 6 episodes of the series and actually almost outshines the episodes themselves as a highlight on this set.

Deleted Scenes:
This is what it says. A nice collection of scenes omitted from the finished program.  Some of the scenes make sense as to why there were cut, others probably cut due to time. There is a nice scene that has Rimmer explaining to the Medibot that he has dyslexia. We see how the Medibot deals with him.  There is also a look at the original end credits footage that were supposed to be like the Series 1-5 end credits of the camera going up and over the ship. This would then have credits rolling over it. It would have been great to have the credits look this way again but after seeing the footage, it is obvious why it wasn’t used. How it was made is incorporated in the “Making Of” feature.

Smeg Ups:
Smeg Ups are outtakes. I love the term Smeg Up as it is a terminology that the Red Dwarf franchise completely owns. It’s great and these are fun. I am not a huge fan of outtakes but when watching these, pay close attention to the camaraderie between the cast. That is a lot of fun to watch. I may need to pull out some of the older sets and watch those collections again too.

This is shot and produced in 1080p 16:9 HD. It looks great. There is some talk on the “Making Of” feature how they had problems with the footage but the episodes look great. The only thing which lets it down a little is the end credits. They are juddery and very difficult to read. I assume it is the conversion from 50i to 60i. Other than that, it all is quite nice looking.

I watched this from the 2-disc Blu Ray set. It comes in the standard double Blu Ray case. I really like the cover for this set. It is so much better than the uncreative effort that came with Back to Earth. What I have been appreciative of is the style of the covers are very similar to the original DVD sets. Look at the back cover and it fits in nicely with the rest of the range. Yes, I am one of those types of fans.

I think this is the closest I have seen of the Red Dwarf that I have wanted to see for a while and enjoyed since Series VI. It’s easy to be critical of it on the surface because time has moved on but that’s not fair to this production. A lot of hard work went into this series and the Blu Ray/DVD set is a wonderful value for money. If you are a fan of the series and are unsure to give this a go, I think it is worth it. It’s fun to watch them again and there is some genuinely funny laugh out loud moments. You have no reason not to get this if you bought Back to Earth. In my opinion, this is massively better than that.
Disc breakdown:

Disc 1: Trojan, Fathers and Suns, Lemons, Entangled, Dear Dave, The Beginning
Disc 2: We’re Smegged: Making of Feature, Deleted Scenes, Smeg Ups

Upcoming DVD/Blu Ray Reviews: Doctor Who: Shada/More Than Thirty Years in the TARDIS, since I have just seen them possibly reviewing the two animated episodes of Doctor Who: The Reign of Terror. Later this month, I will be reviewing Agatha Christie Poirot and Marple Fan Favorites Collection where I am shocked about Murder on the Orient Express!
This week:  I go back to some British comedy that doesn’t get seen a whole lot. I think that would have been a different story if more episodes existed and got over here on PBS. I look at 2 episodes from All Gas & Gaiters: The Bishop Shows His Loyalty & The Bishop Has a Rest.

Have a great week!
Do you have feedback, article requests or want to talk about a program but do not want to leave a public comment? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at
I now have a regular column on DVDTalk called Brit-Streaming. Please check it out here: Brit-Streaming.
I am on Twitter: @FromtheArchive

Also please subscribe to my From the Archive: British Television Blog Facebook Page for updates about new articles.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

50WHO: After All, This Is How It All Started!

This is the first part of a series of articles celebrating the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. Over the years there are certain stories that mean a lot to me either from personal memories or involvement I had in fandom through the years. These articles are not meant to be close examinations of the plot or production but more about what these stories mean to me on a personal level. Enjoy.

Back in July or August of 1984, my life changed. I hardly knew it at the time. I was about to watch Doctor Who for the first time in my life. Looking back on this period now, I find it hard to remember what life was like prior to watching Doctor Who. What did I do for fun? My family thinks I am a big fan of science fiction which is not true. I was enthralled with Star Wars which I was 4 when it came out. Because I loved it, my Mom assumed that I loved all science fiction. This would work in my favour as she was about to introduce me to something that would be a game changer.
In the summer of 1984 I was 10 years old and was about to enter into 5th grade. I think it was late July on a hot Friday night. I was home it was later in the evening; sometime after 10pm. Out of nowhere, my Mom calls me into the kitchen. What did I do wrong now? I was always getting into trouble as a child. She was watching this program that caught her eye as she was channel surfing. Of course, surfing channels back then was about 6 to 8 channels. I walked into the kitchen to a program that already started. My Mom was taken by the characters colourful and fun costumes. One character was a really colourful robot who dressed as Death…as one does. The other person’s costume who my Mom thought was cool looking was a blonde haired person with a beige coat and red piping going down the jacket. He was called the Doctor. I assumed I knew the name of the program right away. Of course it was Doctor Who. I knew about Doctor Who and I knew some of the kids at school would watch it. In fact I think I changed channels through to a story before and moved right along. It may have been Revenge of the Cybermen. At that time it did nothing for me but now was a completely different feeling.  I sat there and watched. My eyes were glued to it.  I have never seen anything like it yet it was destined for me.

It is almost like race memory in Quatermass and the Pit. The feeling of something sleeping dormant in my brain my whole life ready to come alive.  My impression of the story was one of amazement. My first thought was one of awe. I knew the look of videotape opposed to the look of film. The sheer confidence of a science fiction series being shot on videotape was truly amazing to me. I also thought about the Terileptils. These are monsters but they don’t go “roar”. They are not chasing anyone around; there are no women screaming in terror. The Terileptils are smart; they speak intelligently. I picked up on that right away. Although the leader was hugely scarred, he spoke so eloquently. The scene where he is talking with Tegan and Adric so calmly, perhaps gently, to coax information out of them, his tone was almost hypnotic. As a young man, these were very impressionable points I picked up on.
Then, there was the Doctor himself. It’s funny to think of a time when I had no idea of the backstory to Doctor Who. When I started watching the series there were five Doctors….news to me! Actually, I figured there were at least two Doctors. As I mentioned earlier I knew there was the one with the long scarf. Everyone knew that! I liked the Doctor because he was younger. He had young friends and they would get into danger and need to be rescued. Those are things I found very interesting in watching in a program. I didn’t know what a Cricketer uniform was nor did I understand why the Doctor wore a piece of celery. It didn’t matter as I was loving this viewing experience.

What about that Android? I didn’t see the beginning of the story, I didn’t know what was going on but I was digging it. Watching the Android dressed as Death and waiting in the woods is a nightmarish visual yet it didn’t scare me. The contrast of a dark cloaked figure in the greenery was creepy but cool. The shot of him coming around outside the TARDIS when Adric sees Nyssa is a little frightening and it’s great tension. The demise of the Android is sad as it is trying to protect itself firing at the machine that is trying to destroy it.
Richard Mace is a great character. In fact, I would say he was one of the greatest guest characters ever in the series. I wish he would have been in more stories but it wasn’t meant to be. It sounds like Michael Robbins who played Richard Mace looked down on this role. Apparently it is alluded to in the commentary. Yes, I have not listened to the commentary yet. It is too bad but he never lets on in the acting. He is memorable and is one of the best things in a story that already has a lot of good things going for it.  I also love the set design of the Terileptil ship and headquarters in the house. I love the design but also green tint on everything. Finally, I had an instant crush on Nyssa.

When watching it on my PBS station KTCA, they were showing it as a movie version which means all 4 parts are edited together as a movie. So, apart from what I missed in the beginning, I was able to watch the entire story that evening.  That’s when I heard the music. The end credits were probably what really sold me on the series. The music itself was like nothing I’ve ever heard before. I remember for a few weeks trying to hum what we call “the middle eight” of the end credits before getting it right. Also, I was in love with the title sequence. It looked so good. I really felt like I was travelling in space. I loved the prism of rainbow light forming and coming towards us. I also loved the idea of the lead actor’s face just appearing and coming at you with this distinctive music backing it all up. The one thing that I thought immediately was how did they do this? How was this made? I remember a friend told me he thought it was done by computers but I knew better. Plus, that was his answer for everything; done by computers!  I just didn’t know how they did it though. Also, is it just me or does that photo of Davison in the opening/closing credits even look like him? It’s the eyes! I love it.
It’s pretty clear why this story means so much to me. It was important for me to use this story as a way to launch these articles I am doing for the 50th anniversary since it was the way I launched into living. It’s either really cool or really sad that much of my life has revolved around this series. When I started to really get into Doctor Who, I wanted to share my enthusiasm for it……with everyone. I wanted to show all my friends the stories that I was enjoying. Looking back, I feel bad for a few of my friends who I forced The Five Doctors on quite a few occasions. I kept thinking that this is the one that I am going to get them hooked on. It was only a matter of time. Soon everyone at school knew my obsession for the series. I would tell them why they needed to watch a certain episode coming up on the schedule but no one would. It took me a long time to realize that not everyone would like the series which is OK. A long time ago I decided to stop trying to force people to watch the series. The last time I remember was when I worked at my first advertising agency in 1996. A group of us would get together for lunch every week and we would bring a program in to watch that meant something to us and we all seemed to like the same genre. For example, one week someone brought in animated Johnny Quest and so on. I brought in Robots of Death. It was almost instantaneous from when I started the tape to when the laughter started. I was basically laughed out of the room. I decided that I would not do that again but I am jumping ahead of myself.

I guess the point of this article on The Visitation is to explain how one seemingly insignificant moment can change someone’s life. Back in school, none of my friends liked Doctor Who. They were polite to me about it but I know they were sick to death of me talking about it. Looking back, I was over the top. I needed to be more connected to the series. Along with loving Doctor Who, I became a very big fan of PBS. I got a very healthy appreciation, at a young age, for what they were doing. I loved their programs and I liked how they were different (visually and philosophically) from other stations. I loved pledge drives; especially when they spoke about Doctor Who.  I did chores around the house and finally was able to afford a membership to KTCA. I was able to support Doctor Who and I received my first bit of Doctor Who merchandise for being a member. This was the album Doctor Who – The Music. This was that album with the cover that had five people on it who looked nothing like the Doctors. In one of the issues of the KTCA monthly program magazine Scene, someone had written in to know if KTCA knows of any local Doctor Who groups around town. They gave the name and address to one of them called The Whoniversity.
On my birthday, I found out my mom had got me a yearlong membership to The Whoniversity and to the Doctor Who Fanclub of America (DWFCA). My brain simply exploded. It was like never having chocolate before and suddenly allowed to run rampant in a chocolate factory. I read articles about the series and reviews of episodes I hadn’t seen on KTCA. Lots of talk and discussions about all sorts of Doctor Who things. As an addict, being part of a club was never enough.

I went with a school friend to a convention in Roseville at a venue called Paul’s Place for a convention put on by the DWFCA. They brought in Louise Jameson as guest. It was my first look at a Doctor Who convention. There were props, episode screenings and of course Louise Jameson. It was great! I remember nearly being overly eager as I nearly bought a Mythmakers tape because I thought it was the lost story The Myth Makers. I had no idea about the Reeltime productions back then! It was a great first convention but it wouldn’t be my last.
The one that really changed everything was Time Festival 88. I started to meet people who were into fandom and at that point I wanted to get involved. In September of that year, I was invited to a Whoniversity meeting at Minnehaha Falls park to discuss the club and their new video they wanted to produce called Eye Strain. The club was being run by new people and they needed help on the new direction. I was no longer on the outside but taking part in the club and meeting other people in fandom. I started to work on the Whoniversity staff as the guy who would get the videos for the club meetings. I eventually became President of the club. During this period, as a 15-16 year old, I travelled with friends to all other conventions around the country to promote our club and our conventions. We put on our convention called PseudoCon which we had John Levene as our guest. He stayed in my parent’s house for a week. I could write a whole article of its own based on that week alone. I think we did him proud as we gave him a lot of exposure to the Twin Cities.

After years of the Whoniversity, it came to an end. I think the problem was is that we started to take ourselves too seriously. There are people out there who think we screwed them (we didn’t) and to this day, there are people out there who still remember the name The Whoniversity and shiver a little bit. Makes me think we should start it up again!
I still stayed active in the fan community with working with other clubs and conventions. I started to work at other conventions in other states. I worked at Visions for years and eventually became a silver badge or ribbon. I have no idea what that meant. Then I started something that was really close to my own heart. A little thing called the Minnesota Doctor Who Viewing Society (MNDWVS).

MNDWVS Poster for room at CONvergence 2006
We began the MNDWVS because our local PBS station, KTCA stopped airing Doctor Who. This was 1996 and although the TV Movie recently aired, this was still “The Wilderness Years” for the series and it certainly looked like the series was not going to be returning. We started out at a house where we watched one story a week from the beginning. We made it to the end of Season 1 before mixing things up. We got good press from the start. The newspaper, The St. Paul Pioneer Press, wrote about us early on in our formative days. We moved to a library and showed countless hours of programming. We had many video rooms in different places and we even brought Gary Russell from the UK to the very first CONvergence in 1999. Even though we haven’t been officially active in a few years, people still get confused. There is a group in the Twin Cities that is very similar to what we are. The place they hold their get-togethers billed that group as the Minnesota Doctor Who Viewing Society instead of their own name. I just noticed that this week. We have made a lasting impression. I would love to start running this again on a regular basis. Currently, we have been just running private viewings by invitation only. I love the MNDWVS!

MNDWVS Poster for room at CONvergence 2006
Even after all of these years of not being super-active in fandom or having what I call a “Fan-career”, I still get asked to take part in help starting up conventions or to give advice. I remember I was asked to give advice to Red Dragon Hobby when they wanted to approach KTCA to bring Doctor Who back on the air. I sat in a meeting with them and KTCA programming people to discuss the logistics of bringing the series back in MN.  I like to help when I can but rarely do fan stuff anymore. I keep to myself much more than I used to and to be completely honest, I love writing for this blog! I get satisfaction from knowing that people read it and enjoy it. I get a decent amount of feedback per week of people who like what they are seeing. If that is not enough, I take part in the Omega Podcast. I never thought I would do a podcast but I was lucky enough to be asked to help out on this which has been a huge amount of fun. Should I do a podcast to tie into this blog? A From the Archive British television podcast?
MNDWVS Poster for room at CONvergence 2006
I have been all over the world. I have met many stars from Doctor Who and people who worked and currently works for the program now. I have a lot of contacts in the industry and have a lot of cool projects going on right now that hopefully pan out and has something to do with our favourite show. My 10 year old self would never believe the exciting road watching this series would take him.  I never would have these opportunities if my mom didn’t call me into the kitchen to watch a multi-coloured Android. Over the next 12 months I will be examining different stories from each Doctor. I had chosen The Visitation because after all, that’s how it all started.

Thanks mom for showing this little 10 year old kid this very special series!
I have been watching Doctor Who from the beginning one episode a day for a little while now. As of writing this article, I am about to begin The Time Meddler with Episode One The Watcher. Are you watching Doctor Who in order for its 50th anniversary? Where are you at?

The Aztecs:
This is old news but I am still reeling from the announcement that BBC America will be showing the William Hartnell story The Aztecs on January 27th all part of an ongoing series Doctor Who: The Doctor Revisited. This is a great step in the right direction and reinforces to me how BBC America is committed to Doctor Who. I think this year will be a bumper year for being a fan. Enjoy it while you can! Nothing lasts forever! Cherish it!

Next 50Who article: I am not doing these articles in Doctor order as that would be too predictable. Just about everything that I do on this blog is randomly chosen so this should be no different. In mid to late February, I will publish the second 50Who article featuring the Ninth Doctor as I look at Rose. For so many of us, this was a time of unparalleled excitement. Did Rose live up to the hype?
Next Week: I go back to some British comedy that doesn’t get seen a whole lot. I think that would have been a different story if more episodes existed and got over here on PBS. I look at 2 episodes from All Gas & Gaiters: The Bishop Shows His Loyalty & The Bishop Has a Rest.

Have a great week!
Do you have feedback, article requests or want to talk about a program but do not want to leave a public comment? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at

I now have a regular column on DVDTalk called Brit-Streaming. Please check it out here: Brit-Streaming.

I am on Twitter: @FromtheArchive

Also please subscribe to my From the Archive: British Television Blog Facebook Page for updates about new articles.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Gerry Anderson Will Always Be F.A.B. to Me!

It was with great sadness that I learned about the death of Gerry Anderson. Of course, I cannot claim the same level of closeness with his creations as the youth of England in the 1960s but I have my own story to tell but more about that in a minute. Gerry Anderson was a creator and perhaps an inventor. He wasn’t a conventional inventor but a creative one. Was he a visionary? He created a way for children to be thrilled by action series and give them a chance to dream but never talk down to them. These programs had no agendas other than to entertain.  He created a term that he never took as seriously as we did….Supermarionation. Supermarionation is the art of puppetry but to a level that we had never seen before. As the children of England in the 1960s grew up so did Supermarionation. With each new series, dramatic advances were made to the sculpting, pacing, storytelling, and miniatures for each progressive series. There has never been anything like it before or since.  By the time the 1960s had come to an end, it seemed like Gerry was more interested in live action productions than the puppets we grew to love but that’s not quite true either. Supermarionation was just the beginning for him.

Gerry didn’t want to spend his life making shows with puppets. Starting with programs like The Adventures of Twizzle and Torchy the Battery Boy, these were meant as a way for Anderson to get his foot in the door to making live action series and not just to make more series with puppets. Next up for him was Four Feather Falls which was a puppet western. In this series, we got something that didn’t happen before; the mouths of these marionettes were moving with pre-recorded dialogue. Obviously, this was a great way to know which character was speaking. This all led to the start of Supermarionation with Supercar which led to Fireball XL5 and then to Stingray. These were all very successful because they had engaging stories, interesting characters and a lot of action. This wasn’t Muffin the Mule but instead a high quality set of series that created its own genre. What made these series a worldwide success was the man who sold these series to the world. His name was Lew Grade. Grade was very impressed with all of Gerry Anderson’s programs and sold them but the next series which involved a family who named themselves International Rescue was to become the most remembered of them all. Of course I am talking about Thunderbirds. To say Thunderbirds was a massive success would be an understatement yet this is one series in a whole group of worldwide successes. For me, Thunderbirds will always be my personal favourite and it is a little personal for me.
I didn’t watch Thunderbirds when I was a kid. The series certainly looked familiar but I can’t recall if it was ever shown in my area in the 1980s. I think if it was shown I would have been all over it as I love miniatures. More importantly, I love miniatures that blow up. I didn’t get into any Thunderbirds until my late twenties. Back when I worked for the corporate campus of Best Buy, we would sometimes be able to get our hands on free DVDs. The buyers at Best Buy would were the movie and DVD buyers and would get copies of the DVDs that they were buying so they can watch it and see if the wanted to sell this product in the Best Buy stores. On occasion the buyers would have so many DVDs stocked up that they received from the studios that they would open up the secret DVD room and allow people to go in and take whatever DVD they want. This happened a few times while I worked there. That’s where I got a respectable anime collection from when they were giving away these DVDs for free. Back in 2001 it was one of those rare occasions where I could get a few DVDs and I noticed the first volume of Thunderbirds on DVD released by A&E. I heard of it and since it was British therefore I needed to check it out.

I took it home but didn’t watch it. One day, my girlfriend at the time Joleen came over and noticed it.  She may have heard of the series before, I am not sure. The thing with Joleen is that she knew a lot of this kind of stuff already. It wasn’t due to hanging around with me. She was a fan of Doctor Who long before I ever met her and in fact she was watching it before I ever did. She suggested we watch it, which we did, and suddenly things changed. We watched the first episode of Thunderbirds, Trapped in the Sky, and we were both hooked. To be honest, a lot of it was because we were amused by it. It is a funny series in a lot of ways but it is also advanced in others. The characters are immediately likable and are fun. We plowed through the first two discs with ease. Soon more volumes were coming out. It didn’t really hit me to think of looking on the Internet when the next volume would be released. I would be at a Best Buy and we would see a new volume and pick it up. We were once in Florida to see her Grandma and we saw a brand new set there. Instead of waiting until we got back to Minnesota to pick it up, we grabbed it down there. Part of the fun was seeing Thunderbirds available in different places.
As time went on, Joleen would pick up Thunderbirds toys, bed sheets and annuals from eBay. Sometimes we even got stuff from garage sales. I even got my Pontiac Grand Am which was green and had a spoiler. It had a passing resemblance to Thunderbird 2!  We enjoyed the look of the series and just the detail that went into the puppets. We also loved the quirky aspects of the series such as Kyrano, F.A.B., Parker and the use of the phrase “winch up”. As we got to the end of Thunderbirds more Supermarionation series came out. Just after we were married, we picked up Captain Scarlett and the Mysterons. I remember shortly after we were married in September of 2002, sitting in my mother-in-laws house watching the first disc of this series with Joleen. It was such a nice memory as we both really enjoyed it but it was such a different series to Thunderbirds. We also laughed at the lyrics of the end credits (see below); it was always amusing to us. From there we kept buying everything that came out. We bought Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Joe 90, The Secret Service and Space: 1999. Yes, there are some series missing. Still, I consider these series, especially Thunderbirds, as very special. Gerry Anderson brought these to us. As a way for me to pay tribute to what Gerry Anderson had brought us, I spent the day watching a lot of Supermarionation. Here is what I watched and my thoughts on the episodes. It was a fun day!

Four Feather Falls: Gunfight on Main Street TX: 21/07/60
This is episode 26 of the series. The series is about a Sheriff named Tex of the town Four Feather Falls. Tex has four feathers in his cap that allow his guns to fire automatically, which is helpful if his hand are raised, one feather that allows his horse to speak and the other to allow his dog to speak.  In this episode, he needs to stop someone he knew from getting into a gunfight with another gang who are suspect of killing this guy’s brother. These episodes are really short. They are about 15 minutes each.

This is a neat little rare treat. I know the full series has been released in the UK on DVD, this is from the Blu Ray of the re-colourised episode of Fireball XL5. The episode simply looks stunning in HD. It is black and white but everything is so clear and detailed. The detail of the Main Street is great. The wooden sidewalks look authentic. This is an early example of the talent of Derek Meddings who is brilliant with miniatures. As these series progress, his talents grow. What aren’t so great are the sculptures of the cast. In some cases, they are almost grotesque looking.  I think many will probably argue with me that this gives these characters, well, character. I will be honest; it’s just hard for me to watch. Though,it is kind of fun watching puppets order and drinking whiskey, especially as it is a kids show.  I was surprised to see 2 of the voice actors in this series were Nicholas Parsons who did a lot of game shows as well as early Benny Hill. He was also in Doctor Who The Curse of Fenric. We also hear the voice talents of Kenneth Connor.  He may more familiar to people as Monsieur Alfonse from ‘Allo ‘Allo!
Supercar: Hostage TX: 20/05/61

Supercar may not be one of my favourite series but it is the first of the Gerry Anderson series to use the term Supermarionation. This episode takes place in Ireland. Doctor Beaker is out there at a pub talking with the local pub owner and his daughter when some smugglers come in to get some supplies. When they let it slip they are smugglers, they take the Keeper’s daughter as hostage. Dr. Beaker is able to get in touch with Mike Mercury to come and save her with Supercar.
The marionettes still look crude but I have to admit that the Irish daughter in the episode was kind of cute with her big eyes and she was also voiced by Sylvia Anderson, Gerry’s wife. It’s interesting when the cast is talking amongst each other in the pub, on the fireplace mantle behind them is pictures of real people! It’s funny to see that as it is clearly real people that look nothing like the “people” in this episode.

I meant to watch an episode of Fireball XL5 but never got around to it. That series is interesting but what has always been a letdown for me is that Fireball XL5 is a general space exploration series seems to have been very big at the time. To me, the other Supermarionation series are a little bit more interesting because they take basic ideas but add a slight curve ball to them.
Stingray: The Loch Ness Monster TX: 1/11/64

Not of any fault of Stingray but to me this is the most frustrating of all of the Supermarionation series. As I mentioned above, I love Thunderbirds and Stingray came prior to the Thunderbirds. This series is so frustratingly close to Thunderbirds without it being Thunderbirds. It is the first Gerry Anderson series made in colour; the music has a lot of “themes” in it that are used in Thunderbirds. The bay that Stingray launches from looks very close to where Thunderbird 1 launches. The characters look very close to how the Thunderbirds characters look especially Marina who looks very close to Lady Penelope. Obviously Stingray happened first but I saw Thunderbirds first so I can’t help making this unfair comparison.
This episode starts in Scotland with the Admiral of WASP (World Aquanaut Security Patrol) on a boat when he is attacked by the Loch Ness Monster. Eventually WASP sends Stingray out there to investigate but the team finds it not as straight-forward as it would seem.

I am not a huge fan of this series but I really enjoyed this episode. First off, Marina is not in it. I simply don’t like her. Troy Tempest sidelines the other woman in WASP, Atlanta,  because of his infatuation with Marina. That no good two-timing puppet!  On this trip he takes Atlanta with him along with “Phones”. When I stopped to pay attention, the puppetry work on this is truly amazing. The puppets carry around lit candles in the castle during the night. It is really well done. The interiors/exteriors of the castle are fantastic. It is really a nice piece of work. This episode is written by Dennis Spooner and I forgot that Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny) is the voice of Atlanta. I think this is a series that needs to get a reappraisal from me.
Thunderbirds: Trapped in the Sky TX: 30/09/65

When it came to watching Thunderbirds, I needed to watch the first episode. After all, that is where I first got involved with this series as well as the world of Gerry Anderson. I forgot that this episode is truly the first mission conducted by International Rescue. Everything is new and the Tracy family is ready for their first mission. This episode has a lot to do with their servant Kyrano. In fact, Kyrano’s half-brother is the sinister villain, The Hood. The Hood is never named as such  in the series plus he never wears a hood. It’s like calling Spiderman “The Cape”.  It is also interesting that none of the Tracy family really even knows about him or is really truly threatened by him. It’s a nice touch that there is this super villain out there but no one quite notices he even there. In this episode, all he does is try to get some pictures of Thunderbird 1 but by the end his car is gunned down by Lady Penelope and Parker.
The episode starts off in a very atmospheric way. We are invited to a temple that is mysteriously and darkly lit. There, The Hood, gets inside the head of his half-brother Kyrano to try to find out more about International Rescue. This storyline is hardly really ever explored further in the series which is puzzling but I am alright with that. It could easily be too easy for this story strand to be repeated week in and week out. We also meet Kyrano’s daughter Tin-Tin who is on the maiden voyage of Fireflash. The Hood puts a bomb on Fireflash which prompts International Rescue into action. This is a lovely introductory episode. It introduces all the characters but in a way that is not overly introductory, if that makes any sense. It’s low key. Through the evolution of the episode, one gradually learns about International Rescue, the Tracy family and the amazing ships that make up the team.  This episode brings back great memories.

Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons: Attack on Cloudbase TX: 07/05/68
I LOVE this series. The puppets have been refined to a point where everything is completely in scale. The previous puppets couldn’t have heads in scale with the rest of the body because of the mechanism inside the head that moves the mouth was always too big to allow the head to be in proportion with the rest of the body. Now with this series, that had been fixed. They look a lot like Ken and Barbie dolls that actually move!

This series is actually pretty dark. The Mysterons are race from the planet Mars. Their colony on Mars was destroyed by Captain Black when he felt that they were going to attack his mission while on Mars. The Mysterons took him over and he became one of their agents. He is creepy. At the beginning of each episode, we are introduced to the cast of characters while the Mysterons, in their deep bellowing voices, threaten them with what is going to happen in this episode. It is really adult and perhaps at times disturbing. Kids must have lapped this up in the 1960s. You knew when the Mysterons was taking someone over as two green circles would glide over their victim. Once you were an agent of the Mysterons, you were dead; you could not revert back into a normal human.
This episode is just what the title says; the Mysterons attack Cloudbase where all of Spectrum is located. Things get serious as they attack and start killing off our heroes one by one. Even Captain Black makes an eerie appearance in this on Cloudbase. Of course, it is all a dream. This is along the same lines of what I talk about with Thunderbirds, story lines that really don’t get followed up. The Mysterons could easily destroy Cloudbase a million times over yet they never do it. I love the end theme music. The lyrics are funny, here is my favourite line:

“They crash him, and his body may burn,
They smash him. But they know he'll return,
To live again.”

Joe 90: Most Special Astronaut TX: 06/10/68
Little Joe McClaine ins only 9 years old yet when he wears special glasses that have brain waves imprinted in them, he is a specialist of whatever brainwave is on the glasses. If the brainwave of a jet pilot is imprinted, then he is an expert jet pilot. If it is of a judo expert, then he is a judo expert. This time, it is an astronaut.

Unlike other episodes of the series, this is pretty straightforward. The crew of a space station is running out of supplies. Multiple rockets have been launched bit for varying reasons the missions needed to be aborted. Joe is needed to be sent up to space. He becomes an expert astronaut. This is a very enjoyable program. Joe is a very sweet child and the whole series is quite fun. The only thing I can think of though is how messed up Joe must have been as he got older…..
The Secret Service: The Deadly Whisper TX: 16/11/69

From Wikipedia (by this stage of the article, I have become lazy): Professor Soames has invented an ultrasonic vibrational rifle that is capable of obliterating armoured vehicles. Criminal Mark Slater and his gang intend to use the weapon to shoot down an experimental aircraft using the weapon and kidnap Soames' daughter, Anne. With the professor's assistance, Unwin and Harding rescue Anne and set out to foil Slater's plot.
This series is the first one I ever wrote about for this blog. You can find the original article here. I wasn’t overly impressed with the first two episodes of the series but by the time we get to the 9th episode, things are much different. The testing room for Professor Soames is awesome looking. It is hi-tech, colourful and just cool. Supermarionation never looked better.

In the past to help move the story along in any of the Supermarionation series, sometimes we would see a real hand up close press a button or open a door. By the time we get to The Secret Service, not only are we seeing real human hands operating things, we also see humans walking down streets or driving cars. If that’s the case, they should just shoot a live action series. Oh, wait they did! It was called UFO! Perhaps Gerry was really getting tired of Supermarionation and was super eager to do something different. I don’t blame him.
I plan on watching some UFO and Space:1999 at some point in the future. I really need to watch some more Space:1999 since I did not get through all of the episodes on the Blu Ray set yet. One thing I got when I watched all of these episodes is a reminder that this really is an art form. Now, everything is “built” on the computer for CG work but to have these miniatures built to such detail is mind blowing. I really thought about it a lot when I was watching Stingray. There must have been about 3 to 4 different versions of the castle built depending on the shots that were required.

I have 2 memories I loved of Gerry Anderson outside the realm of his series. I saw these even before I knew who he was. One was the excellent short directed by Kevin Davies called Auf Wiedersehen Doc. Every character in this video is a puppet similar to Spitting Image puppets. The premise is that Colin Baker (fired from Doctor Who) is looking for work (he visits all sorts of employers including Leonard Nimoy to be in the next Star Trek film) and at one point he goes to Gerry Anderson for work. Gerry goes on a tirade/rant because all the work he has ever done has always been overshadowed by Doctor Who! The whole short is hilarious but this scene is awesome. This is a wonderful scene as for once it is Gerry Anderson who is the puppet! Also there is a sweet scene in More Than Thirty Years in the TARDIS from the interview from 1993 where Gerry jokes that, despite his career of making children's programming, the "real tragedy of my life" was that his own son Jamie (appearing with him) was a Doctor Who fanatic. It is a wonderful self-deprecating moment that just shows how human this man of puppets really was.
Since his passing, I have heard a lot of people talk about how approachable he was and how much he enjoyed talking about his work with them. I would have loved to meet him. He gave me many, many great memories. Writing about him, I didn’t even scratch the surface. I will leave off with what his son Jamie said recently to fans about his father’s passing, “We have been so touched by the outpouring of sympathy from all over the world. We have had messages from India, Uganda, Australia - and from people aged between seven to 70. It is so nice to know how my father touched people's lives across all the continents. But I'm proudest of him for the contribution he made to the Alzheimer's Society. He was so torn apart by his illness. But his involvement with the charity raised £1million in just a year."

Thank you Gerry Anderson.
Next Week: I begin the first of yearlong set of articles celebrating 50 years of Doctor Who. The articles will be called 50WHO and will focus on a specific story. Each month will be a different Doctor. The twist is that I will not be looking at the plot per se but why I personally appreciate that story. It may not even be a favourite story but one that means something to me. The first one will feature the fifth Doctor Peter Davison as I look at The Visitation.

Have a great week!
Do you have feedback, article requests or want to talk about a program but do not want to leave a public comment? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at

I now have a regular column on DVDTalk called Brit-Streaming. Please check it out here: Brit-Streaming.
I am on Twitter: @FromtheArchive

Also please subscribe to my From the Archive: British Television Blog Facebook Page for updates about new articles.