Yes, my lovely readers I am still here. I know the Cathode Ray Tube site has been silent for well over a year but I just thought you might like to know that I haven't been idle. I've just been out and about writing for other sites and publications in the brief pauses I can find during my full-time job.

I'd love to write more and, in fact, I'd like nothing better than to write every day and earn a living from it but my job is all-consuming of my time and energy at the moment. However, more paid work would be lovely and I remain, as always, a writer for hire.

So... by way of promoting my wares here's a brief run down of where you can find my latest keyboard twiddlings.

Doctor Who - Series 9 and Christmas Special: The Husbands of River Song
Click above for ALL of the Series 9 episode and 2015's festive special coverage at the splendid film and television review site Frame Rated posted between September and December 2015. Plus there's a three-part overview of Series 8 too! More Doctor Who soon.

Other television reviews at Frame Rated
Outlander Seasons One and Two, Penny Dreadful Seasons Two and Three and The Man in the High Castle Season One and Sherlock: The Abominable Bride are just some of the other shows I've covered in the last year. Latest The Man in the High Castle and Sherlock reviews are forthcoming. 

Film reviews at Frame Rated
You'll also find my reviews (including Blu-ray releases) of Spectre (2015), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), One Million Years B.C. (1966) and Kes (1969). Plus you can also read a brief tribute article about David Bowie and his work on screens big and small: Cracked Actor

For those avid Blu-ray watchers out there I was also commissioned to write essays for a number of Arrow Film and Video releases this year, including:

The Count Yorga Collection
For the first pressing of the Blu-ray of Count Yorga, Vampire and The Return of Count Yorga, released in August 2016, the enclosed booklet featured my essay about the films: A Tale of Unspeakable Cravings.

Woody Allen: Seven Films 1986 to 1991
Due out in February 2017, this Blu-ray box set containing Hannah and Her Sisters, Radio Days, September, Another Woman, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Alice and Shadows and Fog features a book of new writing about the films. I've completed an essay 'The air is full of electricity' about September (1987), which will also gain a standalone Blu-ray release in March 2017.

Cathode Ray Tube remains blessed with visitors even though nothing new has been posted for some time and I remain ever grateful many of you still enjoy the material archived here. If I can overcome a few personal obstacles I hope I can be back here with new posts in 2017. Until then, I wish all readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Two names synonymous with the pioneering days of creating visual effects for television are Bernard Wilkie and Jack Kine. Back in the 1950s, they were the Visual Effects Department of the BBC even though at the time it wasn't even known as that, BBC Television Centre was yet to be built and neither of them had created effects for television before.

Bernard Wilkie's previously unpublished memoir, written in the 1990s, arrives from Miwk Publishing this September. Although Wilkie wrote The Technique of Special Effects in Television in 1971 (considered the effects industry bible by many) and his notes and diaries were accessed for Mat Irvine and Mike Tucker's excellent BBC VFX: The Story of the BBC Visual Effects Department published in 2010, this book provides an in depth, illuminating and often hilarious account of his profession directly from the horse's mouth, as it were.

He takes us, via some amusing detours, from his inauspicious introduction to fibreglass techniques during his first interview with Richard Levin, the BBC's Head of Television Design, in 1954 to his retirement from the BBC in 1978 shortly after overseeing the Visual Effects Department's move to Western Avenue in Acton.

As he told the Radio Times for its Doctor Who 10th Anniversary Special in 1973: "Special effects are a combination of engineering and artistry, with a spot of conjuring thrown in." Conjuring is from whence Wilkie's inventive and creative impulses seem to have sprung. The trouble is, he wasn't terribly good at it.

SOLDIER AND ME - The Complete Series / DVD Review

Soldier And Me, Granada's 1974 BAFTA award-winning children's drama, comes to DVD this month courtesy of Network.

The nine half-hour episodes, broadcast in a Sunday tea-time slot between 15 September and 10 November 1974, were made by producer Brian Armstrong and directed by Carol Wilks, both formerly producer and researcher respectively on Granada's hard-hitting documentary strand World in Action.

Soldier and Me was an adaptation by writer David Line of his own best selling book 'Run For Your Life', originally published by Jonathan Cape in 1966. Line was the pseudonym of thriller writer Lionel Davidson.

As Jake Kerridge noted Davidson, born in Hull in 1922 and who died in 2009, was perhaps the last of the great adventure writers of the 1950s and 1960s, casting his unwitting heroes in the tradition of the ripping yarns spun by writers such as John Buchan. He was referred to as "today’s Rider Haggard" by Daphne du Maurier and his early novel 'The Rose of Tibet' was praised by Graham Greene as a "genuine adventure story." (1)

Davidson's career as a writer started with him as an office boy opening the post at The Spectator (it published his first story when he was 15 after he smuggled one of his own pieces into the submissions he forwarded to the literary editor), writing syndicated features for children and an agony column and, after the Second World War, working at Fleet Street's Keystone press agency. As a freelance writer he travelled to Czechoslovakia in 1947, smuggling himself aboard a lorry deporting Slovaks from Hungary back to Czechoslovakia as per Stalin's diktat for Eastern Europe. (2)

COMPETITION: Wolcott: The Complete Series Blu-Ray (Closed)

Released on Blu-Ray and DVD on Monday 17 August by Network Distributing, Wolcott hails from 1981, a groundbreaking drama made by the ITC subsidiary Black Lion Films for ATV. Broadcast from the 13 to 15 January 1981, it was the first example of a prime time mini-series stripped over three nights in the ITV schedule. The episodes have now been newly transferred into HD from the original film elements for this long overdue release.

Displaying the same rough, streetwise vibe as The Sweeney, Wolcott stars the charismatic George William Harris as a tough, loner detective with a gift for rubbing people up the wrong way. Winning massive viewing figures, its controversially unflinching depiction of racism and crime ensured that it has never been repeated or released in any format until now. With all four episodes now transferred in High Definition from the original film elements, Wolcott includes early roles for Christopher Ellison, Hugh Quarshie, Warren Clarke and Rik Mayall – cast against type as a racist policeman. - See more at: http://networkonair.com/shop/2245-wolcott-the-complete-series-blu-ray--5027626802943.html#sthash.KDHjx9qK.dpuf
Most importantly, it was the first British crime drama with a black actor playing the lead role and it did not shy away from depicting the corruption and villainy in both the black and white communities. Played with great power and charisma by George William Harris, Wolcott is a man in the middle, facing hostility both from the community he polices and his colleagues in the Force. His investigations into the fatal stabbing of an old woman and a journalist soon uncover a brutal drug war being fought between criminal gangs.

Co-writer Patrick Carroll notes: "At the inception of the project there were no black officers in the Met C.I.D.  By the time the programme aired we were told that there were three, all of whom were involved in undercover work relating to drug dealing." The series' unflinching and controversial approach to race and policing at the time captured something of the deprivation, distrust of the police and authority, and inequalities of the period that culminated in the inner city riots in Brixton, Birmingham and Liverpool.

Wolcott made for uncomfortable viewing judging by the mixed critical reaction at the time but it gained impressive viewing figures of 13 million. ATV lost its franchise to Central in the summer of 1981, and when producers Barry Hanson and Jacky Stoller approached Central "with a view to developing a follow-up series they were told that, despite the original serial’s impressive viewing figures, the project was simply too much of a political hot potato.  When Barry and Jacky brought their proposal to the BBC they were given much the same answer."

Nigel Kneale's QUATERMASS - The Complete Series / Blu-Ray Review

After successfully adapting the three Quatermass television stories of the 1950s and with the box office tills ringing from the well-received cinema version of Quatermass and the Pit (1967), Hammer Films approached creator-writer Nigel 'Tom' Kneale for an original film script featuring the titular scientist with a view to continuing the franchise.

The studio announced another film but nothing developed beyond an outline and preliminary discussions with Kneale. Hammer had faced delays getting Quatermass and the Pit to the screen after their partnership with Columbia faltered and it was perhaps disinterest from distributors, Hammer's struggle to adapt to changing audience tastes and the slow decline of the industry as a whole that stalled their fourth Quatermass outing.

Kneale remained busy. His relationship with the BBC strengthened in the late 1960s and early 1970s and he succeeded in getting several key plays to the screen in this period. This was after he had refused overtures from the BBC to contribute a one-off drama to their Theatre 625 strand on BBC2. He felt he had never really been properly recompensed for the Quatermass serials he had made in the 1950s, something he made quite clear to the BBC's Director General Hugh Carleton Greene. A one off payment was duly agreed and Kneale undertook his new assignment. This would become 1968's celebrated play about television's Orwellian future potential, The Year of the Sex Olympics. (1)

He followed this with 1970's 'Wine of India' for The Wednesday Play, which centred on a 100-year old couple who must make plans for their funeral in a future where advances in medicine have resulted in a need for population control and where those reaching the age of 100 must submit to a government controlled euthanasia program. He contributed 'The Chopper' to Out of the Unknown in 1971, a ghost story about a dead motorcyclist haunting his wrecked machine, and followed this in 1972 with The Stone Tape, in which scientists researching new recording technologies at an old mansion investigate a haunting.

Coppers & Spies Revisited
This entry concludes the re-written versions of the original Coppers and Spies blog posts published on the MovieMail site in 2014. Each part contains additional research material and information on the various crime and spy adventure series the original blog series covered, timed to celebrate Network's highly-anticipated release of The Professionals in high-definition last March.

I hope you enjoy this final post.

6: Beyond the police - From The Professionals to Life on Mars

Creator of The Professionals, writer-producer-director Brian Clemens, boasted a six-decade career making iconic crime and adventure drama. In the 1950s, as staff writer, he scripted many half-hour crime series for the Danzigers production company. He wrote the pilot episode for Danger Man in 1960 and a year later provided the same for The Avengers, the series with which he is forever associated.

While he and producer Albert Fennell oversaw ABC television’s international success with John Steed and Emma Peel in The Avengers, Clemens also contributed to ITC’s The Baron, The Champions and Man in a Suitcase. He created ATV’s anthology series Thriller and, with Fennell, revived The Avengers in 1976 as The New Avengers.

As the second series of The New Avengers completed filming in October 1977 it was clear to Clemens that his co-production company The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises Ltd, formed with Fennell and composer Laurie Johnson, was running into financial difficulties. After French finance failed to materialise, the final three episodes of the series were cancelled and the prospect of making a third series evaporated. Four episodes, then being completed in Canada, provided an underwhelming coda to a troubled production.

Viewing Figures

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