Alien Nation conference at Northumbria University on 20th and 21st July seeks to advance an understanding of the historical importance of the fantasy tradition within British television, and of the significance of that tradition to British and international visual cultures more generally.
It also coincides with a surge of creative achievement and popular interest in programmes incorporating “fantastic” elements, such as Doctor Who, Being Human, Survivors and Misfits, as well as the elevation of many older shows to cult or canonical status. As the first major conference specifically on the subject of British telefantasy, it will consider how this rich tradition might be understood, evaluated and contextualised. Panels and speakers will cover everything from Quatermass to Misfits, fan cultures to soundscapes, the Britishness, the comedic aspects and the gendering of our telefantasy. It also includes screenings, special events and a book launch. The keynote speakers include Stacey Abbott, Helen Wheatley, Stephen Volk and Peter Wright. The conference organisers are Dr James Leggott and Dr Alison Peirse.
The following keynotes and panel discussion were covered in an extremely packed programme. My intention was to cover as broad a base of television series and themes in my selection of coverage and the following schedule was included in the live blog.
Wednesday 20th July
- Introduction and welcome
James Leggott and Alison Peirse
- Keynote One: Nigel Kneale
Stacey Abbott (Roehampton) ‘“Not Suitable for Children or For Those of You Who May Have a Nervous Disposition”: The Horror Legacy of Nigel Kneale’
- Panel Two: The Changing Face of Doctor Who: Regeneration, Power and Culture (Lipman 001)
Chaired by Dave Rolinson and featuring the following papers:
* Tom Steward (Warwick) ‘Space for the Relative Dimensions of Time? The Changing Status of History in Doctor Who’
* Julian Chambliss (Rollins College, US) ‘Re-Building the Empire: Doctor Who, Post-war British Identity, and the U.S. Experience’
* Nicolas Pillai (Warwick) ‘“Having a conversation with Tse-Tung”: the Politics of Pertwee’
* Claire Jenkins (Bath Spa) ‘New Doctor, New Man? Masculinity and the new Doctor Who'
- Panel Four: 1970s and 1980s Dystopia
Chaired by James Chapman and featuring the following papers:
* I.Q. Hunter (De Montfort) ‘Doomwatch, etc.: TV SF on Film in the 1970s’
* Steffen Hantke (Sogang University, South Korea) ‘Medieval Imagery in Cold War Representations of Post-Nuclear Survival: Threads and The Tripods on the BBC’
* Andrew M. Butler (Independent Scholar) ‘1990: A British Bureaucracy’
* Peter Hutchings (Northumbria) ‘Children of the Stones: Haunting and mystical landscapes in 1970s British telefantasy’
- Panel Six: Sound and Music
Chaired by Jamie Sexton and featuring the following papers:
* Lee Barron (Northumbria) ‘Between Bleeps and Brass: The Sound of 1960s' British SF Television’
* Shelley O’Brien (Sheffield Hallam) ‘Beastly Effects: Soundscapes in Nigel Kneale's Beasts’
* K.J. Donnelly (Southampton) ‘Television's Musical Imagination: Space 1999’
* Derek Johnston (UEA) 'The Sound of Civilisation: Music in Terry Nation's Survivors’
- Keynote Two: The Changes
Peter Wright (Edge Hill) ‘Ringing the Changes: The Condition of England and the BBC's Adaptation of Peter Dickinson's Changes Trilogy'
Will then collapse somewhere...
Thursday 21st July
- Panel Nine: Crime Fighting: Spies and Secret Agents
Chaired by Noel McLaughlin and featuring the following:
* Rosie White (Northumbria) ‘Re-Branding the Union Jack: Englishness and The New Avengers’
* Sarah Ludlow (Northumbria) ‘The Professionals from Screen to ‘Zine: Negotiating Fan Fiction as a Transmedial Literary Form’
* Alex Anthony-Lewczuk (Lincoln) The Nemesis Syndrome: Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons and The Champions’
- Panel Twelve: Gender and Science Fiction Narratives
Chaired by I.Q. Hunterand featuring the following:
* Alan Gregory (Lancaster) ‘“Are you My Mummy?”: Infantalising Military Masculinities in Moffat’s The Empty Child’
* Victoria Byard (Leicester) ‘Wives, daughters, and monsters: (in)visible women in the Quatermass serials’
* Sarah Wylie (Glasgow) ‘Not Living Up To The Hype: Outcasts, Actors and Narrative Form’
* Pauline Archell-Thompson (Independent Scholar) ‘Elementals my dear Hammond: From Sapphire and Steel to Torchwood’
- Keynote Three: Children's Gothic television
Helen Wheatley (Warwick) ‘Uncanny children, haunted houses, hidden rooms: Children’s Gothic television in the 1970s and 80s’
- Roundtable: What is “British” about British Telefantasy?
Chair: Peter Hutchings (Northumbria)
Participants: Catherine Johnson (Nottingham), Jonathan Bignell (Reading), James Chapman (Leicester), Dave Rolinson (Stirling)
- Event One
Tachyon TV Presents…
Join Neil Perryman and John Williams from cult website Tachyon TV as they take an eclectic journey into the deepest and darkest recesses of SF TV. Witness metallurgists obsessed with Ibsen, Mike Batt's depopulated world of the future, Anthony Andrews fight against radiation sickness and Noel Edmonds obsession with cows. Plus: David Rose, Alan Clarke and Toni Arthur, too! You may never look at the genre the same way again.
If you want to read the updated and edited live blog, which will now be archived here, just scroll down to the window below and press the play button!