BRITISH CULT CLASSICS - Quatermass and the Pit / Blu-Ray Review and Competition

"I don't like the term 'science fiction'. The form is appropriate, if taken seriously. And that is the way I do take it. I try to give those stories some relevance to what is round about us today." So wrote Quatermass creator Nigel 'Tom' Kneale in a 1959 edition of Sight and Sound. It holds true for a vast proportion of his work, particularly the series and plays for television which use the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres as a conduit to tackle his concerns about post-war British society, the end of colonialism, advances in science and technology and the military exploitation of space.

His original trilogy of The Quatermass Experiment, Quatermass II and Quatermass and the Pit, all made for the BBC in the 1950s, and the later, final instalment Quatermass (aka The Quatermass Conclusion), written in the 1960s but belatedly produced by Euston Films in 1979, all exude a particularly British paranoia and anxiety about the Cold War, the nuclear age, the ethics of science, mankind's self-destructive urges and intolerance and the Orwellian authoritarianism of government policy. The Quatermass Experiment went out on BBC television in the summer of 1953 during a period when the Cold War super-powers, including Britain, were regularly testing nuclear devices, the US had established NATO backed early warning radar bases and establishments on British soil, biological weapons research was well under way at Porton Down and the UK's nuclear power programme was inaugurated by the Queen's opening of Calder Hall at Windscale in 1956.

TALKING WHO - Interview with Classic TV Press

A quick plug for the lovely chaps over at Talking Who, the live weekly webcast show. Sean and Elisar managed to chat with Andy Priestner, of Classic TV Press, back in July at the London Film and Comic Con. Classic TV Press publish a range of books about classic and current television, including Doctor Who, Being Human, Secret Army and Survivors, and you can find their catalogue here.

As well as promoting my own already published book Doctor Who - The Pandorica Opens, Classic TV Press are now looking forward to publishing director Michael E Briant's memoirs in the not too distant future. Briant's book promises to offer fans lots of new anecdotes about Doctor Who from the period that he was involved in the series as well as his reflections on other British television shows.

Doctor Who - The Pandorica Opens has now also been made available for Kindle and you can also purchase the print version direct from the shop at Classic TV Press

The interview with Andy is about 51 minutes into the latest edition of the show.  The show also covers recent episode The God Complex and the classic Tom Baker era story The Horns of Nimon and the conclusion of Torchwood Miracle. Plus exclusive footage from the Day of the Daleks Special Edition launch and audience reaction to the story.

Many thanks to Andy, Sean and Elisar for their support.

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MANHUNTER 25th Anniversary Edition / Blu-Ray Review

Manhunter, the first film adaptation of Thomas Harris's Red Dragon, first published in 1981 and the debut of that now rather outré serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter, is pretty much responsible for kick-starting the whole sub-genre of criminal profiling, serial killer analysis and forensic science that litter our screens and have inspired such television series as The X-Files (1993-2002), Millennium (1996-99), Profiler (1996-2000), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its spin-offs that have been running since 2000 and the films Seven (1995), The Bone Collector (1999) and of course The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and its sequels and prequels, including the remake of Red Dragon in 2002 and the disastrous prequel Hannibal Rising in 2007.

Manhunter establishes and uses the major aspects of the genre: an investigator who must endeavour to enter the mind set of the killer he is pursuing in order to out-think him and predict his patterns of behaviour; communication between killer and policeman through coded messages; a killer symbolically evolving and changing into a new state of being and creating a new identity; and clues about the killer gleaned from obsessive detailing of the crime scenes and the victims personal effects. Along these axes, Mann explores the nature of Harris's two killers, Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (as he's known here) and Francis Dollarhyde, in relation to the criminal investigator FBI agent Will Graham (played by William Petersen who in an ironic twist eventually headlined the CSI series itself as forensic entomologist Dr. Gil Grissom) who captured Lecktor and, despite suffering physical and psychological scars in the encounter, is asked to return to duty to track down Dollarhyde.


Network return to the legacy of Dennis Vance, Sydney Newman, Leonard White and latterly Lloyd Shirley with this second volume of plays from the reknowned ABC/Thames drama anthology Armchair Theatre. Newman replaced Vance as producer of the series for ABC back in 1958 and by the time the plays featured in this collection had aired, he had long since moved on and had made his impact at the BBC with The Wednesday Play and, later, its legacy in Play for Today.

Leonard White then produced the series from 1963 and handed it on to Lloyd Shirley when Thames took over the ABC franchise. It continued to produce single plays under the same banner and as Mark Duguid notes on the BFI's Screenonline, "In the face of routine pessimistic prophecies of 'the demise of the TV play', Armchair Theatre was, in name at least, an unwelcome reminder of a stage influence that television had outgrown. The series struggled on until 1974, when its 18-year run finally came to an end." That unwelcome reminder is something you'll find as part of this second collection. 

CLASSIC DOCTOR WHO: Day of the Daleks / DVD Review

Day of the Daleks
January 1972

"It's very complicated thing, time, Jo. Once you've begun tampering with it, the oddest things start happening."
With a Dalek making a fleeting appearance in Patrick Troughton's swansong The War Games in 1969, as the Time Lords do a bit of a Crown Court on their errant prodigal son, and then last seen reaching their 'final end' in the destructive climax of David Whitaker's The Evil of the Daleks two years previously, it had been some time since Skaro's children had trundled their way through a Doctor Who adventure by the time they kicked off the ninth season of the series in 1972. Their appearance in Day of the Daleks was altogether not entirely by design.

In 1971, Letts and Dicks had turned to seasoned television writer Louis Marks to develop a story idea he'd pitched to the Doctor Who production duo about a group of guerrillas travelling back in time to the present day in order to prevent the rise of a dictatorship that would rule a future Earth. Under the title of The Ghost Hunters, Marks devised one of the series's first proper attempts to not only explore the nature of time paradoxes and but also the blurred distinctions between terrorism and guerrilla warfare against a backdrop of strained global relationships between East and West. The elements of his story that survive into the finished serial therefore reflect the escalation of acts of transnational terrorism that emerged from the collapse of rural guerrilla warfare in the late 1960s.

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