Moonbase 3 – tape 1939

Moonbase 3 is a BBC science fiction series broadcast in 1973. It has a link to Doctor Who, sharing producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks. This episode was also directed by veteran Who director Christopher Barry.

It almost feels like it’s in the same universe as the much later Star Cops, and in a weird coincidence, the head of Moonbase here, played by Donald Houston, is called David Caulder. You might recall that the head of the Star Cops, Nathan Spring, was played by the actor David Calder. I love that coincidence.

One thing I really like about this show is its efforts to portray a convincing portrait of what life might be like on a lunar base. The future setting and the existence of a moonbase is the only ‘science fiction’ element in the show. This isn’t Space 1999.

But this does mean that the stories they are telling are sometimes not much more than the kinds of stories they’d be telling in any other workplace drama. Like if The Brothers was set on the Moon.

When he needs to call up someone’s records, he has to stand up and hunch over his computer.

And the readout is on a teeny tiny screen. I imagine they wanted the actual readout, but weren’t able to build that working screen into a desk prop. It’s the peril of having to build absolutely everything futuristic.

Edward Brayshaw plays a man with a heart condition who’s therefore missed out on an expedition. Such a familiar face, but I could only place him as a bad guy in The Changes. I’m ashamed to say, his role as the War Chief in the Doctor Who serial The War Games didn’t occur to me, but an even greater memory lapse is that he played Mr Meaker in Rentaghost, a show I loved as a child.

Another familiar face is Ralph Bates as Michel LeBrun. I thought he was Russian from the accent, but I guess he’s French.

Nice to see News on the Moon is being disseminated in big, badly formatted blocks of upper case text. Even Pages from Ceefax would be better than this. But Ceefax wasn’t introduced until the year after this programme was made.

There’s some nice model work. Not a lot of it, but it has style.

There’s a bit of inappropriate proximity from Brayshaw, but nothing a slap in the face won’t sort. I’m liking the presence of plenty of women with responsibility, and in charge of science stuff in this show. But they still have men talking about ‘nice to see such pretty faces’ so some aspects are still a bit 70s.

There’s an amazing crash scene, where the moon buggy tips over the edge of (I presume) a crater, and falls down, a lot. They clearly pushed the boat out for this sequence and used every frame of footage.

The script consultant on the show was James Burke.

James Burke has been recently all over my Twitter feed with references to this, described as ‘the greatest piece to camera ever’. Apologies for the aspect ratio – it’s not my video.

The next episode is Outsiders, and the continuing plot of the Moonbase being pushed to produce financially useful results.

Two scientists have to show successful results, and they handle the pressure in different ways. One of them fakes a demonstration to buy time for his actual process to show results. He gets away with it, just.

Another researcher, Peter Conway (played by John Hallam, who played Light in the Doctor Who story Ghost Light) gets his process to work, but the pressure to perform leads him to walk out of the base, then take off his helmet. This show is fairly grim.

Before the next episode, there’s the end of an episode of Hazell, the detective series that was co-created by Terry Venables. Yes, that Terry Venables.

The next episode is Castor and Pollux. The Russians are visiting, being partners in the Moonbase project.

There’s a rather underwhelming rocket launch, only shown on a small monitor. There’s also sound from the launch heard in the control room. I guess that could be vibration from the ground, though.

Something goes wrong when docking with a faulty satellite, and the ship and satellite are pushed out of orbit.

It’s looking like a rescue would be impossible, given the range, and the inability to open the hatches on the damaged spaceship. The pilot is considering his future. Things are looking grim, as he considers his poison pill.

Luckily, there’s a famous Soviet Cosmonaut on the base, a good friend of the doomed pilot, and he offers to pilot the rescue ship. All this is done without the permission of the Earth authorities.

Base commander Caulder is removed from command, and second in command LeBrun, who was against the rescue in the first place, is given command. And at the crucial moment, when the head of the Russian space delegation is ordering him to halt the rescue, because if it fails, their best cosmonaut could be lost, he gives the order to continue.

I am genuinely surprised that the rescue actually works. Given the tone of this series, I expected another depressing, bleak ending.

The next episode is the last in the series. It’s called View of a Dead Planet. I like that their videophone technology is able to do a pull out and reveal to show the man is playing chess. All video chat services should have dramatic camera moves.

A VIP arrives, played by Michael Gough. He’s influential, but his opposition to a high profile joint US/USSR project, the Arctic Sun Project, has made him a bit of an outsider. “What is your main objection?” “It will destroy all life on the Earth.”

Arctic Sun was originally his idea. An orbital nuclear fusion device, melting the polar ice caps and making the Arctic Circle usable for agriculture or habitation. The loss of ‘some land’ in places like Britain was ‘a small price to pay’ for all the land reclaimed at the poles.

So the mass flooding and total destruction of many islands was not a problem for him. But he’s now calculated that the fusion device will explode, and will set off a chain reaction with ‘the hydrogen in the atmosphere’ which will burn up the entire atmosphere.

This grave pronouncement is delivered while the people of Moonbase were celebrating Bastille Day.

So when Moonbase loses contact with Earth, they suspect the worst. Earth is looking bad, it has to be said.

It’s all really bad. Caulder discusses whether there’s a humane way to kill everyone on the base. LeBrun, the hot-headed Frenchman, wants to take his share of what’s left, particularly the drink, so he can get totally drunk then kill himself.

Bruno Ponti, played by Garrick Hagon (Biggs Darklighter in Star Wars) tries to assault Dr Helen Smith, a textbook entitled whiny manbaby.

A rocket is sent back to Earth, manned by LeBrun, to discover if there’s anything left there. Meanwhile, the Moonbase residents appear to be recording podcasts about Earth history.

Caulder decides that, after dinner the next day, he’ll kill all the crew with Carbon Monoxide poisoning without telling them, letting them go to sleep and never wake up.

Lucky, then, that someone had left the big screen TV on in the dining room, as all of a sudden it springs back into life, with an appalling looking quiz show.

LeBrun reports that everything is OK back on Earth, and Gough surmises that the atmosphere didn’t blow up, but it became opaque to sunlight and radio waves for a time, and everything will get back to normal. Another almost hopeful ending, to my great surprise.

I like this series,. mostly because it’s so emblematic of a particular time in TV. A vaguely depressing workplace drama, some special effects that clearly were made for next to no money, and a 1973 colour palette that’s so brown it could a level in the original Quake. But it really felt like they were doing proper science fiction, really speculating on what life might be like, and not taking the easy route with fantastical plots or fantasy devices.

It really is the spiritual ancestor of Star Cops, which had the added bonus of being allowed to be light and funny occasionally.

After this, recording stops, and underneath there’s an old episode of Neighbours. Jason Donovan, Kylie and Alan Dale are all in the cast. The tape ends during this programme.

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Tales From The Crypt – Seinfeld – tape 1934

Over to Sky One for a packed tape, starting with Tales from the Crypt and an episode called Spoiled. Danny Elfman’s theme is very familiar, but I think it was from the compilation CD of Elfman music.

It’s another of the seemingly endless anthology series that proliferated in the late 80s and early 90s. I can list about ten of them just off the top of my head, and that would only cover a fraction of them. And yet, it’s not a format that’s perennially popular. I don’t see tons of new ones on Netflix or HBO – Black Mirror feels like an exception, but in the 90s it would just have been one of many.

This one was a bit more high profile than some, having a glittering array of Executive Producers – Richard Donner, David Giler, Walter Hill, Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis.

This episode features Faye Grant, off of V, as Janet, a woman who’s very bored with her home life.

Her heroine is Fuschia Monroe, played by Anita Morris, who was great in Ruthless People.

Her husband, too busy with work to bother with her, is played by a bewigged Alan Rachins. I almost didn’t recognise him.

Anthony LaPaglia plays a cable guy who becomes a target for Grant’s pent up emotions.

It took a long time to get to the ‘Tales from the Crypt’ twist and I’m not sure it was worth it.

The next episode is Deadline and it’s directed by Walter Hill. Richard Jordan plays a reporter.

Richard Herd plays an editor.

Jon Polito plays a man who kills his wife

This is a particularly unpleasant story, deeply misogynist.

Before the next episode, there’s the end of an episode of COPS.

The next episode is Mournin’ Mess. It features Vincent Schiavelli

And Rita Wilson

Who turns out to be a ghoul.

This is another story about a washed up reporter. I sense a theme.

Another chunk of COPS before the next episode.

The next episode is called Top Billing. It’s got a heck of a cast. Sandra Bernhard

Jon Lovitz

Bruce Boxleitner

Louise Fletcher

John Astin

This is a bit more fun, and is about a washed up actor instead of a washed up writer.

After this, recording continues with an episode of Seinfeld. This one is a good one, as Jerry and George somehow make a young reporter think they are a couple. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”

After this, another chunk of COPS before another episode of Tales from the Crypt called Loved To Death.

It features Andrew McCarthy as a writer, struggling with a romantic story.

His neighbour Mariel Hemingway is an actress, and he falls for her, but it appears he has no idea how to talk or interact with a woman. He also has the habit of fantasizing her into his story, which explains the costume here.

The apartment’s manager is David Hemmings, who offers to help McCarthy with a love potion.

This is just all sorts of creepy and wrong. I know all these stories came from the comics from the 50s and 60s, but this is really horrible stuff.

The next episode is Undertaking Palor. There’s a couple of familiar faces. Jason Marsden was in Eerie Indiana.

And Jonathan Quan was Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (as Ke Huy Quan)

John Glover plays a creepy undertaker.

And Aron Eisenberg, Nog from Deep Space Nine.

This episode, at least, isn’t horrifically sexist.

Then next episode is Beauty Rest. Mimi Rogers plays an actress who isn’t getting parts because she’s not sleeping with the directors.

Writer Buck Henry also makes an appearance.

This is yet another story that frames sexual harassment as the fault of the women involved. And I’m not even going to start with the grotesque twist ending.

Finally on this tape, another episode of Seinfeld. This one is The Implant. Teri Hatcher appears as a woman Jerry’s dating, and Elaine claims she’s had a breast enlargement.

George goes to a funeral, and gets told off for double-dipping the nachos.

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Heroes and Villains – tape 1932

This tape opens with the end of Newsroom South-East. There’s weather from John Kettley.

There’s a trailer for Dangerfield.

Then, the first episode of Heroes and Villains. I’ve been seeing the trail for one of these episodes on several other tapes, and thinking it’s the kind of thing I might have taped, but I couldn’t remember taping it at all. Yet here it is, proving I’m predictable, but forgetful.

The first episode is Queen of the East. It’s written by Patrick Barlow, who also appears as Doctor Meryon.

The programme tells the story of Lady Hester Stanhope, played by Jennifer Saunders. She’s the niece of the Prime Minister William Pitt, a woman who likes being in charge of things, but whose social standing all but disappears when the Prime Minister dies of gout.

She travels to Malta and meets a young man, Michael Bruce (Freddy Douglas) and persuades him to get his father to fund a trip to Egypt.

The trip doesn’t go well.

But while in Egypt she impresses Mehemet Ali, the viceroy, who tells her she must go to Palmyra and rule there for Egypt and Britain. The British Consulate tries to object, because Palmyra is not Egyptian territory, but he’s ignored.

It’s a very strange story, presenting Lady Hester as something of a fantasist, whose dreams of a glorious destiny, stoked by fortune tellers, are enabled by Barlow’s character, her physician Dr Meryon. And in the end it’s a little sad, as she sees out her life alone.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 26th January 1995 – 21:30

The next episode, the one that had been trailed so much, is Full Throttle, starring Rowan Atkinson as “Tim” Birkin, a famous racing driver. This episode is dramatised by Kit Hesketh Harvey.

Geoffrey Palmer plays his father.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 2nd February 1995 – 21:30

The final episode stars Jim Broadbent as Col. A D Wintle, known as “The Last Englishman”. This one is written by Anthony Horowitz, creator of Crime Traveller.

Tony Haygarth makes another appearance, as a solider who knew Wintle.

Another returning face from a recent tape is Cheryl Hall, spotted on the Peter Sellers tape, who plays a barmaid.

Robert Gillespie plays a French collaborator who has to deal with Wintle as a prisoner.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 9th February 1995 – 21:30

After this, there’s a trailer for The Buccaneers. And a trailer for Dangerfield.

Then, the start of an episode of Question Time.

The recording stops here, and underneath there’s some Coronation Street. Definitely the era of the show that I recognise.

After this, there’s a bit of an episode of Des O’Connor Tonight. Given that this is almost certainly just some stuff on the end of another recording, it’s nice that his first guest is the first appearance on Prime Time of Alan Davies.

There’s a Spanish singer, Miguel Bosé

Actor Cherie Lunghi

Lily Savage

Music from Deuce – not a group that troubled my memory.

The tape ends here.

In the ad breaks, a couple of things I noticed. First, in Coronation Street, there were two adverts for denture products. I almost never see ads for denture products, so I’m guessing that’s audience research.

And here’s a nicely animated advert for Weetabix. It doesn’t look obviously like Aardman, so I wonder who the production house was.

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The Danny Baker Show – Your Guide To Star Trek Generations – Chiller – A Captain’s Log – tape 1929

You can date this tape quite accurately to the time when Star Trek Generations was released in cinemas.

First, a segment from The Danny Baker Show, celebrating Star Trek, where Danny quizzes William Shatner about British TV, and talks to Nichelle Nichols mostly about kissing Captain Kirk.

Then, something I’ve presumably copied off a rental video.

Rick Berman: “I’ve always been fascinated with stories that start in one century and then stop and pick up in another.” Yes, that burgeoning subgenre of science fiction we’re always seeing.

Visual Effects supervisor is John Knoll of ILM, co-creator of Photoshop.

Patrick Stewart in shades.

Villain Malcolm McDowell

Jonathan Frakes talks about the opening scene. He liked the uniforms.

Marina Sirtis didn’t like filming on board an old ship at sea. “Some of us did not have our sea legs.”

Brent Spiner talks about Data having a bit more of a character now. I always found the ’emotional’ data annoying. I’m sorry.

Michael Westmore, makeup supervisor, who comes from a whole family of makeup artists.

After this, recording switches again, and there’s the end of The Trouble with Mr Bean.

Then, an episode of Chiller, the horror anthology series. This one is Prophecy, with a screenplay by Stephen Gallagher. A group of young people have a seance which elicits the words Non Omnis Moriar. I shall not entirely die.

Soon after this, while working at a cafe, she sees a woman hit by a car and thrown through a bookshop window.

Five years later she’s working as an archaeologist at the British Museum, and being hassled by one of her co-workers, in what was probably, at the time, meant to be charming dialogue.

She bumps into Nigel Havers while rushing for her train. He helps her with her cello and seems taken with her.

So does his previously recalcitrant young son, who’s suddenly helpful and polite, when before he was surly and angry.

One of her friends from the seance is Kate Isitt, off of Coupling.

She goes back to the cafe where she worked, and where the seance took place. The owner has lost the lease and is packing up, and she’s played by Zenia Merton, Sandra Benes off of Space 1999.

She hooks up with Havers, who invites her to come and stay with him in the country. It turns out he’s Lord of the manor, and his family motto is a bit ominous.

The young son seems unduly interested in one of his ancestors, the second Lord Halkin, who was a satanist, a sadist and a paedophile. “And those were his good points” says Havers. Could the evil spirit of this ancestor be trying to return? And why is his motto also inscribed above Havers’ conjugal bed?

Even more ominous is her discovery that her friends, with whom she had the seance, have started dying. And Havers’ son has clippings in his scrapbook.

Kate Isitt is late to pick up her daughter, and gets into an accident, then her car catches fire. And explodes.

Then she discovers how Havers’ wife died. She was hit by a car in London while they were waiting for her at a cafe. So the son recognised Ward when they met years later at the railway.

Another of Ward’s friends gets her arm chopped off by a falling sign when cycling.

She goes to see another of her friends, but just too late, as he falls down the lift shaft onto her lift.

There’s a big climax, with Tony Haygarth as a priest trying to exorcise the cafe where it all started. Nice to see Haygarth in a straight role for a change.

This is quite fun, and even has a nice twist at the end. Ghost stories aren’t my favourite genre, as it’s often hard to know what the stakes are, but this has a nice Final Destination thing going which gives us the jeopardy. It’s a bit genteel, like a spooky Inspector Morse, but I guess that’s the audience they have.

I had a few other episodes of this series, and I looked at them three years ago.

Edited to add: I watched this last week, it’s being published in a few days, and I just learned, on Twitter, that Zenia Merton, Space 1999‘s Sandra Benes, has died. She appeared in Chiller as the cafe owner. I’m so very, very sorry.

After this, it’s over to Sky One for yet another celebration of Star Trek. It’s another small coincidence that all these shows are appearing in my queue on the weekend of the 52nd anniversary of the start of Star Trek.

This one is Star Trek: A Captain’s Log, a fairly in depth reminiscence of the show. It’s hosted by William Shatner.

Most of the familiar faces appear, including Leonard Nimoy

DeForest Kelley

James Doohan

George Takei

Walter Koenig

And once again, Nichelle Nichols, who tells the now famous story of when she met Martin Luther King, who urged her not to leave the series because she represented the kind of diverse future he was talking about.

So much of this is so very familiar, and yet, when they show Spock’s final scene in The Wrath of Khan I’m still in tears. But that’s just me, I suppose.

After this, the recording continues, with an episode of The Late Show With David Letterman.

Guest on this episode is John Turturro.

With Music from Oasis. Once again I’m reassured that I missed nothing by ignoring most of the popular music of the 90s in favour of classical music, film soundtracks and musical theatre.

After this, there’s a small bit of Littlejohn. Then the tape ends.

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Glam Metal Detectives – tape 1941

At least, the wait is over. After being trailed to death here (and, at the time, on BBC2) we at last meet the Glam Metal Detectives.

Before we start, though, there’s a very short clip, which looks like it might come from the show itself, right at the start of the tape. It’s a naked man sitting at a desk, saying “I would stand up but it might just drive you stark raving berserk.” If it’s not GMD, then maybe it’s Saturday Night Live, and that’s a famous TV host. That does look a little like the background to Weekend Update. Anyone know? Judging by the stripes at the side of the picture, it’s from a satellite channel, so SNL is a good bet.

This recording lasts long enough for just that line, then the end of Top Gear comes up, with some rally driving.

There’s a trailer for The X Files – the episode Born Again we saw a couple of days ago.

Then, the first episode of The Glam Metal Detectives.

This was the brainchild of Comic Strip creator Peter Richardson, and was made to look like a whole bunch of programmes being channel surfed, all anchored by the core show, the Glams themselves.

Among the Glams are some familiar faces. Doon Mackichan

Phil Cornwell

Sara Stockbridge

Gary Beadle

Less familiar to me are George Yiasoumi

and Mark Cavan

Among the supporting cast is a return appearance from Red Dwarf’s Mac McDonald, here playing the villainous Rolston Brocade

Among the other shows in this episode, Betty’s Mad Dash

Scandal in a Diving Bell

Jack Nicholson is James Herriot in All Things Bright and Beautiful

The Big Me, featuring host Morag who doesn’t let the guests get a word in.

Colin Corleone – just in case the joke in this segment isn’t obvious, they have a caption for it. I wonder if that betrays a lack of confidence in the material?

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 23rd February 1995 – 21:00

The next episode is Splat. The credits for the Glams’ title song are impressive.

Guitarist Gary falls under the influence of the fizzy drink Splat.

David Schneider pops up briefly.

OK, so this caption made me laugh.

Once you notice David Schneider, it’s hard not to notice him. The policeman on the right.

And as Lucifer, both in Betty’s Mad Dash

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 2nd March 1995 – 21:00

There’s another bit of Top Gear before the next episode, and a trailer for Cardiac Arrest.

Then another episode of The Glam Metal Detectives. This week, in The Abominable Drummer there’s a Yeti on stage.

I’m sure one of my old VCRs had a remote control like this.

Some of the running gags don’t really make sense to me. Like Popeye as a policeman. Copeye? Is that the whole joke?

I’m still not feeling Colin Corleone.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 9th March 1995 – 21:00

There’s another slice of Top Gear before the next episode. And a trailer for Bottom and Game On.

Then, more from the Glams in Never Never Land. Another role for David Schneider.

He plays a beefeater who kidnaps Mary Pippins

Paul Putner pops up in some small roles.

The Bloodsports TV segments don’t seem to have any real jokes.

Call Mickey is at least a simple idea, and short enough not to get tired.

And Willy Witless, the useless comedian, always playing out over the end credits, is a really accurate performance from Phil Cornwell.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 16th March 1995 – 21:00

Another chunk of Top Gear, with a Comic Relief competition.

There’s a trailer for Vietnam Stories.

Then, episode five of The Glam Metal Detectives. It’s called Give Me Your Money. I spotted Hugh Quarshie in one of the B Movie TV segments.

That’s Chrissie Hynde playing Bob Dylan. Years before Cate Blanchett did it.

Everyone is falling under the spell of a cult, and in a nice bit of internal continuity, the solution is to bring Willy Witless, the awful comic.

I’m also quite liking Morag’s journey in The Big Me.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 23rd March 1995 – 21:00

A tiny sliver of Top Gear, then a trailer for Fantasy Football League. Also a trailer for Timewatch.

Episode Six of GMD is The Cat, The Witch and the Microwave, and sees another appearance from David Schneider.

Cleo Rocos appears in a B Movie TV segment

I think this is a young Robert Popper calling on Mickey’s services. He’s not listed in the cast, but he is credited as Director’s Assistant Researcher.

God, there he is again in Colin Corleone.

Gary Beadle plays Offal Winsome interviewing David Schneider’s Dracula.

I like that the show does maintain a continuity of sorts, and Willy Witless has now become a massive star, even affecting the end credits.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 30th March 1995 – 21:00

The final episode is part two of The Cat, The Witch and the Microwave.

One thing I do like is the credits that appear at the start or end of the longer segments, making it easier to recognise the performers.

This week’s Betty’s Mad Dash has yet another performance from David Schneider.

And there’s yet another Robert Popper appearance.

There’s a new running segment called Happy Hour in the last few episodes. Another segment with not many jokes, but another good performance from Gary Beadle. In fact, if this series has shown me anything, it’s that Gary Beadle really should have been a much bigger star.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 6th April 1995 – 21:00

The series was already available on video. I wonder how many they sold.

Well, you can’t claim that they didn’t try everything for this series. Such a lot of effort on all parts, it’s just a shame that so little of it lands successfully. Is there still GMD fandom? Do people cosplay as Rolston Brocade at conventions? I’d like to think so.

The recording continues, with a trailer for the first series of Fist of Fun.

After this, there’s the start of some golf. Then the recording stops.

Underneath, there’s a bit of a Liberal Democrat Party Political Broadcast.

There’s a trailer for East. And a trailer for Late Review.

Then the start of Newsnight, leading with the sentencing of Eric Cantona to 14 days for launching a flying kick at a spectator.

After this story, recording stops again, and there’s a bit of Late Review, with Tony Parsons, Cristina Odone and John Carey talk about the new version of Little Women. The tape ends during this discussion.

Doctor Who – tape 1894

Over to UK Gold for some classic Peter Davison Doctor Who.

First, The Visitation. I’ve watched this a couple of times over the years, but I can never quite remember what it’s about.

It opens with an alien attack on a house at some time in the past. Cavaliers but the looks of the hairstyles, but I’m not a history expert. It starts with lights in the sky, a typically cut price visual effect.

There’s rather a surprising amount of gunfire for a time when it took two minutes to pack and load a gun. And in the end, it’s a robot.

Cut to the Tardis, and the crew are discussing what happened in the previous story, a tic of this series that I never felt comfortable with. It feels like they’re bending the format, but we’re not really getting much out of it.

Tegan is getting ready to leave the Tardis. They’re dropping her off at Heathrow. She’s also still talking about the last story, Kinda, even though Nyssa slept through the whole story.

It doesn’t look much like Heathrow, though. Wrong time period.

They’re set upon by ruffians, and there’s some actual, choreographed fisticuffs.

They’re taken to safety by Richard Mace, played by Michael Robbins, who’s written as a former actor, so his way with dialogue at least has an explanation.

They go to the local manor house, and find it somewhat deserted, although once they’re all in the basement, a strange hand locks the door. Is that a wicket keeping glove with a few sparkly gems stuck on it?

There’s a hidden doorway at the bottom of the stairs, disguised by a fake wall.

Tegan and Adric are captured by the robot and brought into a lab of some kind.

We keep hearing a voice and seeing an alien hand, but there’s no reveal of the monster yet. I bet it’s amazing.

 

Well maybe not. In a strange directorial choice, we first see the alien as it wanders around a corner, in mid-shot. Quite a dull reveal.

This isn’t a bad shot – glass painting probably.

The Doctor is captured again, and about to be executed.

Nyssa gets back to the Tardis, and decides now would be a great time to shift some of the furniture in her bedroom.

Tegan is put under the control of the alien, a Terileptil.

Nyssa seems to be building a sonic weapon out of a hostess trolley.

There’s an infamous scene in this story – the destruction of the Sonic Screwdriver.

The cliffhanger to episode three involves the Doctor urging a mind-controlled Tegan not to open a cage with a plague carrying rat in it.

Adric and Nyssa lure the robot to the Tardis. Adric literally kicks the robot’s arse at one point.

And the story ends with a big fight – well, a small fight – in the middle of London where the other terileptils are, which leads to a fire. A Great Fire.

I’ve realised why I can never remember quite what this story is about. In my head, it gets confused with The Awakening, which feels like the same historical era, but is actually English Civil War cosplayers. The Sealed Knot was the group who used to do it for local fetes in our area. In my head, these two stories have smoshed together.

Next on this tape, Black Orchid. It opens with a man being strangled, and a native south american tribesman reading a book. All perfectly normal.

The Tardis arrives at a railway station. Making good use of a railway preservation society, probably.

The Doctor appears to be expected. There’s a car waiting for him, and the chauffeur looks strangely at Nyssa. They’re expecting ‘the Doctor’ for their cricket match. And the Doctor turns out to be very good at cricket.

The reason for everyone staring at Nyssa is that she’s the spitting image of the young lady of the house, Ann Talbot.

An awful lot of this episode is just the regulars hanging out at a party, and it’s strangely enjoyable. Any jeopardy there is only really kicks in towards the end of the episode, as the Doctor is locked into a hidden passage, while someone unknown takes his fancy dress costume, and menaces Lady Ann.

Adric is enjoying the buffet.

Lady Ann’s attacker removes the costume and the Doctor finds it once he gets out of the very sumptuously appointed priest hole in the top of the house. He’s then accused of attacking Ann and killing the servant.

For something that looks like it’s trying to be an Agatha Christie mystery, there’s almost no mystery at all. The programme shows us the murderer early on in this episode, having taken Ann up to his hidden quarters. He’s terribly scarred. Coupled with information in the previous episode, about the older brother who went missing in the Amazon on an expedition two years ago, and the fact that an amazonian tribesman is watching over him, it doesn’t take Miss Marple to solve this mystery.

I suppose, with only two episodes, it might be hard to weave a complex story, but this aspect of the story does let it down a bit.

Plus, this is the only story for absolutely ages that can be classed as a purely historical story – the only science fiction elements are The Doctor and his friends.

Bonus additional Twitter coincidence. Now, this one’s quite low level, as I follow a lot of Doctor Who fans on Twitter, so there are large numbers in play, but a couple of hours after I finished writing this entry, this tweet popped up in a thread of embarrassing Doctor Who photo opportunities. So I thought I’d share it.

After this, the recording continues. And in the ad break, there’s a trailer for Blake’s 7. I know I should have expected that, but for some reason I wasn’t thinking, and I was watching the trailer, enjoying the music, thinking how much fun Blake’s 7 could be, and then there’s Jacqueline Pearce as Servalan, of course, one of the main reasons the show is as great as it is. And it’s less than a week (as I’m writing this) since she sadly died. I’m so very sorry.

The rest of the tape plays out with quite a lot of Jacques Tati’s classic comedy Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, which I first saw quite a long time ago, at our local old town hall, where they showed 16mm prints, and only had a single projector so they had to stop to change the reels. Despite this, it was very funny. I’ve always admired his tennis serve.

Also in the ad breaks, there’s the Heineken Blues advert where an old man playing blues on his front stoop gets discovered by a record executive (played by Michael Lerner), then his friend picks up the harmonica, starts playing and falls through the floor. You know the one.

Did you know this guy also appeared in one of the Peugeot 106 adverts featuring a young Julie Graham? I didn’t until just now.

Adverts:

  • Domestos
  • Heineken – Blues
  • Pot Noodle – Phil Hartman
  • Kodak Gold
  • Gillette Sensor For Women
  • BT – Bob Hoskins
  • Domestos
  • Heineken Export – Stephen Fry
  • Safeway
  • Roysters
  • Ty-phoo
  • Special K
  • Abbey National – Richard Wilson Pauline Yates
  • Pedigree Chum
  • Gillette Series
  • trail: Doctor Who – Earthshock
  • trail: Blake’s 7
  • trail: On The Town
  • Kodak Gold
  • Pantene
  • Peugeot 106
  • Fairy Liquid
  • Domestos
  • Pantene
  • Kodak Gold
  • Minties – Ian Botham
  • Bird’s Eye Steakhouse Beefburgers
  • Ty-phoo
  • Special K
  • Zoom Lolly
  • Pond’s Performance
  • Salon Selectives
  • Daz – Danny Baker
  • Bupa

The X Files – tape 1927

This tape opens with the end of an episode of Top Gear.

There’s another trailer for Glam Metal Detectives. You can’t accuse the BBC of not promoting it.

There’s a trailer for Murder Most Horrid II and Cardiac Arrest.

Then, it’s The X Files. Season One on BBC2, and the first episode here is Tooms. It’s a direct sequel to the earlier episode Squeeze, where the eponymous Tooms could squeeze through the narrowest gaps, and would eat people’s livers.

But first, Scully is reprimanded by Skinner, who wants all their cases to go by the book. She’s not happy.

Tooms is released, possibly because Mulder’s evidence, that Tooms is close to 100 years old, wasn’t convincing.

Mulder and Scully find another old victim, possibly of Tooms, and try to link it to him. Meanwhile, Tooms tries to frame Mulder for beating him up.

But he eventually builds his cocoon, Mulder finds him, and there’s a tight, tense chase underneath an escalator, and them Tooms gets squished in the steps of the escalator.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 16th February 1995 – 21:00

Before the next episode, there’s a glimpse of the end of the first episode of Glam Metal Detectives. It really feels like this show wants to be watched and loved, the way it’s showing up on all these tapes.

There’s a trailer for Bottom and Game On. And a trailer for Modern Times.

Then, another case from the X Files. A detective is thrown out of a window in a police station, and the only person in the room is a little girl.

Maggie Wheeler (Janice off of Friends) plays a detective who found the little girl in the first place.

This episode is called Born Again and you won’t be surprised to find out that reincarnation has a lot to do with the plot. What might be more surprising is how important Origami turns out to be.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 23rd February 1995 – 21:30

The next episode here is Roland. Roland is a janitor in a Propulsion Laboratory, where they’re developing faster jet engines. Some of the scientists are less than understanding of Roland, who has learning difficulties. He’s played by Zeljko Ivanek, difficult to recognise as one of the bad guys in 24.

In the opening scene, the scientists are arguing about their work, then all but one leave, and Roland locks him into the testing chamber and turns on the jet engine.

In the end, Roland is the twin brother of a scientist who was killed by one of the other scientists, and whose cryogenically frozen head is remote controlling Roland. Obvious, really.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 2nd March 1995 – 21:30

There’s another burst of the Glam Metal Detectives before the next episode along with a trailer for The Sunday Show, and one for A Very Open Prison.

Then, the next episode of The X Files which opens with a car chase, a surprisingly rare occurrence in the show.

Mulder is getting frustrated about his informant Deep Throat.

This is supposed to be the big season finale of the first series, but I haven’t a clue what’s going on. Mulder is wandering around, getting phone calls from people who then disappear, and now he’s wandering around a dark room filled with people in tanks.

Scully has a scientist analyze a sample, and there follows one of the most nonsensical scenes I’ve ever seen.

                            CARPENTER
          I've done some work. These are the DNA sequences from the 
          bacteria sample you brought in. You seem to know something 
          about molecular biology. Do you know what you're looking at?

                            SCULLY
          Yeah, I think those are genes.

                            CARPENTER
          Right. They're called base pairs. Each pair is made up of 
          something called a nucleotide. Only four nucleotides exist 
          in DNA. Four. And through some miracle of design that we 
          have yet to fathom, every living thing is created out of 
          these four basic building blocks. What you're looking at is 
          a sequence of genes from the bacteria sample. Normally, we'd 
          find no gaps in the sequence. But with these bacteria, we do.

                            SCULLY
          Why is that?

                            CARPENTER
          I don't know why. But I tell you, under any other circumstances, 
          my first call would have been to the government.

                            SCULLY
          What exactly did you find?

                            CARPENTER
          A fifth and sixth DNA nucleotide. A new base pair. Agent 
          Scully, what are you looking at... it exists nowhere in 
          nature. IT would have to be, by definition... extraterrestrial.

I’m used to Star Trek playing fast and loose with DNA but this is just ludicrous.

But Scully gets into the sooper secrit lab containing the source of all this mysterious DNA by guessing the password, and guess what. It’s an alien.

Mulder is kidnapped and Scully has to trade the alien for his life. But then Deep Throat is killed – this, at least, was an exciting twist.

Mulder is returned, although it looks like his eyes have been turned into little mouths.

And they even rip off the ending of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 16th March 1995 – 21:30

After this, recording continues. There’s a trailer for The Outer Limits. Then a trailer for Vietnam Stories, a series of programmes on the anniversary of the arrival of US troops in Vietnam.

Next, a short programme, Strange Stories, which was originally shown on Weird Night (I looked at that a long time ago, but it’s only a few months in TV schedule terms). This is Beasts, Visions and Coincidences. It’s the coincidences I’m most enjoying, some of which are way more unlikely than any of the coincidences that this blog seems to turn up. Like Jason Pegler, an AA man who walked past a payphone that was ringing, decided to answer it, and it was his office, calling for him, thinking they’d called his home number. But what had actually happened is that they had dialled the right prefix, but used his staff number instead of his telephone number, and it was that payphone that he happened to be walking past at exactly the moment it rang. It makes my pathetic coincidences seem mundane and normal by comparison.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 16th March 1995 – 22:15

There’s a trailer for Russian Wonderland.

Then another small programme called Conundrum talking about the white blood cell.

There’s a trailer for Late Review.

Then, there’s most of an episode of Newsnight. There’s horror at a meeting between Bill Clinton and Gerry Adams.

The tape ends during this programme.