Month: September 2020

Alligator – V – tape 21

Today we’re going way back to one of the earlier tapes in my collection.

The film today is Alligator, ranking third in the late 70s/80s monster movie pantheon, fairly far behind Piranha and Jaws. This film has a link with Piranha, though, as the screenplay was written by John Sayles, which always helps to elevate this kind of thing.

The story opens at an Alligator Park, where a man gets badly mauled by one of the alligators. A little girl gets a pet alligator there, but later her father (for no reason I could discern) throws it down the toilet because he’s angry. This was 1968.

Fast Forward to today (1980 by release date) and detective Robert Forster is buying a new puppy, after his last one was stolen.

The pet store owner is played by Sidney Lassick who I recognised from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Forster is called to the local water purification plant, where some human remains have washed up.

There’s dogs too, some of them far bigger than they should be. A local lab is doing experiments on dogs, and the pet store owner has been supplying them with dogs, and getting rid of the dogs in the sewers. But he also meets a grim demeez.

This leads Forster to the lab, but the lead scientist there is adamant they breed all their dogs or get them from the pound.

One of the local newspapers is The Daily Bugle!

Forster goes down into the sewers, with a young officer who’s the only one who will go with him.

But naturally, it ends in tragedy as they come across the alligator of the title, and the young rookie gets dragged away. That’s the second partner Forster has lost.

Now they know it’s a giant alligator, they need an expert, and wouldn’t you know it, the little girl whose alligator was flushed in the opening sequence has now grown up into Robin Riker, playing Marisa, and she’s an expert herpetologist.

A reporter on the National Probe has a thing against Forster, hence this story rubbing salt into the wound.

He’s asking at the hospital where Forster was recovering after losing partner number 2, who tells him he was talking about ‘Alligators in the sewers’ – precisely the line that got referenced in ET a couple of years later, by little Drew Barrymore.

He goes looking in the sewers, and doesn’t make it out. His camera is flashing and taking pictures as he dies.

Nice to see his newspaper treating his death with the reverence it deserves.

After an attempt by the police to drive the alligator into a waiting firing squad that yields no results, the alligator finds another way out of the sewer. Even given its size, this seems unlikely, but it’s fun.

They don’t stint on the eating of people. A cop who arrives and immediately crashes his car gets caught and eaten.

Now along comes Anton du Beke from Strictly playing a big game hunter. Only joking, it’s the great Henry Silva, playing Col Brock. But he is a big game hunter. And an enormous sexist to every woman he meets.

The evil head of Slade Pharmaceuticals, the company running the dog laboratory, is deep in the frame for giving hormones to animals which make them grow massively, and Forster has asked one too many questions, so he gets him fired from the police force.

This film has some genuinely brutal moments, like when the kids are playing around their pool, they push a little kid in, and he gets swallowed.

Not only is Brock a sexist pig, he’s also racist. He recruits three local men as ‘native bearers’ to help him look for the alligator.

But he’s a rubbish hunter so he’s soon alligator food.

Forster has a nightmare, but there’s a weird film glitch in the broadcast.

Nice use of an amputee to show someone get his legs bitten off.

The evil Big Pharma goon is at a family wedding – his daughter is marrying the creepy scientist. This wedding isn’t going to to smoothly.

Although I’m not sure it’s fair that the maid was the first to get it.

There’s an enormous number of stuntmen being thrown through the air in this sequence, and I’m happy to report that one of them definitely did land on the wedding cake. That’s the law.

Pharma-guy gets into his limo and locks the door, so the mayor (I think it’s the mayor) gets eaten. But the alligator still trashes the limo, so Pharma-guy is toast.

So now some really rich people have died, it’s time to stop the monster. So Forster once more goes into the sewers, and sets a time bomb in the alligator’s lair.

He hurries to his escape route, a manhole to the road. But there’s a car stopped right on top of it. And of course it’s driven by a little old lady.

Marisa arrives at the escape point, and tries to get the old woman to move her car. She refuses to budge even when Marisa bangs on her window and screams at her to move. Doesn’t she realise? So Marisa just carjacks the car, pushing the old lady over to move the car.

To be fair, old woman should probably thank her, because look what happened to another car parked over a drain.

This is a lot of fun. Not quite as satirical as Piranha, but highly enjoyable.

After this, recording switches, and there’s an episode of V – The Series. The Hero sees the evil lizard aliens pretend to be the resistance and cause trouble, so the government, who are working with the alien Visitors, can crack down to the Black Lives Matter Resistance fighters. That’s Judson Scott there, possibly familiar from Star Trek II.

Elizabeth Maxwell (Jennifer Cooke) has telekinetic powers. I think she was the one who was a baby in the mini series, which makes her being an adult now slightly dodgy. But here she is making her boyfriend’s bed rise up and down.

This was the 80s. You can tell. Alien bosses Diana and Lydia have such great hair.

And their boss Charles is so louche, literally a lounge lizard.

At this point in the story, quisling head of the Earth collaborators, Donald Trump Nathan Bates is suffering from Covid 19 a bullet wound after a resistance attack. So the aliens offer the Earth government a computer simulation of Bates, a ‘deep fake’ if you will, which will say anything they want.

Bruce Davison guest stars. He’s one of several people in a copy shop who are taken hostage by the police, and, thanks to the fake Nathan Bates, one of them will be handed over to the visitors for execution each day until the leaders of the resistance hand themselves over.

There’s an attempt to get close to the copy shop by Willie and Elias Taylor, but the aliens have got a disintegration beam, and Taylor gets killed. This seems like a pretty big deal, killing off a character who’s in the main titles.

To stop Bruce Davison from being killed, Mike Donovan (Marc Singer) hands himself over, and faces up to Charles. The rest of the resistance attack, there’s some general running around and fisticuffs, but everyone manages to get away, somehow.

The tape ends right after this episode.


  • Whitbread Best Bitter
  • Witness in cinemas
  • Quick Brew
  • Sealy Posturepedic
  • Nissan
  • Pizzaland
  • BonusPrint
  • Barclaycard
  • Philips Compact Disc Players
  • Isopon P38
  • Now Dance
  • Renault 11
  • Jump
  • Alex Lawrie
  • Ford Granada
  • Hovis
  • Denim
  • Flora
  • Olympus Trip AF – George Cole David Bailey

Doctor Who – K9 And Company – tape 1617

Back to when UK Gold were repeating classic Doctor Who – in fact, this was for the 30th anniversary, so I make that 1993.

And this story is apparently the winner of the best monster – Warriors Of The Deep. Did they exclude Daleks and Cybermen from the poll? Check out those jumpsuits.

The Tardis runs on BBC Basic

That’s 60s Scream Queen Ingrid Pitt playing Dr Solow.

And that’s 70s horror icon Ian McCulloch too, as Nilson. I presume he’s playing him foreign, otherwise I’ve no explanation for him pronouncing the word ‘Demise’ as ‘Demeez’.

It pleased me no end that so much of the on-screen graphics for the show at this time were generated by a BBC Micro.

“How do you feel, Maddox?” after a bit of brainwashing. He’s more compliant, plus his eyeshadow is fabulous. He’ll be fronting a New Romantic synth band before the story is out.

The Doctor’s plan is to set the reactor to overload, then in the confusion, slip back to the Tardis. This seems reckless. Perhaps he was watching Hostile Waters. But they’re not quick enough and are found. The Doctor does some fighting, but at least he apologises when he elbows someone in the stomach. But he’s pushed over the edge – nice stunt – and Turlough is immediately “Oh forget him, Tegan, he’s drowned.” I never liked Turlough.

I haven’t even mentioned the Silurians yet, and they’re the big villains.

And the Sea Devils, who I always preferred because I saw them first. I missed most of Jon Pertwee’s first season, or at least I have no memory of seeing it. But the Sea Devils was a very strong memory. Nice use of mirrors to make it look like there’s loads of them.

The Sea Devil commander appears to be called Cervix.

First the fighting, now pointing guns. I thought Davison’s Doctor was supposed to be the wimpy one.

Did the Doctor not bother with locking the Tardis? They just randomly walked in.

The miniatures in this are probably about as good as the subs in Hostile Waters.

The infamous monster in this story is the Myrka. Not terrible, but doesn’t really work in such a brightly lit set.

Maddox has picked totally the wrong time for a server upgrade.

The lead Silurian is Ichtar, whom the Doctor met in their previous encounter. I’m sure this was very exciting for fans who remembered his name.

Other delights in this story are Ingrid Pitt karate kicking the Myrka.

In the end, it’s a bit of a downer, with everybody but the principal cast dead, and the Doctor lamenting “There should have been another way.”

Next on this tape, K9 And Company, the show’s attempt to produce a spin-off. Not a stupid idea by any means, after all, The Sarah Jane Adventures was a terrific show over 20 years later, but this one wasn’t quite special enough to tempt the BBC into a series.

It starts off with some good old-fashioned devil worship, with lots of robed figures walking around chanting ‘Hecate, Hecate’, although it sounds a bit like they’re chanting ‘Hegarty, Hegarty’ like they’re the goth fanclub of Darts’ singer Den Hegarty.

They’re burning a picture which we immediately learn is the picture of Lavinia Smith, local scientist, who recently upset the village by writing about local evidence of devil worship. Oh, and she’s Sarah Jane’s aunt. And she’s just about to travel to the US.

Her friend and neighbour is explaining to her about how some in the village were put out when she wrote the letter about witchcraft. And she absolutely, guaranteed, will turn out to be someone big in the local coven by the time the programme is out, I mean, look at her.

It’s funny, but I can’t help thinking of these two as Amelia Rumford and Vivien Fay from the Who story The Stones of Blood.

Some time later, Sarah Jane Smith arrives at her aunt’s house, intending to visit her for Christmas. There’s nobody there, and she’s met by creepy gardener George Tracey, played by Colin Jeavons. He was always great at playing creepy characters, which always made his parallel career as a presenter on Play School seem all the more discordant.

His son seems a little less creepy. Young Peter arrives a little later offering a flask of tea from his dad. He’s wearing a studded leather jacket, so you can be sure he’s got a delinquent past. He’s played by Sean Chapman, and always seemed familiar to me, but it wasn’t until just this moment that it clicked who he was – he plays evil Uncle Frank in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser.

As well as leaving Sarah Jane in the lurch with her sudden disappearance, Aunt Lavinia has also invited her young ward Brendan to the house for the holiday, back from boarding school.

When they get back to the house, Bill Pollock is waiting there, introducing himself as her aunt’s partner. He’s played by Bill Fraser. He complains that their business has had two terrible years.

Finally, she gets around to opening a large crate which Aunt Lavinia has had hanging around for ages, since she lived in Croydon.

It’s K9 – Mark III. A gift from the Doctor. Sarah had left the show before K9 was introduced so she doesn’t know what he is, but I love her reaction when he tells her he’s from the Doctor. It’s a tiny fraction of the emotion that her return to the show in 2006 caused, but it’s there nevertheless.

Sadly, this scene then becomes young Brendan reeling off a bunch of technical phrases, some of which are a bit sci-fi, others are genuine computer terms from the time. “Do you have a UART?” he asks. He’ll be asking where he can insert his floppy next.

She’s invited to a party at the Baker’s, where she’s introduced to the editor of the local newspaper, Henry Tobias, played by John Quarmby. Judging by the musical sting that accompanies their meeting, he’s a wrong-un too.

Back at the house, Brendan is attacked by two people, but K9 is there to stun them.

It’s the Traceys. Young Peter wakes up, hands tied up by Brendan, and warns him. “Get away from here. You and the girl. You’ve got to get away.” Rather than a threat, this sound like a warning. Perhaps Peter is an unwilling accomplice in whatever is happening.

Tracey escapes but his father tells him that the other Hecate worshippers will have their revenge if he doesn’t get Brendon. Which he does.

When she discovers he’s missing, Sarah Jane tries the police, who are a bit rubbish. A lot of this story reminds me of Hot Fuzz without the jokes.

Not completely useless, though, as one of them knows about Brendan’s kidnap, and is unhappy, so he ends up dead on the road.

Peter Tracey reluctantly gets initiated into the witchy group.

Sarah talks to the Bakers, but they’re acting very skeptical, and condescending.

There’s the old horror film trope of the near miss with a tractor.

The villagers are genuinely going to sacrifice Brendan.

This went out at 5:45 on a Christmas Bank Holiday evening, just before Terry & June. Is devil worship and human sacrifice suitable for that slot?

Don’t worry, though, kids, K9 zaps all the bad people.

And Sarah Jane does some high kicking of her own. “Put that in your leader Mr Tobias.”

She unmasks the leader of the coven – and I swear, I would have said this was Juno Baker – it’s the old prone unconscious face problem. But it’s not, it’s another villager.

And the other leader is Bill Pollock – who’s similarly hard to recognise.

And, in the show’s most surprise moment, the slightly creepy Bakers turn out to have had nothing to do with the coven.

After this, recording switches and there’s the first ten minutes of episode two of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. I don’t know why there’s only that much of it. Seems odd I would start recording then stop. Still, we get to see Douglas Adams in the opening, worrying about money.

But after a few minutes of this, the recording stops, and underneath there’s the end of the Doctor Who documentary Resistance is Useless – appropriate because the Hitchhiker’s scene just before this is the one where the vogon guard says that all the time.

After this, recording stops again, and underneath, there’s some classic Eastenders. The tape ends during this omnibus edition.


  • trail: The Young Ones
  • trail: Alexei Sayle’s Stuff
  • trail: Rory Bremner
  • Arthur’s
  • Cornhill Family Cover Plan
  • Yesterdays
  • Cornhill Senior Security Plan
  • John Smith’s – Jack Dee
  • News of the World
  • Alpen
  • Batchelor’s Cup a Soup
  • Bird’s Eye Fish Cuisine
  • Cornhill Senior Security Plan

Bugs – Hostile Waters – tape 2406

We’re in the Endgame now, as this tape is the first one on my final 4 terabyte hard drive. I finished the actual digitising of these tapes in July 2016, but because I could do several tapes a day, and I’ve kept the blog to one a day, we’re only now on the final stretch.

So what do we have? There’s the end of the National Lottery, presented by Ainsley Harriot, and I noticed Jaye Griffiths there, along with Edwyn Collins. She’s presumably there to promote the new series of Bugs.

There’s a trailer for Preston Front. And one for Coming to America.

Then, the aforementioned new series of Bugs, with an episode written by Stephen Gallagher called Blaze of Glory. Leslie Ash is a guest star, playing Kitty McHaig, an artist who likes burning and blowing things up.

Her twin brother phones her, from the building project he is working on for their father. She thinks it’s a social call, but he’s calling to say goodbye as he jumps off a big crane.

There’s a definite ‘get the gang back together’ vibe at the start. Ros is licensing some of her technology for a tiny digital video camera.

Ed (Craig MacLachlan) is buzzing round a track testing a new motorcycle when he comes a cropper.

Beckett, meanwhile, is having money troubles, as his bank cards are being swallowed by the cash machine. A court order means all his assets have been frozen.

But the team is called to a construction site run by the Andrew McHaig, father of Kitty and her brother. A truck carrying dynamite overturned in a tunnel. Ros has found a device in the brake pipes that caused the brakes to seize up.

Ed goes to see Kitty at her studio to find out who might have a grudge against her father.

McHaig’s team find a bricked up wall that’s not on their charts, and inside they find what appears to be a chemical weapon of some kind.

Ed asks Kitty if she knows someone who could have built the device that caused the tunnel accident.

Backett gets served a writ by a process server. He tells Ed that the reason he’s in trouble is that he gave what he thought was a reference to a woman he almost married, but he was actually guaranteeing her debts, which have now returned to haunt him.

In a shocking surprise that nobody could have seen coming, we learn that Kitty was responsible for the truck accident, and now she’s going after the chemical weapon.

Beckett goes to the department who were responsible for the weapon in the first place and meets Jan (Jan Harvey), Director of Intelligence Activity, who tells him the department has been drastically downsized.

All that’s left of the department is a room full of files, and one file clerk – Alex (Paula Hunt).

Jan floats the idea of restarting the department, and asks if Beckett would be interested. “I could do some consultancy.” “Do you know the definition of a consultant Mr Beckett? It’s a man who knows 100 different ways of making love, but he doesn’t know any women.”

Ros and Ed are now apparently experts in safe disposal of chemical weapons.

But Kitty, who clearly has no worries about being near a 50 year old chemical weapon without a hazmat suit, is doing a Tom Cruise bit, hanging upside down to fiddle with Ed’s forklift. This scene only exists because they’d seen Mission Impossible last year and thought it would be cool to do that.

Beckett breaks in to the records office, but finds that Alex isn’t a pushover.

Thanks to Kitty’s sabotage, the forklift malfunctions, and starts crushing the missile. McHaig runs in to cut the hydraulics, and gets splashed by whatever’s in the chemical weapon.

Ed is stranded with the now ticking missile. Kitty arrives with an autonomous vehicle, apparently to rescue him, but when the vehicle stops, Ed finds he’s in a huge chemical dump.

Ros realises Kitty is behind it, so to prevent her getting away she handcuffs them together.

Kitty gives them the override, so Ed can drive the missile out and get it into the safety container before it explodes.

But the threat’s not over – as Ros points out, the plan wasn’t to have the missile explode because Kitty couldn’t have known that would happen. So there must be a bomb in the rescue truck. Ed jumps in and drives it down the tunnel, can’t quite punch in the override as he’s driving, and barely escapes when it explodes. Kitty gets away, so she might be a recurring villain.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 19th July 1997 – 20:10

Recording switches and there’s the very end of another National Lottery show, plus a trailer for Hostile Waters (see later).

Then, the next episode of BugsThe Revenge Effect. Jan has persuaded Beckett to help set up a new department. But Ros is still not on board.

Ed has survived the explosion, but he’s not in a good way.

Kitty McHaig is in hiding, and she’s started murdering people.

Ros’s friend Channing, with whom she’s licensing her tech, gives her a car. “That’s not a car, that’s road jewellery.”

Kitty’s henchman is up to no good too – changing the passcode on a secret bank account she’s setting up. It looks like she’s trying to impersonate a Duchess.

He turns up at Ed’s bedside, and writes down the passcode on Ed’s plaster, then tells him – and Kitty who’s put a bug on him – that’s put the passcode for the bank account on there, Kitty has the account name, now Ed has the passcode. He wants them to ‘fight it out’ so he has time to disappear.

Trouble is, he used a woman’s name, so it’s hard to tell which one it is when the plaster’s removed.

Kitty kidnaps Ed from the hospital, but without the plaster. Will he give up the secrets?

Ros and Beckett send Alex, the file clerk, into the bank to fire and EMP pulse so they can map the security. They’re treating her like a dullard, so obviously she’s going to demonstrate leet skillz (especially after her martial arts demonstration last week). After their plan falls down because the bank’s security is too strong, she improvises, changing up her appearance into a power suit and severe hair, and pretends to be Ros wanting to open an account. Would a state of the art bank security terminal have a Microsoft natural keyboard? Possibly.

However, the banks’ security is shocking. The system asks for the passcode first, and it shows a warning that the passcode is not unique. And to cancel the error you have to enter the account name – for the account which already has that passcode. It’s hard to know where to start with the security implications. Let’s break it down.

  • The passcode must be being stored in plaintext – unless they’re comparing it to every single account, which in itself is a security hole
  • Having to enter the existing account name requires that you know that name
  • But that’s OK because the bank executive talking to Alex knows the names and passcodes of all the customers.
  • But we’ve seen that the users create the passcode online – does he get an email every time a password is changed

I’m not convinced this bank would pass a security audit.

The Duchess whose identity Kitty is trying to steal arrives, but before Kitty’s henchman can kidnap her, Beckett is on the case.

But Ed is still in danger from Kitty, who has started shooting explosive shells at him as he tries to escape.

They grapple on the roof. It’s probably because Ed is supposed to be still recovering from his many injuries, but well done to the show for not making it look like a bloke is beating up a woman. This could have been a bit bad.

Ros and Beckett rescue Ed, but Kitty gets away in Ros’s car. “I’ll take out one of the tyres, she won’t get far” says Ros, picking up Kitty’s bug gun. Boom! “I was just going to tell you that those are Kitty’s own exploding shells.” Brutal. But I like the symmetry – her art involved her blowing up cars, so that’s how she dies.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 26th July 1997 – 20:10

After this, the recording continues with a trailer for Tiger Bay and one for Preston Front.

Then, Hostile Waters, a BBC film announced as “From the writer of Edge of Darkness” which says a lot. That a drama first shown in 1985 is still a touchstone in 1997 tells you the regard that programme held.

There’s some starry names in the cast. The Russian captain is played by Rutger Hauer.

Martin Sheen plays the captain of the US submarine.

I spotted Dominic Monaghan as one of the Russian crew.

And Alexis Denisof working in Fleet Ocean Surveillance.

Regina Taylor plays his Lieutenant.

Harris Yulin plays Admiral Quinn, their overall commender.

Max von Sydow plays Admiral Chernavin.

There’s a definitely Chernobyl vibe as reactor rods are manually lowered to stop the reactor going critical.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 26th July 1997 – 21:00

After this, there’s a trailer for Match of the Eighties and Classic Albums, plus one for the World Athletics Championship.

Then, a BBC News bulletin, leading with a rather nasty crash at an air show.

After the news, there’s an advert for the BBC Annual Report (featuring Jill Dando).

There’s weather from Helen Young, then trailers for A Fish Called Wanda and Innocent Victims.

Then the tape runs out during the start of a film, Keeper of the City.


The Night He Came Home: John Carpenter’s Halloween – tape 2549

It’s an even shorter tape today, with one single programme on it. It’s The Night He Came Home: John Carpenter’s Halloween. A documentary by Mark Kermode, who can’t resist dressing up as The Shape for the opening.

It’s an interview with John Carpenter about the origin and influence of Halloween on its 21st birthday.

This is short, but really interesting. Carpenter breaks down the opening shot, talks about how the Steadicam (actually a Panaglide at the time) influenced the look of the movie, and what he thought of the sequels.

Here’s someone else’s upload.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 30th October 1999 – 23:15

After this, there’s a trailer for Comedy on BBC Choice, then the recording stops.

And that marks the end of my 7th 4 Terabyte hard drive full of VHS rips. 28 terabytes, and counting.

Tomorrow we start the last one.

Horizon – tape 2542

This is a shorter tape today, with three episodes of Horizon. The first two form something of a two-parter starting with Atlantis Uncovered. This programme looks at some of the myths of the story of Atlantis, and the evidence that debunks those myths. It’s a nice combination of ‘Ancient Alien’ woo and good old fashioned archaeology.

I particularly liked Ken Fader, who teaches about Atlantis myths, particularly the idea that the lost Atlantis was the source of all civilisation. After al, lots of geographically distinct civilisations build pyramids, or use symbols to write, so surely they must have all got the idea from one place, hence Atlantis. Fader has plenty of evidence that these developments were definitely independent, and not related.

There’s some great archive footage about carbon dating. Although to be fair this could be anything.

A blast from the past, with Erich von Daniken, from a 1977 Horizon episode. “Chariots of the Gods, man. They practically owned South America.”

From the same programme, a clip of Carl Sagan.

And the modern version of von Daniken, Graham Hancock, of whom more later.

There’s a lot of interesting archaeology in this one. One of the Atlantis arguments is that the Egyptian hieroglyphics on tombs are very sophisticated, so why don’t we see cruder writing forms showing the development. And as with similar arguments used in the Creationism vs Evolution field, the answer turns out to be “here they are, we just hadn’t found them.’ Some recent excavations had unearthed examples of writings going back much further than before, and the development of the writing system from crude markings to more sophisticated hieroglyphs was obvious.

The programme closes with a reminder about how ‘pernicious myths’ about a glorious old civilisation can lead to very bad things happening indeed. See also: Brexit and Trump.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 28th October 1999 – 21:30

The next programme concentrates on the ‘theories’ of Graham Hancock, who we briefly saw in the last programme. He was flavour of the month in ‘alien astronaut’ circles at this time, and the programme spends a lot of time dismantling his ideas.

A lot of his theories involve picking ancient sites, and matching them to the positions of stars in constellations. For example, the three pyramids at Giza are supposed to match the positions of the stars in Orion’s belt. But Dr Kate Spence from Cambridge explains how the location constrained the positions of the pyramids.

Dr Eleanor Mannikka spent 20 years mapping the ancient structures around Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and she looks at Hancock’s claim that the structures reflect the stars in the constellation Draco.

It’s not a particularly strong match. Hancock’s response: “There’s a rather good correspondence, by no means absolutely spot-on accurate.” It’s very weak. And Mannikka can cite well documented historical reasons for the placement of all the temples – the tallest hill, the site of a great battle, etc.

And the real kicker is that there are more than 60 temples in the region, and Hancock picked ten of them.


“Horizon has made a discovery which further questions his basic theory.” an arrangement of unique monuments with a pattern of stars – the constellation Leo the Lion. The monuments include Macy’s, Grand Central Station, Madison Square Gardens and Times Square. “The Leo Masterplan doesn’t account for every Manhattan landmark, but using Hancock’s criteria, it doesn’t have to.” This is brutal stuff.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 4th November 1999 – 21:30

Before the final episode there’s a trailer for Besieged.

Then, another HorizonThe Midas Formula. This looks at the Black-Scholes model for calculating the ideal price of a financial option. It was seen as a miracle as it appeared to allow the trader to eliminate risk by taking two options together.

I don’t pretend to understand the trading market, as it’s mostly just gambling with stupid jackets on, and (as this programme relates) plenty of experiments have been run which shows that a random number generator does as well as most traders.

Naturally, there’s horror stories where the trading companies lost enormous sums – $500,000,000. And if the company went down, something like a trillion dollars would be lost. (Nobody ever explains where that money goes, though.) The company had to be bailed out, and there’s a clip of Bernie Sanders asking why billionaires are being bailed out by the Federal Reserve.

I might be biased against this whole world. When I went to university, I had to take an Economics course, even though I was studying Software Engineering. And I had to drop out because I kept failing the exam, mostly because I just couldn’t be bothered, since Economics is mostly just made up anyway. Not that I have a chip on my shoulder – I’ve spent my entire working life working in the field I wanted to work in, and the lack of a degree hasn’t hindered me. I just hate Economists.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 2nd December 1999 – 21:30

After this there’s a trailer for Omnibus on Stephen King. Then the tape ends.

Die Fledermaus – tape 1103

On this tape, going back a bit to 1990, is a gala performance of Die Fledermaus from Covent Garden. It’s a special performance because this marked the retirement of Dame Joan Sutherland from performing, and she makes a guest appearance in the party scene.

Also appearing with her are Pavarotti.

And Marilyn Horne.

During the two intervals, there’s a piece where her friends and colleagues talk about her, and some interviews in the Crush Bar, including Germaine Greer and John Sessions.

Sessions appears in the show in a non-singing part, as the jailer.

At the end, the director of the ROH, Jeremy Isaacs, says some words. This show was so long that the E-240 tape this is on runs out before he finishes.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 31st December 1990 – 19:00

Longitude – tape 2459

On this tape, the two-part Channel Four drama based on Dava Sobel’s book Longitude.

It concerns the problem of calculating a ship’s position on the ocean. The latitude can be fairly easily reckoned by calculating the altitude of the sun at noon, but Longitude could not be calculated without know the precise time.

It’s the story of John Harrison, a carpenter-turned-clockmaker, and his attempts to build a timepiece that could keep accurate time on board a ship. Michael Gambon plays Harrison.

There’s a shorter, parallel story in this film, that of Rupert Gould, played by Jeremy Irons, who suffers a breakdown after the first world war, and takes up the restoration of Harrison’s clocks at Greenwich, where they were in a fairly poor state.

I don’t think it’s exaggerating to call this film star-studded. So many familiar faces pop up in various roles that I probably missed half of them.

Peter Vaughan plays George Graham, a clockmaker who encouraged Harrison in his attempts to demonstrate the effectiveness of his clocks to the Board of Longitude, established to award a prize to the person who can come up with the best solution to finding Longitude at sea.

Stephen Fry has a cameo. His method involves cutting incisions in dogs. I don’t think it worked.

Tim McInnerny plays Christopher Irwin, rather less of a crackpot, who had designed a chair that was supposed to keep the navigator steady as the ship rocked. His character ended up being quite sweet.

Ian McNeice is the head of the Longitude Board at the start of the story, until he falls off a horse and dies.

Brian Cox plays Lord Morton, who takes over the Board. Harrison’s big problem is that the Board is all university dons and astronomers, with nobody with clockmaking experience, and they’re all convinced that complicated tables of the positions of stars and planets, along with lengthy astronomical observations, is the best solution to the problem, and the Board keeps moving the goalposts rather than awarding Harrison the prize.

Bill Nighy plays Lord Sandwich. When I was watching this, I could not remember his name. It had completely vanished from my head, and I couldn’t even visualise the shape of it. It took me at least 20 minutes before I could finally remember it.

Gary Waldhorn’s name, on the other hand, came immediately. Memory is a funny thing.

Andrew Scott plays a young seaman who helps Harrison on one of his expeditions. He has a very moving later scene where he visits Harrison after a particularly terrible voyage where a failure of navigation led to the loss of hundreds of men, and having seen how effective Harrison’s clock had been, he wished they had had one on their voyage.

Ian Hart plays William Harrison, John’s son, who has to take over a lot of the testing work as his father gets older.

Gemma Jones plays Harrison’s wife.

Samuel West plays Nevil Maskelyne, the nearest thing the story has to a villain. He’s the astronomer who is convinced that astronomical observations are the only reliable way to solve the problem, and because he sits on the Board, he’s able to frustrate Harrison’s efforts.

Other cameos featuring fine character actors in powdered wigs include Nigel Davenport.

John Wood.

Frank Finlay.

Charles Gray

Roger Lloyd Pack plays a ship’s captain who doubts Harrison’s estimation of their ship’s position, and as a result almost runs the fleet onto rocks.

Trevor Cooper plays a sailor who also sees how well the clocks work, and provides testimony to their worth.

Peter Hugo Daly plays another young clockmaker who assists Harrison.

When Harrison runs out of patience with the Longitude board, he asks the King himself to help him. The King is played by Nicholas Rowe, Young Sherlock Holmes himself.

Back in the early 20th century, Anna Chancellor plays Rupert Gould’s wife, who can’t stand him spending all his time restoring the clocks, and eventually leaves him.

Barbara Leigh Hunt plays his mother, a rather more friendly role than she played as Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice.

Lucy Akhurst plays a nurse who looks after him when he has another breakdown, after World War II starts, and eventually becomes his partner.

I loved the book this was based on, and this adaptation does a pretty good job of telling the story. It’s not often I watch something and find myself rooting against the astronomers, but they’re definitely the bad guys in this. And it’s also, quite obviously, a story about class, with Harrison being a lowly working man, so the upper class dons and clergymen don’t believe he could possibly come up with anything worthwhile.

You can still see Harrison’s clocks in the Maritime Museum at Greenwich.

The tape ends after this programme.

In the ad breaks, a classic. Daddy or Chips?


  • B&Q
  • Walt Disney World
  • Oxo
  • Moben
  • Rover 25
  • Virgin Sun
  • Tiny Computers
  • Tae’Bo on video
  • Tiny Computers
  • rot
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises
  • Centerparcs
  • Magnet
  • Bupa
  • Ford Fiesta
  • BMW
  • JMC
  • Standard Life
  • JMC
  • first-e Internet Bank
  • Comet
  • JMC
  • BMW
  • Renault Clio
  • AOL
  • Andrex
  • Boots Opticians
  • Canadian Airlines
  • Kleenex Balsam
  • Magnet
  • Renault
  • JMC
  • Toyota Avensis
  • Homebase – Neil Morrissey Leslie Ash
  • Nitrox
  • first-e Internet Bank
  • Stop Smoking
  • Strepsils extra
  • Vision Express
  • Going Places
  • Fiat Punto
  • Standard Life
  • Reader’s Digest Prize Draw
  • Daily Mail
  • BT – ET
  • Going Places
  • Volvo S80
  • JMC
  • Nicorette
  • Duracell Ultra
  • PG Tips
  • Olivio
  • Direct Line
  • Daily Express
  • Nissan Terrano
  • Nizoral
  • TV Choice
  • Daily Mail
  • Woolwich
  • McCain Oven Chips – Daddy or Chips
  • Stop Smoking
  • Thomson Local Directory
  • trail: Comic Strip Night
  • Daewoo
  • Lunn Poly
  • Reader’s Digest Prize Draw
  • Andrex
  • BT – ET
  • Thomson Local Directory
  • Daewoo
  • trail: Coked Up

Dark Season – tape 1654

This tape opens with the end of Newsround. With an impossibly young looking Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

Toby Anstis is presenting from the Broom Cupboard.

It’s a repeat showing of Dark Season, Russell T Davies’ audition to write Doctor Who. I was glad to catch this repeat, as the first time I saw this was around its first showing, when I was watching TV on Sunday Morning, and happened to catch it. And it was really good. I genuinely believed that Davies was writing a Doctor Who story, but with a fifteen year old girl playing the Doctor.

This was one of Kate Winslet’s first roles, playing Reet. So when she became a huge star, first with Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, later with Titanic, I felt a little proud that I’d spotted her first.

Less future famous is her friend Thomas, played by Ben Chandler.

But the main character is Marcie, played by Victoria Lambert. If I’m honest, she can come across as quite annoying. She’s incredibly rude to her mother in her first scene. But she is undoubtedly written as Doctor Who.

Their school has a large delivery of computers, from a company called Abyss Modem. In the days when ‘modem’ seemed like such a modern thing.

They’re a gift from Mr Eldritch, owner of the company. You’d think they’d be more suspicious of someone called Eldritch.

Young Olivia, who’s obviously been positioned as a swot, is very keen to try out the computers.

She’s asked to do some user testing on the computer.

They’re not fooling me – that’s an Acorn Archimedes.

Brigit Forsyth is the teacher, Miss Maitland.

Look, Eldritch’s car has a licence plate saying ‘NEMESIS’. Isn’t that a red flag to anybody? I think there are serious safeguarding concerns about this school.

Reet and Thomas take one of the computers home – every child at the school is given one – and try it out. State of the art portable computing in 1991.

Olivia returns to class. Clearly computers really do make you brighter.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 15th March 1994 – 17:10

The next episode opens explosively.

Marcie’s next door neighbour (played by Cyril Shaps) is the man who originally designed the Abyss computers, Professor Becjinski, now in hiding after defecting under the name Polzinski. They say he did it 30 years ago, which doesn’t really make sense given how semiconductor technology has continually improved. A computer 30 years ago would have had less power than a pocket calculator.

Reet and Thomas discover that they can control the computer by just holding their hands over the keyboard and thinking.

I’m curious about this one – supposedly looking at the same information, one on a computer at the school, the other at Mr Eldritch’s lair. But there’s a typo on the second screen – ‘German’ instead of ‘Germany’.

That’s ARM assembly language code, confirming this is an Archimedes (as if the bitmap font wasn’t distinctive enough).

There’s a dramatic race against time to stop Eldritch getting to Marcie’s neighbour, Polzinski. This show had no budget at all, but it’s snappily directed and fast moving enough that you don’t notice the cheapness. Writing and Directing are really showing how they should be used.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 18th March 1994 – 17:10

Episode Three sees Marcie having to go into Eldritch’s headquarters to rescue Polzinski, and Reet, who they also took.

It wouldn’t be a Doctor Who-inspired SF drama without a countdown.

And there’s a genuinely thrilling revelation, as Polzinski tells Eldritch’s minion that “Professor Becjinski is cleverer than you will ever know. Professor Becjinski is my wife.” Magnificent.

Mr Eldritch is taken down by a skateboard to the shin, and being bashed around by a purple backpack.

And when the modified program runs, he’s without his trademark shades, so that’s presumably the end of him.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 22nd March 1994 – 17:10

Before the next episode, there’s a visitor to the Broom Cupboard. Superman himself, Dean Cain.

Then, Episode Four of Dark Season and we have a whole new storyline, and a new villain. Or is she? What am I talking about? This is Jacqueline Pearce, Servalan herself, cast in a drama written by the world’s biggest TV SF fan, of course she’s going to be the villain.

She’s running an archaeological dig for a supposed tomb under the school’s sports field. Her excavating team all seem to have a particular type. Think Rolf from The Sound of Music. Or the boy who sings ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me’ in Cabaret. (I can’t claim innocence, here, as I sang that song in our am-dram production of Cabaret, but since I was the only vaguely young person who could reach the high notes, and I’m blond, there wasn’t much competition.)

It’s fun to spot the deliberate Who-isms in the script. When Reet and Thomas accompany Marcie to a tour of the dig site, intended only for third years (Reet and Thomas are Fifth Years) Miss Maitland says “Oh, Liberty Hall”. I’m sure that’s a reference to the Brigadier’s use of that phrase.

Miss Pendragon’s favourite seems to be Luke, who doesn’t appear to know anything about the dig, and is just there to look nice.

Miss Pendragon tells the children about what they hope to find – the Behemoth, the fiercest creature of legend. Although as Thomas asks “What’s a Beermoth?”

But their digging triggers some kind of explosion.

As a result, Luke falls and breaks his arm. All of a sudden he’s now useless to Miss Pendragon. As he explains to Miss Maitland as she drives him to hospital, “All they wanted to know was did I have anything wrong with me. Birthmarks, scars, physical defects, that sort of thing. And they wanted to know if my hair was naturally blond.”

Meanwhile, Marcie and Thomas sneak into the dig trench. And I’m sure the shots of wind and dust swirling around the dig are inspired by The Daemons.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 25th March 1994 – 17:10

There’s another bit of Newsround before the next episode. And Toby is talking to his CGI sidekick Ratz. This was quite a sophisticated thing at the time, as it’s puppeteered and performed live, using a hand puppet rig that drives the real-time face generation.

Then, Dark SeasonEpisode Five. Macy and Thomas are inside the tomb. It’s very dark. “What’s the first thing you do when you walk into a 2,000 year old Celtic Warrior’s tomb? You find the light switch.”

It’s clearly not a tomb, and Miss Pendragon has history there.

They’re caught by Pendragon and her minions. Marcie escapes through a ventilation shaft. “A ventilation shaft. Great, I’m a cliche.”

Miss Pendragon is interested in Thomas because ‘he’s perfect’.

We meet the Behemoth. It’s a machine.

Marcie’s ventilation shaft ends up in a school building.

“Consider its genius. Random Correlations, Pattern Recognition, Logic Pathways, Expanded Heuristics, Free Association, List Processing.” I think she was struggling when she got to that last one. “Writing emails. Sending emails.”

Miss Pendragon is upset when she notices that Thomas’s hair is dyed. “You’re no better than Mongrel Stock.” But Thomas isn’t taking any nonsense. “My politics had too string a flavour for them.” “They shouldn’t have shut you down because of your politics. ” “Then you do understand?” “No, they should have shut you donw because you’re stark staring mad.”

But Thomas doesn’t let her get a chance to strap him into the machine, pushing Miss Pendragon in there instead.

But Miss Pendragon starts talking about ‘her leader’. The machine rises. Marcie has been looking at the plans, and found where Behemoth is underneath, as it starts emerging.

And Pendragon’s leader reveals himself. “Into the Light.”

This is a brand new show, and by episode five it’s already doing continuity. It’s marvellous.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 29th March 1994 – 17:10

I was being slightly snarky about the budget earlier, but you can see where it’s all gone in this episode. This is an impressive enough prop, but it did also rise out of the floor of a school hall.

Thomas has also climbed out of the hole. And as Marcie talks to Pendragon’s minion Inge about Behemoth’s weak point, the feed into the machine, he listens. This is another direct Doctor Who quote, this one from Dalek Invasion Earth (well, the movie version, definitely.)

Miss Maitland doesn’t like the way Inge is talking. “You’re no better than Nazis.” Mr Eldritch retorts “They are Nazis.”

Reet and Thomas are doing the work of heroes.

Miss Pendragon is pulled out of the machine, and they flee the hall, leaving Marcie and Eldritch alone with Behemoth. But Behemoth doesn’t know what side she’s on, so they have to ‘debate’ so Behemoth can decide what to do.

Miss Maitland has reached the end of her politeness, railing against Pendragon and the Nazis. “You knew where the Behemoth was buried. You knew and you watched and you did nothing while they built a school on top of it. A school, woman, a school.” “The Behemoth… filled my mind.” “There was a lot of space for it to fill.”

Reet has been trapped underground in the airtight bunker.

Eldritch can’t stand the idea that Behemoth is listening to Marcie, so he sits in the machine.

Marcie persuades Behemoth to lower her defences, so Reet is able to excape from the bunker. Miss Maitland is now in full-on Ripley mode, taking the bulldozer which was carefully established in Episode Four, and breaking the water main, flooding the bunker.

There’s a flash in the machine, and Eldritch has vanished, zapped, hopefully.Miss Pendragon rushes in, and takes the now vacated seat, as Behemoth descends back down to die.

Marcie gets the last word.

Marcie: “As for us…”
Thomas: “Us?”
Reet: “Us.”
Marcie: “We’re marvellous.”

Such a Russell T Davies word. This remains a superb show, and I now want a reboot/sequel. Come on Netflix. It’s right there.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 30th March 1994 – 17:10

After this, there’s a final sign-off from CBBC and a trailer for The Paul Daniels Magic Show.

Then, an episode of Neighbours. Reader, I didn’t watch it.

After this, a trailer for Sport on the BBC.

Then, the Six O’Clock News.

After this, a trailer for Here and Now and Weather from Rob McElwee. And a trailer for The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries.

Then, Newsroom South East, including a report on a bravery award given to Heather Mills.

The tape ends just before this ends.

Orchestra! – Old Flames – tape 1088

First on this tape, the Dudley Moore programme Orchestra! which looks at the way an Orchestra works, in which Dudley Moore is helped by conductor Georg Solti, who looks like a very severe man, but in this, talking to Moore about the music, and the instruments of the orchestra, spends a lot of the time laughing and smiling.

The first programme looks at the evolution of the orchestra, from the baroque period, with a very small enemble, all the way to the modern orchestra, with over 100 players.

The second programme looks at the upper strings. Cue the odd viola player joke. “A quartet is made up of a good violinist, a bad violinist playing second violin, a really bad violinist who switched to viola, and then a cellist who hates all violinists.”

The next episode looks at the woodwinds.

After this, recording continues briefly with the start of a short film, Work Experience, which won an Oscar.

But then recording switches to BBC2 later in the evening, and it’s clear that the schedules are in a little disarray.

So this showing of Old Flames is a repeat, replacing another Simon Gray play set in World War II which was judged unsuitable for the circumstances.

Old Flames stars Stephen Fry, a regular player in Simon Gray’s work, until the infamous occasion when he had a breakdown during the production of Gray’s Cellmates in the West End and ran off to Belgium. He plays Daniel Davenport.

Simon Callow plays Nathaniel Quass, a very strange character, as his outfit might suggest. He introduces himself to Fry at a game of cricket, saying he was at school at the same time as Davenport. He mentions that he didn’t really know Davenport, “I don’t think you had cause to talk to me more than once. You said ‘Oh dear, well one does have to conform, or try to, as they say.”

The cricket match is the school’s old boys versus the local police, and one of the other old boys, Jackaboy, played by Clive Francis, is full of anger at resentment at the police, especially after they lose. Then, someone has stolen his jacket and tie from the changing rooms, and the last straw is when his car key won’t fit his car, so he gets so angry his kicks the door. A mistake, because that’s not his car, which is a few spaces over, and the one he’s kicked belongs to one of the police, so he gets arrested.

You can’t imagine the Proustian Rush this insert gave me. Opal Fruits forever.

Two Christmases ago, one of my daughters printed out an old Opal Fruits packet and made it into a proper packet, filled with actual Opal Fruits (well the sweets had the new name on them but you can’t have everything).

Someone has sent him a plane ticket to Rio de Janeiro, and there’s offensive messages left on his answering machine after the cricket match.

Visiting his favourite restaurant (where he always makes a point of asking them to turn down the music) he receives another strange letter, with names on (including his and Quass). You might notice that many (possibly all) of the names on this list are the names of theatre critics. Gray settling scores?

The staff bring him a birthday cake, which apparently came with the strange note.

He calls his friend Jackaboy, whose wife answers and tells him Jackaboy needs his help. When he arrives, Jackaboy is being rather roughly being arrested.

It seems Daniel had an affair with Celia Imrie, and asks her if she’s been calling him, She naturally gets quite upset at the accusation.

He’s now getting flowers sent to his chambers – he’s a barrister.

He contacts Quass, whose name was also on the list he was sent. He seems perturbed. “They sent a whole roast pig to Rabbi Goldman. For his nephew’s Barmitzvah. And said it came from me. That the sort of thing they started doing to you?”

Quass gets a phone call at the club. “I didn’t tell anybody I was here, did you?” They get a message to go to Luigi’s, the restaurant from earlier. The owner is rather upset when Daniel tells them that they might be expecting one more guest, and turns the music up loud. He’s got a booking, from Daniel for the whole restaurant for the whole night. So he throws them out.

Daniel has more Opal Fruits in his car’s glove compartment.

They go to Quass’s house where they meet his sister, played by Miriam Margolyes. She seems to think Daniel and Quass were old friends at school.

He leaves Quass, and we now get a flashback of Daniel, with Celia Imrie, driving a dead body and dumping it in a road where it’s run over by an articulated lorry. Flashback or nightmare?

After a bad day in court, where he’s so distracted he keeps forgetting the name of witnesses and defendants, he meets Quass again, having told him to get a private detective to find out what’s happened to their old school friends. It seems they’re all dead or in jail. Then they tell each other about what the blackmailers have been threatening them over. Quass accidentally caused his bullying older brother to fall out of a window to his death. Daniel has to confess the death of his lover’s estranged husband. The circumstances seem bizarre – he drove to her house, after being summoned, and accidentally ran over the man, who was laying on the road in from of the house in the dark. Hence the need to move the body somewhere there were more cars to disguise the original cause of death.

They receive letters containing witness statements saying they witnessed Daniel killing Imrie’s husband. Quass receives a similar letter threatening to reveal that while he was being treated after his brother’s death, he told someone that his sister Nellie had killed their brother. They then receive two more letters, demanding money. Daniel can’t raise the £25,000 asked of him, but Quass insists they go ahead and will supply Daniel’s share too. Daniel has to hand the money over at Waterloo station.

Returning home, he finds his wife missing – she’s gone into labour. He’s not too late for the birth, but labour is taking a long time, so he falls asleep. He’s woken up when things start progressing, but he’s slept all night, and is expected in court, so he rushes away.

He and Quass get to Waterloo, and he meets the man he’s supposed to give the money to, but he realises it’s a trap, because it’s a man who came to see him earlier as a witness in the case he’s prosecuting. He realises that handing the money to him would appear to be bribing a witness, and destroy his career.

In the taxi, Daniel is too busy replaying the events at the station and worrying about himself to notice that Quass is having an asthmatic attack. He finds his inhaler, but believes it’s been switched because the inhaler he was using at the station had a missing lid. When they get home, Nellie wonders why he didn’t use his spare inhaler as she always makes sure he has two with him when he goes out.

She gets Daniel to massage Quass to help him.

Some visitors arrive – they were the people who were at Waterloo, and we’ve seen them in other places, watching them. Nellie greets them. “Come in. Say your goodbyes and help me prepare him.”

Daniel looks around, and discovers a CCTV system, and a video of his confession about the murder.

He also discovers extensive files of his own life.

There’s a photo of him on University Challenge. This is a slightly doctored version of Stephen Fry’s actual appearance on the programme.

So now it’s time for Nellie to explain the plot. Back to a time at school, when Nathaniel had been practicing violin, and some bullies had grabbed him and locked him in a locker. Where Jackaboy and Daniel discover him, and Daniel says “Oh dear, well one does have to conform.” and Jackaboy locks the locker back up. Daniel calls it revenge, but Nellie says it was more in the form of an adventure for Nathaniel, who knew nothing about this. Something to let him live life for a short time.

She asks him to come and say his goodbyes to Nathaniel – I’m presuming she expects him not to live for long. He’s sitting with his violin, in a dress suit, face made up and hair rearranged, and plays for Daniel one last time. He plays beautifully.

Daniel thanks him, then walks through a door, and he’s at the hospital, where his wife has had their twins. This is an odd transition – is it meant to signify his leaving a nightmare, back to real life? It’s an odd ending altogether.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 20th January 1991 – 21:00

After this, it’s back to Channel 4 for more from Orchestra!. this time it’s the lower strings.

The ‘concert’ performances in the programme have gone all in on the dramatic lighting. I wonder if it was hard for the players to play when the lights were changing every few beats.

The next programme concentrates on the brass section.

That’s the last episode on this tape. The recording stops, and underneath there’s an Australian film starring Judy Davis. I think it’s Kangaroo.

The tape ends during this.


  • Coal
  • Telford
  • Bisto
  • McDonalds
  • Halls – Gordon Kennedy
  • Mitsubishi Shogun
  • trail: True Stories
  • trail: American Football
  • Maxwell House – Maggie Smith
  • Walker’s Crisps
  • Snickers
  • Total Heating – Creature Comforts
  • VW
  • Tetley’s Bitter
  • trail: She’ll Be Wearing Pink Pyjamas

Farscape – Shadowlands – tape 2545

This tape opens with a trail for the Friday Night Comedy Zone.

Then, the very first episode of Farscape – or ‘Fire Escape’ as I now can’t help calling it, having listened to too many episodes of the Pilot TV Podcast.

Ben Browder plays John Crichton, a pilot who’s testing a theory about bouncing off the atmosphere and using gravity as a slingshot, or something. It sounded vaguely like gibberish to me so I wasn’t paying too much attention. Apologies is this is meticulously plotted hard science fiction.

Something goes wrong, he travels through a wormhole, and ends up somewhere random, where spaceships are fighting, and gets pulled on board one particular ship.

You can tell this is a co-production with the Henson company, as half the people he meets are muppets.

There’s a big ginger alien.

A blue lady, who was some kind of space nun, but the kind of space nun that has a reputation for something unspoken but, I’m presuming, sexual. Slightly creepy, like Ilia in Star Trek the Motion Picture, or, to a lesser extent, Counsellor Troi.

The other main character we meet is Claudia Black, who’s a member of the peacekeepers, who seem to be the bad guys in this. She kind of gets landed with this strange group of ex-prisoners, who have taken over the big ship, Moya, after her people decide she’s spent too long with them and must therefore be somehow on their side.

This isn’t bad, but really, if I’d wanted to see Buck Rogers crossed with Space Precinct, I would have asked. Plus, all the minor characters have Australian accents, as this was shot in Australia, and for some reason that’s odd. I don’t think I’ve ever watched any other episodes of this, and I know lots of people love it. Maybe if I ever retire I’ll catch up.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 29th November 1999 – 18:20

After this, recording switches, and there’s a showing of Shadowlands, Richard Attenborough’s film of William Nicholson’s play about CS Lewis. I don’t think I’ve ever watched this.

There’s some famous faces in the opening scene of Oxford Dons having dinner and being rather posh. Here’s John Wood.

Julian Fellowes.

And Anthony Hopkins, who plays CS Lewis.

Lewis meets Joy Gresham, an American, who has written to him, one of his many fans. She’s played by Debra Winger.

She visits him again, bringing her son Douglas, played by Joseph Mazzello, who also gets the ‘And Joseph Mazello’ credit at the start of the film.

Edward Hardwicke plays Lewis’s brother Warnie.

I spotted Pauline Melville when Lewis addresses the Women’s Institute.

After Joy divorces her husband in America, and moves to London, Lewis and Joy get married so she gets to stay in the country.

He’s still clueless as to the nature of their relationship. He still thinks they’re friends and nothing more. But events conspire to show him he’s wrong when Joy has a fall. She has cancer, and it’s already destroyed the femur in her leg.

Peter Firth appears as a doctor.

The scene where Lewis is talking to another don about Joy, and seemingly realises there and then that he loves her, is pretty good. You won’t be surprised to hear I cried.

They get married properly.

She recovers a little, enough for them to take a holiday.

But she does die, and Lewis has to come to terms with that, and with the fact that he’s got a son to look after. What a beautiful film.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 19th December 1999 – 22:45

After this, recording continues, with a trail for RKO 281 and Citizen Kane. There’s also a trailer for the Gregory Peck season.

Then, another film in the Richard Attenborough tribute season, Seance on a Wet Afternoon. Although this recording seems complete, it doesn’t look like the whole film is here – it lasts for over two hours, but there’s only 40 minutes of it here. I can only presume the recording was somehow interrupted, but scrolling through the file I can’t spot any breaks, and I didn’t watch it in real time because I didn’t want to watch a third of a film.

After this, there’s a trailer for Arena on Diana Dors.

Then, there’s Pages from Ceefax. I hadn’t remembered that Desmond Llewelyn had died in a car crash.

The tape ends during this.