Archive | Nostalgia corner

Classic shows that have almost been forgotten, as well as shows that should probably have been forgotten

December 11, 2014

Nostalgia Corner: Terrahawks (1983-1986)

Posted on December 11, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share


Gerry Anderson was, of course, the doyen of puppets. Starting with the likes of Four Feather Falls and The Adventures of Twizzle in the 50s, he soon went on to create much loved classics such as Supercar, Thunderbirds, Stingray, Captain Scarlet and Joe 90.

But he’d always wanted to work with real actors and over time, that’s where his focus went, with The Secret Service mixing live action and puppetry and both UFO and Space: 1999 being fully live action. Was that the end for Anderson and puppets?

No, because in the 1980s he returned to TV to give us Terrahawks, which gave us both a new scenario and a new puppet technology that took many aspects of his previous shows and combined them in one. It’s the year 2020 (gosh, how far away that looks now, hey?) and in common with previous Anderson shows UFO and Captain Scarlet, there’s an alien invasion underway and only a lone taskforce with a range of advanced technology is able to protect us – the Terrahawks. Led by Doctor Tiger Ninestein – the ninth clone of one Dr Gerhard Stein – the Terrahawks consisted of both human and robot members piloting and driving a set of vehicles similar to those of Thunderbirds: the Battlehawk, the Terrahawk, the Hawkwing, the Treehawk and the space station the Spacehawk, as well as HUDSON, a camouflage-capable Rolls Royce.

The aliens they are facing are androids modelled on the oldest and wisest citizens of their planet, Guk, and so are grey haired and wrinkled. They’re commanded by Zelda, who like the Mysterons has power over matter, and her not especially bright son Yung-Star. As well as the androids themselves, there’s also a collection of monsters, including a Sporilla (a seven-foot tall metal-eating Space Gorilla), and a group of occasionally sympathetic characters with special skills, such as MOID (the master of infinite disguise), who can mimic anyone but has no face of his own, and Lord Tempo who can travel in time.

Probably the most memorable aspect of the show were the foot soldiers in this war: the zeros and the cubes. The Terrahawk’s zeros are spherical robots, who can increase their mass and crush objects, and the aliens’ cubes, which can combine together to create objects such as guns. Why so memorable? Because at the end of every episode there’d be a game of noughts and crosses involving the two enemies.

The series was a lot more tongue-in-cheek than previous Anderson efforts and clearly was aware that adults who’d grown up with Anderson shows would be watching with their kids. This went right down to the credits given to authors: Tony Barwick and Donald James wrote many of the episodes under pseudonyms such as Anne Teakstein, Felix Catstein, Katz Stein and Leo Pardstein – clearly references to the nine-lived Tiger Neinstein.

The technology used by the show, Supermacromation, was also considerably superior to that used previously by Anderson, with latex making the puppets more human and animatronic-style robotics ending the need for strings.

Unlike other Anderson shows, it lasted an amazing three seasons for a total of 39 episodes; also unlike his other shows, it’s had few repeats, which means it’s comparatively little known today. Nevertheless, the series is fondly remembered by those who watched it and a new audio series will be produced by Big Finish, the first release expected in April 2015.

It’s Christmas time, though, and as a special present, the producers have polished up the Christmas episode of Terrahawks, A Christmas Miracle, and stuck it on YouTube – free to view for a month. Enjoystein!

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December 1, 2014

Preview: Space: 1999 - The Bringers of Wonder (Special Edition)

Posted on December 1, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Space: 1999 - Bringers of Wonder

Space: 1999 - Bringers of Wonder

Starring: Barbara Bain, Martin Landau
Price: £13
Released: December 8 2014

Today is a day of firsts. Not only is it December 1st, the first day of Advent, it’s also the first time since I started this blog up way back in 2005 (gosh, nearly 10 years ago!) that I’ve published a guest post. Isn’t that amazing?

This first guest post is by noted author and critic Mr James Cooray Smith, who has bitten the bullet and done something I could never do: watch Space: 1999 again. In this case, he’s watched the forthcoming limited edition Blu-ray release of the show’s only ever two-part episode, The Bringers of Wonder, as well as the cinema version of said two-parter, Destination Moonbase Alpha - get it while it’s hot, because only 1,999 copies of this are being produced.

After the jump, Jim will let you know what he thinks and reveals that the show is officially considered a form of torture in the US. Before then, here’s a trailer, and if you’re feeling brave, I’ve also provided the two episodes in question, so you can see what you’re going to get (NB: watching the episodes may be considered illegal under Geneva conventions of all kinds):

Continue reading "Preview: Space: 1999 - The Bringers of Wonder (Special Edition)"

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November 27, 2014

Nostalgia Corner: Where's Elvis This Week? (1996)

Posted on November 27, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Jon Stewart in Where's Elvis This Week?

Back in the 90s, Brits loved Americans and Americans loved Brits. To some extent, this started with the love-in between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 80s, when American movies and TV shows also began to reign truly supreme in UK cinemas and on our TV screens, but a period under George HW Bush dimmed the fires of passion somewhat.

Then along came Bill Clinton and suddenly we couldn’t get enough of the US, particularly on BBC2, which worked at particular length to get more US shows on our screens. TV Nation was a co-production between NBC and BBC2 that explored British and American cultures using journalists and comedians from both sides of the Atlantic. BBC2 also bought in for a six-week experiment famous US movie review show Siskel and Ebert, even getting them to film a special segment for UK viewers at the end of the run (this isn’t it – no one could be bothered to record it).

Probably the least successful, least remembered example of this Americophilia is Where’s Elvis This Week?, a five-episode, Saturday night BBC2 show hosted by Jon Stewart. Yes, him off The Daily Show. That Jon Stewart.

Trying his best to be hip and cool in a leather jacket, despite

  1. The Jon Stewart Show having recently been cancelled
  2. Craig Kilborn being set to continue hosting The Daily Show for a further two years
  3. Being Jon Stewart

Stewart presided over a panel of two Brits and two Americans who tried to explain each other’s news to each other and give their opinions of the other country’s news. And what panels they were. The likes of Christopher Hitchens, Dave Chappelle, Eddie Izzard, former mayor of New York Ed Koch, Nora Ephron, Armando Iannucci, Joe Queenan, David Baddiel and others all showed up and did their best to be both interesting and funny, despite the format and the occasional additional lame duck panellist such as Tony Hawks (no, not that one). Stewart, in turn and despite being obviously uncomfortable with just about every aspect of the show, did his best to play the laid-back, regular Joe foil, but every so often, exposed his intellect with a particularly smart comment.

Just like America's love for Bill Clinton, neither the show nor the Americophilia lasted very long, and it was promptly cancelled, thankfully putting everyone out of their misery. But you can still watch this experiment in transatlantic comedy below. For those that care, here were the line-ups for the five episodes, so you can decide which one to give a whirl. It’s worth noting that Christopher Hitchens comes up with something profound at the end of his episode, prefixing it with “I’ve just thought of something profound”:

  1. Eddie Izzard, Phil Jupitus, Laurie Pike, Scott Capurro
  2. Dave Chappelle, Helen Gurley Brown, Christopher Hitchens, Tony Hawks
  3. Felix Dexter, Norm MacDonald, Joe Queenan, Lowri Turner
  4. Martin Clunes, David Baddiel, Ed Koch, Wendy Wasserstein
  5. Armando Iannucci, Craig Kilborn, Arthur Smith, Nora Ephron

So yes, if you watch the fifth one, you’ll get to see the first two hosts of The Daily Show at the same time for perhaps the only time in TV history. Historic, hey?

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