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Nostalgia Corner: Terrahawks (1983-1986)

Posted on December 11, 2014 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Terrahawks

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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Thursday's "Rhys Ifans heads to Elementary, FX developing Last of the Mohicans and S4C budget cut" news

Posted on June 27, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

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Film casting

Trailers
  • Trailer for Thanks For Sharing, with Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins and Pink
  • Trailer for Hell Baby with Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb

Audio

Canadian TV

UK TV

US TV

US TV casting

New US TV shows New US TV show casting

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What did you watch this fortnight? Including Trance, Rogue, Bates Motel, Endeavour and Southland

Posted on April 21, 2013 | comments | Bookmark and Share

It's "What did you watch this weekfortnight?", my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I've watched this weekfortnight that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

First, the usual recommendations:

  • The Americans (FX/ITV)
  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy)
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
  • Doctor Who (BBC1/BBC America)
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
  • Endeavour (ITV1)
  • Go On (NBC)
  • Hannibal (NBC/Sky Living)
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
  • Plebs (ITV2)
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic).

These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can't be sure which. Continuum returns in Canada tonight, so I'd suggest tuning in for that, too.

Still in the viewing queue: Friday night's Las Vegas and last night's Doctor Who (review tomorrow when I've seen it), as well as Netflix's new release, Hemlock Grove. But I've tried a few new shows in the past couple of weeks:

Arne Dahl (BBC4)
Basically – as Stu_N put it – The Professionals with pilchards. Dreadful.

Rogue (DirecTV)
Thandie Newton is a very implausible, undercover cop whose son gets killed and she blames herself. Despite the decent cast, which includes Martin Csokas from Falcón and Ian Hart, an incredibly forgettable, derivative show.

I also watched the Easter Jonathan Creek special, which despite a whole lot of merits (the cast, the changes in format), was absolute ridiculous and bore no resemblance to reality. Plus how do you cast both Rik Mayall and Nigel Planer in a show and not have them meet?

Now, some thoughts on some of the regulars and some of the shows I'm still trying:

  • The Americans (FX/ITV): The usual problem that when show runner Joe Weisberg isn't involved in the scripting, the episode just isn't as authentic-feeling as the other episodes. The developments between the two Russians feel a little padded out, and I'm not sure they would have been quite so merciful this week, given their need to preserve their identities.
  • Bates Motel (A&E/Universal): Quite tedious now, and in no sense really related to Psycho, beyond names and presumably the eventual conclusion. Despite those blips of interest in the first three episodes, the show's settled on a very dull formula now, with only Vera Farmiga's character offering any real reason to watch.
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy): Another show that finished, leaving a lot of hanging storyline threads. The revelations haven't been as impressive or as interesting as you might have hoped, and as I said last night, it does feel like the whole of this season could have been covered in just an episode or two.
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living): A somewhat uninteresting way to end the season, but also slightly deeper than normal. The writers didn't take the show anywhere especially new, but having Tippi Hedren show up for the finale was worth watching it for anyway.
  • Endeavour (ITV1): Inspector Morse, back in its natural period – the 1950s. Nowhere near as impressive as its pilot episode, boiling down to an ability to solve crossword puzzles rather than make deductions, but Anton Lessing was perfect as the new superintendent.
  • Plebs (ITV2): More ahistorical than normal, with the arrival of bananas and a Thracian with a Russian accent (Anna Skellern from Big Finish's Sapphire and Steel range), but still good fun, surprisingly historical in other ways and Bryan Murphy (George from George and Mildred) showed up as an old soldier.
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4): A good and surprisingly optimistic finale that felt almost like a series finale. Where does the show go next?
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4): Two episodes to finish off the season and perhaps the series. The first was a very hard and traumatic episode that unfortunately crossed the Southland line – despite being based on a real-life incident, didn't feel like a Southland episode because it stopped being able the everyday life of cops. Thankfully, the final episode was more of a return to normal. It finished off a number of plot threads and left several hanging, in a way both satisfying a season-finale and a series-finale. And, of course, for one character, a shocking but entirely plausible end (?). If it is the series finale, that would be a shame for probably the best and most realistic cop show since The Wire.
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1): And so it ends. Probably the most surprising bit of quality TV, given its graphic novel violence, sex and swearing (and Starz network home), Spartacus has continued to make Roman history interesting and Machiavellian fun. The finale was just about as good as it ever could be, given Spartacus has to disappear or die, the revolution has to fail, and Caesar and Crassus have to go on to rule Rome. Perhaps a little too anti-Roman, but it was still as intriguing as ever.
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic): Michael Chiklis's direction somehow made the usual sets look cheap and like a backlot, but the show is clearly struggling now to expand its format. I'm hoping that Carrie-Anne Moss gets a promotion now, since she's had so precious little to do. Nevertheless, the show does look like it's limping towards cancellation.

And in movies:

Trance
Danny Boyle directing, Joe Ahearne writing, Rosario Dawson, James McAvoy and Vince Cassel starring in a semi-Inception-like story about an art dealer who steals a painting with the help of a gang, but when he gets hit on the head, forgets where he hid the painting. So Cassel takes McAvoy to see hypnotherapist Dawson in an effort to recover its location, and she takes McAvoy (and the audience) through several levels of reality. While it does interesting things in terms of flipping notions of who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist in the narrative, has some shocking full-frontal nudity and violence, and says some interesting things about gender in thriller narrative, if you pay attention, you'll have guessed most of the story's secrets and revelations ages before the end.

"What did you watch this weekfortnight?" is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid - and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I've watched. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you've seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

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