BBC4 science fiction season: the schedule has arrived

Scifi Britannia

As mentioned previously, BBC4 is doing a season on British science-fiction called Science Fiction Britannia. Cracking open the Radio Times, etc, I’ve managed to get a bit of the schedule and here are my viewing tips (complete with Video Plus+ numbers and links to DVDs where applicable, in case you can’t get BBC4):

Monday 13th November

7.10pm Doctor Who – Spearhead From Space (parts 1 and 2)

The first Pertwee story. Also features Liz Shaw at her smartest. Available on DVD.

VIDEO Plus+: 5898706

8.30pm The Day of the Triffids (part 1)

Classic 80s adaptation of John Wyndham’s book. A bit slow, but quite terrifying at times. Available on DVD.

VIDEO Plus+: 1599665

9.00pm The Martians and Us (part 1. Repeated Wednesday, 7pm and 12am, Thursday night at 2.25am, Saturday night 12.50am)

A new, three-part documentary on the history of British science fiction. Includes interviews with Arthur C Clark Brian Aldiss, Doris Lessing and Steve Jones. I haven’t seen it since it’s new.

VIDEO Plus+: 4167771, 4105931, 1886871, 3577765, 3228722

10.00pm A for Andromeda (repeated 2.25am, Saturday 8.30pm)

Dismal, dull remake of the original. Avoid. Available on DVD.

VIDEO Plus+: 28773787, 78642356, 8932128

11.25pm H G Wells: War with the World

Pretty good HG Wells biog, but it doesn’t really deal with his science-fiction, only his political views.

VIDEO Plus+: 8632706

12.55am H G Wells and Me

A tribute to H G Wells. Never seen it, but it has Jonathan Ross and Roy Hattersley on it, so make up your own mind on that one.

VIDEO Plus+: 7189801

Tuesday 14 November

7.10pm Adam Adamant Lives! – A Vintage Year for Scoundrels

The first episode, in which Edwardian adventurer Adam Adamant gets frozen in a block of ice and re-awakens in 1960s London. Quite good, but they’re all the same after that. Available on DVD.

VIDEO Plus+: 5792578

8.30pm The Cult of… Adam Adamant Lives! (repeated 12.25am, 3.25am and Thursday at 10pm)

The first in a series looking at classic “cult” TV programmes starts with Adam Adamant Lives! Despite the title, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be focusing on fans, but will instead talk to the show’s makers. Contributions from Gerald Harper, Juliet Harmer, writer Brian Clemens, director Moira Armstrong and producer Verity Lambert. One to tune in for.

VIDEO Plus+: 1566337, 5366283, 19131115, 7629142

9.00pm The Crow Road (parts one and two)

Adaptation of Iain Banks’s novel. Never watched it or read it so I can’t tell you if it’s any good. Available on DVD

VIDEO Plus+: 4134443, 1393462

10.55pm Mark Lawson Talks to Iain Banks (repeated 1.55am, Wednesday night 1am, Thursday night 3.25am)

Mark Lawson interviews Iain Banks. Haven’t watched that either.

VIDEO Plus+: 9330040, 1787467, 6593264, 3024901

Thursday 16th November

7.10pm The Avengers – The Girl From Auntie (repeated Friday 11.30pm)

Not technically part of the sci-fi season, but it’s on and it’s quite a good one. Available on various DVDs, but I couldn’t narrow them down enough.

VIDEO Plus+: 5729622, 7022746

Sunday 19th November

12am Machine Men

Daisy Donovan (yes, The 11 O’Clock Show host) narrates a documentary looking at the history of robots, androids and cyborgs.

VIDEO Plus+: 1791759

Monday 20th November

7.10pm Doctor Who Spearhead from Space (parts 3 & 4)

Continues and concludes from last week.

VIDEO Plus+: 5554310

8.30pm The Day of the Triffids (part 2)

Continues from last week.

VIDEO Plus+: 1335469

9pm The Martians and Us (part 2. Repeated 1.15am and Wednesday at 7pm and 11.30pm)

The second part of the documentary. Features interviews with Margaret Atwood and Iain M Banks.

VIDEO Plus+: 4903575, 9179570, 4941735, 1387648

David Tennant in The Quatermass Experiment10pm The Quatermass Experiment (repeated 2.15am)

Live adaptation of the original 50s sci-fi classic. Features that David Tennant person. Quite good, but a little bit low budget. Available on DVD.

VIDEO Plus+: 8164469, 8511624

11.35pm The Kneale Tapes

Excellent documentary on the late Nigel Kneale, creator of Bernard Quatermass and many other seminal works. Worth watching if you have any interest in TV history. Available on DVD.

VIDEO Plus+: 8911198

Tuesday 21st November

7.10pm Doomwatch Tomorrow, the Rat

One of the best 70s sci-fi shows, Doomwatch concerned a watchdog group that monitors scientific and technological developments. The colour schemes will probably burn your retinas out though, and this isn’t the best episode at all, but the concepts are pretty frightening. Tune in to get a slight idea what it was about. Available on DVD.

VIDEO Plus+: 5521082

8.30pm The Cult Of… Doomwatch (repeated 1.35am and 3.35am)

Second in the series of shows looking at the making of classic sci-fi dramas. Contributions from Robert Powell, Simon Oates, Jean Trend, writer Martin Worth and directors Pennant Roberts and Jonathan Alwyn. Woo hoo!

VIDEO Plus+: 1395841, 12157716, 49387735

9pm Mark Lawson Talks to Terry Pratchett (repeated 2.35am)

Mark Lawson interviews the famous fantasy author. I actually met a bloke on Monday who had interviewed Pratchett at his home. Pratchett was asleep when he called round, so came to the door in his dressing gown. And his hat. Never takes that hat off ever.

VIDEO Plus+: 4970247, 9010754

10pm The Crow Road (parts 3 & 4)

The rest of The Crow Road from last week.

VIDEO Plus+: 4973334, 7958150

And that’s where the listings run out, I’m afraid. The Martians and Us is a three-parter so I’m guessing that’s going to conclude on Monday 27th; The Cult Of… is supposed to run to six episodes, presumably every Tuesday; The Day of the Triffids is a six-part adaptation, so will probably continue to run on Mondays; Random Quest, a new adaptation of a John Wyndham short story is going to be on Monday 27th; Doctor Who‘s cracking Tom Baker story, The Ark in Space, is going to start on Monday 27th as well, although that’s to be confirmed; and How To Be Sci-Fi, featuring Nigel Planer as Nicholas Craig, will give tips on acting in science fiction television. I’ll update you next week when I have some more info.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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