Sunday, 20 November 2011

STUPID QUESTIONS DEPT. - Scifi Seasons on the Beeb in the '70s

Welcome to the Stupid Questions Department! Deep in the Mad Labs of Mr Moon's mind, where tantalising fragments of memories bubble in test tubes, half baked factoids are heated over bunsen burners and the benches are all stained from lysergic chromatography!

In other words, I have a question for you all... But fear not! It's not (I hope) one of those insolvable conundrums that have plagued the minds of men for centuries like 'What... is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow'  but something that some one with better and less booze soaked memory than mine may have the answer to!

Come back in Time with to me to the mid 1970s, a time when men were real men despite wearing eye-shadow and glitter, when women were real women as many lad watching Pan's People on Top of the Pops discovered, and where jobbing session musicians could earn a lucrative crust by dressing up as Wombles!

Anyhow back in those distant golden days where everything was made of Spangles and twelve inch flares, and all childhoods were enchanted by Oliver Postgate, the good old Auntie Beeb scheduled a season of classic scifi movies. They were shown early evening, mid week on BBC 1 and there was even a trailer advertising this selection of interplanetary classics. 

Now to don my deerstalker hat for a moment, I suspect this may have been around the release of Star Wars (1976 or 77). However given the huge popularity of the genre in that decade, which saw a host of small screen scifi classics - Survivors, Blakes 7, The Changes, Doomwatch, TimeslipThe Tomorrow People to name but a few, and of course Doctor Who in it's heyday - it's entirely possibly this season of space flicks occurred well before George Lucas persuaded the world that 'droid' was a better word than 'robot'.

Needless to say this series of movies was an absolute delight to me and was where I saw many classics for the very first time. However my question is what movies were actually shown as part of this season? Now I am pretty much certain that they showed the George Pal version of The Time Machine (1960) (I'll never forget the nightmares inspired by the Morlocks or trying to persuade my Dad to let build a Time Machine in the garage)  and When Worlds Collide (1951). And I'm fairly sure they showed Forbidden Planet (1956) too.

However I'm hazy on the rest. Other possible flicks they screened are This Island Earth (1955), Journey To The Center To The Earth (1959)  and maybe even a TV première of Silent Running (1972). I'm fairly sure they only stuck to colour movies which rules out the likes of The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) and The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961), and being prime-time family friendly BBC 1 they would have avoided anything potentially scary like Them! (1954), The Thing From Another World (1951) or the Hammer Quatermass adaptations.

So can any of you out there shed any light on this matter? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Surely some one has to remember! After all there's plenty of folk who fondly recall the late horror double bills from the Beeb in the same period and are even campaigning to bring them back! So surely, there must a listing for this scifi season somewhere! And surely, these screenings of classic science fiction can't just have enriched my childhood!

Right, I'll stop calling you 'Shirley' now...

But the reason I'm asking, other than to scratch a mental itch, is this. The other week the boys from The Black Dog were covering Forbidden Planet, and while watching this marvellous movie I was chit-chatting on Twitter about it. And I had the idea that it would be fun to revisit all the movies shown in this dimly remembered BBC1 season for an episode (or two) of HYPNOBOBS... So there's your motivation folks!

And if you have an answer, do get in touch via ouija board, carrier raven, telepathic transmission etc. Or just use the comment box below... Otherwise I'll just have to work my way through all the titles mentioned in this! Sing lips!

Go on sing  along, you know you want to!

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