Here Lies Amicus & I Don’t Do Sci-Fi

Hope you are well. I’ve been lucky enough to be invited on to two more excellent podcasts recently – Here Lies Amicus and I Don’t Do Sci-Fi.

Here Lies Amicus is the brainchild of Cev Moore and is an in-depth review of the films of legendary Sixties and Seventies exploitation studio Amicus. Run by Milton Subotsky and Max J Rosenberg, Amicus were one of Hammer Films’ main rivals and often fished in the same pool of actors and filmmakers as the people at Bray Studios. Probably best remembered now for their horror anthology movies like Tales from the Crypt and Asylum, Amicus also made pop music vehicles, thrillers and also two low budget science fiction movies: The Terrornauts and They Came From Beyond Space. This double bill was the subject of the October 2022 episode Amicus in Outer Space!

Here is a link to the Spotify page. The podcast is also available on most popular platforms.

To be honest I thought I had mentioned this at the time but looking back through my blog I shamefully omitted to post about it. I know Cev through our mutual association with the Official Talking Pictures TV podcast, where he also has an interest in reviewing the channel’s fantasy output. He kindly provided some useful background info on the two films, in addition to us re-watching them. Whilst neither film is great, they both have a lot of interest in them. The Terrornauts is more ambitious, featuring scientists being abducted and taken to an ancient alien space station to defend the solar system from an invasion fleet, but consequently it falls so much further, betrayed by wooden dialogue and bargain basement model work. They Came from Beyond Space is another variant on the alien possession trope, set in the Home Counties and having more than a touch of The Avengers about it. Unfortunately, the thin plot is padded out with a lot of busywork about infiltrating the aliens’ base and has a dull lead in Robert Hutton. Nevertheless, I had an excellent time discussing both titles with Cev.

Moving bang up to the date with a podcast only released yesterday – I Don’t Do Sci-Fi is the spiritual sequel to last year’s impressive Tripodscast, from the same team of Dani Wray, Rebecca Wray, John Isles and Kevin Hiley. It’s a conversational podcast based on the concept that Dani is an SF novice who in the past has had little exposure to a lot of the genre. So her friends are showing her examples of futuristic fiction, starting with the cult BBC drama Star Cops. Most episodes will feature a special guest and kindly I was invited to be part of the debut. Recording in person is always fun and we had a lively time revisiting the series which I covered in my own podcast last year.

You can listen to the series here or on your favourite podcast app. Hope you enjoy both series.

Very British Futures – Nineteen Eighty-Four

I like to mix it up on the Very British Futures podcast. After the jolly, lightweight Dominick Hide plays we plunge into the pitch black dystopia of the BBC’s harrowing TV play Nineteen Eighty-Four. Based on George Orwell’s famous prophetic novel, this is ambitious drama brought more lustre to Nigel Kneale and Rudolph Cartier reputations, and remained a high point of Peter Cushing’s career.

You can listen to the latest episode here or on your favourite podcast app.

The story is set in a futuristic austere Britain where the government is led by the IngSoc (English Socialism) party, headed by a man known as Big Brother. The Party seeks to control every aspect of people’s lives, including their thoughts, emotions, and behaviour. Winston Smith (Peter Cushing) is a low-ranking member of the Party who works in the Ministry of Truth, where he is responsible for altering historical records to conform to the Party’s version of reality. Despite being a loyal member of the Party, Winston is secretly unhappy with the oppressive regime and begins to rebel against it. He begins a secret affair with Julia (Yvonne Mitchell), a party member from the Fiction department. Together they become involved with a group known as the Brotherhood, which is rumoured to be a group of rebels who are plotting against the Party. However the Brotherhood is actually a myth created by the Party to lure out and eliminate any potential dissenters. Despite his efforts to rebel against the Party, Winston is captured and tortured until he fully conforms to their ideology. The novel ends with Winston being released back into society, fully loyal to the Party and completely brainwashed.

Writers Andrew Scott Roe-Crines and John Isles return to the show to join me in discussing the messages of the book and strengths of this television play. Find out about what the papers said, how the IngSoc party operates and the nightmare of Newspeak.

Now I am starting work on the next episode, about ITV’s Chocky trilogy.

Very British Futures – The Flipside of Dominick Hide

Time travel is a dangerous business, not only for what effect changes in the past might affect, but the lure of nostalgia for a seemingly more exciting, more authentic world. A temptation which young Dominick Hide cannot resist any longer. He’s a time travelling historian from a future where life is peaceful and advanced, but most records of the past have been erased by an unknown catastrophe. His curiosity about the wild world of 1980 leads to an adventure which changes his life and that of Jane, a boutique shopowner with whom he falls in love, despite being married to Ava in his present.

Play for Today is generally remembered for its dramatic socially conscious dramas, yet over the years it has featured several notable comedies such as Mike Leigh’s Nuts in May and Jack Rosenthal’s Bar Mitzvah Boy. In fact one of its most successful and beloved installments was a science fiction romantic comedy The Flipside of Dominick Hide. In this episode, we analyse this play and its sequel, Another Flip for Dominick.

Making a welcome return visit for this episode are the warm and witty Tim Reid and Charles Auchterlonie, the hosts of The Randomiser, a podcast reviewing Doctor Who old and new, as well as other British cult TV. Hope you enjoy this one.

You can listen to Very British Futures on all the major podcast platforms, or online at Anchor.FM

Very British Futures – The Aliens

It’s been longer arriving than I hoped but Season Two of my podcast Very British Futures is finally taking flight. I’ve found a better way of planning my time, and so I’ve been able to invest some energy into editing my recordings from the last few months.

So first released blinking into the online world is our discussion of The Aliens, E4’s 2016 drama with blackly comic moments, set in a world of human and alien drug dealers, ghettoised resentful alien immigrants and one hapless protagonist who keeps trying to do the right thing but generally just digs himself deeper into trouble.

It has a marvellous cast of people who were just getting recognised for their talent, including Michaela Cole (I Will Destroy You), Jim Howick (Ghosts) and Michael Socha (Being Human) and Michael Smiley (Kill List) and was produced by a lot of the same team responsible for Misfits.

This is also best produced episode so far, thanks to the technical brilliance of Kevin Hiley (Tripodscast) and being the first to be recorded in an actual room instead of online. I was joined by two guests from Tripodscast: Rebecca Wray and Dani Wray. Both of them were excellent and had plenty of fascinating observations about the show and its characters. Look out for their forthcoming new series with John Isles I Don’t Do SF in the new year.

You can listen to the episode at Anchor FM or on all the major podcast platforms. You can also check its dedicated page at my new website for the podcast which also has links for further reading, including the original E4 website which contains a lot more background information about the fictional history of the aliens’ arrival in Britain. For the first season I also put the episode up on this blog as a downloadable MP3. I’ve decided to stop that for season two, partly to cut down on housekeeping, and also to hopefully encourage more listeners to the podcast platforms and build up the podcast’s official stats. If you would like to download a file to listen to offline, may I suggest checking out the episode’s page at Spreaker, which has a download option.

Hope you enjoy this episode. More coming soon, continuing with The Flipside of Dominick Hyde.

More Randomness – My latest podcast appearances

I always enjoy recording podcasts, either my own or as a guest. September is turning into a busy month for me. First off is the second part of my interview for The Time Scales YouTube channel. Greg continues our conversation with questions about writing pantomimes, Bolton Little Theatre, Will Hadcroft’s Fine Line story The Chattath Factor, promoting yourself on social media, taking rejection, and the future of Doctor Who. You can watch Part Two here and I hope you’ll find it interesting. Greg and his wife have done a great job creating a programme out of our lengthy, pleasant conversation.

You might remember The Randomiser from previous mentions, a brilliant Doctor Who podcast featuring my old friends Tim Reid and Charles Auchterlonie. It’s a chat show where the two of them debate a story chosen at random, alongside several mini-features like “No complications”, finding magic moments of greatness and naffness in the long-running programme. The latest episode is out now and I had the pleasure of being their special guest for the the second time. We talked about The Faceless Ones, the recent Star Trek The Motion Picture cinema re-release, Bob Baker and Dave Martin’s fascinating children’s drama King of the Castle and held a tribute to the much missed Bernard Cribbins. I only hope we did justice to him. You can listen to Just looking for Wombles, officer on their Anchor.fm website or find them on all the major podcast platforms.

The Resurrection Plant and The Folklore Podcast

Several fun news items to report on today. My old friend Will Hadcroft has achieved one of his personal ambitions (and mine too someday) of having an official Doctor Who story released. The Resurrection Plant is being released on CD and download by the BBC and Penguin Books on 4th August 2022. It features the Second Doctor (as played by Patrick Troughton), together with Jamie and Zoe and is read by Frazer Hines, who not only played Jamie in the television series but in recent years has been acclaimed for embodying the Second Doctor in new adventures for Big Finish. Here’s the description:

The TARDIS brings its occupants to Calico Three, an Earth-like planetoid where industrial foundries are worked alongside sophisticated technology. The Doctor is staggered to learn about the Resurrection Plant, which re-births anyone mortally wounded in the line of work. While Jamie is put to work in the foundry, Zoe and the Doctor investigate the Plant – but when the machine goes terribly wrong, they must work with the locals to combat a horrifying monster. The Doctor also uncovers a shameful secret that, for him at least, hits close to home.

You can buy Doctor Who – The Resurrection Plant from Amazon and all good bookshops as they say. Or directly from Penguin

Will’s been on the publicity trail for his audiobook and was recently extensively interviewed by Greg for the YouTube channel The Time Scales. He’s also just guested alongside myself on The Folklore Podcast.

Hosted by author, lecturer and folklore expert Mark Norman, The Folklore Podcast is a long running series which “…began in the summer of 2016, after it became apparent that there were very few podcasts which dealt with folklore in an accessible and yet informative way. Most were of the storytelling, ‘campfire’ variety. The ethos of this podcast is simple. To bring world-class experts in the fields of folklore and its associated areas of interest to a wide audience, completely free of charge.” (taken from the official Folklore Podcast website)

Will mentioned my name to Mark after being invited on to talk about the crossovers between Doctor Who and folklore. What followed was an entertaining hour and a bit of conversation between the three of us, looking at the ways the programme had used not just British myths but legends of other cultures too, such as China and Greece. A theme developed that in an almost Scooby Doo fashion, whatever was introduced as supernatural was almost inevitably unmasked as alien by the end of the story. We gave special attention to The Daemons, The Awakening, The Curse of Fenric and The Shakespeare Codex. Our debate moved into the show’s educational remit, its treatment of religion and the often thin line between genuine folk stories and cinema inventions. I enjoyed guesting a lot, and you can listen to the finished episode on your favourite podcast platform or directly from the website.

Speaking of podcasts I have recorded two conversations so far, covering The Aliens and The Flipside of Dominick Hide and I am currently editing them for hopeful release later this month. So watch this space.

I am pleased to say that I have graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University after four years, having achieved a First Class honour in BSc Digital Technology and Solutions Apprenticeship.

Finally, I have begun work as the sound designer/operator on Bolton Little Theatre’s forthcoming production of ‘Allo ‘Allo by Jimmy Perry and David Croft. Based on the hit BBC sitcom it will be running from 12th to 17th September and you can book tickets now. This includes me using QLab extensively for the first time and to support this and future web design work I’ve bought my first MacBook after a lifetime of PC use.

Thanks for reading and I’ll post again soon.

Tripodscast – The Saga Concludes

Last week, the tenth and final episode of The Tripodscast was released. It’s fittingly one of their best episodes, a lively discussion of some of Samuel Youd’s (aka John Christopher) other novels, interspersed with an interview with his children Nick and Rose. They now run The SYLE Press, a small imprint dedicated to putting their father’s work back into print. It’s an interesting conversation, not only for what it reveals of the author in his private life, but as a picture of what is involved in being an independent publisher. Samuel Youd wrote in great many genres over his career, from gothic romance and family sagas to more literary portraits of the time he was living in.

You can listen to this episode and the rest of the series on your favourite podcast app or at https://anchor.fm/the-tripodscast Of course I am biased but I think it’s a quality mini-series for anyone wanting to hear more about the books or the TV series.

It’s been fascinating to watch this podcast develop in confidence and ambition. Initially intended as discussion podcast between three friends looking at the SF series The Tripods Trilogy in books and TV, it has developed into an in-depth examination of Samuel Youd, the making of the television series and its ongoing fandom. It’s scored interviews with all four lead actors, some of whom have rarely been interviewed before, plus the series producer and television veteran Richard Bates, whose career includes script-editing or producing The Avengers, The Darling Buds of May and A Touch of Frost. Writer Will Hadcroft, was another excellent contributor, not only as a viewer but as someone who corresponded with and met Youd.

You’ll be hearing from John Isles, Rebecca Wray and Dani Wray in forthcoming episodes of Very British Futures.

Celebrating the continuing success of ITC

Recently I had the pleasure of taking part in a Talking Pictures TV podcast special about the legacy of the legendary television and film production company ITC. Hosted by comedian and writer Mel Byron, I was part of a panel of guests including ITC historian and writer Jaz Wiseman, and Cevin Moore, the podcaster behind Here Lies Amicus and House of Hammer. Jaz was our focal point, as the author of several books and many articles on ITC including a recent involvement with The Persuaders! Take 50 bluray and book box set. It was an enjoyable hour of conversation about what made the ITC formula such a success and about its lynchpin – Lord Lew Grade.

You can find the podcast here at https://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/show/talkingpicturestvpodcast/id/22506104

ITC began in the early days of British commercial television, and from the start its founder Lew Grade wanted to make exciting, glamorous dramas on film which could compete directly with the output of Hollywood. His first success was The Adventures of Robin Hood with Richard Greene, quickly followed by several more swashbucklers, plus a memorable spy series with Patrick MacGoohan Danger Man, before landing on the series which in many ways defined the ITC formula – The Saint. Now showing on Talking Pictures TV from the beginning, including the rarely shown black and white episodes, and available for a short time online at their streaming service https://www.tptvencore.co.uk/

The Saint caught the imagination of both UK and the all important USA market, and made an international star of Roger Moore. From this series came a long succession of handsome, fashionably dressed crimefighters including The Persuaders!, The Adventurer, Jason King, Man in a Suitcase and more. Meanwhile Lew Grade’s remarkable instinct led him to invest in Gerry Anderson, a young producer with an idea for a new kind of family puppet show. Thus Supercar led on to a whole universe of SF shows including the iconic Thunderbirds. Not to mention countless TV variety specials, comedies, and movies. ITC showcased the best of the British film industry just when it really needed a boost, as cinema attendance dwindled and television audiences swelled.

Whilst some critics carped on the production line mentality of the ITC formula, and its constant focus on winning American sales, the success of the business and Lew Grade’s willingness to invest in a hunch, also allowed for remarkably innovative shows, such as The Prisoner, Sapphire and Steel and The Muppet Show.

The carefully preserved ITC library means that many of its shows are still being shown regularly in the UK and around the world, with many getting beautifully restored high-definition bluray sets. The legacy continues and in time I’ll be taking a closer look at some of it in the Very British Futures podcast. Meanwhile the Talking Pictures TV podcast rolls on, with more from me soon on The Outer Limits.

Tripodscast

It’s very flattering when someone credits you as an inspiration. John Isles and Rebecca Wray were inspired to create their own podcast, partially by my own Very British Futures podcast. Together with Dani Wray, the result is Tripodscast, a series discussing everything you could possibly want to know about John Christopher’s Tripods series. The books, the TV series, the comic strips and more. A good choice, because my episode on the BBC TV series is still my most downloaded instalment.

Episode one is out now and its excellent. A very entertaining 50+ minutes of conversation about the first novel The White Mountains, along with an charming interview with another friend of mine, author Will Hadcroft about his correspondence and eventual meeting with John Christopher, a pen-name of Samuel Youd. It is well produced too and reminds me that when I start season two of my podcast I want to do some in-person recordings as well as Skype chats.

You can listen to Tripodscast on Spotify and at Anchor.fm – https://anchor.fm/the-tripodscast

Wishing them the best of luck for future episodes.

Very British Futures – Outcasts

When I started thinking about Outcasts, in my mind it was a series just a few years old, and I was shocked to find out it was actually broadcast in 2011. Nevertheless its striking how little impact this expensive primetime BBC1 science fiction series seems to have made. A quick google search reveals no dedicated fan sites, only a few reviews on newspapers and general purpose geek TV review sites. In the comments section underneath them, a mixture of short thoughts evenly divided between bouchets and brickbats. Creator Ben Richards tried to generate some excitement with teasing a few things which might have happened in season two but to no avail. No streaming company was rushing to Kudos’ door for more stories from Carpathia and it seemed there was no one campaigning for more. And revival campaigns are surely one of the defining factors of SF fandom?

Looking back there hasn’t been a really successful show about colonising a planet, despite the apparent strengths of such an idea. Neither Earth 2, or Terra Nova lasted more than a season and Outcasts continued the trend. Distant space colonies of explorers and farmers it seems, are more a place we like our heroes to visit, have an adventure, then blast off again to somewhere new. Post-apocalyptic survival tales seem to fare better. The Walking Dead and Survivors have both tackled themes about setting up a new society from the ground up and hooked us into the characters and their plight, yet both had more than their share of soapy storylines. Maybe when we go into space we’re always looking for new worlds to explore, preferably with interesting lifeforms to fight or fall in love with.

Perhaps another lesson to learn from Outcasts is that a great episode one is still important. Maybe a Netflix series can afford a slow burn when all the episodes are simultaneously online, although I wish they didn’t indulge in them quite so often, A weekly series however needs to grip from the first night. Most of the really negative, virulent reviews of Outcasts are based on the first episode. Watching the whole series I agree with some of my guests that the series does improve but the drag factor of the first two slow episodes sets a gloomy tone that later episodes never really shook off, even as the plot picks up momentum. At the same time some of the reviews themselves are weirdly hysterical. For example one newspaper asked if Ed Wood Jr (the notorious low-budget director) was in charge. Whatever else can be leveled at the programme, the production values are first class.

In this episode, I’m joined by Nicky Smalley, Dr Rebecca Wray and John Isles to talk about our rewatch of Outcasts and what we think worked and what didn’t. There’s some interesting discoveries along the way.

Essential facts

Cast
Hermione Norris – Stella Isen
Daniel Mays – Cass Cromwell
Amy Manson – Fleur Morgan
Ashley Walters – Jack Holt
Eric Mabius – Julius Berger
Michael Legge – Tipper Malone
Liam Cunningham – Richard Tate
Langley Kirkwood – Rudi
Jeanné Kietzmann – Lily Isen

Production
Created by Ben Richards

Written by Ben Richards, David Farr, Simon Block, Jimmy Gardner, Jack Lothian

Produced by Radford Neville
Co-produced by Jörg Westerkamp, Thomas Becker, Vlokkie Gordon, David Wicht
Executive Produced by Jane Featherstone, Faith Penhale, Matthew Read, Simon Crawford-Collins, Ben Richards
Directed by Andy Goddard, Omar Madha, Bharat Nalluri, Jamie Payne

Production companies
Kudos Film and Television
ApolloMovie Beteiligungs
BBC America
BBC Wales
Film Afrika Worldwide

You can now follow Very British Futures on Audible, as well as Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and most other major platforms. If they don’t work for you, you can also listen or download it from here:

Very British Futures – Outcasts

As I explain at the end of the episode, this show marks the end of season one. The podcast will be taking a hiatus until Summer 2022, whilst I concentrate on other work. But it will be back. Thanks for reading.