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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
It’s tempting to describe Kinvig as an artistic imperfection, there to make the rest of Nigel Kneale’s television work look even better in comparison. That would be nonsense of course. Nobody involved in this 1982 ITV sitcom wanted it to be anything other than a great success. It’s a fact that Kinvig was not a successful programme in terms of ratings or on the Audience Appreciation Index. The debate lies in whether Kinvig is an unappreciated rough diamond, a textbook disaster, or something in-between.
Kinvig concerns a lazy repairman called Des whose life permanently stuck in neutral. Apart from his good-natured twittering wife Netta, his only friend is Jim Piper. Des indulges Jim in his obsession with unknown mysteries – UFO’s, Atkantis, psychic powers etc. He’s shaken out of his lethagy when beautiful Miss Griffin enters his life, first as an angry customer, then as a seductive alien who tells him he is the only man who can save Earth from the evil Xux. Or is it all in his mind? (Answer: Yes it is)
If it wasn’t written by Nigel Kneale, the writer of classics like Quatermassand the Pit, 1984 , Beasts and The Woman in Black, it’s doubtful that Kinvig would ever have been released on DVD or enjoy any cult status at all. Who remembers SF sitcoms The Adventures of Don Quick for example, or Luna for example? As it is, of my two guests for this episode, only Charles Auchterlonie had seen it before, whilst Tim Reid came to it completely fresh. Chas and Tim already have an excellent podcast of their own – The Randomiser where they discuss Doctor Who and Red Dwarf. I’m a big fan, as well as knowing them as friends from way back in early noughties of Doctor Who internet fandom. In fact I’ll be guesting on a future edition of their show.
I must take a moment to praise Andy Murray’s excellent production notes and his definitive book on Nigel Kneale’s career Into the Unknown which came in very useful when researching the programme.
Overall, most episodes in this series end up championing the show of the week, but I’ll confess that this episode is a bit of demolition job. Hopefully you will think it is an entertaining deconstruction.
Dennis Kinvig – Tony Haygarth Netta Kinvig – Patsy Rowlands Jim Piper – Colin Jeavons Miss Griffin – Prunella Gee Buddo – Simon Williams Mr Horsley – Patrick Newell
Production Design – Michael Oxley Costume Design – Sue Formston Written by Nigel Kneale Produced & Directed by Les Chatfield
You can download Very British Futures from your favourite podcast app. In fact if my podcast is not on your favourite podcast app, let me know and I’ll make sure it gets put there. Or you can listen or download from this very page.
It’s getting busier as a new academic year looms and the UK slowly brings itself back to normality after more than a year of lockdowns and distancing. I’ve reached that stage where I am having to be careful about how I manage my time and future plans, but that’s really a good state of affairs to be in.
The Very British Futures podcast has been a great success and definitely the most fulfilling project I’ve been involved in for a long while. It’s been great to reconnect with some old friends and make some new ones along the way. Plus I’ve enjoyed the speed of the production process too. So it will be a wrench to take a break but I need to to concentrate on the final year of my BSc apprenticeship. Season 1 will be ending with a look at Outcasts and a reunion of three regular contributors. Season 2 will be coming in the Spring of 2022 and will feature another wide spread of British programmes, from Day of the Triffids to The Comic Strip. Thanks to all the blog readers who have supported it.
Rik Hoskin’s novel Bystander 27 has made a good debut. You can read my review on the blog. For newcomers it’s a fresh take on the superhero genre, looking at what it is like to live as an ordinary New Yorker in a city that seems to constantly under attack by super criminals, invasions from other dimensions, and power crazed scientists. Whilst Captain Light and The Jade Shade fight in the air above Manhattan one day, it’s business as usual for Jon Hayes, ex-soldier, and his pregnant wife Melanie, Until a burning helicopter thrown from the sky crushes Melanie in front of her husband. Grief starts Jon asking questions about the whole pantheon of superbeings. Why are there unnamed leagues of minor and major superheroes who only fight enemies at their ‘level’? Who can hold people like The Mechanic to account? Why is the world imperiled once a year by a threat that can only be defeated by a large team up? As Jon delves deeper he’s shocked to find his search coming painfully close to home.
The nature of modern publishing being what it is, reviews and social media are significant indicators that what publishers’ keep an eye. So not only do I recommend the book, if you have read it or do in the future, if you can leave a short review on Amazon etc. or just tweet your thoughts, it can really help. You can buy Bystander 27, a standalone fantasy novel from all good bookshops.
Unusually, some news from my day job. Manchester Metropolitan University’s Brooks Resource Centre was recently featured as a model of good practice by the National Technician Development Centre. You can read an article about where I work on the website, and see the above lovely picture of myself and fellow technician Lucy (pretending to be a customer).
After a long hiatus, Bolton’s amateur theatre scene is coming back to life. I’m currently involved getting the sound together for Bolton Little Theatre’s first production of the season Dick Barton – Special Agent. It’s quite a challenge since as well as the needs of this play, I am also putting the sound deck back together again and upgrading it too. But it will be ready for 13th September.
Dick Barton – Special Agent is a fast-moving comedy, affectionately mocking the famous 30’s/40’s hero of radio, TV and film, as he and his sidekicks Snowy and Jock battle Evil Foreigners In London (EFIL) and their plan to drug the nation with cannabis-laced tea. Running 13-18th September 2021. You can book online now.
Although I have stopped linking to every review, I am still a regular reviewer on the Talking Pictures TV podcast. The station has gone from strength to strength, with an increasing amount of vintage British television joining their film library. Their Saturday Morning Pictures programming has been a big success, and they are hoping for equal reaction to their new Friday night cult film nights, The Cellar Club, hosted by Caroline Munro. I review the first night on the current podcast, which includes Hammer’s The Mummy and nudie flick How to Get Undressed in Public. Available, like Very British Futures, on all major podcasting platforms.
Recently I had the pleasure of guesting on The Randomiser podcast, talking about Doctor Who and Red Dwarf with Tim Reid and Chas Auchterlonie. The time flew by and hopefully the episode will be out soon. In the meantime you can check out this excellent banter pod at randomiserpodcast.buzzsprout.com
In further podcast news, my friends and VBF contributors John, Dani and Rebecca will shortly be starting Tripodscast, all about the classic BBC SF show and perfect if we’ve intrigued you with our recent coverage. Nicky Smalley is also going into the podcast business with Unended, a show pondering what happened next to the fictional lives of characters in popular TV shows.
I’ll be back soon with more on Outcasts soon and other theatre news. Thanks for reading.
Since I started this blog, my Out of the Unknown articles have been the most popular posts, so this series was a natural to cover on the podcast. In fact, making this episode and watching these episodes alongside Stephen Hatcher and Dylan Rees has only deepened my appreciation of this remarkable adult SF drama, as well as my frustration that so many great episodes remain lost.
There have been other good adult SF dramas on television. In the last decade probably the best UK example of a serious anthology has been Black Mirror, but even that thoughtful series can be criticised for being narrowly focused on media matters and its formula summed up as “a new media technology brings out the worst in everyone”. A couple of years ago Channel 4 did a co-production with Amazon Prime, Electric Dreams, adapting stories by Philip K Dick. Some of them were excellent, but Out of the Unknown has such an impressive range of stories and authors, covering genres from comedy to chiller.
I felt the best way to cover this anthology was for myself and guests Dylan Rees and Stephen Hatcher to pick an episode each to concentrate on, as well as a general appreciation. It was a formula that worked particularly well and I’m going to apply it again on other long running series.
Out of the Unknown Essential Facts
Producers – Irene Shubik, George Spenton-Foster, Alan Bromley Story Editors – Irene Shubik, Robin Parks 4 seasons (1965 – 1971)
For more information on Out of the Unknown, including my reviews of all the existing episodes, start here.
Very British Futures is available from Anchor.fm and most leading podcast platforms, now including Soundcloud. You can listen or download this episode from here.
Hope you enjoy this one as much as we enjoyed making it.
The Nightmare Man was one of the first titles I wanted to cover with this podcast series, however finding the guests to talk about it proved harder than I expected. It seems this BBC SF/Horror serial is even more obscure than I thought and quite a few of the people I thought had seen it and would like to talk about it, revealed themselves unaware of it. Happily Ian Taylor, who I had met through amateur dramatics, was a big fan. So much so that he had created a horror discussion group on Facebook named after it. John Isles had not seen it but was keen too, so I lent him my DVD copy, and we were away.
The Nightmare Man is a very entertaining horror B-movie in four parts, adapted from a yarn by David Wilshire. It feels like a slightly more adult Doctor Who adventure, except the timelord has not turned up and its left to the local police, with a little military assistance, to save the day. Inverdee, a Scottish island preparing for winter, is shaken by a violent murder. A woman resident appears to have torn apart by something with super human strength. We know hoarse-breathing killer with blood red vision is out there, but exactly what is he is the central mystery. An alien, a drug-crazed madman, or something stranger?
Atmospheric, filled with likable characters and well paced over four half-hour episodes, The Nightmare Man should be better known but perhaps coming out before home video really took off meant that it could only live in memories of the few million who watched it on BBC1 in the summer of 1981. Hopefully this podcast should direct a few more people to seek out the DVD. It would certainly be a good choice for BritBox.
Cast James Warwick – Michael Gaffikin Celia Imrie – Fiona Patterson Maurice Roëves – Inspector Inskip Jonathan Newth – Colonel Howard Tom Watson – Dr. Goudry James Cosmo – Sergeant Carch Pat Gorman – The Killer
Written by Robert Holmes from the novel Child of Vodyanoi by David Wilshire Produced by Ron Craddock Directed by Douglas Camfield