Thursday, 31 July 2014

Seabase Atlantica: The Whole Sorry Story - part one


I was first introduced to the bizarre-ness that is (or rather was) Seabase Atlantica by an American friend called Paul Morehouse back in the mid-nineties. It was the dawn of the internet age and Paul lived just outside Philadelphia in the US. I’ve since lost touch with him. A friend of a friend told me he got married and moved to Canada whilst someone I met a few years ago told me, he had died from a septic paper cut. Whatever his fate, I have him to thank for this little effort. His was the original research and most of the words within the episode synopses are his. All I have done is to embellish the facts with fresh ones that I have uncovered in the two decades since our first efforts.

What is ‘Seabase Atlantica’?

In short, it was a TV science fiction adventure series made in the late sixties/early seventies (accounts differ with dates) by the later Master of cinema disaster, Irwin Allen. Irwin at the time had made a name for himself in television with success with the likes of ‘Lost in Space’ and ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’ – both of which were known in equal measures for both their incredible special effects and their increasingly bizarre storylines.

‘Seabase Atlantica’ built on all this… or at least, it is reputed to have. The thing is, nobody actually remembers it and very few have actually seen it.

Irwin Allen’s ‘Devon Productions’ made the series for Twentieth Century Fox at a time when the studio was in a dire financial situation. A lot of money was ploughed into ‘Seabase Atlantica’ as a production but the show saw very little return. The reasons are subject to conjecture but the most enduring one suggests that it was made without a sale to a major network such as ABC or CBS. It was assumed that one of them would buy the finished product but instead, all of them turned their noses up at it. At the last minute, some quick thinking saw the first season air on a handful of local syndicated stations and there are reports that it was sighted in Norway in 1972 or possibly it was Sweden in 1973 – we just don’t know! 

Click to enlarge
One of the most tangible sightings was in the UK where early copies of a 1969 edition of the ‘Radio Times’ heralded its forthcoming debut on BBC1 but most archive copies from the period seem to suggest these early editions were withdrawn and reprinted with alternative programming for the show’s alleged Saturday night slot.

Fate would deal ‘Seabase Atlantica’ a further blow in 1971 – a blow that would involve the US government and seal the show’s future in a permanent limbo. Part two will follow shortly.

season one 
episode guide - part one

September 1969 - March 1970


ROBERT YOUNG…Professor Jonathan Crutch
JAMES DARREN…Captain Anthony ‘Ziggy’ Shapiro
CHAD MARTIN…Aqua, the Mer-boy
JUDY ALLEN…Cindy Crutch
JONATHAN HARRIS…Voice of Debbie the Robot

Wr. William Welch (from a story by Irwin Allen)
Dir. Felix Feist
Prof Jon Crutch is putting the finishing touches to his new invention – the hyper-intelligent robotoid his daughter has christened ‘Debbie’. Suddenly, a power surge causes it to go out of control and to raid the sea base’s peutronic reactor. Affected by the radiation, the robot is transformed into a werewolf and kidnaps little Cindy Crutch. Ziggy follows them to a cavern beneath the ocean floor where he is able to activate some radiation dampening plankton and cure the robot’s lycanthropy. Debbie is later repaired and becomes the latest member of the Crutch family.

Wr. Arthur Weiss (from a story by Harlan Ellison)
Dir. Robert Spar
Guest cast: Tim O’Connor (The Prawn).
A giant intelligent prawn man invades the aqua-base, claiming that the Crutch family are destroying the seabed with their latest experiments with nuclear fission. He hypnotises Aqua and commands him to put the peutronic pile on overload. However, the super-prawn is overcome by the radiation and faints.
(Tim O’Connor had just finished filming an episode of ‘Mannix’ when he got the call to the Seabase Atlantica set. Despite his and his agent’s effort, he was unable to get out of his contract for the role.)

Wr. Bob and Esther Mitchell
Dir. Sobey Martin
Guest Cast: Carroll O’Connor (Voice of Crab)
A Red spy satellite crashes in the sea near the base and begins leaking deadly radioactive isotopes into the sea. Cindy pet spider crab finds the wrecked satellite and, affected by the radiation, it grows to enormous proportions and threatens the base. With Prof. Crutch’s help, Cindy is able to communicate telepathically with the crab and tormented by what it has done, it explodes.
(Richard Basehart was originally cast as the crab’s voice but was overdubbed in post because the director wanted a more friendly sounding crab.)

Wr. Shimon Wincelberg and Steven Bochco
Dir. James Goldstone
Guest cast: Florence Henderson (The Ghost of Amelia Earhart).
Jon Crutch discovers the wreckage of Amelia Earhart’s plane and takes it back for study to Seabase Atlantica. There, the poltergeist spirit of Miss Earhart reeks havoc and eventually takes over the body of Susan Crutch. Ziggy manages to render her unconscious and places her in a lead-lined anti-gravity chamber. Switching on the decompression oscillator, he is able to exorcise the spirit and destroy the phantom aviator forever.

Wr. William Welch
Dir. Felix Feist
Guest cast: Ernest Borgnine (King Anthrax), Bill Williams Jnr (The Arbitron).
The Crutch family accidentally discover the lost kingdom of Atlantis and its king – Anthrax – falls in love with Susan. If the others are to ever leave the city, Susan must stay behind and marry the monarch. The only way to escape is for Ziggy to battle the Arbitron – a giant two-legged sea urchin – and claim Susan for his own.

Wr. Richard Shapiro
Dir. Sobey Martin
Guest Cast: Basil Rathbone (Keeper), Bill Williams Jnr (Rubber Pluroid Man, Green Gorilla Creature, Giant Lizard Monster, Zoldax the Barren)
Giant men from the centre of the sun imprison Ziggy and Susan in their space zoo on the planet Mercury. Jon is forced to bargain with the aliens using the sea base’s peutronium rods – a power source that they desperately desire.
(Some sources suggest that the filming of this episode led to guest star Basil Rathbone’s shingles during his final years.)

Wr. Bob and Esther Rantzen
Dir. Harry Harris
Guest cast: Ricardo Montalban (Golden Alien Man), Bill Williams Jnr (Semun).
A golden alien man arrives at Seabase Atlantica to place Jon Crutch on trial for his continued bastardising of the Earth’s resources. Cindy is forced to use a telepathic memorathon to call up incidents from her father’s past to plead his innocence. The alien decides to finally grant Crutch his freedom when he sees a single tear in the child’s eye. (This story features footage from the unseen pilot ‘God Thing With Nine Brains” and previous episodes. It was hastily made when star Robert Young turned up drunk and dyed green on set one morning following a stag do for actor James Brolin.)

Wr. Arthur Weiss and Irwin Allen
Dir. Irwin Allen
A massive explosion in the seabase’s peutron store catapults the Crutch family back to prehistorical times where they battle stock footage from Irwin Allen’s movie ‘The Lost World’. As the local volcano threatens to devour them all, Cindy wakes up. It was all a dream.
(Another episode hastily put together to allow star Robert Young to recover further.)

Wr. William Welch
Dir. Harry Harris
Guest cast: David McCallum (Horrkostovich), Bill Williams Jnr (First Spy), Ian Wood (Third Spy), Gerry O’Dell (Fourth Spy), Simon Greenfield (Spy).
Evil red scientists infiltrate the seabase and its peutron rods. However, they become infected by their atom radiation and turn into werewolves. The added radiation count reanimates Cindy’s dead pet crab, which kills the atom-wolves in a massive nucleonic explosion. (This episode re-used footage from ‘Wish Upon a Crab’)

Wr. Bob and Wanda Ventham
Dir. Nathan Juran
Guest cast: The Kelp Drifters (Themselves), Don Knotts (T.P.Flexiton), Bill Williams Jnr (Gorilla).
A visiting pop band are unaware that their manager, Mr. Flexiton, is really a foreign agent who plans to use the group’s music to enslave and control the world’s youth population. Aqua the Mer-boy is mysteriously unaffected and smothers the group’s amplifiers with liquid seaweed before their live broadcast from Atlantica can take place. Mr. Flexiton is beaten to death by a gorilla. (The song featured in this episode, ‘I Wanna Kiss Your Octopus’, was released as a single by The Kelp Drifters and got to number sixty-eight for one week in the Billboard Top 100 until someone noticed.)

Wr. William Welch
Dir. Harry Harris
Guest cast: Ronnie Reagan (Voice of Dossar), Bill Williams Jnr (Fungoid Man).
A giant fungoid man from space arrives at the base. Its plan is to kidnap humans as food for its master, Dossar – an energy being from the planet Mercurion. Crutch lures him to the base’s main control centre where Debbie the Robot short-circuits him. (Actor Ronnie Reagan had originally requested no on-screen credit for his role but this was declined as the graphics department had already ordered the letraset.)

Wr. Sidney Marshall
Dir. Sobey Martin
Guest cast: Vincent Price (Phutt), Bill Williams Jnr (Mummy man).
The Crutch family discover an ancient scroll at the bottom of the sea, little realising that once its hieroglyphs are translated, it will summon the Egyptian god, Phutt, who plans to snuff out all life on Earth. He doesn’t though because of something. (Vincent Price auctioned off the dentures he used in this episode in the 1980s to raise money for saving babies. They fetched $35 before tax)

Wr. Charles Bennett (from a story by Irwin Allen)
Dir. Harry Harris
A long dead volcano erupts and threatens to engulf the seabase. Jon and Ziggy journey to cap the crater with a peutron plug, little realising that little Cindy is trapped in a cave beneath the raging inferno. It’s up to Aqua the Mer-boy to rescue her before the area is showered with deadly peutronic particles.
(Some of the background plates of the volcanic fire were re-used by Allen in the movie ‘The Towering Inferno’)

Continued in part two here

Seabase Atlantica: The Whole Sorry Story

Written by Andrew-Mark Thompson

Based on material originally written and researched by Paul Morehouse and first published in the magazine ‘FanGrok

With humble acknowledgement to the work of Adam Richards and Owen Richards.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Great Unreleased Doctor Who Merchandise of the 20th Century - part six


Released by BBC Enterprises - 1972 - Original price £249 per episode

The U-matic tape format was invented in 1969 and was released onto the commercial market two years later. Seeing the potential for making its programmes available to the domestic market, the BBC decided to invest in a series of selected U-matic Home Video releases for 1972. 

It's safe to say that the BBC were nearly a decade too early and they'd got the format wrong – something they would repeat many years later with MP3 CDs and DVDAudio discs. 

They also assumed that since the public was potentially willing to pay upwards of several thousand pounds for a U-matic playback/recorder, they would also be able to afford to pay several hundreds of pounds for original television programmes. In the end, they couldn't even afford the machine let alone the tapes.  

I have one of these videos in my possession but since it has no cover or label and I do not own a U-matic playback machine, I cannot verify the contents. So there. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Great Unreleased Doctor Who Merchandise of the 20th Century - part five


Published by Orbital Education Books Ltd - 1967 - original price 9d

When William Hartnell left 'Doctor Who' in 1966, his agent managed to link his name to a series of children's non-fiction titles to capitalise on his continued popularity and, one assumes, to provide some income for the now out-of-work actor. Similar in concept to the 'Doctor Who Discovers' series, the books were planned to deal with such diverse subjects as 'Rockets', 'Prehistoric Monsters', 'The Bible', 'Domestic Science' and 'Rocks' according to trade adverts for booksellers and libraries at the time.

Only the first one - 'William Hartnell's Book of Outer Space' - seems to have been published and even this only appeared in school library suppliers catalogues in 1967. Some - possibly remainded editions - were sold in branches of John Menzies in Scotland during their 1968 summer sale according to sources. 

As is usual with these kind of books, Hartnell's involvement appears to have been little more than to lend his name to them. The introduction of the 'Outer Space' edition purports to be written by the actor and is signed with his signature. In it, he waxes lyrical about the magic of outer space claiming that "fantasy is now very much reality with, I predict, a man walking on the moon by the end of the next decade and atomic bases on the satellite by 1999." 

Needless to say, the rest of the book is a little more accurate thanks to a text by a mysterious someone referred to on the cover as "P. Moore". Attempts to find the author by this writer have been to no avail.

SUPERMARIONATION SCANDAL! What if the 'Daily Mail' had published 'TV21?

Click on thumbnails to

The Do-It-Yourself 'Star Trek - The Next Generation' Script Generator

(More from a floppy diskette I recently discovered at the bottom of a drawer during a clear-out. This time, create your own episode of Star Trek the Next Generation - originally written when the show was at the height of its power back in the 1990s and published in a slightly edited by the cult humour fanzine 'FanGrok'. Please treat it carefully.)

Simply pick from the cloices of A, B, C or D, write down the answers and flog them to Paramount. They’re always harping on about wanting “new talent” on the writing staff so here’s your chance to join that elite band of 450,000 other writers who claim to work on the shows......!

1. TEASER - Fade up to:
The crew of the USS Enterprise...

a.) ...are taking shore leave on a beautiful paradise planet
b.) ...are investigating a colourful and expensive piece of computer animation on the edge of the Alpha Quadrant
c.) ...are bored shitless listening to Data playing classical music on his wobble-board
d.) Ten Forward taking the piss out of Worf’s ritual Klingon pig-tails.

2. Suddenly, Captain Picard calls a red alert because...
a.) ...he’s received top secret orders from Starfleet Command but can tell no one what they are.
b.) ...Commander Riker is stuck in his sonic shower
c.) ...The teaser’s two minutes are up and he’s getting itchy
d.) ...The Andorian Ambassador has been found dead, face down in Lwaxana Troi.



5. ACT ONE: We begin with...

a.) ...An establishing shot of the Enterprise
b.) ...An establishing shot of the Enterprise
c.) ...An establishing shot of the Enterprise
d.) ...A close-up shot of the Andorian Ambassador, face down in Lwaxana Troi.

6. Picard calls a meeting of his command staff, where they discuss...
a.) ...archaeology
b.) ...Worf’s bottom
c.) ...The drop in ratings
d.) ...How the fuck to explain to the Andorians what their Ambassador was doing face down in Lwaxana Troi.

7. Data has been monitoring strange signal emanations from a planet in the Rigel system. He believes them to be...
a.) ...something never detected before and worthy of further investigation.
b.) ...from a race of aliens too unfashionable to be of any real interest to this episode
c.) ...a false echo bouncing back from Commander Riker’s stomach
d.) ...the Andorian Ambassador’s wife asking after her husband.

8. All of a sudden, without warning and for no apparent reason...
a.) ...The Enterprise is buffeted from side to side as it’s pummelled by an invisible cosmic entity played by an actor from TV’s Frasier (Name to be announced)
b.) ...The starboard deflector shield fails as the Enterprise sustains a photon torpedo hit from a ship captained by the evil mirror universe John F. Kennedy
c.) ...The main control console explodes showering everyone with tatty sparks and early episodes of I Love Lucy appear on the main viewscreen
d.) ...Data’s cat gives birth to seventeen darling kittens.


10. ACT TWO: Fade up to...

a.) ...An establishing shot of the Enterprise (again!)
b.) ...Picard still struggling with the door to his sonic shower
c.) ...Geordi spouting techno-babble into a comlink while the warp core pops and splutters and extras scatter in the background
d.) ...Riker on the floor, muttering “...what the fuck?” and pulling one of Data’s darling kittens out from under him.

11. The crew is forced to split up and investigate further:
a.) Geordi and Data beam down to the planet’s surface and investigate the same polystyrene boulders for the umpteenth time this season.
b.) Troi senses a feeling of great sadness in the audience whilst Wesley lives up to his name and is crushed to death under a damaged bulkhead.
c.) Captain Picard reveals that his orders from Starfleet conflict with the prime directive and goes off to his ready room to sulk whilst Riker seeks to tackle his weight problem with illegal diet pills.
d.) Dr. Crusher hovers about the bridge for a bit then wanders off to her quarters to worry about Wesley’s new boyfriend; a hairy, thirty stone Klingon with chronic halitosis

12. Suddenly the real menace reveals itself to be none other than...
a.) ...Tasha Yar’s evil twin sister
b.) ...A Tasha Yar from an alternate dimension
c.) ...Tasha Yar
d.) ...Q (disguised as Tasha Yar).


14. ACT THREE: Meanwhile a “human-interest” B plot is developing:

a.) Worf is having one-parent family problems with his son Alexander
b.) Riker is forced to come to terms with his grotesque obesity when a chair in Ten Forward collapses under his incredible weight
c.) Data is experimenting in a relationship with Spot
d.) Geordi has fallen in love with the wrong woman again. This time it’s the 200 year old corpse of Lt. Uhura.

15. Guinan solves everyone’s personal problems in Ten-Forward by...
a.) ...listening convincingly in a heart-warming fashion whilst wearing a silly hat
b.) ...offering to poison Wesley.

c.) a stripper and calling a happy hour.
d.) ...not appearing due to her movie commitments on Sister Act 3.

16. The episode begins to climax when...
a.) ...Deanna Troi reveals herself to be pregnant by an alien energy being
b.) ...Data’s analysis of the situation proves to be complete gibberish due to chronic piles
c.) ...Picard orders them all to go in at any cost because “...they are Starfleet officers, goddammit!!!”
d.) ...Tasha Yar dies once again in a lachrymose scene unable to reveal to Data that she’s carrying his baby.

17. Just as all hope is lost and time is rapidly running out...
a.) ...O’Brien comes up with a plan to save the day but he can’t tell anyone because he’s still a non-speaking extra
b.) ...Wesley is killed (again!)
c.) ...Q appears and reveals “It was all a test, mon capitan!”
d.) ...Troi takes the helm and pilots the Enterprise into the nearest tree.

18. The menace is finally despatched by...
a.) ...Picard’s powerful posturing
b.) ...Data’s supreme sacrifice
c.) ...Dr. Crusher’s medical miracle
d.) ...Riker’s fart.


20. ACT FOUR: Fade up to...
The Epilogue - everybody is happy except for...

a.) ...Picard, who remembers what the Borg did to him
b.) ...Data, who realises he will never know what it is like to be human
c.) ...Worf, who still can’t tell Geordi about his feelings for him because they are not the Klingon way
d.) ...Riker, who’s just seen his laundry bill.

followed by...

a.) ...a trailer for next week’s “all-new episode of Staaaaaaar Trek - The Next Generation”
b.) ...a trailer for next week’s bloody repeat
c.) ...a trailer for Babylon 5.

d.) apology

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Great Unreleased Doctor Who Merchandise of the 20th Century - part four


Published by World Distributors Ltd - 1974 - Original price 95p

A year or so before the release of their 'Dalek' annuals, World Distributors Ltd looked to other parts of the 'Doctor Who' to exploit. Some bright spark came up with 'The Master Annual'. This test copy features all the usual picture strips, zany art and bewildering features one would expect. The stories include such luridly titled efforts as 'Terror on Alpha One', 'The Golden Death', 'Invasion of the Puff Creatures' and 'Killer from the Asteroid Belt'. The features have a bent towards villainy rather than space (like the previous annuals based on the parent series). There's an A-Z of Villainy which includes topics such as 'blackmail', 'Lizzie Borden', 'arsenic' and 'the Conservative Party' together with a game which gives the players a chance to kill the Doctor by trapping him in a pit of “Perluvian acid snakes”

As is usual, the is no credit for writers or artists and the copyright is simply credited to the BBC. Documentation from the original publishers suggests a print run of 5,000 was supplied to them from a printing house in Spain though there is no record of either their storage or destruction in the UK. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Great Unreleased Doctor Who Merchandise of the 20th Century - part three


Nearly published by Polystyle Publications - 1971 - Original price: 5p

The first issue of 'Countdown' comic was a huge success. Kids loved the mix of serious sci-fi comic strips featuring their favourite TV heroes from old favourites like Dr. Who to that new kid on the block, Gerry Anderson's UFO. This success led to the producers hastily putting to together a sister publication. UNIT would be more action-based with an emphasis shifting from just sci-fi to other telly hits of the time. The lead strip featured a spin-off from 'Doctor Who' in the form of 'UNIT' which saw the Brigadier aided by agents Jo Grant, Mike Yates and Benson battle Earth-based threat with no mention of their time travelling mentor, the Doctor. The likenesses to the TV characters in the first instalment were okay, with artwork up to the sister comic's standard. - However, keen eyes would notice that "Benson" bore little resemblance to the actor who played the TV character "Benton". Official BBC paperwork from the period suggests that a certain actor refused to allow his likeness to be used for the £1.55 per issue fee. Thus another character was created to replace him at no cost whatsoever. And "Benson" was born...

In the end, sales of 'Countdown' fell dramatically. The idea for 'UNIT Comic' swiftly ended and 'Countdown' went on to become 'TV Action' before suffering a slow death when it merged with TV Comic a year or so later.  

All that is left - aside from a cover - is a mock-up comic strip with Sgt. Benton's face scribbled out forcefully with a deep red marker pen.

The Complete History of Dr. Who - part three

by our Sun TV Reporter

There was an attempt by Stephen Spielburg to make a big Hollywood movie about Doctor Who in the mid-nineties with the lead being played by Paul Nicholas but this was too expensive to make and was made into a series of new adventure books instead that were so adult and clever, they were unreadable and were eventually published by Poundland.

It wasn’t until 2004 that Doctor Who returned to BBC television screens when popular Coromation Street creator - Hustler T. Davis was hired to write it all. Originally, Davis made it as a queer folk programme but BBC bosses told him to ban it and he made it into a Saturday night game show instead. The new Doctor was played by ex-crack actor, Christopher Ecclestone and his companion was played by former S Club 7 pop singer Billy J. Piper. They lived as a married couple with Piper’s mother and her black teenage friend on a London council estate in Cardiff and had great success battling Slimey Veens from the planet Rastafairius and plastic Ortons disguised as waxwork David Beckhams. It was a huge success but after Ecclestone was cited as the other woman in his co-star’s divorce to Captain America star Chris Evans, he was sacked for being too northern. 
He was quickly replaced by top actor David Tennants who had previously been a casanova with many women in Blackpool. He had also appeared in a couple of Doctor Who audio plays that nobody bought any more because the TV series was too popular again.

His first stories debuted at Easter in a special movie episode entitled “The Boxing Day Invasion” and went on to even bigger success with stories that featured him meeting one of the last surviving Doctor Who companion Elizabeth Sladden played by Sara Jan Smit and her robot bitch.

Billy J. Piper eventually left to join independent television's successful night time chat lines on ITV2 as a prostitute whilst the series itself welcomed its first African companion, Freda Agamemon. She played Marfa as a much darker character to the ones viewers were used to.

The series had now become so successful that two spin-offs span off from the series .Touchwood featured John Barrowlad as Captain Jack Sparrow – a gay, homosexual pirate from the year one million who sets up a top secret organisation in Swansea to battle alien sex whilst Elizabeth Sladden appeared in a children’s version that didn’t.

Meanwhile, the Doctor had teamed up with comedian Catherine Bate – one half of the comedy duo French and Catherine but David Tennants had now now become too famous and well-liked. He had to leave. Getting rid of him was a difficult task and it took four special episodes to get the job done.

The eleventh Doctor Who would be played by a much younger actor called Matt Smith. He was a former sports reporter with ITV Sports and was the youngest ever child actor since the last one to play the time lord.

Matt Smith – who was the twin son of Munsters' star Fred Gwynne – remained with the series as it hit the big time throughout the world. For the show's 50th birthday, he appeared in person with the previous Doctor Who in a 3D special episode entitled 'The Day of Doctor Who and the Daleks'. The movie length feature was broadcast throughout the known world and was watched by every living person on the planet. Twice. Making it the most watched single thing ever in the history of all creation – though since Norris McWhirter is now dead, this cannot be verified for the next Guinness Book of Records.

When Matt Smith became too young to play the oldest Doctor, he was replaced by former sad fan Peter Garribaldi who was old enough to remember Matt Smith before he was born. When he was told about getting the role, Peter was working at 10 Downing Street as a press officer and swore a lot down the phone at producer Stephen Moffatt. They laughed about it afterwards. A bit.

The new Doctor – together with his newish companion Clara Oswald Mosley – returns in a new series of adventures later this month when the new series will be available to the public via a series of downloads courtesy of BBC Miami.

Questions are still being asked in Parliament but these tend to be ones about whether the new Master should wear a hoodie.

Check out the links on the right for the previous two parts of this exhausting history.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Tonight's Episode - "Top Ten TV Titles"

What is it with writers and producers today? 

What ever happened to the wonderfully evocative and sometime lurid titles of TV episodes we used to have? 

The eagerness with which we waited on any Quinn Martin detective show for that rich baritone announcer to reveal “Tonight's Episode” and win the bet as to whether it contained either the word 'murder' or 'death' somewhere in it.

These days, episode titles seem somewhat repetitive and hum drum. There was a phase - not so long ago - when all episode titles seemed to consist of a single word – usually something like 'Gambit' or 'Survival' or 'Flashpoint'. These days though the cliches come thick and fast. Often episode titles are simply a pointer – a two to three word precis of the gist of the plot. 'Daleks in Manhattan' is probably the worst offender of recent years.

In the interest of piquing curiosity in the subject, I present my own Top Ten Episode Titles in No Particular Order.

1. Public Eye - You Think It'll Be Marvellous – But It's Always a Rabbit (1965 – 1.10). The sixties/seventies private eye series that starred the late Alfred Burke always gave good titles. Often they were quotes from dialogue in the ever quirky scripts. 

2. Callan: Nice People Die At Home (1969 – 2.14) Nice and grim as one would expect from Callan.

3. Star Trek: For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky (1969 – 3.08) Another dialogue quote from a series that also enjoyed quoting the classics and quite elegantly pretentious.

4. Doctor Who: The Death of Doctor Who (1965 – 2.34) A good lurid title from Terry Nation which is almost designed to piss off the nerd. Needless to say, the TV programme referred to in the title is still going strong after fifty or so years...

5. Space 1999: The Rules of Luton (1976 – 2.07) Amuses me every time I see this episode title. The story goes that the American producer saw the name 'Luton' on a road sign on the way to the studio and decided it would make a good name for a planet of intelligent trees. 

6. Cannon: Bad Cats and Sudden Death (1972 – 2.01) It's for titles like these that the Quinn Martin announcer's voice was purposely trained.

7. The Streets of San Francisco: A Trout in the Milk (1973 – 1.13) You really want to see this episode.

8. Hawaii Five-0: Three Dead Cows at Makapuu part one (1970 – 2.23) You probably don't want to see this episode.

9. Mannix: Skid Marks on a Dry Run (1967 – 1.2) Heh. Heh. It says 'Skid Marks'.

10. The Saint: The Effete Angler (1962 – 1.09) Fishing for trouble!

And while we are at it... here's a spelling error from 'Galactica 1980'.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

A Game for 2-4 Players Based on the Successful TV Series

Board games based on TV shows were a part of everyone 70s kid's childhood. Some were good, some were desperate. And by that I mean that playing them required a degree in quantum physics to understand the rules of a game that had as much to do with the TV show they were based on as they did to a cantaloupe.

I had several of these games. Mostly they were Christmas presents and invariably they were based on a love for the TV series or a particularly convincing TV ad.

There were two based on 'Doctor Who' – one was a really disappointing board and dice game in which you had to visit four planets and do something heroic to save the galaxy. It did have a nice perfunctory TARDIS shaped shaker for the dice though. The version I had also came with a giant sticker of Tom Baker on the box – evidently he hadn't been cast as the Doctor or given his permission for his image to be used when the game was first released. You do have to admire the gall of Denys Fisher.

There was also War of the Daleks. This was a rather more elaborate affair with little silver and gold plastic Daleks on a raised box-like board that spun round and knocked playing counters over. Clumsy Daleks were the scourge of the universe in 1977. I still have one of the Daleks but not the game itself. I turned it into a key chain in the 80s. Poor thing!

The board game based on the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson show 'Space: 1999' was another kettle of fish. Evidently, the creators of the game jumped in to licence their product very early on and had little more than script notes for the first episode to go on – or so it seemed. A large circular grid-like playing board on which conical playing pieces doubled for Eagle spacecraft saw players battle through radiation fields to get nuclear charges (small pegs that looked like rejects from an old Mastermind set) back to Moonbase Alpha. In fact, the only connection with John Koenig and his lunar heroes was the exciting cover art and the odd name in the instruction booklet. Disappointing in all aspects and dull beyond compare.

I also had a game based on the old ITV sitcom 'On The Buses'. This was actually quite fun. Little red buses trundled around a playing board picking up vac-formed plastic passengers avoiding the dreaded 'Blakey' card – which featured a lovely and threatening piece of artwork of the character played by Stephen Lewis in the series. When the card was played, you couldn't help but let out a “Heeehhh! I've got you Butler!!”.

Board games aren't what they used to be and the nation's charity shops contain too few of the nostalgic best. Ebay is now their rest home where prices (and postage) pay for their retirement from service. 

Of course, some board games never even made it into production...

Doctor Who series eight spoilers

Nuff said...

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Great Unreleased "Doctor Who" Merchandise of the 20th Century - part two


Published by Target Books (US) - 1979 - price unknown

With the success of their 'Doctor Who Discovers' educational books which saw the Doctor - played by Tom Baker - delve into such child-friendly topics as dinosaurs, space travel and early man, Target decided to launch the series in the United States. However, their US arm pointed out that 'Doctor Who' wasn't that well known across the pond and wouldn't be for another thirty or so years. So they suggested re-branding the books with a more well-known American TV character. It didn't really work that well but my wife adored them...

The Return of the Men from UNIT

Here's a few of the individual covers for 'The Men from UNIT' novels. The image/ad I previously posted doesn't show off the unique text for each one so here's a chance to see some of them full size.

The Complete History of Dr.Who - part two

by our Sun TV reporter

In an attempt to get more realism into the series, one of Dr.Who’s companions was a junkie called Katie who, in a very nototious episode, tackled a Dalek in the nude! The scene caused much controversy and questions were asked in Parliament.

When John Pertbum left to become Wurzel Gummidge and form his own pop group called The Wurzels, producer John Nathan Turner hand-picked Tom Baker for the part after seeing him in a famous 70s horror film called 'George and the Dragon' in which he played an evil railway station manager who turned into a begonia. The idea provided the inspiration for one of his early classic stories...The Pyramids on Mars.

Things now looked rosy for Dr.Who but soon Mary Whitehouse was on the war path - complaining about the show’s nudity and bad language. BBC bosses were furious and told the producer to turn the series into a sitcom.Tom Baker eventually married his then companion, Mary Tamm - the famous film actress wife of Jon Voight in the movie 'The Oddessaphile' Unfortunately, word got out to the press that he was also having an affair with Leela Ward; another of his companions in Paris. She became pregnant during the filming of 'The Destiny of Dr.Who and the Daleks' and had to go. Tom Baker finally turned to alcohol and became so drunk, he was told to leave, with the producers threatening to replace him with a WOMAN!

After filming his last story, 'Logopopolis' and after a massive 14,000 episodes in the role (making him the longest Dr.Who in the world), Baker left, dying a year or so later, drunk and penniless in a basement flat in Chiswick, South London.

The show went on with child actor Peter Davidson assuming the role of Dr.Who, now played as a cricketing country vet of the 1940s. It was at this point that Dr.Who became huge in America with millions of fans spending lots of money on merchandise and non-recyclable pin badges. To celebrate this, the BBC got together all of the old Doctors and made a special ninety minute film called“The Five Dr.Whos”Richard Harris replaced the late William Hartnell who was dead whilst the late Tom Baker was played by a waxwork, shape-changing robot called K-9.

Eventually Peter Davidson grew too old to play the youngest Dr.Who and was replaced the overhearing actor Colin Farrell who was once famous for playing JR in the British version of Dallas which was about trucks.. Wanting to make himself stand out, he played the new Dr.Who as a tasteless figure who wore loud clothes and shouted and spat at people. Controversy once again raised its ugly head when scenes of Colin eating a live rat were accidentally broadcast during episode three of “The Two Dr.Whos”. Questions were asked in Parliament and, as such, the series was axed.

After fire-bombing the BBC, a team of SAS lesbian fans took Nicholas Witchell and Sue Lawley hostage in the BBC newsroom, in an attempt to gain a reprive for the show. The BBC bought the show back but it was now on trial; quite literally! Colin was found guilty and sent to prison whilst the little Scottish actor Sylvester McStallone took over the main role of Dr.Who again. McStallone decided to play the character as a darker person and wore special boot-polish make-up to make him appear even blacker.

But the series was now too bad to be allowed to continue and the BBC killed it off. Nobody noticed when it stopped being shown opposite EasteNders one stormy night in December 1989.

There was an attempt by Stephen Spielberg to make a big Hollywood movie about it in the mid-nineties with the lead being played by The McGann Brothers - a popular singing quartet from Liverpool  But this was too expensive to make and was eventually adapted into a series of new adventure books instead that were so adult and clever, they were unreadable and were eventually published by Poundland.

to be continued

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Complete History of Dr. Who - part one

by our Sun TV Reporter

Although Doctor Who appeared regularly on radio during the war, the series was actually created for television by the famous science fiction author, Terry Nation in 1960. Many other more famous authors were invited to write for the new series including George Orwell following the success of his emmy award winning script for the 'Play For Today' series called 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' and set in the far future. 

Doctor Who’s main character was called “Dr.Who” and portrayed by the elderly actor William Hartnell who was then famous for his role in the sitcom 'Dad’s Army'. In the early episodes he was accompanied by three schoolteachers called Mr. Chesterfield, Mrs Wright and Miss Foreman - the latter being an alien superwoman in disguise!

In these early years, Dr.Who met many enemies including the evil Daleks who were evil computerised men from the planet Arso. The Daleks were very popular and spawned in their own television series, many episodes of which were destroyed by the BBC in the seventies because they didn’t have any cupboard space to put them in. Dr.Who also met many famous historical figures including the Irish explorer Mark O’Polo, Julius Caesar and Proffesor Van Helsing.

For a short while, William Hurndall left the role and was replaced by the horrific actor Peter Cushing because he started getting on a bit. Cushing’s episodes were eventually re-edited together and released as cinema films because he was famous at the time as a Dracula in the States.

When Hartnell eventually died, he was finally replaced by Patrick “Paddy” Troughton, who played the part as an obsessive Roman Catholic priest whose catchphrase - “You must drink the blood of Christ!” - became a national institution. Questions were often asked in Parliament about the series, it was that good!

When Troughton’s Dr.Who was killed off (after being impaled by a falling church spire), he was replaced again by the comedian John Pertwick who was then famous as an actor in the 'Confessions' films. Pertwilly’s first story was a big budget colour film made entirely on location and was later edited down into four episodes to be shown as a mini-series in 1970.

It was during the seventies that Dr.Who became stuck on Earth and joined MI5, whose chief was known only as “The Brigadier”. “He” sent Dr. Who on his various dangerous assignments against such adversaries as giant robot daffodils, the Yeti and, of course, the darleks.

to be continued

(Note: This is actually something I originally wrote for the fanzine 'FanGrok' way back in the nineties - before even Paul McGann became associated with "the best role in telly." I keep coming back to it now and again to update it. I'll post the rest of it - bringing it completely into the present - shortly.)