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Join us for the latest on the best in extraordinary fictional television and film from the past, present and future, and analysis on its cultural impacts.

Find out about the amazing facts in fiction, and discover the truth about what's really going on in the World around us...

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008 15:05

June Hudson

Top flight costume designer for the BBC, ITC and others ...

 

Known for bringing her work in on budget and always giving good value, June Hudson has worked for the BBC as a costume designer on sitcoms, science fiction dramas and soap operas.

As a wardrobe supervisor she worked on Johnny Speight's comedy Till Death Us Do Part starring Warren Mitchell as the opinionated Alf Garnett. Rising to the position of costume designer, Ruth dressed Leonard Rossiter and the staff of Sunshine Desserts for David Nobbs' The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

For Blake's 7, June followed producer David Maloney's instructions to create a look as colourful and spectacular as her budget would allow. Making costumes that suited the individual character's personalities, her designs subconsciously supported the series' Robin Hood theme. For Jacqueline Pearce's Servelan, June decided the character would always wear white, like Marilyn Monroe.

In 1978 June worked on Doctor Who after producer John Nathan-Turner decided to smarten up the long-running series' costuming which had become a hit-and-miss affair. Admiring June’s work, he requested she be assigned full time to Doctor Who.

Though the department head refused to agree to his request, she was allowed to alternate on the production with fellow costume designer Amy Roberts.

Working on such stylised shows, June worked closely with the make-up designers and sometimes the set designers to achieve the best results for the human characters and the aliens and monsters. One of her first tasks was to redesign Tom Baker's costume, originally been envisaged by James Acheson. Realising Baker's personality was tied up with the existing look, June decided to adapt the costume rather than create a wholly new outfit. Under her aegis, she introduced the deep burgundy overcoat and suggested the big collar incorporating the question marks.

Coming back down to earth once her stint on Doctor Who was over, June was the costume designer on the soap opera EastEnders when it launched in 1985. Most recently June redesigned Tom Baker's costume for the Radio Times cover celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Doctor Who.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 15:05

Julie Stevens

From The Avengers to Play Away, Julie Stevens is a familiar Cult TV face ...

 

Following the departure of Ian Hendry after the first year of The Avengers, three new companions were appointed to partner John Steed, who had now taken centre stage, before it was decided who would be the permanent replacement.

Although Honor Blackman's Cathy Gale would eventually take the coveted role, for six episodes Patrick Macnee was partnered with the platinum blonde night-club singer Venus Smith, played by Julie Stevens.

Best known as a children's television presenter, she hosted The Sunday Break, ABC Weekend Television's religious programme for teenagers, during the early 1960s and ITV's Sunday 'Family Hour' which featured the seven-part Pathfinders in Space and its two sequels, devised by The Avengers and Doctor Who creator Sydney Newman.

Between 1966 and 1979 Julie was a regular on Play School, which catered for the pre-school audience, and its companion show, Play Away from 1975 and 1979. In 1972 she played alongside Johnny Ball and Derek Griffiths in Cabbages and Kings, taking part in the historical comedy sketches the series was based around.

As an actress Julie appeared in episodes of Z Cars, Not For Women Only and The Dick Emery Show. For three years she played Rosemary Pilgrim in the ATV sitcom Girls About Town, and appeared in the cinema as Gloria, the slave girl, in Carry on Cleo.

Having spent many years as Harry Secombe's personal manager she recently returned to acting with an appearance in the hospital drama Holby City.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 15:04

Jonathan Ruffle

Ruling the air waves as a writer and producer ...

 

After graduating from St Catharine's College, Cambridge with an MA in Law, Jonathan Ruffle joined the BBC World Service as a Studio Manager before moving to BBC Radio 1 to became an entertainment producer.

Known as Happening Boy on "Steve Wright in the Afternoon", which introduced the American zoo-format to UK radio, he played the character The Pervy as well co-creating Dr Fish Filleter. In 1989 he won a Sony Gold Award for following in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg by attempting to travel "Around the World in 80 Days" with Simon Bates.

Switching stations, he produced the Radio 4 documentary "The Romans in Britain" and the award-winning drama "Bomber". For the Radio 2 adaptation of Nicholas Monsarrat's "The Cruel Sea" starring Donald Sinden and Philip Madoc, he crossed the Atlantic on a cargo ship, recording the sounds of the winds and waves to create the right sound effects.

While contributing to "Excess Baggage" as a travel reporter, he was the Commissioning Executive for BBC Entertainment's "The Millennium" in 1999. After producing radio commercials and reporting from the 2000 Cannes Film Festival for LBC he returned to Radio 4 to produce the comedies "Wheeler's Fortunes" and "Wheeler's Wonders" which documented the life of Creighton Wheeler, a talented everyman afflicted with Splicer's Disease which removed whole phrases from his speech, making him appear to sound badly edited.

A charity producer for Comic Relief in 1991, and produced the award-winning Channel 4 documentary Edward VIII: The Traitor King. A consultant on the Discovery Channel documentary Wings and the BBC drama Night Flight, he produced the documentary Bomber for GB Films. Having written for BBC Radio comedies, he scripted numerous documentaries for Channel 4, Carlton and Five, and contributed to Never Mind the Buzzcocks as a gag writer.

As well as writing "Battle of Britain at the Barbican" for the RAF Benevolent Fund in 2000, he has been involved in producing numerous Air Shows and events including the History in Action re-enactments for English Heritage the Royal International Air Tattoos.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 15:03

Joe McGrath

A serious producer of the best in British comedy ...

 

Born in Glasgow in 1930, Joe McGrath’s credentials as a writer, producer and director in British film and television comedy are almost second to none.

Beginning as a producer on Michael Bentine’s surreal sketch show It’s a Square World, he co-wrote and directed the television play Justin Thyme starring Leonard Rossiter and produced the first of two BBC shows for the Soviet Union’s leading comedian Arkady Raikin, and the short-lived sitcom The Big Noise which starred Bob Monkhouse as brash pop disc jockey.

In 1965 he produced and contributed material to the first series of the classic Not Only... But Also starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. After producing East of Howerd which filmed Frankie Howerd entertaining British forces in Malaysia, Joe directed The Goon Show for Thames Television. A recording of Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe performing The Tale of Men’s Shirts, the programme was deemed unsuccessful and scuppered plans to transfer the classic radio comedy to television.

He produced Spike Milligan’s surrealistic sketch show Oh In Colour and directed the television series Zodiac starring Anouska Hempel and Anton Rodgers. Both director and producer of the sitcom The Losers written by Punch editor Alan Coren and starring Leonard Rossiter as a cockney wrestling promoter, he executive produced and co-wrote Good Night and God Bless with Donald Churchill who played a stand-up comic fronting a television game show.

In a film career that began as one of six directors on the James Bond spoof "Casino Royale", Joe co-wrote and directed "The Magic Christian" with Terry Southern and star Peter Sellers, "The Great McGonagall" with Spike Milligan playing the Scotsman eager to become Poet Laureate and the Sherlock Holmes spoof "The Strange Case of the End of Civilisation as We Know It" with John Cleese and Jack Hobbs.

In recent years Joe co-wrote the book "Now That’s Funny!" with David Bradbury, a collection of interviews with some of the greatest writers of British comedy including Spike Milligan, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, and John Sullivan.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 15:02

Jenny Hanley

Her bubbly personality took flight with Magpie ...

 

The daughter of actors Jimmy Hanley and Dinah Sheridan, Jenny Hanley's original ambition was to be a children’s nanny. She followed in her parents' footsteps after a career in modelling led to a part in the James Bond feature "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". As one of the patients at Blofeld's mountain lair alongside Catherine Schell and Joanna Lumley, Jenny was offered an exclusive contract from the co-producer Harry Saltzman.

After playing Caroline in "The Ballad of Tam-Lin", directed by Roddy McDowall, she appeared in "Scars of Dracula", the last of the Hammer Films period Dracula features alongside Dennis Waterman and Christopher Lee, and the Boulting Brothers' satirical "Soft Beds, Hard Battles" starring Peter Sellers. Balancing film work with roles on television, Jenny played Mrs Hawkins on the long-running BBC police drama Softly, Softly.

Appearing in The Persuaders! episode "Someone Waiting", she guest-starred in episodes of The Adventurer, Zodiac, the Royal Navy drama Warship, The Hanged Man and The Return of the Saint opposite Ian Ogilvy's Simon Templar. After playing Liz in Man About the House, she starred as Angie in the first series of the children's sitcom Robert's Robots and Alison Bentley alongside Sylvia Syms in the Comedy Premiere pilot "The Truth About Verity".

From 1974 Jenny was one of the presenters of ITV's trendier rival to the BBC’s Blue Peter, the bi-weekly children's magazine programme Magpie. During her six years on the show she travelled around the world joining in many hazardous events such as mountain climbing, go-kart racing and parachuting and even being sunk in a helicopter.

After fronting the popular Saturday Night at the Mill, she presented the magazine programme Sky By Day. Having been a celebrity guest on numerous game shows including Celebrity Squares, Punchlines and Give Us A Clue, she regularly appears in Countdown’s Dictionary Corner.

In demand as a voice over artist, Jenny currently presents a weekday afternoon and Sunday morning show on Saga Radio Digital.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 14:58

Don Maclean

One of the stars of Crackerjack and a regular on various television and radio comedy shows ...

 

Don was awarded a Silver Heart from the Variety Club of Great Britain to mark his 30th anniversary in show business in 2003 - Don McLean is one of Britain's leading television and cabaret performers.

Well known as one of the presenters of the long-running children's variety show Crackerjack, regularly shown on Fridays at 'five to five,' he was also the host of The Black and White Minstrel Show for three years on television and five years during its theatrical run.

A regular on Celebrity Squares in the late 1970s, Don hosted the game shows Mousetrap and First Letter First, and devised and appeared in The Cheapest Show on the Telly with Lenny Henry. He hosted three series of Keen Types and more recently presented Songs of Praise for the BBC.

On the radio he featured in his own series, Maclean Up Britain and Keep It Maclean. A team member of Wit's End and team captain on The Press Gang, he devised The Clever Dick Athlon and acted as quizmaster.

For the past twelve years Don has presented Good Morning Sunday on BBC Radio 2 which mixes music and interviews with a religious theme, and in the 2001 New Year's Honours List he was made an MBE for services to religion and inter-faith relations.

Interested in the First World War in the Air, and qualified as a private pilot since 1984, his aptly named autobiography, Flying High, was published by Hodder Headline.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 14:56

Shaun O'Riordan

Producer and director of Sapphire & Steel ...

 

Known as an outstanding producer and director, first of television comedy then atmospheric suspense dramas, Shaun O'Riordan began his career as an actor.

Having studied at the Old Vic Theatre School where he specialised in Shakespearean comedies, Shaun began his televison career as one of the repertory players in The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Richard Greene, appearing in a variety of roles over successive episodes.

After playing Eddie, the dim-witted but enthusiastic son of Peggy Mount and David Kossoff's Ada and Alf for four years in the popular comedy The Larkins, he moved behind the camera gaining experience as a technician and religious programme director before becoming a fully fledged director.

From working on the hospital drama Emergency - Ward 10, Shaun directed Charlie Drake's 1965 comedy series The Worker and the Six Of The Best episode "Me And My Big Mouth" starring Alfie Bass and Peter Bowles. He reteamed with Peggy Mount, directing George and the Dragon, starring Sid James and John Le Mesurier, then in John Browne's Body and Lollipop Loves Mr Mole, written for her and Hugh Lloyd by Dad’s Army co-writer Jimmy Perry.

Producer of Goodbye Again, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's follow-up to Not Only... But Also, Shaun produced and directed the sitcom Girls About Town starring Play School's Julie Stevens, The Best Things in Life featuring Harry H Corbett as a cockney spiv and June Whitfield as his fiancée Mabel, and The Squirrels, Eric Chappell's first sitcom prior to Rising Damp.

Moving away from comedy, in the 1970s Shaun directed seven plays in ITV's Thriller series as well as working on Scorpion Tales. He produced the children's serials No Place to Hide and Come Back Lucy which eventually led to his involvement on P J Hammond's Sapphire and Steel which effectively married the two genres.

Suggesting Joanna Lumley and David McCallum play the title roles, Shaun produced all six adventures in the series and shared the directing duties with David Foster, effectively creating the sense of menace and unease that pervaded the studio-bound drama.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 14:55

PJ Hammond

Detective writer in his element with Sapphire & Steel ...

 

Best known as the creator of Sapphire & Steel, Peter J Hammond studied art at Hammersmith School of Arts and Crafts, drama at Goldsmiths College, and wrote several radio plays for the BBC before breaking into television.

First commissioned to write the play "Four Way Incident" for Thirty Minute Theatre, he wrote all six episodes of the children’s thriller Ramshackle Road for BBC Bristol. Eventually joining the BBC as a script editor, Peter worked on the police drama Z Cars, when the programme ran bi-weekly, before leaving to write full time.

During the 1970s, as well as writing for Thames Television's daytime series Couples and the nursing drama Angels, he scripted episodes for numerous police series including Z Cars, The Sweeney, Hunter’s Walk, Target and Manhunt. He also wrote for the prison drama Within These Walls, Crown Court, and the The Professionals using the pseudonym James McAteer.

After dramatising of Arthur Morrison's Victorian novel "The Hole in the Wall" and writing for Thames' successful children's adventure Ace of Wands, Peter set out to create a fantasy show of his own. Wanting to write a detective story that incorporated the notion of time he came up with Sapphire & Steel. Initially designed as a one-off half-hour drama for children, the series was developed for a family audience. Running for six stories between 1979 and 1982, the series starred Joanna Lumley and David McCallum as mysterious elemental beings repairing rifts in Time through which malignant forces enter the everyday world.

After Sapphire & Steel finished with an enigmatic cliff-hanger, Peter tried his hand at comedy with the 1984 BBC series Lame Ducks starring John Duttine. In later years, with the exception of an episode for Sky One’s science fiction series Space Island One, he returned to mainstream dramas writing for The Bill when it was in a half-hour format, two EastEnders specials, Dangerfield and HTV’s Wycliffe.

Since 1999 he has been writing for ITV's popular Midsommer Murders, created for television by Anthony Horowitz and starring John Nettles as Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 14:50

Nicholas Courtney

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart was brought to life by this actor with a wide range of series on his CV ...

 

The son of a British diplomat, Nicholas Courtney was born in Egypt and spent his early years in Kenya and France. After his National Service he enrolled at the Webber Douglas Drama School for two years before leaving to work in repertory theatre in Northampton.

His early television work included roles in The Avengers, The Champions and Jason King, as well as the Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) episode The Ghost Who Saved the Bank at Monte Carlo, alongside Roger Delgado.

Nicholas Courtney began his long association with Doctor Who in 1965, playing Space Security Agent Bret Vyon, opposite William Hartnell in the twelve-part story The Daleks' Masterplan.

Three years later he reappeared as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart during Patrick Troughton's tenure, helping defeat the Yeti and the Great Intelligence in London's Underground in The Web of Fear.

The following year, battling Cybermen in The Invasion, the character had been promoted and was in charge of UNIT, the military and scientific organisation that would play an integral part in the adventures of Jon Pertwee's third Doctor during the first half of the 1970s.

Playing the Brigadier on and off for 23 years, Nicholas Courtney made his last appearance during Doctor Who's final year in 1989. Appearing alongside every incarnation of the Doctor during the series, bar one, after returning to the role in the spin-off video Downtime, he finally got to work alongside Colin Baker as well as Paul McGann on the Big Finish series of audio adventures.

Outside of Doctor Who, as well as guest-starring in episodes of Minder, Yes, Prime Minister, Only Fools and Horses and The Bill, he played Lieutenant Colonel Robin Witherton in Then Churchill Said to Me and The Maquis in French Fields, the sequel to the sitcom Fresh Fields, starring Anton Rodgers and Julia McKenzie.

On CD he plays King Turnidus, the elephantine, fashion conscious ruler of Voltarabia in Soldiers of Love, the comedy science fiction audio series from MJTV. Honorary President of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, Nicholas Courtney published his autobiography, Five Rounds Rapid, in 1998.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 14:41

John Levene

Rising in rank over the years in Doctor Who ...

 

Keen to become an actor even though he had no formal training, while working in a menswear shop John Levene found himself serving Telly Savalas and asked his advice.

Getting his Equity card he found every variation of his real name, John Anthony Woods, in use and chose his professional alternative after boxing promoter Harry Levene.

Best known as Sergeant Benton in Doctor Who, his first acting job on the series was in 1967 as one of the Cybermen in the adventure The Moonbase. A year later he played a Yeti in The Web of Fear before being cast as Benton in The Invasion. Between 1970 and 1975 he regularly appeared on the show, acting alongside first Jon Pertwee then Tom Baker, until UNIT was gradually phased out of the story-lines.

Having previously appeared as an Interceptor Pilot in UFO and a policeman in Z Cars, John made guest appearances in The Adventurer, Callan and Space: 1999 before returning as Benton in Reeltime Picture’s spin-off, Wartime.

He formed Genesis Communications, directing audio visual presentations and live events for clients such as British Airways and Revlon then after working as MC on cruise ships, relocated to America in the mid-1980s and took his mother’s maiden name to become John Anthony Blake.

Now producing celebrity charity shows and other events, as well as doing corporate voice-over work, John recently played Lord T.N. Crumpets in an episode of Big Bad Beetleborgs and appeared in the independent movie Cannibalistic.

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