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Friday, 22 February 2008 08:11

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Catching lightning in a bottle a second time ...


USA - 1987-94 - 178 episodes (60 mins) - colour

Eighteen years on from the demise of the original Star Trek, after the aborted Star Trek: Phase 2 painfully metamorphosed into the series of movies starring the original cast, a new, recognisable series was reborn with Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Set 78 years after the original mission, with a new Enterprise and a new crew boldly going where no one had gone before, Star Trek: The Next Generation was still a hard sell. In America, with no network prepared to commit to more than a pilot and thirteen episodes, the show was sold straight into syndication. Finally on screen, it then had to overcome legions of die-hard fans of the original Star Trek who shared a common belief that a show without Kirk or Spock would never work, and the first year of episodes did little to alter that view, keeping too close to the mythos dictated by creator Gene Roddenberry, with stories reminiscent of, or directly recycled from, the original show.

It took until its third year for The Next Generation to find itself, all the while staying true to the Star Trek ethos, by which time the characters and universe they inhabited was properly defined, and worthy adversaries like John de Lancie's mischievous Q, and the relentless Borg, were established. By the end of its seven year run, overcoming all the odds stacked against it, The Next Generation even succeeded in superseding the original show as the flagship Star Trek series in the eyes of its increasingly loyal fanbase.

Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as William Riker
Brent Spiner as Data
LeVar Burton as Geordi LaForge
Gates McFadden as Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi
Michael Dorn as Worf
Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher
Denise Crosby as Tasha Yar
Diana Muldaur as Katherine Pulaski



Posted in Series Formats
Friday, 22 February 2008 07:31

Avengers, The

Thoroughly British Adventuring in the Swinging Sixties ...


UK (ABC) - 1961-68
161 episodes (60 mins) - B&W/Colour

The first British series shown on American primetime television with its debut in 1965, The Avengers became the longest running secret agent adventure series of the 1960s. It had huge international success by playing up to all the typical British stereotypes. Original conceived as a format to showcase Ian Hendry, whose Doctor Keel character enlists intelligence agent John Steed to track down his wife’s murderers, The Avengers evolved far beyond its original concept following Hendry’s departure.

Moved centre stage and reinvented as a debonair gentleman, Steed worked with a succession of liberated female partners, from night-club singer Venus Smith and leather-clad, martial arts expert Cathy Gale, to catsuited Emma Peel and trainee agent Tara King. As time went by, the series, originally broadcast live or on videotape, developed a polished, visual style as it moved through to black and white film, and then to colour. Replacing the real world with an idealised fantasy Britain, The Avengers shifted from tough crime thriller to outrageous parody, with Steed and Mrs Peel investigating absurdist conspiracies hatched by a succession of diabolical masterminds in the most innocent of rural English settings.

Although the final year, which introduced Mother, the wheelchair-bound chief of the secret service, achieved some of the highest ratings for The Avengers on British television, it proved less successful in America. When the network declined to buy more episodes the series was cancelled.

Resurrection followed six years later, when The New Avengers emerged – but it lacked the optimism of the Swinging Sixties that was so much part of the original format. It fell between the anticipated familiar parodies and the style of grittier dramas that had come to be popular following the success of The Sweeney. A succession of co-funding ventures eventually dried up (including some which led to episodes being made on location in Canada), and the series was again no more.

A feature film followed some 20 years later, but a savage trimming, following poor mid-American test audience screenings, decimated what was a complex plot much in the style you could have expected from the original series. Needless to say, the result was an incoherent mess which may never be put right, unless a Director’s Cut sees the light of day on DVD in the future.

Patrick MacNee
as John Steed
Ian Hendry as Dr David Keel
Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale
Julie Stevens as Venus Smith
Diana Rigg as Emma Peel
Linda Thorson as Tara King
Patrick Newell as Mother


Posted in Series Formats
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