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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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Friday, 22 February 2008 08:18

Time Tunnel, The

Quantum Leap on a far bigger historical canvas ...


USA - 1966-67 - 30 episodes (60 minutes) - colour

Having created the adventures of the Robinson family, Lost in Space, the year before, for his next series producer Irwin Allen turned his attention from being lost "where" to lost "when".

Deep below the Arizona desert in a top-secret government facility, scientists have built a tunnel that will connect the past, present, and future. Forced to test the untried invention in an attempt to keep their Federal funding, Dr Tony Newman finds himself thrown back in time, appearing on the deck of the Titanic. When it becomes clear that his colleagues are unable to retrieve him from the past, Dr Doug Phillips goes after his comrade and becomes trapped too.

Knowing the outcome of the event they had appeared in but unable to change history, it is left to the scientists back in the laboratory, able to watch Phillips and Newman's progress on the monitors, to contrive a way to save them. Rather than successfully bringing them home, their endeavours send them tumbling into another time. From episode to episode, each attempt throws them out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Using major historical settings allowed 20th Century Fox Television to raid the film division's vaults and use hefty amounts of stock footage to keep costs down, so that Newman and Phillips could find themselves hurled from the Trojan War to the Battle of Little Big Horn, and on to the D-Day invasion of Normandy by way of the French Revolution without giving the show's budget a seizure. More miraculously, the two intrepid scientists managed to survive each adventure without ruffling their hair or dirtying their polo neck sweaters.

James Darren as Dr Tony Newman
Robert Colbert as Dr Doug Phillips
Lee Meriwether as Dr Ann MacGregor
John Zaremba as Dr Raymond Swain
Whit Bissell as Lt General Heywood Kirk


Friday, 22 February 2008 08:17


For adults who don't feel grown up ...


USA - 1987-91 - 85 episodes (60 mins) - colour

Described by creators Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick as a show "about growing up, no matter how old you are", thirtysomething focused squarely on members of the 'Baby-Boomer' generation; still in the process of growing up, and finding themselves unexpectedly plagued by self-doubts and disaffection as they attempted to reconcile their once youthful idealism with the desires for success that shaped the 1980s.

Interweaving both the professional and personal lives of a group of upwardly mobile families and friends, thirtysomething portrayed characters whose self-absorption, emotional angst, and desires to fulfill their dreams irrespective of the cost, were traits familiar enough for the audience to identify with, if not always sympathize with. In contrast to the high-stakes risks portrayed in most other dramas, the show turned inwards to examine the minutiae of everyday life and personal emotions to a degree that had previously been excluded from television narrative. Sometimes self indulgent and a little sentimental, thirtysomething nevertheless boasted consistently excellent writing that expertly used an undercurrent of comedy to underscore the dramatic tensions, which the ensemble cast succeeded in delivering as perfectly judged performances.

Such self-examination wasn't to everyone's taste and while some critics praised the show, others dismissed it as the yuppie angst of a group of people sitting around whining. Audience reaction too was split between viewers who either saw it as an epiphany or a stomach-turning experience. Either way, thirtysomething cleverly portrayed an accurate reflection of the self-obsessed decade.

Ken Olin as Michael Steadman
Mel Harris as Hope Steadman
Timothy Busfield as Elliot Weston
Patricia Wetting as Nancy Weston
Melanie Mayron as Melissa Steadman
Peter Horton as Gary Shepherd
Polly Draper as Ellen Warren




Friday, 22 February 2008 08:13

Star Trek: Voyager

A woman takes charge of bringing her crew home ...


USA - 1995-2001 - 172 episodes (60 mins) - colour

By the time Voyager arrived on screen to replace the recently retired Star Trek: The Next Generation, the challenge for its creators was to devise something different while remaining true to Gene Roddenberry's original vision. With the final frontier looking increasingly familiar as each series expanded the Star Trek universe their answer was to take Voyager out of the conventional environs and place it in the unknown Delta Quadrant, out of contact with Starfleet.

Stranded 70,000 light years from Earth, the crew of the USS Voyager, along with the Maquis freedom fighters they were sent to apprehend, found themselves closest of all the franchise's incarnations to it's original roots. Although their prime motivation was to return home, the route back still allowed them to "seek out new life and new civilizations" along the way.

Viewed by audiences with ambivalence, although Voyager enjoyed the novelty of a female Captain, Kathryn Janeway, once on its course the stories proved formulaic and repetitive. The Federation and Maquis crews settled in as allies too quickly and comfortably and attempts to create credible story arcs proved less than successful, while the Kazon, created as a continual thorn in Voyager's side, proved disappointing and were replaced by the always-reliable Borg.

Once again secondary characters became the most interesting, in particular the holographic Doctor with his dry sarcasm and curmudgeonly bedside manner reminiscent of the original series' Leonard McCoy, and Seven of Nine, the shapely Borg Drone, rediscovering her humanity after being separated from the Collective.


Kate Mulgrew as Kathryn Janeway
Robert Beltran as Chakotay
Roxann Biggs-Dawson as B'Elanna Torres
Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris
Ethan Phillips as Neelix
Robert Picardo as the Doctor
Tim Russ as Tuvok
Garrett Wang as Harry Kim
Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
Jennifer Lien as Kes


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



Friday, 22 February 2008 08:07

Star Trek (The Original Series)

Opening the final frontier ...


USA - 1966-69 - 79 episodes (60 mins) - colour

One of the most successful concepts in television history, spawning a franchise that is still alive today with a new big screen movie in pre-production, this is the biggest American Cult TV series of them all.

Devised by Gene Roddenberry, a former LAPD officer and veteran scriptwriter of shows like Dragnet and Naked City while off duty, the pilot episode "The Cage" was rejected by network executives who deemed it too cerebral for the average viewer, and consequently unbroadcastable. Unprecedented at the time, the show was given another chance and, after extensive recasting, a second pilot was filmed, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" with the requisite dose of action added.

Charting the adventures of the crew of the USS Enterprise, seeking out new life and new civilizations in the high frontier of outer space, Star Trek used science fiction properly, as a commentary on contemporary social issues and society's ills and gains. Amongst the action and adventure, many of the new worlds discovered in the wide range of thought-provoking stories were skewed reflections of our own world. That said, the triumvirate of charismatic Captain James T Kirk, inspired by C S Forester's Captain Horatio Hornblower, the loyal and coldly logical Vulcan First Officer, Mister Spock, and cantankerous Chief medical Officer Leonard 'Bones' McCoy, supported by their mixed gender, multi-racial crew, never lost touch with the human experience that became central to Star Trek's ongoing identity.

William Shatner as James T Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Spock
DeForest Kelley as Leonard McCoy
James Doohan as Montgomery Scott
Nichelle Nichols as Nyota Uhura
George Takei as Hikaru Sulu
Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov
Majel Barrett as Christine Chapel
Grace Lee Whitney as Janice Rand


Friday, 22 February 2008 08:05

Six Million Dollar Man

Greater than the sum of his (bionic) parts ...


USA - 1973-78 - 103 episodes (60 mins) - colour

Developed for television by Harve Bennett, from the novel "Cyborg", six million Dollars was the sum total spent rebuilding NASA test pilot Steve Austin after he was recovered from a near fatal test-flight crash. Equipped with two bionic legs that would allow him to run at a top speed of 60 mph, a bionic arm and a left eye that allowed him to see over huge distances, all courtesy of cybernetics scientist Dr Rudy Wells, the enhanced Rogers was put to work for OSI, the Office of Strategic Investigations, under the command of Oscar Goldman to fight enemies, both foreign and domestic.

While the weekly threats facing The Six Million Dollar Man were usually routine, the bionic enhancements were easily the strength of the show, and storylines were written around Austin using them on a regular basis. With the special effects limited in their application, slow-motion was cleverly employed to illustrate everything from Austin tearing through metal with his bare hands and roughing up the bad guys to running at high speed. Coupled with familiar sound effects used when the bionics were put to work, the series became a runaway success.

Two years into production Jaime Sommers, played by Lindsay Wagner, was introduced as a love interest for Steve Austin. Although initially killed off, when she proved to be popular with audiences the character was resurrected so that a similar accident could befall her and Jamie Sommers was rebuilt around her own spin-off series The Bionic Woman.

Lee Majors as Colonel Steve Austin
Richard Anderson as Oscar Goldman
Alan Oppenheimer/Martin E Brooks as Dr Rudy Wells




Friday, 22 February 2008 08:03

Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)

The original 1969 version of the ghostly detective format ...


UK - 1969-71 - 26 episodes (60 mins) - colour

Marrying the down-at-heel private detective genre with supernatural fantasy, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) was created by Dennis Spooner and Monty Berman, who produced the show in tandem with Department S.

When Marty Hopkirk, one half of a detective agency, is murdered he returns in spirit to help his partner, Jeff Randall, to help track down his killer. Failing to return to his grave before sunrise, he violates an ancient curse that leaves him stranded on earth.

Balancing the supernatural and detective elements, Spooner and Berman keenly exploited the comic potential of the situation. Like I Dream of Jeannie, the spectral Marty can only be seen by Jeff. Although their investigations benefited from one partner not being bound by physical laws, his ghostly actions were blamed on the living partner, resulting in frequent beatings and even hospitalisation when he appeared to be talking, and more often arguing, with himself.

The scripting, mostly divided between Tony Williamson, who was more comfortable with the fantasy elements, and Donald James, whose work tended toward realism, meant that the series sometimes suffered from an inconsistency in tone. Although enjoyed by the public, negative reviews and the inability to attract an audience in America, where it was retitled My Partner the Ghost, meant that it failed to be recommissioned.

Remade in 2000, with the emphasis firmly on the comedic, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer took on the title roles, with the character of Jeannie, remodelled as Hopkirk's fiancée rather than wife, given a more pro-active role.

Mike Pratt as Jeff Randall
Kenneth Cope as Marty Hopkirk
Annette Andre as Jean Hopkirk


Friday, 22 February 2008 08:00

Persuaders!, The

Millionaire playboys hunting down action ...


UK - 1971-72 - 24 episodes (60 mins) - colour

The most ambitious of Lord Lew Grade's action adventure series, The Persuaders! also became his most expensive, as it ventured far beyond the studio backlot to film on location in Italy and the Cote d'Azur.

Devised by Robert S Baker, The Persuaders! saw English playboy aristocrat, Lord Brett Sinclair, and self-made American millionaire, Danny Wilde, brought together by a retired Judge who blackmails them into working for him to catch criminals the judicial system missed.

Originating from an episode of The Saint, "The Ex-King of Diamonds", produced earlier by Baker, which teamed the dapper Simon Templar with a brash Texan oil-millionaire (played by Stuart Damon) in a crime caper set on the French Riviera, The Persuaders! starred Roger Moore and Tony Curtis, who had become successful enough in their respective careers that the famous split-screen title sequence, accompanied by John Barry's theme tune, could simply bill them as CURTIS + MOORE. Their comfortable, odd-couple relationship redeemed the occasional formulaic plotting and condescending, sexist attitude toward women which seemed a reactionary backlash to growing feminism. Verbally sparring over the class and cultural divide, the performances of the actors, both excelling at light comedy, set the tone of the series and won the most plaudits.

Hugely successful in the many countries it had been pre-sold to, the show failed to make an impression in America, going up against a rampant Mission: Impossible in the schedules. With the United States growing increasingly lukewarm to their previous offerings, The Persuaders! became the last major 35mm film series produced by ITC.

Tony Curtis as Danny Wilde
Roger Moore as Lord Brett Sinclair
Laurence Naismith as Judge Fulton


Friday, 22 February 2008 07:57

Mission: Impossible

A format hazardous for film adaptation ...


US - 1966-73 - 171 episodes (60 mins) - colour

Sanctioned by the US Government to undertake hazardous covert operations that could not be officially recognised, Mission: Impossible featured the Impossible Missions Force, IMF, facing an enemy, foreign at first but later in the series’ run growing more domestic, clever enough that only an intricate plan could defeat them.

Like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. before it, Mission: Impossible stuck to a rigid narrative format. Briefed on the mission, the IMF leader assembles his team and plots an elaborate deception to counter an enemy’s plan. Once put into practise, with the IMF members taking their assigned roles, unforeseen circumstances jeopardise the operation and, with no back-up plan, disaster is averted through the team’s initiative and quick thinking.

Created by Bruce Geller to be built around team work and ingenuity, the IMF team was assembled every week from a roster of potential operatives, depending on the skills needed to carry out the given assignment. Although Dan Briggs was replaced in the second year by Jim Phelps as IMF leader, for the first three seasons, Mission: Impossible roughly kept to the same team of Rollin Hand’s master of disguise, muscleman Willie Armitage, model Cinnamon Carter acting as the femme fatale, and technical expert Barney Collier.

In fact technical sophistication was a key element to the series, exemplified by the synonymous self-destructing tape-recorder that delivered the IMF briefing. Famous too for its montage title sequence that begins with a lit fuse, accompanied by Lalo Schifrin’s theme music, these were the only elements recognisable in the 1996 film adaptation, although "MI:III" did see a slight return to the format's roots.

Steven Hill as Dan Briggs
Peter Graves as Jim Phelps
Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter
Martin Landau as Rollin Hand
Peter Lupus as Willie Armitage
Greg Morris as Barney Collier
Leonard Nimoy as Paris
Lesley Ann Warren as Dana Lambert
Barbara Anderson as Mimi Davis
Lynda Day George as Lisa Casey

Friday, 22 February 2008 07:49

Kindred - The Embraced

Power games amongst the undead ...


USA - 1996 - 8 episodes (60 mins) - colour

A vampire show might have seemed an unusual choice for Aaron Spelling, American television's "Uberproducer", best known in the 1990s for the likes of Beverley Hills 90210 and Melrose Place, but created by John Leekley from the role-playing game "Vampire: The Masquerade", Kindred: The Embraced played like the Undead Dynasty.

Neither solely evil or unnatural, the Kindred of the title were five clans of vampires - the aristocratic Ventrues; thuggish Brujahs; handsome punk bikers, The Gangrels; more traditional and violent Nosferatu; and arty Toreadors.

Integrated into all walks of life in modern-day San Francisco, with deep ties in organised crime, the Kindred were ruled over by Julian Luna, Prince of the Ventures and "Boss of all Bosses", struggling to keep a tenuous peace amongst the clans as they competed between themselves for dominance. Luna's problems were further compounded by the activity of a intrusive homicide detective he has sworn to protect, and an investigative reporter threatening to expose the activities of the clans that he becomes romantically drawn to.

Kindred introduced a set of rules the clans had to abide by, or face "Final Death". The taking of life, and changing humans into vampires, was strictly forbidden - the individual had volunteered to be transformed. For a human to have blood taken from them by any clan member was to be "embraced", which was something the viewing public failed to do. Screened in America a year before the arrival of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Kindred: The Embraced failed to make a significant impact in the ratings and after a handful of episodes was put to the stake.


C Thomas Howell as Detective Frank Kohanek
Mark Frankel as Julian Luna
Kelly Rutherford as Caitlin Byrne
Stacy Haiduk as Lillie Langtry
Erik King as Detective Sonny Toussaint
Patrick Bauchau as Archon Raine
Channon Roe as Cash
Jeff Kober as Daedalus
Peter Rocca as Nino
Brigid Conley Walsh as Sasha
Brian Thompson as Eddie Fiori

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