Thursday, 20 August 2015

#ThrowbackThursday

This post jumps aboard the time ship and travels back to 1975 before jumping forward to 1979. 
So what happened in 1975 and why this post? 

Me, Mum & Auntie Darkie, July 1975
There’s no great weather report to speak of, the hot summer of the 1970s that gets mentioned by those of a certain age is a year later, 1976. If you want a list of events for 1975 then try Wikipedia although nothing jumped out at me when I took a quick scan through the list. Maybe a couple of interesting birthdays might pop up. In Doctor Who Tom Baker was already the Doctor, having débuted in the first episode of “Robot” a few days before the start of the year. So why this trip back in time? 

Oh by the way, this was me back in 1975.




The reason is because Big Finish has recently released a couple of audio drama box sets based on a couple of other TV series from back then.  Their second series of new stories for Survivors and the first of a series for The Omega Factor have had me gripped to my CD player.

Their releases for both series begin with an audio book reading of the original novels written by the two show’s creators. In the case of Survivors this was Terry Nation, he of the Daleks fame who would later go on to create Blake’s 7, and for The Omega Factor, Jack Gerson. Both audio books are read stunningly by the show’s original female leads, Carolyn Seymour and Louise Jameson.  These stories really pulled me in and made me eager to not only move on to the new audio drama ranges but to seek out those original TV episodes on DVD.  These dramas were designed for adults, and as you can see from the photo above I was certainly not old enough to be allowed to stay up and watch. Whilst shopping for these I did discover a DVD release of a children’s series I remembered from then, one which I will admit, at the time, certainly freaked me out.  More on that later.


Having listened to the original books then watching the programmes I found they differed in many ways, so the audio readings are certainly worth a listen if only to gather what the show’s original creators saw as their direction for their creations.

Survivors
The first two box sets from Big Finish have brought back the original leads from the first series of the show and introduce new survivors in the same way as the show often did. Carolyn Seymour departed from the original show after the first series, but is now back giving Abby a new lease of life. The TV series ran for three years on the BBC, from 1975 to 1977 and having watched all three series back to back it did feel like it began to run out of steam. It must be noted that Terry Nation only ever wrote for the first series of the TV programme.

After the survivors had faced the great plague that had wiped out around ninety percent of the population and had gone on to face the worst of human kind could offer that the BBC would dare to feature back then there really was not a lot of direction for the series to go. In their second series Big Finish have been a lot braver in their material, maybe this is because we live in more enlightened times. The series is certainly a lot darker and as such I would say more believable than the later offerings of the original.


The Omega Factor
This series launched on the BBC in 1979 and promptly ended after one series. Which was a bloody shame. It fell at the wrath of Mary Whitehouse, the self appointed moral guidance councillor that oversaw all that was broadcast. The DVD release today actually makes a point of noting on the cover that she described it ‘Thoroughly evil’.  There was nothing evil about it. The only thing it could be accused of was being ahead of its time.  Having watched the series today, with one special effect not quite up to scratch the rest of the series could easily still be aired today as a supernatural investigation drama set in the late 70s. When Journalist Tom Crane (James Hazeldine) discovers he has psychic powers he is recruited by Department 7 and finds himself working alongside Doctor Anne Reynolds (Louise Jameson). The stories keep a very open approach to their subject matter, not everything is unexplained and not everything is as it seems, plus with a darker thriller aspect on top.

The Big Finish version, unlike Survivors which is set in and around the events of the original TV series, this picks up three decades later. Anne Reynolds once again played splendidly by Louise Jameson is contacted by the son of the recently departed Tom Crane. When Adam Crane (John Dorney) , contacts Anne he finds himself drawn into the problems of Department 7 and the reawakening of many dangers for the team. Again this series is not aimed at younger listeners and certainly appeals to the darker side of many of its listeners. John and Louise make an excellent team, long may this series run, and having heard both John and Louise’s scripts for other Big Finish ranges I would hope they would both be persuaded to contribute to future releases in this series.

The Changes.
And finally on to the last of the throwback DVDs I recently purchased. This is reported in the supporting booklet as being, “the oldest surviving BBC science fiction TV serial developed and scheduled exclusively for children.” Produced in 1975 it dramatised the three Peter Dickinson young adult novels, The Weathermonger (1969), Heartsease (1969) and The Devil’s Children (1970). Now that young me shown at the start of this post watched the series, or some of it, back in 1975 and was freaked out by it. I carried with me for some time a mental image of the electricity pylons and a strange sound that was associated with them. I have a feeling that maybe I did not watch the whole series. Watching this back now, obviously I’m not going to have the same reaction to it, although I was able to pick out the scenes from two of the episodes that fixed those memories for me.

However, unlike the two other shows I watched, this one released by the BFI rather than the BBC on DVD does not stand the test of time so well. Whether this is because it is a children’s production, or the story which felt patchy and inconsistent, or the fact that the release felt the need to apologise for not being 100% politically correct in every episode - I don’t know.  We know a lot of TV back then would fail that test; we have to accept that as historical fact, learn from it and move on rather than dwell on it. It is hard to put my finger on what exactly grated but something certainly did. The premise was another society in meltdown, but the cause, despite the final episode, for me is never satisfactory explained. After a freak weather pattern, you could not even call it a storm, society goes mad and smashes up all machinery and declares it as ‘wicked’. Nicky Gore is separated from her parents as they try to escape England for France, in a crowd of about ten people and sets out on her own journey to try and find them.  Very quickly she changes her mind and begins her own crusade to try and find out what caused this break up of society’s sanity in the first place.

Survivors, All 3 Series on DVD is released by BBC Worldwide Ltd.
The Omega Factor on DVD is released by Simply HomeEntertainment under licence from the BBC.
The Changes on DVD, is released by the BFI, made available to the BFI by the BBC.

The Omega Factor & Survivors Audio Books and Audio Drama series are produced and released by Big Finish Productions.

 Oh go on then, another photo of me from 1975.