Whether it's drama, comedy, sci-fi or literary adaptations, British television has a deserved reputation for being quirky, clever and innovative. There are hundreds of classic TV series available on DVD, but here are a few highlights we think you should check out - some of them old favourites, others a bit more obscure.
Children of the Stones was a particularly haunting highlight of a period that was, in many ways, a golden age for children's TV drama. This seven-part series sees young Matthew Brake and his astrophysicist father (played by a pre-Blake-s 7 Gareth Thomas) arrive in the peaceful village of Milbury. Over the course of the series, the story explores the village's ancient stone circle and Druidic past, a power from beyond the stars and the sinister brainwashing of the villagers. Building claustrophobically to a thought-provoking finale, it's a series that, once seen, you will find hard to forget. It's easy to see why Stewart Lee, narrating a 2012 radio documentary about the show's lasting appeal, described it as "the scariest programme ever made for children".
Today Doctor Who has a greater international appeal than ever, with millions of fans in countries all across the globe. But here's where it all started. The BBC's "The Beginning" box set presents the mysterious Time Lord's three earliest televised adventures: An Unearthly Child, The Daleks and The Edge of Destruction. These thirteen episodes take us from our very first meeting with the strange time traveller to Earth's ancient past, then the alien world of Skaro, before exploring a short tale of creeping paranoia on board the TARDIS itself. Needless to say, it's the middle story that's the most engaging here - during the original seven-week run of The Daleks, viewing figures almost doubled, Dalekmania was born, and the course was firmly set for the next fifty years of children screeching "EXTERMINATE!" at each other in the playground.
Edge of Darkness demonstrates the quirky, cult nature of British TV at its best. This unique six-episode series was a massive success, winning BAFTA awards for Best Drama Series, Best Actor (a sublime performance by Bob Peck) and Best Original TV Music (for its distinctive and haunting score by Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton). For all the popular acclaim it received, Edge of Darkness couldn't be further from safe, mainstream programming - the storyline's focus veering from corruption in business, government and trade unions, through international espionage, nuclear energy and ecological topics, to the main character's ongoing conversations with the spirit of his recently murdered daughter. It may not always be comfortable viewing, but Edge of Darkness is a bona fide TV classic quite unlike anything before or since.
Having secured its place as a British comedy classic, it's sometimes easy to forget that the entire run of Fawlty Towers amounts to only twelve episodes - the first series of six episodes broadcast in 1975 followed by a second six-part series in 1979. With a variety of over-the-top characters and scenery-chewing performances, the comedy is rarely subtle... but that may be what gives Fawlty Towers its appeal and its longevity. At its best it is an old-fashioned stage farce, presenting us with the broadest of characters in increasingly ridiculous situations. Watch it, enjoy it. Just don't mention the war.
On Halloween night in 1992, the BBC broadcast a one-off supernatural drama as part of its Screen One series. Presented as a live investigation into a supposedly haunted suburban London house, Ghostwatch used familiar real-life TV presenters including Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene and Mike Smith to lull viewers into a false sense of security as the story crept towards a terrifying and uncompromising conclusion. Although billed as a drama (penned by Stephen Volk, who would later write the critically acclaimed series Afterlife) many viewers were fooled into thinking they were watching actual events, and there was much furore and discussion in the days following about the Ghostwatch "hoax". To this day, the programme has never been repeated by the BBC.
Based on novels by parliamentary insider Michael Dobbs, House of Cards gives us a fascinating, occasionally amusing, and ultimately terrifying insight into the murky inner worlds of British politics. Conservative Party Chief Whip Francis Urquhart is inimitably brought to life by veteran actor Ian Richardson, presenting us with perhaps the most Machiavellian character ever to appear on British television. The three series that form the trilogy - House of Cards, To Play the King and The Final Cut - make for irresistible, almost hypnotic viewing.
The Prisoner's Patrick McGoohan had previously starred in acclaimed 60s spy series Danger Man as a no-nonsense British Intelligence agent called John Drake, and some see The Prisoner as an indirect sequel. Here McGoohan plays an agent who is drugged and wakes up in the mysterious "Village" - a seemingly idyllic location where the residents are under constant surveillance, from which there is no escape, and where none of the villagers has a name, only a number. Colourful and provocatively surreal, The Prisoner touches on eternal themes such as individuality and resistance against authority, and despite only running to seventeen episodes, the series has had an immeasurable influence on dozens of TV series and films in the years since it was broadcast.
Sci-fi and comedy make for strange bedfellows, and very few series that attempt to combine the two genres achieve any measure of success. One of those few exceptions is Red Dwarf. Over its original run, the series changed and morphed, but at its best it was always about the "boys from the Dwarf" - an unlikely crew of misfits comprising irredeemable slob Dave Lister, uptight hologram Arnold Rimmer, the superficial and impossibly vain Cat, fussy android Kryten and various incarnations of the ship's computer Holly. The earlier series are arguably the best, but there are many hours of fun to be had from this box set that collects the first eight series of Red Dwarf's unique brand of outer-space mayhem.
There have been endless variations on the Robin Hood legend on TV over the years, from the derring-do of The Adventures of Robin Hood in the 50s to the more modern tongue-in-cheek version presented in the BBC's Robin Hood in 2006. Perhaps the most unique telling of the tale was Robin of Sherwood - this Robin inhabited a more mysterious world of pagan gods and dark magic, fighting for good under the guidance of the forest spirit, Herne the Hunter. Played by Michael Praed in the first two series, Jason Connery took over the starring role as the Hooded Man for series three.
Recent years have seen a number of updated versions of Conan Doyle's iconic character, from Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock to Jonny Lee Miller's Elementary and Robert Downey Jr.'s theatrical take on Holmes. But to a generation of British TV viewers, Jeremy Brett was and remains the definitive Sherlock Holmes. Over the course of thirty-six hour-long episodes and five feature-length specials, Brett brought us a pitch-perfect depiction of the quick-witted but irascible Victorian gentleman genius. With impeccable production values and a solid supporting cast, this version of Sherlock Holmes is perhaps the most faithful to the original stories.