Reviews

SPACE 1999 (1975)

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Show ImageIn 1972, Gerry Anderson was still under the impression that a second season of UFO would be commissioned and the storyline was expanded to develop SHADO's Moonbase headquarters as a more major part of Earth's defence. Sylvia Anderson remembers that the new series would have fleshed out a feature of later episodes of UFO; the relationship between Ed Straker and Colonel Virginia Lake. "The main characters were, for the first time in a science fiction series, a couple." But when the second season was cancelled Gerry and Sylvia decided to move the focal point of their new series to take place entirely on the moon. Space: 1999 was set, as the title suggests, in the year 1999. Moonbase Alpha is a self-contained community for scientific research and deep space exploration. It is also a dumping ground for nuclear waste following a thermonuclear war on the earth in 1987. On September 13th, 1999, a sudden surge of magnetic radiation detonates the waste, hurling the moon out of Earth's orbit and into a black sun from where it finally emerges hundreds of light years from our own galaxy. Alpha's commander, John Koenig retains command of the 311 men and women as their home drifts aimlessly through space encountering different alien life forms, in the hope that one day they will find a planet with a breathable atmosphere where they can finally settle. Lew Grade was suitably impressed with the story outline to give the new series a budget of £3.5 million, making it, up to then, the most expensive British television series ever made.

SPACE PATROL (1963)

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Show ImageOften overlooked and neglected, the only possible explanation that this superior children's puppet series from the early sixties is not held in higher esteem, is that it reached the screen at the same time as Gerry Anderson's futuristic adventures were beginning to take off, with Supercar and Fireball XL5 overshadowing it. The series, scripted by former Anderson colleague Roberta Leigh, was set in the year 2100 and concerned the adventures of the United Galactic Organization, a peace keeping force formed by the natives of Venus, Mars and Earth. The crew of Galasphere 347 was comprised of human captain Larry Dart, Martian Husky and Venusian Slim. Colonel Raeburn gave the orders, assisted by Venusian secretary Marla and Professor Haggerty was the unit's scientific advisor, himself assisted by his daughter Cassiopea.

SPECIAL BRANCH (1969)

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Show ImageThe series that finally broke the mould of the stereotypical British copper as seen through the eyes of television and laid the foundations for later police actioneers such as The Sweeney and The Professionals. The Special Branch was a division of Scotland Yard that investigated government security leaks, people-trafficking, fanatics, spies, and other such anarchists. The original team was led by Superintendent Eden and Detective Chief Inspector Jordan (Derren Nesbitt - pictured), who wouldn't have looked out of place serving in a Carnaby Street boutique. With his flared trousers, long collars and bright ties he was every bit the trendy face of the Met, something that had not been portrayed previously on British police procedural dramas. Eden represented the old school type of cop but was just a few months away from retirement when the series began and he was replaced half way through the run by the more forward thinking Det. Supt Inman.

The series, which began in 1969, was filmed on videotape, mostly studio bound with some filmed location inserts and shown in black and white, but the exploits of these particular policemen sent the show to the top of the ratings by 1970. Then in 1973 production was handed over to Thames TV's newest offshoot, Euston Films (this being their first production) and shot in colour and with a change of production values came a change of cast. The show was revamped and became far less studio based, Cockney actor George Sewell was brought in as DCI Alan Craven and Roger Rowland as DS North but the producers felt the chemistry wasn't working and so they brought in smooth talking ladies man Patrick Mower who took over from Derren Nesbitt as the smooth fashion conscious cop DCI Tom Haggerty (only with more hair and longer sideburns). Although Haggerty arrived in the series a little later the transmission order was re-jigged so that he appeared throughout the run, although this did tend to make the show somewhat disjointed in places. But by 1974 the series was in full flow again and featured Craven and Haggerty's attempts to deal with high-level criminal activity and became far more action packed and gritty as it painted a far more realistic view of London's seedy backwaters.

This series was a vast improvement and introduced a snooty MI5 officer by the name of Strand who regarded the SB as nothing more than inferior policemen compared to his own department. New producer Ted Childs concentrated on the balance between the needs of the security services, and the capture of ordinary 'villains.' For many viewers this was the show's golden era. The new team stayed together for two series but by the end of it Thames TV were already planning to retire the officers of Special Branch to make way for officers of The Flying Squad. There is no doubt that the new approach paved the way for The Sweeney, even to the point of using the immortal line: "Get your trousers on... you're nicked!"

SPINDOE (1968)

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Show ImageSpindoe is a tale of cross border gang warfare - North versus South London and a lesson in no-honour among thieves. The series introduced a more rugged and dramatic form of story telling and saw levels of violence not previously shown on British Television. On the day that former gangland boss Alec Spindoe (Ray McAnally) is released from a seven-year stretch he is met outside the prison not, as he expected, by his number two, Eddie Edwards, but by his fiercest rival Henry Mackleson, criminal emperor of the North. Mackleson is there to warn Spindoe off from trying to regain his own empire and has a word of caution for his old enemy as well as a cryptic message about Spindoe's wife. Following a heated exchange Spindoe makes his own way home only to have Mackleson's men deliver a chilling message in the form of several warning shots into the wall above his head. Spindoe's first stop on his way home is to his bank where he tries to withdraw some money only to discover his life savings and all his property deeds have been completely cleaned out by his wife, Shelagh who, it transpires, is now living with his former underling Eddie Edwards. Not content with just taking his money and his wife, Edwards has also taken over all of Spindoe's old territory and has, in the process, murderously done away with all the men he considered would remain loyal to his former employer. Spindoe immediately makes his way to Edwards' address where he delivers a chilling ultimatum demanding Shelagh come back to him or die. It's not long before full-scale gang warfare breaks out.

Spindoe features some outstanding performances not least of all from Ray McAnally as Alec Spindoe, a character that was created in a single episode of an earlier TV series called The Fellows. Richard Hurndall gives a chilling performance as Henry Mackleson and George Sewell is excellent as Scaliger, a gun for hire who aligns himself to Spindoe. The entire series has been released by Network DVD and comes in a box-set with writer Robin Chapman's follow up series - the even more violent crime drama Big Breadwinner Hog. The DVD also has a great extra-the episode of The Fellows that first introduced Alec Spindoe.

THE SPLENDID SPUR (1960)

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Show Image Although swashbucklers were synonymous with ITV in the late 50s and early 60s the BBC did produce some of their own, even if they were based on lesser known characters from literature. One such was The Splendid Spur a Rounhead versus Cavalier actioneer set in 1642. Charles l, having dissolved parliament and fled London has moved his court to Oxford as England is thrown into the brink of civil war. It's every man for himself as Captain Luke Settle is hired to kill the Killigrew family by their bailiff Hannibal Tingcomb (Nigel Arkwright) so that he can take over their property. A friend of the family, Jack Marvel (Kenneth Farrington), aids Delia Killigrew (Victoria Watts)and her father, and helps them to escape. Settle, the villain of the piece is played by future Doctor Who Patrick Troughton. Fans of the later sci-fi series would be surprised to see Troughton leaping over banisters and engaging in sword-play; but it was not the first time he'd swashbuckled his way through a series, having previously played Robin Hood. The series was based on the novel by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, adapted by David Tutaev and produced by David Goddard.

SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR (1954)

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Annual event celebrating the year's sporting achievements and culminating in the award for sportsman or sportswoman of the year. Click Here for review

SPORTSVIEW / SPORTSNIGHT (1954 / 1958)

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Long running flagship BBC sports review/preview programme. Click Here for review