An Electric Storm: Daphne, Delia and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop by Ned Netherwood (Obverse Books, 2018, Second edition) This is one-third a history of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and two-thirds reviews of all its associated recordings. Netherwood is clearly an expert on electronic music but his enthusiasm for the Workshop’s legacy flounders in a concerted absence of (second edition!) proofreading.…
Sherlock, Season 1 (BBC, 2010) Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman combine brilliantly in this dark, funny, fast-moving and at times stylistically surreal modernisation of Sherlock Holmes. Perfectly cast and ingeniously scripted in deference to its feature-length format, this is easily some of the best television ever made.
Doctor Who, Series 9 BBC, 2015 Bookended by Steven Moffat’s tulipomaniacal stake-raising and overblown (if ingenious) retrofitting of Doctor Who’s mythology, the other writers of Series 9 have crafted a straight flush of dark, self-contained science fantasy; gothic disturbances in which Peter Capaldi adds depth to his characterisation.
Red Dwarf VIII by Doug Naylor (BBC, 1999) Returning to the eponymous mining ship, Red Dwarf became unabashedly silly and yet managed also to transmogrify into a creature of ephemeral comedic brilliance. ‘Cassandra’ is a classic episode, while elsewhere, amidst the rampant caricaturing, a long-suffering Captain Hollister steals the show.
Sherlock Holmes BBC, 1968 Peter Cushing rises above the BBC’s stinginess and inept adaptations to embody a Sherlock Holmes at once cerebral yet exuberant, aloof but socially aware. Nigel Stock’s Watson is something of a retired teddy bear and only six of sixteen episodes survive un-junked.
The Goodies, Season 1 by Graeme Garden & Bill Oddie (with Tim Brooke-Taylor) (BBC 1970) In 1970 comedy trio the Goodies arrived under their own names, riding a trandem bicycle and pioneering a freeform sitcom where they claimed to do anything, anytime. Exuberant, irreverent, chaotic: Tim, Bill and Graeme soon found themselves (to quote their song) needed.
‘Allo ‘Allo! (Series 1 & 2) by Jeremy Lloyd & David Croft (BBC 1984-1985) Repetitive, formulaic (think Get Smart) yet often uproarious, the convoluted tribulations of a café-owner in German-occupied France rose to long-running comedic heights thanks to the incomparable Gordon Kaye (as René Artois) and the premise of rendering all languages as badly accented English.
The Two Ronnies, Series 1 (BBC, 1971) Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker reigned for fifteen years in iconically uncool glasses, starting in 1971 with their trademark fast wordplay (the acme being episode five’s spoonerisms sketch) and a touch of the risqué, interspersed with novelty and (now passé) musical acts.
Red Dwarf VI by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor (BBC, 1993) After a stellar run from 1988-1992, Red Dwarf returned in 1993 as a caricatured shadow (almost a parody) of its first five seasons, stripping the crew of all seriousness and sacrificing thematically self-contained episodes for cheap laughs and a token story arc.
The Man Who Invented the Daleks: The Strange Worlds of Terry Nation by Alwyn W. Turner (Aurum, 2011) Turner exhaustively researches Terry Nation’s life, shows how the Daleks developed both along- and inside British culture of the 60s and 70s, and contextualises the infamous pepperpots within the broader scope of Nation’s work, from which scrutiny their creator emerges somewhat diminished.