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Sunday, 29 December 2013

What to Watch Next: Aliens of London & The War Machines

"No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." - Samuel Johnson 

The story that invented the contemporary invasion tale, and the episode that reinvented them. The Doctor cheerfully swanning off sans his companion, a weird trail of coverups leading back to a major tourist landmark (again, in Davies' case, but they hadn't tried this before with Hartnell) and two entirely different takes on what London's like and how it thinks about itself.

Aliens of London

Tourist London

"Blue Peter"
Back then. It's nice to see Eccleston looking so cheerful.
(All right, this clip could have gone earlier, but this was the episode Matt Baker's talking about at the end, with the spaceship cake!)

"Torchwood - Exit Wounds"
Isn't it nice that in the middle of an emotive dual death scene in which two characters are coming to terms with their regrets and lack of commitment, that they take out a few seconds to clear up a point of continuity from another show?

Anyway, included here is the particular bit of dialogue that explains why computer geek Tosh was the one inspecting the space pig in this episode instead of actual Torchwood medic Owen Harper. Why it was her looking at it instead of someone from UNIT is...harder to explain.

"Fiji Mermaid"
That completely random one-liner about the Victorians manufacturing mermaids? Even odds this was what Davies had in mind when he wrote that. Although it wasn't the skull of a cat when P. T. Barnum did it (there's a longer and more informative link here.)

"Hutton Inquiry"
Via the US C-Span website, strangely enough. The whole forty-five seconds one-liner was a light-hearted gag about something a good deal messier and not at all pleasant for the BBC. So let's just note that one of the consequences of the BBC's coverage of the Iraq war was Michael Grade ending up as chairman.

You know, that Michael Grade. Fortunately ITV enticed him away a few years later. In light of Mark Gatiss' recent love letter to Television Centre, we might as well link to Grade's perspective that it's long past time the BBC junked the place and by the way, wouldn't an American James Bond be a good idea?

You can't make this stuff up.

"Starman"
David Bowie is really too apropos for either this write-up or the episode's soundtrack, but how can you resist?

The War Machines

Swinging London
"Blue Peter".
Further back then. Anything this awkward to move around a studio was never going to be quite as practical as a Dalek, but the War Machines still look good for all that.

"Rank Look at Life short - Eating High
For a more factual take on the building around which the story revolves. Or, you know, just some gorgeous colour film of the restaurant (now sadly closed). The ending, with a shot of the lit tower at night, is simply begging to be used as an Ominous Shot in some skiffy film.
(There were a whole series of these short documentaries, made to accompany 'fifties and 'sixties films, and there is a rather useful list on Wiki if you fancy more in this vein.)

"Kitten Kong"
"The War Machines", fab as it is, doesn't quite claim priority for the single most memorable use of the Post Office Tower in British pop culture; that would be this episode of "The Goodies". The climatic shot of the kitten playing with it showed up in all their title sequences thereafter. Arguably also the single best episode of the Goodies as well (although the one with Patrick Troughton is great. As is the one with Jon Pertwee. As is the one about the cream mines and the bun fight at the O.K. tea rooms, but this is an inexhaustible vein.)

"Danger Man - Sabotage"
Writer Ian Stuart Black paired up with Jon Pertwee's brother to write a Danger Man episode for the other channel. Patrick McGoohan is being even more over the top and brashly humorous than usual, and Lyn Ashley would later go on to star as a Drahvin in "Galaxy Four" (to say nothing of Monty Python), so you can compare and contrast if you like.

"England - Germany 1966 World Cup"
"Yes, I get the football." And this is what happened the week after this story finished airing. The suggestions for that link direct you to the full two-hour viewing experience, so you can appreciate  Kenneth Wolstenholme's most famous declaration in its full glory.

The sheer giddy triumphs possible regarding a sport where the entire country can pull together and root for their team are somewhat lost on Americans, seeing that most US teams are competing against each other. The Olympics have the closest flavour, but there's always a lot going on there and plenty of teams winning trophies, whereas the World Cup has hundreds of teams qualifying and only one winner at the end. To give some perspective, they've been doing these every four years since 1930 and England has won exactly once. This was it.

1 comment :

Guywhothinksstuff said...

These are some fab little articles. You know your stuff! The Goodies is a terrific show, and Kitten Kong is a splendid example.