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Monday, 6 January 2014

Watch to Watch Next: World War Three & Robot

In which missiles are launched but controlled by our heroes via some quick-witted computer hacking, and a cleverer-then-he-looks new male companion helps save the world but somehow doesn't really get any of the credit for it. UNIT show up and are quite flashy, yet distinctly out of their depth, for reasons that have as much to do with shifting show dynamics as anything scripted for the organisation to be doing (let's face it, there's no real plot motivator that said the chaps in red caps had to be UNIT rather than ordinary police, and their main contribution is getting themselves killed). The main villain(s) can only be described as a bit of a laugh, despite a certain measure of pathos.

And yet "Robot" and "World War Three" seem so wildly different, eh?

World War Three 

UNIT

"Peter Kay - Amarillo"
Meantime in the real world, the next of Davies' comedic oversized villains was busy with what turned out to be the top UK single the whole time this two-parter was airing. Charity singles. Make of it what you will (they'd never get away with the Jimmy Saville clip on any rebroadcasts, surely.)

"Andrew Marr Show - David Tennant"
Andrew Marr, the correspondent who in this story notes that a Captain Tennant is going to 10 Downing Street, is a Very Serious political journalist in his day job. Or in this clip, is very seriously interviewing Tennant about his then upcoming plans to play Hamlet. To be perfectly honest, you may be more exercised by his political interviews.

"Little Britain - 10 Downing Street"
We trust you recognise the narrator, and the location, and the bloke who'll be a guest star next season. And of course the two writers of this sketch later showed up in the Pet Shop Boys video "I'm With Stupid" where Bush and Blair are sardonically mocked...it's all terribly holistic if you look long enough.

"Play School, presented by Russell T Davies"
To all who thought the Slitheen were a touch childish, Davies did get his start writing children's telly. This is mostly a celebratory sort of show (aside from the opening, which makes the Tom Baker title music and New Series trailer clips both seem much odder just by juxtaposing them), but the clip at the five minute mark is unduly amusing. Very '80s hair. Can't help but observe that he is showing off the same sort of cartoon as the ones he drew for "The Writer's Tale", so his writing style has remained largely the same all these years.

"Horsehead Nebula Hubblecast"
The Doctor is perfectly right - the Horsehead Nebula is fantastic.

Robot

United Nations Intelligence Taskforce

"The Golden Voyage of Sinbad - Trailer"
 A Ray Harryhausen film. Helped get Tom Baker hired as the Doctor. Either of these would be quite enough reason to recommend it, really.
(Yours truly can't say it's politically correct, for the simple reason that it isn't, and Sinbad himself is probably the most boring character in the film, but as a piece of fantastic filmmaking it's ideally put together and looks gorgeous, as you'd expect from Harryhausen.)

"The Waterloo Bridge Handicap"
In honour of our Harry's first story, a short film in which Ian Marter also gets to play a villain. Of sorts, until his chivalry catches up with him. The Youtube description is actually a pretty fair summary and TV Cream has more, but it's fun watching as an exercise in surrealism. Also Lynda Bellingham is in it, so that's the second mention of her in a week then.

"Isaac Asimov outlining the Three Laws of Robotics"
Well, it's obviously where Terrance started when he was outlining the script. This and...

"The Avengers trailer - The Mauritius Penny"
Subtitled in French, but never mind that - if you're familiar with Robot you undoubtedly recognise this scene of Nazi fascists having a secret meeting to cheer on Britain's new leader. The Avengers Forever website (far and away the best online guide to that show) notes the similarities, courtesy of one Stephen. "The New Rule meeting in this episode was later adapted by Terrance Dicks for "Robot", a mid-70s installment of Doctor Who. It also features a meeting held by the Scientific Reform Society (which has much in common with the organisation in "Penny"), which is infiltrated by the Doctor's journalist companion Sarah, who is soon exposed as a spy. In 2001, Dicks considered these similarities in an introduction to a book containing the script for "Robot": "I was genuinely unaware of the similarities between 'Robot' and 'Penny'. They're undoubtedly there, but the whole process was unconscious at the time. My old friend Mac Hulke [co-writer of 'Penny'] used to say that to write science fiction, or any kind of fiction, you needed a strong original idea. It didn't have to be your strong original idea. On this case, curiously enough, it was my idea - or rather ours. Still, I don't suppose Mac would have minded."

So that's that. Also it's a rather good episode in its own right and makes philately breathlessly exciting, which is a sentence you don't get to say about most television drama.

"Steptoe and Son - A Perfect Christmas"
Aired two days before the start of "Robot". For comparison, and of course Beryl Vertue had something to do with the programme...and look, we don't really need to justify one of the most influential sitcoms of all time, do we? Perfect way to see off the holiday season. It was the show's last episode and serves as an ideal ending, but it's perfectly accessible even if you haven't seen any of it before.

2 comments :

Dorothy Ail said...

Apologies for this not being up Sunday as it should have but illness. Shaln't happen again, with any luck.

Guywhothinksstuff said...

Feel better! Happy New Year