Posts Tagged With: jon pertwee

Have I Got Whos For You (Vernal Equinox Edition)

I am working on something resembling new content, honest, but I’m also writing a book. So you’re going to have to be patient, OK?

With that in mind, here’s two scenes, sandwiched together. Obviously.

Elsewhere, the Sixth Doctor’s new companion gets a facelift in the wake of a new merger between Panini and Dreamworks.

And there was sad news in the entertainment world yesterday as we learned of the death of Jim Bowen – late of Last of the Summer Wine, but best known for the long-running darts quiz Bullseye. Which, unbeknown to many, once guest-starred Jon Pertwee…

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The Rainbow Connection

Today, boys and girls, you have a choice. You can read this through, or you can skip to the bottom. That’s where the video is. I will not hold it against you, and I’ll never know you did it. Your time is precious. But do, at least, spare five minutes to watch the Thing At The End, because that’s the whole point.

Somewhere in the home counties – I’m thinking Surrey, although it’s never clear – in a cheerfully painted house, a fluffy gay hippo is carefully stacking blocks. To his left, there is a weird orange thing that may or may not be extraterrestrial, doing a puzzle. There is a piece missing: in his frustration, he chucks the box in the direction of the hippo, upsetting his tower. “Ooh, Zippy!” complains the hippo, rife with melodrama. “Zat’s very naughty! Now I’ve got to start again!”

“Oh, well, never mind George,” says the alien. “You can always make another one.”

Stage right, there is a large brown bear reading a comic. “Oh, Zippy,” he sighs. “You are careless.”

“Yes, well, it’s not my fault!” says the alien. “He shouldn’t have been building right next to my jigsaw!”

Their greying foster carer – all sensible shirts and white trainers – walks in, carrying a basket of washing that is inexplicably full given that he’s the only person in the house who wears any clothes. Scenes like this no longer astound or surprise him the way they once did: he’s watched every episode of The Dumping Ground and accepts most of his job is firefighting the squabbles and arguments his young charges have daily. He suspects the alien may have ADHD. He has caught the bear rewiring the electrics once or twice and has asked him not to. The hippo is constantly put upon by his would-be siblings, and the people down the road are always holding impromptu glee clubs in his front room. This, he reflects, was not how he saw his life going when he signed up for this gig.

When we were children, Rainbow was a part of the furniture. It had been around so long that no one gave its murky origins a second thought. There were all manner of questions about the setup in the house – who were these strange anthropomorphic characters and why were they living with this middle-aged storyteller? What did they do for money? And are the frequent fourth wall breaks some sort of indication that they’re in some sort of kids’ version of Big Brother, mercifully without the sex? But no one really asked. It was just something we accepted. It was, like Doctor Who, more about the situation, and the hijinks that ensued, than anything that might have led to them.

It’s strange when you reflect upon how much things have changed. I often read comments on the CBeebies Facebook page about The Tweenies, usually complaining about something obnoxious that Bella is doing. It is inconceivable that a show like that would be made today. Everyone spends all their time arguing. The characters are real, but they’re not a good influence, and even though their behaviour usually results in consequences and discipline, that’s lost on today’s thou-shalt-parent-my-children-for-me audience. While it’s hard to pinpoint precisely where it happened, somewhere along the line we lost the concept of dramatic irony.

There was – I swear I’m not making this up – an episode of Rainbow where Rod, Jane and Freddy sang a song that went “A flying saucer / In our garden / It must have come from outer space…”. Whereupon Zippy poked his head out of the window and offered them a trip to the stars, which they gleefully accepted, finishing the song along the way. It was, to my mind, the best origin story for Zippy that we’ve ever had. There is no other explanation for a creature with a zip sewn into its mouth, other than one that evolved on a planet where it’s an essential survival feature. Perhaps he was expelled from his home world for being thoroughly obnoxious – it would explain why ‘cousin’ Zippo is so mind-numbingly placid, at least until that later episode where he develops a bad American accent and starts talking about crisps.

Little moments like this are integral to our understanding of Rainbow. There are episodes where Geoffrey randomly ‘has to go out’. We never know where he goes (unless he returns with something plot-related) or why. Sessions at the dole office immediately spring to mind. So too do images of Geoffrey attending a drug deal or hiring himself out as a gigolo. It all depends on the mood I’m in. So you can understand why I’d latch onto the image of Zippy emerging from a wrecked spacecraft and setting up home with a bear and a hippo, which is to all intents and purposes what the song implies. (It also implies, of course, that Rod, Jane and Freddy were actually housed together in some sort of communal living situation, which corroborates many 1980s tabloid rumours.)

Then there’s…um. Rainbow cosplay.

I mean, seriously. What the hell is that? It’s like Zippy ate him. At least he can still breathe, which is presumably a situation that can be quickly altered with the swipe of a zip at the top. Come to think of it why does this have a working zip anyway, given that its sudden closure by an external party is likely to render the occupant airless and blind in an instant? Is this some sort of gimp outfit you use for fetish games? Does Christian Grey have one? It is only marginally less disturbing than the Rainbow comics which hit the stands back in the 1990s, in which every character looks basically normal except for George, who bears the haunted, blank-eyed stare of a hippo possessed.

(If you enjoy exploring the seedy underbelly of the animals in the house, you would be well-advised to check out World of Crap, who have devoted pages and pages to rewritten Rainbow comics with amusing captions.)

I’ve dabbled with Rainbow before, of course, in a video that I still quite like, some six years after its creation (not to mention Roy Skelton’s death, which upped the hit count considerably). But Zippy’s only one part of the trio – and while he’s the obvious candidate for voice transposition, that doesn’t mean the others don’t have potential. Except that George is timid and often stumbles over his words, of course, which makes placing him difficult. That left Bungle, who is usually well-spoken, as well as prone to bouts of pomposity. When it came to finding a Doctor Who character for him to replace, there really was only one choice, and that was Omega.

It’s not that I don’t like ‘The Three Doctors’. I think it’s overrated, not to mention structurally problematic – one of those stories that is beloved because it was the first multi-Doctor fusion (and even then, it fails to deliver on its title’s promise). The bickering between Pertwee and Troughton is about the best part of the story – although an unexpected highlight occurs when Benton walks into the TARDIS for the first time, and refuses to state the obvious. The Gel guards are quite fun, but this one is perhaps the epitome of the ‘Stupid Brigadier’ phase, in which U.N.I.T.’s finest devolves into a reactionary simpleton who refuses to accept the evidence of his own eyes.

Then there’s Omega, a villain so melodramatic it’s impossible to see him as a serious threat. Omega’s role in ‘The Three Doctors’ is to shout. In ‘Arc of Infinity’, it’s to shout some more, and then decompose at the edge of a river, just after bonding with a small child over the sight of an organ grinder. In ‘Omega’, the 2003 Big Finish audio drama, his role is to convince you that he’s the Doctor, which he manages with aplomb. But for the most part it’s just a lot of shouting. There must be a reason for all that anger. You almost want Tennant to lean round the door of his chamber, survey Omega’s colossally oversized mask and mutter “Compensating for something?”

Still, masks are handy. I use masks a lot, simply because it makes the dubbing much easier. And there’s something fun about having a supposedly sinister character rendered ridiculous. In the case of Omega, it only half works. You can make him ridiculous all right; he just isn’t very sinister.

When it came to putting this together, I wanted it to feel as close to an actual episode of Rainbow as possible, so I started with the animations. There are two of them, built up in that slow, frame-by-frame style (the sound effects, by the way, are all ripped directly from the show). Originally it was just going to be K-9, but I put the other one in just for the heck of it – the same might be said for the Rod, Jane and Freddy song that shows up later, although that’s partly the silliness of Pertwee’s slow motion fight with Omega.

The biggest problem was Bungle’s voice, which is less consistent than you imagine (unlike Zippy, who always sounds like Zippy). It’s perhaps most obvious in the opening scene, in which the changes are obvious. This being a Classic episode, I didn’t have the luxury of score-free dialogue, which meant dealing with ambience and the occasional sting from Dudley Simpson (who recently turned 95, if you want another entry to your list of Entertainment Veterans You Hadn’t Realised Weren’t Dead Yet). As a result it’s rather rough around the edges, and I almost like it that way.

Oh, and make sure you watch to the end…

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Time flies by when I’m the driver of a train

Murray

The first time I really became aware of television was the early 1980s. There were four channels filled with light entertainment, grainy video-shot soaps and the slightly creepy atonal horn motif that denoted the Open University programmes. The thought of an entire station dedicated to children’s broadcasts – let alone four or five – was a distant novelty. We had to put up with the odd half an hour of cartoons in the mornings (mostly The Pink Panther) and half an hour after lunch, and that’s your lot.

I’m a sucker for details when it comes to things like this. There are various programmes I remember, many of which subsequently passed into obscurity and which my friends and colleagues would categorically deny existed until – oh, sweet rapture! – the arrival of YouTube, and decent quality, ready-to-stream video that proved (once and for all) that I was right all along. Oh, it’s easy when it’s something like Chock-a-Block – the antics of Fred and Carol and their electric cars were familiar talking points around many a primary school water fountain – but when I talked about Wattoo Wattoo Super Bird I got met with a sea of blank looks. And then it was on YouTube and the rest was history. I dearly wish I could find a version of that in English, but at least I can now prove I wasn’t making this shit up.

A programme whose existence you never had to contest was Camberwick Green, which – to those of us growing up in the 1970s and 1980s – was as regular in the fixtures as Bagpuss or You and Me. “Here is a box,” announced narrator Brian Cant (omnipresent in more than one sense of the word; was there a BBC children’s programme in 1981 that didn’t involve him in some aspect or other?). “A musical box. Wound up and ready to play.” And thus the box would open – its triangular spikes retracting like some sort of art deco prison – and the character for the day’s episode would rotate upwards through the opening, peering through the deconstructed fourth wall and seemingly not caring that there was a huge head in the sky looming over the set, watching Trumptonshire’s every move like a hawk, or at least a very interested chaffinch.

Camberwick Green was one of those idyllic rural places where nothing much happened, and the nothing much happened very slowly. It was a village (supposedly in Sussex, but who knows?) where millers wore smocks, women gossiped and everyone knew everyone else. The postman danced with his postmistress before delivering the mail. The aforementioned miller rode a tricycle and played chicken with the windmill sails. The local doctor led a protest to stop a destructive piece of urban development that turned out to be a simple misunderstanding. Oh, it was all going on in Camberwick Green. On the outskirts of the village sat Pippin Fort, where six raw but well-intentioned recruits would parade and solve local problems, and then presumably get hopelessly drunk in the village pub (never seen or mentioned, which retrospectively seems a little odd).

Camberwick Green was launched in 1966, some fifty years ago last January, and adventures in Trumpton and Chigley followed a couple of years later. Trumpton was a fully working town in its own right, complete with a carpenter’s workshop, Miss Lovelace’s hat emporium and the much beloved Trumpton Fire Station, whose crew (due to technical limitations) never had to actually put out a fire, leaving plenty of time to rescue lost hats, erect bill posters (or, to be specific, fail to do so) and practice for the daily band concerts, where they would always play the same tune. “There were no fires in the afternoons,” Trumptonshire Web puts it, “but then there were no fires in the mornings either.” Meanwhile, Chigley was a tranquil but industrious hamlet nearby that revolved around a local biscuit factory, owned by the affable Lord Belborough – a dignitary rather too in touch with his inner child, given that he would leave the solitude of Belborough Hall on the slightest whim to travel up and down the local branch line on Bessie the steam engine, ably assisted by his trusty manservant, Brackett.

For people who skipped the 1990s it’s hard to explain just how much these characters permeated popular culture. There was the episode of Whose Line is it Anyway? in which Tony Slattery and Josie Lawrence redubbed a scene from Camberwick Green between Mickey Murphy and local gossip Mrs Honeyman. Years before Life on Mars?, there was the Spitting Image thing. Most of all there was the music, whether it came in the form of Half Man Half Biscuit’s riotous (almost literally) take on ‘Time Flies By’, or the bizarre, done-on-a-shoestring / could-this-be-any-more-1992 acid anthem that was ‘A Trip To Trumpton’.

You see what I mean.

There was an innocence to the whole thing, even in the notorious scene in which Windy Miller gets drunk on his homemade cider (or ‘sleepy’, as Cant puts it). It’s the sort of innocence that came to later define programmes like Balamory – a show about adults who behave a little like children, and solve their problems in much the same way. There was something sweet about a fire crew whose greatest challenge was a stranded cat (did they attend the same training academy as the crew from Pleasantville, by any chance?) and the tortoise and hare encounter that is Windy’s race with Jonathan Bell the farmer. But as with many children’s programmes, the greater the innocence, the more marked the contrast when you undermine that innocence – there are, for instance, assorted urban legends about Gordon Murray’s decision to burn all the puppets in his back garden after completing filming (although he may have kept one or two). It’s the sort of vibe that Radiohead presumably tapped into when they commissioned their video for ‘Burn the Witch’, a stop-motion affair that mashes up Camberwick Green with The Wicker Man – a film whose director, by curious coincidence, also died this week. It’s the sort of thing that really shouldn’t work, but it does.

You can’t call the deaths of Robin Hardy or Gordon Murray in any way tragic, given that Hardy batted for 86 and Murray was just five shy of a century. But it’s difficult not to feel a sense of nostalgia at the passing of Murray (we’ll deal with The Wicker Man another time, but suffice to say that nostalgia wasn’t exactly on the radar yesterday). The success of Trumptonshire owes much to Cant – and also to scriptwriter Alison Prince, whose narratives were always engaging without being complicated, and necessarily formulaic without being repetitive – but ultimately it was Murray’s creation, and we thank him for it: this fabulous county of hedgehogs and fishmongers, of biscuits and six o’clock dances, of parks and bandstands, and of nattily dressed doctors travelling round the countryside in vintage cars.

Mopp_Pertwee

Yes. Well.

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Random things I noticed from watching ‘The Mutants’

There are plenty of essays and articles about the social commentary and technical realisation of ‘The Mutants’, all over the internet. This is not one of them. However.

1. The old man who meets a premature death (but only just) in the opening credits is a dead ringer for – well….

Mutants_Python

To be fair, I am really not the first to pick up on the Monty Python’s Flying Circus thing. It’s all over the internet, and Barry Letts spotted it in 1972. It’s kind of hard to miss.

 

2. More subtly, the colonists’ outfits do seem to have had some sort of influence on Steven Kynman’s Robert the Robot costume, as worn in Justin’s House.

Mutants_Robert

Or perhaps I just watch too much CBeebies. Actually I think we could safely say I watch too much CBeebies anyway, irrespective of any influences here, perceived or otherwise.

 

3. Whenever Geoffrey Palmer turns up in Doctor Who, you can guarantee he will last two episodes tops. (That two-episode limit is imposed by ‘And The Silurians’, in which he takes a comparatively long time to die, eventually managing it in style not far from a London railway station. Apart from that, he’s usually dead within twenty minutes.)

Palmer

Actually, looking at that ‘Voyage of the Damned’ image again, it really does look as if he’s fallen asleep at the (ship’s) wheel.

Palmer’s tendency to die on-screen is far from unique, of course. Kevin Stoney meets the Doctor three times and only in ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ does he live to fight another day. And Michael Sheard appears in no fewer than six Classic Who stories, dying on-screen in two of them and left to an uncertain fate in ‘Castrovalva’. But heavily recurring actors is for another day and another blog entry, so watch this space.

 

4. There’s a lovely scene in episode 5 when the execution squad come into the Marshal’s office, ready to kill Jo and the others, and two of them turn on cue, while the other one apparently forgets, then awkwardly shuffles round so he’s facing the same way as the others. Here it is: start at 3:21, if the embed code doesn’t work properly.

(Apologies for the unskippable ads, if you see them first. My hands were cuffed.)

 

5. The story is renowned for its eclectic range of accents and (for 1972) diverse casting. But primarily I noticed John Hollis, playing a (presumably Dutch) scientist who’s a dead ringer for Lex Luthor.

Mutants_Lex

 

6. ‘The Mutants’ is two parts social commentary to one part sci-fi: it can’t decide whether it’s mainly about decolonisation or slave labour. By and large it balances in favour of the former, but it’s also interesting that the role of Cotton, a redeemed lackey originally written with a Cockney’s voice in mind, was given to Rick James.

Cotton

Hang on, what’s this? An ACTUAL BLACK MAN cast in 1970s Doctor Who? Well, this is a turn-up for the books. Or it would be, were it not for the fact that Rick James is dreadful. The dialogue doesn’t help. I can imagine lines like “He’s sort of a mate o’ mine” delivered by Barry Jackson in ‘The Armageddon Factor’, but as rendered here it’s simply clunky. James is clearly out of his depth, and is churning up a lot of foam simply trying to stay afloat. I daresay given the right script he’s wonderful. Sadly, this isn’t it.

Still, you can’t entirely blame the casting. Not when you have scenes like this.

(Start at 23:05.)

I know we ranted a lot about series 8, but I do think that Ruby’s panicky exclamation in ‘Forest of the Night’ was a considerable improvement.

Forest_Ruby

Well, I knew that episode would eventually be good for something.

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Unused Doctor Who Monsters (part three)

Here we go. I’m by no means the first to make this joke, as Google will testify,  but it really was too good an opportunity to miss.

 

A significant proportion of my audience is American, and may have never heard of the Wurzels, in which case this might help.

‘Love and Monsters’ is, of course, a story that many of us would like to block from our memories, but you may recall that two of the members of L.Y.N.D.A. sing the song on which this is based, ‘Brand New Key‘, early in the episode. This parody is arguably more successful, certainly on this side of the pond. The cheers it raises in Bristol nightclubs are frankly phenomenal.

The Wurzels are not to be confused, of course, with Worzel Gummidge, a popular scarecrow who starred in a series of novels and, eventually, a TV series, starring this chap.

Worzel

 

Worzel Gummidge wasn’t Pertwee’s only TV work during the 70s and 80s. He also provided the voice of Spotty in the memorable Superted, a show about an anthropomorphic teddy bear who can transform into the titular superhero at the mere whisper of his secret magic word. Pertwee’s co-stars included Sheila Steafal, who appeared in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., Derek Griffiths, a children’s TV veteran who’s turned up in at least one Big Finish production, and Melvyn Hayes, who was married to Wendy Padbury.

Derek Griffiths (who voiced Superted) may have had his heyday years before my children were born, in the likes of Heads and Tails and Play School, but they did get to see him in the CBeebies pantomime late last year, in which he appeared as the Ghost of Christmas Past – that’s him on the left.

Derek_Griffiths__I_2752992b

They were doing A Christmas Carol, of course, with the role of the spiteful Ebeneezer Scrooge going to Andy Day. Here he is looking rather less than spiteful.

A CBeebies Christmas Carol

 

Andy can currently be seen in Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures, a show in which he travels back to the Cretaceous era using a grandfather clock that glows with sparkly blue energy, and that appears to be bigger on the inside.

Dinosaur

Andy usually ventures into the past in order to obtain a vital artifact for a museum display, to replace the one that got damaged at the beginning of an episode. His encounters with the dinosaurs are wonderful – CBeebies have taken the CGI footage from 1999’s Walking With Dinosaurs and superimposed Andy over the top in order to make the programme more accessible for children. The results are very effective and highly entertaining, if a little conventional – the butterfly effect is completely ignored, and I would love, for example, to see an episode where Andy swats a fly and returns to a future where everyone has lizard tongues and the world is ruled by a despotic Mr Tumble.

1999 is the year the Master messed around with the Eye of Harmony, of course, in a story that marked Paul McGann’s debut.  This is more than likely nothing but coincidence, but it’s telling that when Daniel was playing with my figure collection in late December, during yet another airing of the CBeebies Christmas Carol, he came running into the kitchen clutching five inches of plastic, declaring “Look, Daddy! It’s Ebeneezer Scrooge!”

Andy-Doctor

It takes a while, and the links may be occasionally tenuous, but in the end, everything comes back to Doctor Who.

 

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(Don’t) SPLINK

I thought I’d follow up yesterday’s class excursion into the murky archives of the Central Information Office with another video mashup. If you’ve not yet read the Public Information Films digest, go and do so – or at least watch the last one, right at the bottom of the post hyperlinked above, because otherwise what follows is going to seem even more obscure than usual.

Done that? Right, we can move on, and I can show you this.

This was Gareth’s idea, and for that I am grateful, because it was a solid concept that took all of an hour to put together, so I call that a win. The toughest part was obtaining a decent quality version of the Doctor’s video that wasn’t hopelessly out of sync, although I’m told it’s a special feature on a DVD I don’t own. After that it was a question of splicing the two and trimming for pacing, right down to the frame.

It’s a curious beast, though, because the version you can see above is slightly edited. In my original upload I included a somewhat tacked-on ending, which I still think is funny, but which some people think detracts from the original point. In any case the full version is below (titled ‘better version’ not because of the ending but purely because the timing improves on an earlier cut I’d uploaded), so you can make up your own mind. Just remember to look both ways.

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Get off the road!

alvin

Picture a twenty-inch colour TV, the square cathode ray type, sitting on a table in the corner of the lounge one afternoon during the early nineteen eighties. On the screen is a small child, speaking with a dolly. “Now, Lucy,” she tells the doll, “Mummy says we can play outside on our own. But we must be VERY CAREFUL OF THE MAIN ROAD.”

Cut to a busy town street, traffic zooming past, the Doppler effect in full swing. The little girl is outside. She may or may not be walking to the shops.

“Ooh, look, Lucy!” she suddenly exclaims in the sort of excited voice children keep in reserve for when they’re offered sweets or ice cream. “A doggy!”

The canine in question is on the other side of the street. There’s no adult. She barrels out into the road. There is a screech. A thump. And then, for added pathos, a female voice, coming from inside the house. “Debbie! Come inside and write in Daddy’s birthday card!”

I have searched in vain for this on YouTube, but in a way I’m glad I couldn’t find it. Because it meant I had to write it down in order to properly set the scene, and – in the process – I realised how much comes back to me even after thirty years, even after having only ever seen it once. The names are about the only thing I had to make up; everything else is more or less etched in stone. I think there may be a reason for that.

When I think about it, many of my strongest televisual memories are connected with death. I can recall the climax of Tottie: The Story of A Doll’s House, in which the scheming Marchpane succeeds in setting Birdie on fire. I can remember one of the closing scenes in the 1984 adaptation of Goodbye Mr Chips – not the oft-imitated deathbed exchange (“I have had children…thousands of ’em…all boys”), but the sight of Roy Marsden lying spread-eagled on the floor of his study. Staying with the school theme I can remember the death of Jeremy when he was larking about in the swimming pool at the end of an episode of Grange Hill. I remember an installment of Ulysses 31 in which Ulysses is captured by Chronus / Chronos, the god of time, who succeeds in ageing the slumbering crew of the Odyssey until they reach the end of their lives, although Ulysses is able to put things right again. It gave me nightmares for years weeks, as did the scene in Scrooge! in which Albert Finney comes face to face with Death and appears to descend into hell (at 2:40).

Closer to home, I blogged over a year ago – right back when I started this particular online foray – about how my first Who memory was of the death of Adric. Reading back over it now it strikes me as awfully pretentious writing. I’m going on about the reason “memory doesn’t begin at birth”, blocking out memories “because it’s easier than having to remember what they were actually like” and the instinctive reaction to make “the loudest noise you can make”. Not long after that I received an email from Gareth, who remarked “Come on, Matthew Waterhouse’s acting isn’t that bad”.

Ah, but those Public Information Films. If you’re reading this in the U.S. and don’t know what I’m talking about (and one doesn’t necessarily follow from the other, of course), you might call them Public Service Announcements. When I imagine an American PSA I automatically think of a crying Indian (I’m not linking to that; look it up yourselves). Or I think of the South Park episode where they suggest duck-and-cover as a response to a volcanic eruption. I’m sure there’s far more to it than this (and I’m happy for people to educate me) but I’m afraid my knowledge is strictly British, and it must be said that as far as creeping out the kids is concerned, we can hold our own.

“Can you imagine,” said Emily when I was describing the road safety advert at the beginning of this entry over lunch earlier, “the reaction if they showed that advert to children today? Can you even imagine them showing it?”

“I sincerely doubt it,” I said. “I don’t think they’re quite as hot on scaring kids today. It’s all dressed up. I don’t think people die nearly as much on TV as they used to, or if they do it’s usually accompanied by over-scored music and slow motion. People seem to be frightened of upsetting children, but when I was a kid that was the whole point.”

And it was. There was, as far as I can remember, comparatively little moral handwringing over some of the frankly hideous Public Information films that were screened from the sixties to the eighties. Like thieves in the night, you never knew when they were coming. There was no press campaign, no front page Daily Mail story. No buildup. They just appeared and then disappeared, as much a part of the fabric as the test card girl or the title music to the Six O’Clock News, or the mediocrity of early afternoon game shows. They were brought in to warn you about the dangers of – well, everything, really. If the Central Office of Information was to believed we were living in a world of perpetual hazards, where death lurked on every corner, ready to strike at the first opportunity. Fat fryers. Motorway diversions. Farmyard equipment. Refrigerators. Nothing was safe, because, well, nothing is safe. The United Kingdom was a dangerous place, full of paedophiles and dangerous drivers, encapsulated on film in perpetual washed-out colour and with a higher body count than your average Midsomer Murders. It’s a miracle we were even allowed out.

Here, for example, is Spider-Man villain Electro’s unknown backstory.

Never mind the fact that the opening shot bears a striking resemblance to Flight of the Navigator (years too early) and the Blake’s Seven-esque soundtrack. Who’s the bigger fool here? The fool, or the fool who is (metaphorically) pushed by her? You can picture slippered, moustachioed parents lecturing their children after some minor misdemeanour with the oft-used but newly-adapted “Why’d you do it, Jimmy? I mean why? Because Amy told you to? And I suppose that if Amy told you to go into an electrical substation to retrieve a Frisbee, you’d do that as well?” – which is, I’ve just realised, the Question That Must Never Be Answered (what do you know, it really was hidden in plain sight).

Firework videos were also very popular, particularly this one, which was re-run every year in some form or another until at least the mid-1980s, when Hale and Pace took over.

It does rather overstate the point, but on the other hand I’m thirty-four and have never touched a spent firework, so perhaps it fulfils its purpose.

Perhaps most chilling of all was a video that I never saw as a kid, purely because of geography. Titled Apaches, it’s a half-hour tale of misery and woe about six children who play at Cowboys and Indians. The games are fun but the environments are dangerous, and by the end, all but one of them will be dead.

Let me save the busier amongst you some time: the deaths (or the moments that lead up to them) are at 05:10, 10:41, 16:40, 21:01 and 24:25. I will leave it to you to discover the manner of the children’s demise; that’s part of the fun. Suffice to say that everyone gets what’s coming to them: they are all silly children who deserve it, and indeed the fatalities in this video are just Darwin at work, sparing us the very real possibility of these stupid ten-year-olds growing up just enough to reach puberty, claim benefits and breed. I grew up in a suburban neighbourhood where our local school was built upon farmland, rather than being anywhere near it, and as such we were denied the joy of this grim morality tale, which was presumably considered irrelevant for townies (instead we had to put up with the locally-filmed Stranger Danger video, shot in the park where I once broke my arm, and starring an extremely intelligent terrier who sounded a lot like Richard Briers). Emily, who was raised in a hamlet in the middle of the countryside, assures me that she saw Apaches more or less annually, and she’s never impaled herself on a spike or fallen into a pit of slurry (ooh, spoilers) so I suppose we might thus view this prequel to Final Destination as something of a success.

But I don’t want my perspective to be completely skewed. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. Some films ended happily, with a near miss instead of a fatality, or a serious-but-not-life-threatening injury that left a timely reminder that things could have been much worse, so let’s hope you’ve learned your lesson. And it was a welcome opportunity for celebrities-of-the-time – including Alvin Stardust, Les Gray (from Mud) and the late, not-so-lamented Jimmy Saville to wax lyrical about the importance of crossing the road properly. Appearing in a PIF was the 1970s equivalent to appearing on the CBeebies bedtime hour reading a story – a fleeting but memorable appearance that was destined to pepper YouTube in the decades to come to satisfy the perpetually bored and curious.

While there were plenty of road safety videos that ended badly, for example, there were an awful lot more that didn’t. Here, for instance, is former Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan, apparently wearing a similar jacket to the one that Stan wore in The Secret of Monkey Island.

(In the comments page, some bright spark has written that Keegan really ought to have taken the kid to the pelican crossing, because it contains the only black and white stripes over which he has any real control.)

I can sense at least some of my American audience shrugging their shoulders at this, having no real idea who Kevin Keegan is, so here’s Darth Vader – or the man in the suit, at least.

I like to think he was wearing this under the breathing apparatus and mask when he was shooting A New Hope. My money’s also on this being in at least one kinky couple’s roleplay / fetish wardrobe. Either way it looks like he lost a bet.

And finally, this chap ought to be familiar.

Right, so that’s:

Safe place to stop
Pavement
Look
If (traffic is coming, let it pass)
No traffic? Walk straight across
Keep looking and listening for traffic while you cross

All of which is an entirely convoluted mnemonic, and there have been various (rather rude) alternatives offered over the years, such as “Choose a safe place to stand, Observe the traffic, Carefully walk across the road, Keep safe…”. Don’t get me wrong, SPLINK is easy enough to say, but much harder to deconstruct. It’s no wonder there are so many fatalities on the roads.

There is a reason I’m talking about all this, of course, and it’s connected with Pertwee, but that can wait for another day. In the meantime, I appreciate that this has been rather miserable and death-heavy, so to cheer you all up here’s a fun video about dogs.

Oh well.

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Mr Pertwee, are you free?

This is not the image I was intending to share today, but while I ransack my Facebook feeds trying to find it, have this one.

mollyjon

Gareth sent it. I am inclined to think Mrs Slocombe might say “Is this going to take long, Captain Peacock? I’m worried about leaving my pussy alone with that sonic screwdriver.”

Categories: Classic Who | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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