As a Media and Film lecturer I like to create lists they generate good reactions and debates amongst my students. Here's one that got the most amount of chatter/heated arguements in recent times.
Quatermass and the Pit
A team of scientists search for the origin and purpose of a mysterious capsule found on a building site. (30 mins.)
“ This the first real major sci-fi hit in the UK, and laid the firm foundations for Doctor Who. Quatermass was a very intelligent and refined rocket scientist/professor turned investigator into paranormal events. There are two series before this, but The Pit was the best in my opinion. Also made into a very good hammer horror film. My father assures me that pubs used to empty when this show was on, it was the talk of TV at the time. ” - medwards1
(1967 TV Series)
David Vincent, an architect returning home after a hard, hard, day parks his car in an old ghost town... (51 mins.)
“ Perfectly formed 60's communist paranoia wrapped up in the cloak of science fiction. This series is worth watching as casts as much paranoia and doubt at those in authority, particularly the government as it does at the 'commie' aliens. This laid the foundations for The X Files. ” - medwards1
(1963 TV Series)
Time and Space traveling adventures of a Gallifreyan Time Lord only known as the Doctor and his companions, traveling through time and space. (45 mins.)
“ Designed to span the gap between children's drama and adult sci-fi in the mould of Quatermass, this show introduced one of the most interesting characters in sci-fi, The Doctor. Here is a man who does not best aliens/robots/bad guys with muscles, might, guns or weapons, but through logical intelligence and clever creative problem solving.
This is a character who does not necessarily go looking for trouble (he just really wants to bum about seeing cool things happen) but when it comes his way (as it always does) he runs head long towards it rather than away from it. The Doctor is also often on the edge of being the bad guy in these stories, he really needs the human companions/assistants to stop him from being inhumane...which acts as a neat bit of non-preachy morality for the young-uns watching. Yes the sets were shoddy, yes the costumes, props, and occassionally the acting were all a bit naff, but damn it the stories and the characters were brilliant!
The show producers also came up with one of the most creative solutions to the age old problem of how do you maintain a successful TV show when the original cast decide to bugger off...they created the idea the the alien Doctor, a Time Lord, could regenerate when he dies, literally becoming another person, whilst still retaining all the memories and essence of his predecessor. ” - medwards1
(1975 TV Series)
When a genetically engineered virus kills 99.99 percent of the world's population, the survivors must... (50 mins.)
“ An example of the type of science fiction that I believe British TV does best, post-apocalyptic. This wonderful series was designed by Terry Nation (yea verily he that created the Daleks of Doctor Who). The first series is absolutely brillant, and really like nothing else on TV, the second and third go steadily down hill, but have odd epsiodes that are outstanding. The three main charactes are wonderful: Greg is a growling, angry, impatient engineer, full to the brim with logic and ruthlessness. Abby is a creative, intelligent and thoroughly resourceful and forceful woman, whose whole comfortable affluent middle class life is taken from her, but this process allows her to grow and assume the role of leader of this rag-tag group. And Jenny, who is all heart and sympathy, necessary to counter balance the harsh decisions of both Greg and Abby. It is a slow build drama, just as The Wire was in modern times.
Also worth noting for giving the lead role to a woman, and allowing the actress to play her as tough, resilient, intelligent and charismatic as a leader of the group. In a way a pre-cursor for Ellen Ripley in Alien. ” - medwards1
Sapphire & Steel
(1979 TV Series)
Complex, involved science-fiction series about a special force of interdimensional operatives whose... (30 mins.)
“ Bonkers series were 'time agents' (although this is never really confirmed or explained) turn up to try and investigate and solve 'disturbances' in time. The agents have limited special powers, and treat humans either with utter disdain (in Steel's case) or with good humoured curiousity (in Sapphires). Written by PJ Hammond, this series contained some geniunely disturbing stuff. ” - medwards1
(1993 TV Series)
Two FBI agents, Fox Mulder the believer and Dana Scully the skeptic, investigate the strange and unexplained while hidden forces work to impede their efforts. (45 mins.)
“ The first 6 series were as near perfect as can be. Great chemistry between the two main actors (aprarently caused by them hating each other) continuing that good vein of healthy gonvernment conspiracy theories and paranoia started by The Invaders, this show WAS what 90s TV drama was all about; dark, morbid, scary, slick and fearful of the rapidly approaching New Millennium. ” - medwards1
(2005 TV Series)
The further adventures of the time traveling alien adventurer and his companions. (45 mins.)
“ This can be regarded as a different show from the original 1963-1989 incarnation as such huge changes to the format and budget were made.
Thank the gods for Russell T. Davis, who brought back this wonderful piece of British sci-fi. The Doctor, once again, does not solve problems with guns or fighting, he solves them with his brain.
Also, instead of some slick, big ultra futuristic space ship, The Doctor has the TARDIS, a time and space machine that is constantly going wrong, breaking down and playing up. The TARDIS we learn is outdated technology for his people, so what seems futuristic and fantastic to human companions (and us) is actually old-hat to The Doctor, reflecting the old British hang up of the loss of Empire and the gradual erosion of the Commonwealth.
Science, whilst often being the thing that saves the day, is also ridiculed and held with healty suspicion and wariness in this show. ” - medwards1
(2000 TV Series)
A group of genetically-enhanced children escape from a lab project. Years later we meet Max, one of the escapees who now works for a messenger service in the post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest. (60 mins.)
“ An example of what America does best, sexy, fast paced, slick TV, created and produced by Jim Cameron no less! Some very good, dark and exciting episodes in the first series, and wonderful soundtrack mostly provided by Chuck D! ” - medwards1
(2002 TV Series)
Five hundred years in the future, a renegade crew aboard a small spacecraft tries to survive as they travel the unknown parts of the galaxy and evade warring factions as well as authority agents out to get them. (44 mins.)
“ The perfect sci-fi series, like an extinct species of bug trapped in amber, it will always be there to look at, but it is also sad because we know there will never be any more of this wonderful show. Perfect characterisation, great acting, good healthy budget, some of the funniest dialogue ever in sci-fi, and very scary bad guys. Bloody good film on the back of it too. Whedon, the creator, is truly a genius in his own lunchtime. ” - medwards1
A re-imagining of the original series in which a "rag-tag fugitive fleet" of the last remnants of mankind flees pursuing robots while simultaneously searching for their true home, Earth. (183 mins.)
“ I have only just recently started to watch this, but I am already totally hooked. Simply the best 're-imagining' of an old show I have seen, so fundamentally different from the original star-wars rip off it might as well be a different species (or perhaps a Cylon clone). Yet at the same time retaining lots of clever design elements, and even musical stings from the original in such clever ways to act as a found homage to its origins.
Gritty, scary and full of more twists than a packet of dried Fusilli lunghi from a supermarket, and even though it is incredibly cliche to have a Brit playing the nasty, turn coat bad guy, ah, hell, it works and he does it very well. ” - medwards1
When aliens come to Earth to ask for our help, a few suspicious humans discover their horrific true intentions and prepare to resist. (197 mins.)
“ The great alien invasion series that spawned (eventually) all those great disaster movies in the 90s (ID4 et al). A brilliant and poignant warning that, whilst the events of WWII seem very long ago, fascism and tyrannical dictatorships can spring up anywhere (even in the USA!). A wonderful homage to resistance and freedom fighters everywhere. ” - medwards1
(1966 TV Series)
Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise explore the galaxy and defend the United Federation of Planets. (50 mins.)
“ Okay, alright, so the sets were a bit rubbish, and the effects naff (Bill Shatner fighting Gorn is one of the worst things I have ever seen). But just like Doctor Who, which kicked off in the UK three years earlier, this show works because the stories, the characters and IDEAS are so damned good.
Great ensemble cast, and just wonderful representation of a bright and beautiful future where irrespective of race, gender, creed, age or the colour of your blood (although Bones doesn't seem to respect that last one!) everyone is given the equal opportunity to race around the universe beating up aliens...I mean diplomatically resolving difficulties.
Wonderful that such a utopian vision of what Earth would be like in the future was so communistic in its essence (no money, no religion no nationality etc) and yet this show still had the mainstream success in America it enjoyed (eventually).
And how better to look at the flaws and foibles of human nature than through the cold logical eyes of a Vulcan (well, half-Vulcan).
Also allowed the first on screen kiss between a white man and a black woman, which might seem crazily irrelevant in modern times, but was truly ground breaking back then. ” - medwards1
Star Trek: The Next Generation
(1987 TV Series)
Set decades after Captain Kirk's five-year mission, a new generation of Starfleet officers set off in a new Enterprise on their own mission to go where no one has gone before. (44 mins.)
“ Took all that was great and good about TOS but added better acting (well, mostly) more science and generally more well-rounded storytelling, as well as much better sets, SFX, stunts etc. Lost a little of the heart from the original series in my opinion in that process, but at least Piccard doesn't seek to resolve every situation by a) seducing every woman he meets b) breaking the Prime Directive at the drop of a hat or c) repeatedly punching/judo throwing his enemies about. THERE...ARE...FOUR...LIGHTS! Brilliant.
And what did I say about Vulcan eyes in the write up for TOS? Forget about it, better to view humanity through the bionic eyes of an android desperate to be human. Wow, the Tinman does have a heart...Data's journey over these series and then the movies is amazing. ” - medwards1
The Day of the Triffids
When a comet blinds nearly everyone in the world, a genetically-engineered species of plant takes over. (50 mins.)
“ Brilliant post apocalyptic story where the vast majority of the population of Earth is blinded by watching some nice meteor showers and then fall victim to killer walking plants! I know, sounds a bit crap, but trust me, this isn't it is very grim and dark. ” - medwards1
(2008 TV Series)
An unknown virus pandemic kills more than 90% of the world's population. Those immune must strive to survive and overcome the difficulties of this new world order, hoping that the virus will not mutate. (60 mins.)
“ Modernised version of Terry Nations original, featuring: all round better acting, tighter scripting, faster pace, lots of action but still full of the harsh decisions and dangerous characters from the original. Can't wait for the next series! ” - medwards1
(2006 TV Series)
The members of the Torchwood Institute, a secret organization founded by the British Crown, fight to protect the Earth from extraterrestrial and supernatural threats. (50 mins.)
“ Doctor Who spin off from yon Russell T. with that handsome chappy John Barrowman strutting about with his chest all puffed out. First series was fairly poor, second series quite better, but the real genius stuff was the third series, which was aired originally as a Five Part Mini-Series over five consecutive nights, taking British sci-fi format back to it origins (the first series of Quatermass was aired in a similar manner and was LIVE!).
Torchwood Children of Earth is one of the best shows I have ever seen, very John Wyndham, if you haven't seen it DO SO NOW! ” - medwards1
(1988 TV Series)
The adventures of the last human alive and his friends, stranded three million years into deep space on the mining ship Red Dwarf. (30 mins.)
“ Okay, so this is really sit-com more than sci-fi, but, ah, whatever.
Much like X-Files in that the first six series were near perfect. Dave Lister, our central character is, I think, one of the finest ever written by man, woman or android. He essentially is a very lazy, slobby, silly young man who only really wants to bum about, do as little work as possible, drink larger and eat curries and have fun. Lister is such a good character because, despite all his many faults, he is always caring, moralistic and wants to do the best for everyone, and everything. His good intent often goes awry, but hey, that's what being human is often like. The brilliant writers use the escapist fantasy of both sci-fi and sitcom to make some very pertinent and barbed criticisms of modern day life. ” - medwards1
A for Andromeda
(2006 TV Movie)
In the Yorkshire Dales, a group of scientists receive radio signals from the Andromeda Galaxy. Once decoded... (90 mins.)
“ One of those rare examples (like John Carpenter's The Thing) were a remake is actually better than the original. With Tom Hardy (a stunningly good actor) this is very unnerving stuff. ” - medwards1
The Quatermass Experiment
(2005 TV Movie)
A contemporary adaptation of Nigel Kneale's seminal 1953 science fiction serial. (97 mins.)
“ A great remake of the mostly lost 1953 original series by Nigel Kneale, this 2005 TV movie aired live. A little stilted in places because of it, this is none-the-less a thrilling return for THE original British sci-fi TV hero. Most interestingly David Tennant played a relatively small part in this film before he became the tenth regeneration of The Doctor, so finally connecting Quatermass, the 'grandfather of British Sci-Fi' to Doctor Who, his bastard, but long lived 'son'! ” - medwards1
(1967 TV Series)
After resigning, a secret agent is abducted and taken to what looks like an idyllic village, but is really a bizarre prison. His warders demand information. He gives them nothing, but only tries to escape. (50 mins.)
“ Forget the crappy American remake, this is where it is at. Utterly odd, but compelling British sci-fi full or psychedelic paranoia. The Prisoner himself is excellently played by Patrick McGoohan and represents that beautiful human characteristic of irrepressible hope. Despite the overwhelming odds he simply will not give in and become the placid and none-rebellious number they seem to want him to be. Wonderful stuff. ” - medwards1