For fantasy fans, BBC FOUR has been the channel to watch over the first couple of nights or so of the New Year. On January 2, the TV station hosted a “Thunderbirds Are Go!” night devoted to the work of Gerry Anderson. The most interesting part of the evening (for me) was, of course, the documentary “All About Thunderbirds” which charted the evolution of Supermarionation from “Supercar” through to the demise of “Space: 1999”. They didn’t touch on the earlier series, “The Adventures of Twizzle”, Series One of “Torchy, the Battery Boy” and western “Four Feather Falls” or the later ones such as “Terrahawks”, “Dick Spanner P.I.”, “Space Precinct”, “Lavender Castle” and, most recently, the revamped computer-generated “Gerry Anderson’s New Captain Scarlet”. The programme focused mainly on “Thunderbirds”, discussing the commercial failure of the first feature, “Thunderbirds Are Go!”, whilst surprisingly ignoring its sequel, “Thunderbird 6”, and the live-action production “Doppelgänger”, aka “Journey to the Far Side of the Sun”. It was good to see the pilot episode of the original “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” again, though the “new” episode of “Stingray”, “The Reunion Party”, proved to be a disappointment being merely a compilation episode with some, hitherto unseen, brief links.
The following evening, January 3, viewers were treated to Irwin Allen night. He’s probably best remembered today for blockbuster disaster adventures “The Poseidon Adventure” and “The Towering Inferno” but, in the Sixties, produced four American Television cult favourites beginning with “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” in 1964, following the successful feature of the same name filmed three years earlier. Next up was perhaps the most popular of the quartet, “Lost in Space”, initially made in black and white while successive seasons were filmed in colour. A year later came “The Time Tunnel”, the opening episode of which began the evening. “Rendezvous with Yesterday” is set on the Titanic and includes Michael Rennie and Susan Hampshire among its guest cast. Mix this with “The Poseidon Adventure” and you probably end up with something closely approximating the “Doctor Who” Christmas Special, “Voyage of the Damned”! Concluding the foursome was my personal favourite “Land of the Giants”. I suspect my fondness for this series has something to do with the fact that “Planet of Giants” is one of my earliest memories of “Doctor Who” and the outsized sets of Allen’s series, together with camera angles denoting view points, remind one of this particular BBC serial! Irwin’s story itself was well told, save for the cheesy links from “Lost in Space” stars June Lockhart and Bill Mumy, through the 1995 hour-and-a-half biography “The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen” which provided the centrepiece of the evening. All in all, a fun couple of nights’ viewing!