British TVSF

A True Story: We made it up ourselves.

TVSF is perhaps the TV genre in which, to take a certain extra-terrestrial slightly out of context, "most of our imports come from overseas." Ask a random member of the public, or even perhaps a random OUSF Gus to name a certain number of TVSF examples, and its likely that the homegrown material will be outnumbered by our imports, mostly of the America Land variety. Now, whilst a lot of these imports (I'm not going to start dissecting Star Trek) are fairly worthy shows in their own right, it is something of a shame that of the 112 licence fee, not to mention their government funding, the BBC is so reluctant to make TVSF these days. See Inadequate Investment.

Why? Because it's a risk, because unless it strikes a chord with the 'General Public' its 'guaranteed' audience (as they see us) isn't big enough (in their opinion), and because until the advent of CGI, it cost a lot to make and was notoriously prone for going over-budget. Strange then, that as TVSF has become an easier proposition over the last decade, British TVSF has become rarer, not more common. Some examples:

Doctor Who1963-1989, and 1996Time/space travel/alien invasion/alien society
Survivors1970sPost-apocalypse: plague
Blakes' 71978-1980 (approx)Rebels on the Run
Red Dwarf1980s-1990sPost-apocalypse/space/comedy
BUGSApril 1995-August 1999Techno-thriller
Invasion EarthMay-June 1998Alien Invasion
Ultra VioletSept-Oct 1998Vampires
The Last TrainMarch 1999Post-apocalypse: big rock
The Second ComingFebruary 2003Religion-based drama

One interesting (and potentially disturbing) trend I have observed in 1990s British TVSF is a desire to disguise itself. To be sure, TVSF has been fighting a propaganda war against the flailings of desperate comedians to convince the wider audience that it's not just 'cheap sets and little green men' since the year dot, but in recent years this seems to have become far more pronounced. Sometimes this works -- Ultra Violet's refusal to even mention the word 'Vampire' actually adds to the sinister atmosphere, although it's a little strange that not one person even refers to it in six episodes, but on other occasions, such as The Last Train's effort to present itself as a 'plausible drama-documentary' whilst being a cheap clone of Terry Nation's Survivors with, frankly, less plausible characters than an episode of Button Moon, it simply lends an air of pretentiousness to the show, alienating even more of its viewers. Invasion Earth, although not trying to hide its telefantasy routes, suffers as much if not more from this 'look, we're not run of the mill TVSF because we're all dark and brooding and cool' attitude.

More examples, corrections/amendations to the dates and Wikipages for those series that lack them welcome!

Some writing is here: <>.

Category TVSF

Sat, 06 Sep 2003 12:24:24 GMT Front Page Recent Changes Message Of The Day