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I HATE you, DigitAl!!

daOh brave new world…

My part of the UK “went digital” today. That means that the analogue TV signals here have been switched off, and unless you can access the digital channels via a “digi box” or have satellite TV, or own a ouija board, if you try and tune in to all the “old stations” all you get is a screenful of static accompanied by the background hiss of the Big Bang.

This is obviously a major upheaval. I know a lot of old people who just haven’t grasped this TV revolution, and after burying their grey heads in the sand for the past few months they will be spending much of today frantically pressing buttons on their TV remotes and wondering where “Diagnosis Murder” and “Emmerdale” went while they weren’t looking. (I also know a lot of lazy younger people who just haven’t been bothered to get their TVs sorted out, but that’s their problem.) Me? I bought myself a smart digi receiver that’s part of a unit incorporating a hard disc drive recorder and a DVD recorder, too. Sorted.

What this mchange means, basically, is more channels, more choice, so that has to be a good thing, right? Where I live I’ve been restricted to just four – yes, I said four, stop laughing – channels for as long as I can remember, because I haven’t had Sky or cable or anything like that. Hasn’t been a big deal – I’m more of a radio person anyway, and would rather have 5Live playing in the background while I write than the TV or a music CD – but I’ve been looking forward to “going digital” because, scanning the Freeview-friendly channels in the TV guides I saw that they show quite a few of the sci fi shows that were favourites of mine when I was younger. ITV 4 in particular seems to be in love with two of my all time faves, “UFO” and” Space: 1999″. I’ve been so excited about the prospect of catching up with them again!

Well, this morning I woke up and my little corner of the world had “gone digital” while I was asleep. There it was! ITV4! Tuned in… what was first… UFO!


Brilliant! God, I loved this show! I couldn’t wait to see it again… Except Stella wanted to watch the last ever episode of FRIENDS… again… so I had to wait until that was finished before putting UFO on…

Wow… it looked so dated! Those beige and biscuit-hued dresses and suits from Sylvia Anderson’s “21st Century Fashions” range look AWFUL now, like things you’d find in Kate Moss’s bin. I literally shuddered.

But then the action shifted to the Moon, and as the spaceships started doing their thing, I was won over. The tech in UFO still looks fantastic. The UFOs are very shiny and twinkly, and the Interceptor is still one of my favourite TV spaceships, even though its lone missile is not only very impractical and ineffecient from a UFO-killing perspective, it also looks rather, well, silly now, too…


The three most memorable elements of UFO were all in this morning’s episode. Firstly, Ed Straker, the grouchy, steely-eyed boss of SHADO, was there, barking orders at every clipboard-carrying, cigarette-smoking minion and underling who was unfortunate enough to cross his path…


Secondly, Moonbase was fully staffed with the lycra-clad, purple-haired mission control babes I remembered so well, all purring into their space-age microphones in crisp, BBC English…


And finally, there she was, hanging around at the back of SHADO HQ, carrying a clipboard from here to there every now and again, looking intently into a screen, looking up again, waving at someone, then tossing her mane of black hair over her shoulder in shampoo advert slow motion…

Ayshea… the first TV character I had a crush on…


Yes, long before Rose Tyler and Dr Martha Jones stole my heart as they travelled through time and space with a certain Galifreyan, long before Colonel Wilma Deering made my juvenile jaw drop by striding across Earth’s post-apocalyptic landscape in 4″ heels and a sprayed on snow white jumpsuit, there was Lt. Ayshea. She was played by an actress and singer called Ayshea Brough, too. Not a lot of people know that.

So, the memories all came flooding back. Mostly good, some not so. Thankfully we weren’t treated to the sight of the submarine crew in their very dodgy string vests in this morning’s episode…


Then it was time for SPACE: 1999!


For those of you who don’t know much or anything about the series, it was essentially STAR TREK: VOYAGER a quarter of a century before Capt Janeway guided her band of misfits and Ensigns across the galaxy. Very simple premise: nuclear waste on the Moon explodes, the explosion is so violent it sends the Moon hurtling out of Earth’s orbit, and becomes a pseudo-spaceship, with its “crew” encountering new aliens, planets and dangers every week as they draw further and further away from home, and look for a new one.

I remember being glued to SPACE:1999 when I was younger, I used to worship the show! The Moonbase – Moonbase Alpha – looked real, and convincing. The characters were reasonably convincing, and the stories were exciting too… but what really kept me watching was the tech, specifically the now-legendary “Eagle Tramsporter”, one of the most practical-looking, most realistic spaceships ever seen on a screen, big or small…


The Eagle is a classic design, and has legions of loyal fans all around the world. Many space enthusiasts consider itto be the greatest ship that never flew, and have even gone so far as to mock-up what it would have looked like if it had been built by NASA…


And they were there this morning, flying about very convincingly… but the rest of the show…

OMG! It was RUBBISH!! Cheesy beyond belief, with appalling scripts, even more appalling acting, costumes and tech from a kids sci fi movie… I was so disappointed. It wasn’t the show I remembered, at all. 😦

So, thank you DigitAl, thank you for ruining my beloved memories of British sci fi. I’ll keep watching UFO, but SPACE: 1999 isn’t going to find any free space on my Freeview recorder.

Oh, and by the way, thanks for ruining my memories of THE WONDER YEARS too. I was addicted to that, and thought it was one of the cleverest, most moving shows I’d ever seen… turns out it’s actually sugary, cloying, predictable-as-hell fluff.

And Winnie, who I thought was sooo cute, is actually a whiny pain in the backside.



3 Responses

  1. Here in Canada, there has been a resurrection of the old rooftop antennas that pull in digital signals for free… maybe that is an option, although I have no idea of how signals work in the UK

  2. Oh, and as for Gerry Anderson’s UFO… behold:


    Oh God… I can’t wait!!!!!! I loved this show! WAAAAAAYYYYYYYY better than TOS Star Trek IMHO!

  3. Well written post, looks brilliant on my iPhone as well.

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