Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Cult classics on BritBox



With autumn fast approaching in the northern hemisphere, BritBox, a joint venture between the BBC and commercial broadcaster ITV, has added a collection of cult sci-fi and fantasy series to lure geeks (myself included) to the streaming service since my initial review earlier this year.

Thunderbirds, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Prisoner, Sapphire & Steel, Star Cops and Space: 1999 are among the highlights along with every available episode of classic Doctor Who - the reason I resubscribed during lockdown. All the cult series Nick Smith, our resident US-based stellar scribe, and me watched at the Vintage Video club where we first met as undergraduates at Bournemouth University.

Whereas Star Cops has dated horribly, Space: 1999 has never looked better and I was instantly transported back to the late seventies when I watched reruns, on ITV, as my Dinky Toys Eagle battled Kenner die-cast TIE Fighters and a Star Destroyer alongside the Millennium Falcon and Luke Skywalker's X-wing.

Dragon's Domain, with guest star Michael Sheard who appeared in classic Doctor Who serial Pyramids of Mars and played the ill-fated Admiral Ozzel in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, was the stuff of childhood nightmares and is a pre-Alien haunted house in space (Alien reused sound effects from Space: 1999).

Sapphire & Steel, played by Joanna Lumley and David McCallum respectively, remains a creepy, claustrophobic paranormal thriller following the enigmatic titular time travellers as they investigate anomalies. Inspiring the overarching 'cracks in time' plot for Matt Smith's Doctor Who decades later.

The Box of Delights, starring Patrick Troughton (Doctor Who), is now streaming too, but I'd suggest waiting until November to savour that festive timey-wimey tale. Hopefully, many more series will be added to BritBox's burgeoning cult collection including The Children of Green Knowe, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Day of the Triffids, The Tomorrow People, Chocky and Blake's 7.

These cult series will be discovered by a new generation of fans. However, as John Rivers points out in comments, BritBox needs to expand the availability of its app. This is 2020.

6 comments:

  1. It’s like they’ve raided my DVD collection. Sapphire and Steel remains a classic and all-time favourite, Space: 1999 looks great but has some terrible scripts, Star Cops actually bears sticking with for the episodes Graeme Harper directs.

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    1. Star Cops was synonymous with computer club at high school and an era where Doctor Who became overshadowed by MTV and adolescent concerns, shall we say.

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  2. It's great to see Britbox adding more than the 'safe' content of generic Martin Clunes dramas and insipid sit-coms. I'm hoping this will be a catalyst to diving a little bit deeper into the amazing UK TV archive. And yes, definitely get Blake's 7 on there.

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    1. Let's see Sky, Children of the Stones and Moondial among others...

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  3. I note The Avengers is also up there too. Britbox needs to broaden the platforms it is available on though. Unavailability for PS4, Sky boxes and Android TV (all systems I own, as an example) means I don't use it as much as I could. Good news though on its current SF selections. Hoping for more Gerry Anderson and more classic BBC childrens serials... and The Tripods. :)

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    1. App availability is limited and functionality falls way behind iPlayer, which is curious given the Beeb’s involvement. Wonder if Tripods is off the menu as the House of Mouse now owns the books?

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