The start of the 1970s brought many changes to science fiction and telefantasy screenings on British television. Colour broadcasts had just begun on the main channels - although most of the population were watching in monochrome well into the decade. Although the original Star Trek had finished production in Britain we were just beginning to become involved with Captain Kirk and his crew. In reality man had now landed on the moon - new avenues of imagination would need to be explored regarding telefantasy programming.Amongst other British telefantasy of the 1970s, the BBC anthology Out of the Unknown ran for a final season in 1971, moving away from its hard sci-fi roots of the 60s into more surreal tales.
Many of the series of the previous decade had come to a natural finish. The Avengers original run had ceased with Steed 'rocket bound' and Doctor Who - with ratings falling and Patrick Troughton leaving - had reached a crossroad. The series was - in hindsight - about to enter its most consistently popular decade - and the one where it was to become established as the landmark on the genre.
The 70s was to be much more than a resurgent Doctor Who however - with the BBC and the commercial television companies producing series exploring many aspects of space, time, the human mind and imagination itself.
What follows is my selection of key British telefantasy series of the 1970s.
Links to outside sites indexing individual series are provided (where available) and are accessible by clicking on the Web Link. Details on these links to external sites and additional links are also accessible via SilverClover telefantasy links.
Several book covers from novelisations of the series can be viewed by clicking on the linked series title logos.
Doomwatch BBC1 1970-72 37 episodes (+ 1 unbroadcast episode) Web Link
A pseudo governmental department is set up to monitor scientific advances and developments and deals with genetics, pollution, mis-guided research projects and much else. The series often predicts technological concerns many months or even years ahead of reality - and generally deals with them in sober scientific fashion and occasionally with passion by members of the 'Doomwatch' team.
Archives: 23 episodes (+ the unbroadcast episode) still exist, including the whole second series of 13.
4 episodes have been released on BBC VHS video.
2 episodes have been released in the UK on DVD by Revelation.
The Plastic Eaters(scr Kit Pedlar, Gerry Davis)
Tomorrow the Rat(scr Terence Dudley)
You Killed Toby Wren(scr Terence Dudley)
Ace of Wands Thames Television 1970-72 46 episodes (14 stories) Web Link
Tarot - a bizarre combination of sleuth and mystic - battles to defeat a series of villains and assorted sinister threats with the aid of some friends some of whom possess a telepathic link to our 'hero or occult'.
Archives: only the last series of 6 stories (20 episodes) are still known to exist, of which 2 episodes exist only in a non-broadcastable format.
All surviving stories possibly to be released on DVD by Network?
Peacock Pie(scr PJ Hammond)
Sisters Deadly(scr Victor Pemberton)
UFO ITC/Century21 Productions 1970-71/73 26 episodes Web Link
From a hidden base below a British film studio, the secret international organization SHADO operate against invasion of the earth by UFO craft housing aliens from a dying planet who want to harvest human organs for their own survival.
Archives: all 26 episodes exist.
VHS Videos have been released for many episodes.
Carlton DVD have released all episodes in the UK (R2), in individual volumes and box sets. DVDs (R1) also released in the US by A&E.
A Question of Priorities(scr Tony Barwick)
Timelash(scr Terence Feeley)
Confetti Check A-OK(scr Tony Barwick)
Timeslip ATV 1970-71 26 episodes (4 stories) Web Link
Two children pass through an invisible barrier which becomes the gateway to the past and a series of possible futures. War time exploits, an antarctic research centre of twenty years in the future, a world climate experiment gone wrong and a sinister cloning project form the basis of the separate yet linked adventures.
Archives: all 26 episodes exist in black and white format and have been released on video. 1 episode (the last of story 2) still exists in colour.
All stories have been released on ITC VHS video.
R2 DVD box set of all stories released July 2004. US release from A&E.
The Time of the Ice Box(scr Bruce Stewart)
The Day of the Clone(scr Victor Pemberton)
The Tomorrow People Thames Television 1973-79 68 episodes (22 stories) Web Link
A group of children/adolescents are 'homo superior' the next stage of human evolution and possess powers of telepathy, telekinesis and teleportation but cannot kill. Together they battle evil on this planet and elsewhere whilst attempting to keep their own existence secret from 'ordinary' society.
Archives: all episodes exist in full colour broadcast standard.
The first story (5 episodes) has been released on Thames VHS video.
All 8 series now released (Region 0) in UK on Revelation DVD.
The Vanishing Earth(scr Brain Finch and Roger Price)
The Blue and the Green(scr Roger Price)
A Rift in Time(scr Roger Price)
The Dirtiest Business(scr Roger Price)
Moonbase 3 BBC1 1973 6 episodes Web Link
This (short lived) series (made in association with 20th Century Fox/ABC) was produced by the Doctor Who production team during the gap between seasons 10 and 11 and involved the day to day business of the European run moon base in the year 2003. Aliens and indeed any fantastical elements were avoided, the series instead concentrating on the characters of the moon base crew and developments based on scientific possibility rather than vivid imagination .
Archives: although at one time believed lost, with only some film footage from one episode existing, all 6 episodes were returned from the US as NTSC copies, converted to PAL and released on BBC VHS video.
All 6 episodes released in a DVD double pack in UK by Second Sight.
Views of a Dead Planet(scr Arden Winch)
The Changes BBC1 1975 10 episodes Web Link
Suddenly the worlds population (or most of it) turns against all forms of technology, leave cities like refugee columns and form agricultural based (and superstitious) groups. Teen Nicky Gore seems immune to the violent impulses, is separated from her parents and is determined to solve the enigma .... and be reunited with her family.
Archives: all 10 episodes exist in their original colour format.
Survivors BBC1 1975-77 38 episodes Web Link
SilverClover Survivors -Episodic Odyssey
Most of the earths population has been wiped out by a deadly virus is this gripping series spread over three series. The intriguing question posed - how would we cope with society and the skills of the specialist removed from our grasp. The series follows the exploits of a handful of 'home counties' survivors as they come to terms with the disaster, meet with others, form small settlements and then attempt to rebuild society. The real struggle turns out to not to be initial survival from the virus but how to cope with the aftermath.
Archives: all 38 episodes exist in the BBC archives.
The first series of 13 episodes have been released on both BBC and Sovereign Multimedia VHS video.
UK DVD sets of all 3 series have been released by DD-HE.
The Fourth Horseman(scr Terry Nation)
Corn Dolly(scr Jack Ronder)
Law and Order(scr MK Jeeves, pseudonym for Clive Exton)
Greater Love(scr Don Shaw)
Mad Dog(scr Don Shaw)
The Last Laugh(scr Ian McCulloch)
Long Live the King(scr Martin Worth)
Space 1999 ITC/Group3 1975-76 48 episodes Web Link
The vast nuclear storage dumps on the moon explode and send the satellite - together with its moon base crew - out of earths orbit and into the unknown. The search for a new planet to inhabit and meetings with aliens and mysterious phenomenon mark the following months in space for Commander Koenig and his colleagues.
Archives: all 48 episodes exist in colour broadcast standard.
All episodes have been released on ITC/Polygram VHS video.
Both series have been released in total on Carlton DVD. US, Australian and French DVD versions also available. Network DVD have released a re-mastered set of series 1.
Death's Other Dominion(scr Anthony Terpiloff, Elizabeth Barrows)
Earthbound(scr Anthony Terpiloff)
Voyager's Return(scr Johnny Byrne)
Dragon's Domain(scr Christopher Penfold)
1990 BBC2 1977-78 16 episodes Web Link
British society has been taken over by bureaucracy. Freedom on all fronts is stifled by the government through bugging, rationing and the invidious presence of the public control department (PCD). Jim Kyle, a journalist with the 'free press' treads the fine line between exposure of the truth and governmental propaganda - whilst covertly helping to smuggle scientists and doctors abroad, emigration having been all but outlawed.
Archives: all 16 episodes still exist in the BBC archives.
Whatever Happened to Cardinal Wolsey(scr Wilfred Greatorex)
Witness(scr Wilfred Greatorex)
Non-Citizen(scr Edmund Ward)
Trapline(scr Edmund Ward)
Ordeal by Small Brown Envelope(scr Edmund Ward)
Blake's 7 BBC1 1978-81 52 episodes Web Link
Freedom fighter Blake, wrongly framed for child abuse, escapes enroute to a penal colony planet and - with the help of those like-minded (and sometimes not so like-minded) happens across an alien spaceship through which he can strike back at the evil Federation. Half way through the series Blake is left stranded/abandoned and it is Avon - previously his rival as much as his colleague - who takes up the (impossible?) fight...
Archives: all 52 episodes exist and have been released (and re-released) on VHS video.
First three series released on DVD in the UK in two box sets.
The Way Back(scr Terry Nation)
Star One(scr Terry Nation)
Rumours of Death(scr Chris Boucher)
Terminal(scr Terry Nation)
Blake(scr Chris Boucher)
Sapphire and Steel ATV 1979-82 34 episodes (6 stories) Web Link
Two non human 'elements' strive to correct the malevolent force of time which breaks through into the present to take people or to alter the 'natural balance'. Immensely claustrophobic and minimalist is realization, our two 'heroes' are neither all powerful nor often likeable. The most enigmatic telefantasy since The Prisoner, moody, brooding and often oppressive in atmosphere.
Archives: all 34 episodes exist in the archives.
All 6 stories have been released on ITC VHS video.
DVD (R2) released by Carlton of entire series.
All 6 stories also released in Australia (R0) in complete box set and three individual-double volumes. US DVD releases also available with some extra material including commentary tracks.
'Adventure 2'(scr PJ Hammond)
'Adventure 4'(scr PJ Hammond)
'Adventure 5'(scr Don Houghton and Anthony Read)
'Adventure 6'(scr PJ Hammond)
Quatermass Euston Films (Thames Television) 1979 4 episodes Web Link
Amidst the decay of civilized society in the near future, the now ageing and retired Bernard Quatermass seeks his lost granddaughter amongst the 'planet people' - young hippies who are attracted to stone circles (and other sites of gathering) where an alien influence 'harvests them' for food. Can the world - who have been squandering resources re-focus their efforts and fight back to save the future of humanity? And what ultimate sacrifice will be asked of Professor Quatermass?
Archives: all 4 episodes exist as does an edited television film version - The Quatermass Conclusion', both versions have been released on Thames VHS video.
DVD (R2) released by ClearVision as digipack containing all four episodes and film version..
In the vein of 1990, an earlier London Weekend series The Guardians (71) dramatised a similar totalitarian society. A 'British X-Files' for the 70s - looking into paranormal phenomenon - was The Omega Factor (79), produced by BBC Scotland, featuring Louise Jameson amongst the cast.
busy domain was that of children's telefantasy drama. The BBC produced
Dog (1972) and adaptations of classic tales
(including Toms Midnight's Garden
(74)) throughout the decade. Particularly active in childrens telefantasy
were HTV who broadcast
Link , The
Georgian House (76), the well remembered Children
of the Stones (77)(Second Sight DVD
Link starring a pre Blake Gareth Thomas, and other series.
ATV made Escape Into Night (72) Raven (77) and Come Back Lucy (78), as well as the adult anthology Beasts (76) courtesy of Nigel Kneale. Brian Clemens' Thriller anthology series (73-76)Web Link also often touched on telefantasy themes, Clemens then moving onto two series of The New Avengers (76/77) (Contender DVD box set of all episodes available in UK).
There were many single telefantasy plays throughout the decade too including some very atmospheric paranormal and ghost stories, some broadcast as part of general long running play strands. Amongst the most memorable single outings were The Incredible Robert Baldickby Terry Nation, Nigel Kneale's The Stone Tape (72)Web Link,(now available on BFI DVD), Play For Today's Penda's Fen (74), Stronger Than the Sun (77) and Red Shift (78) and the 'television hoax' Alternative 3 (77) from Anglia Television. Another one-off was A.D.A.M (73) from London Weekend, A (failed) pilot aired in '76 Into Infinity, the first Gerry Anderson telefantasy project broadcast on the BBC.
All in all - the seventies provided perhaps the most diverse and adventurous decade for quality British telefantasy - just forgive the fashions and understand the low budgets... of course there were exceptions to quality - think of Star Maidens!! courtesy of Scottish Television and Germany!
Please email me (removing NOSPAM from the address!) with any further details or information on any of the series featured.
Go to the Survivors - An Episodic Odyssey
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Episode/story and archive information referenced from Kaleidoscope Reference Guides
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