Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Martians and Us: The History Of British Science Fiction

I've been avoiding talking about Doctor Who on this blog so far which is unusual for me as I am a huge fan and will happily bang on about it for hours.  I am however going to celebrate the arrival of the new Doctor with this fabulous little documentary on the history of British science fiction as narrated by the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi.

This three part BBC series covers many of the classics of the genre - both written and filmed - trying to put them in some sort of context of the times they were written and the lives of their authors. 

Episode 1: From Apes to Aliens explores the dawn of the science age with particular attention to H. G. Wells, Olaf Stapledon and Arthur C. Clarke who appears here as one of the talking heads along with Brian Aldiss, Doris Lessing, Brian Stapleford, Kim Newman and others.

Episode 2: Trouble in Paradise (Dystopias) discusses the British talent for imagining the most hideous dystopian societies looking particularly at the two masters, Aldous Huxley & George Orwell along with Nigel Kneale's 'The Year of the Sex Olympics', 'A Clockwork Orange' and '1985' by Anthony Burgess and Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale'. 

Episode 3: The End of the World as We Know It closes the series with a look at my personal favourite of all the sci fi genres, the apocalypse and it's aftermath.  Within this episode we visit my favourite book, John Wyndham's 'The Day of the Triffids' along with John Christopher's superb 'The Death of Grass', J. G. Ballard's 'The Drowned World' and TV apocalypses Survivors, Threads and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

It's a beautifully made documentary that takes both time and care to present a well rounded examination of it's subject matter through the words of the authors themselves, their contemporaries and a smattering of academics.  The very nature of the beast means that much is omitted and books are very much the focus over TV and film, which is no bad thing, but it is thoroughly enjoyable and filled with tantalising insights into many of the defining works of British SF literature.

I've found a YouTube playlist of the complete series but those of you in the UK may wish to use a proxy as a couple of the parts have been blocked in the UK by some tedious corporate entity.

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