The 231163 Diaries:
Tonny & Annie Calderwood

History  Tonny & Annie Calderwood lived in North Haven, Maine.  They were farmers in Indian Point and their diaries have been transcribed and uploaded by a local historical society.  This is a useful demonstration of how life continues during momentous events but also the information which was being disseminated to the general populace at the time:

Nov. 22, Friday 

Tonny: Has been a nice mild short sleeve day but turned into a very sad one.  Word came on radio about 2:00 P.M. that President Kennedy had been fatally shot while riding through the streets of Dallas, Texas with Governor Connelly, who was also seriously wounded. President Kennedy lived only 35 minutes after being shot from ambush. Nan delivered milk. I worked on western end of barn. Finished getting shingles off 2 paper widths high, pulled nails, dropped a board down that was bulging over cistern over flow pipe, cut and barked four slabs for use as inside cross pieces between sill and scaffold beam, and dug trench along end of barn so I can clear boards without renailing them. Can then [...] the lower edge of banking paper when I put it on.

Nov. 23, Saturday 

Tonny: All regular programs off the air. Entire time given to events in Washington, D.C. Foggy. Wind S.S.W. and raw. Whole country in mourning this morning. President’s body in White House this day. Vice Pres. Johnson sworn in as Pres. at airport in Dallas, Texas before returning to Washington yesterday. The man who the F.B.I. believe did the shooting is now under policy guard in Dallas – a crack-pot who a few years ago tried to become a Russian citizen and was refused it, so came back to U.S. Is now tied up with a Cuban movement so who knows what it may all mean. Chored. Nan delivered milk. I worked on western end of barn. Put cross pieces across end of ground mow half way between scaffold beam and sill, and the same in cistern room, so I could have something to nail the boarding to. Sill all gone. Cleaned out between boarding and sill and renailed the boarding. After Nan came home she helped me a half hr or so, and then we went up to Elliott Brown’s to get some sawdust in Jeep – 1 bags. Took a ride into C.I. Gates’ and then over to Watson’s.

Nov. 25, Monday 

Tonny: Windy and cold this morning. Strong W.S.W. 22° - clear with sun coming up. Chored. Funeral ceremonies started in Washington, D.C. this A.M. and as we tried to watch some of it we were late getting ready to go with milk. Nan stayed home so as to watch television and I hurried around with milk and came right home so I could watch the procession to Arlington Cemetery and the ceremonies there. Very sad and tragic. Unbelievable that such a thing could happen in the U.S. Chored early and went up to Burgesses this evening, it being Prudy’s birthday. The H.C.C.’s and Ameses were there. Yesterday noon while the policemen were transferring Kennedy’s supposed slayer to other qtrs. a man stepped in among the police and shot the slayer. Now the case will never be solved. What are we coming to?

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1994

One of the benefits of a less stringent posting schedule for this strand of the blog has been that I've scooped up some of the coverage of the Radio 5 Live launch now that its thirtieth anniversary has passed.  Along with Radio 4, it's been my default radio station for decades, less for the newsier elements and more for things like Danny Baker phone-ins, Kermode and Mayo's film reviews and the multinational multi-events when I haven't been next to a television.   I still prefer to listen to their Wimbledon coverage instead of television, especially in the first week as it whisks the listener throughout the various courts and the long chats during rain delays.

Before I delve into the schedule for launch day and compare it to how the channel looks now, it's worth noting that my usual source, the BBC Programme Index (formerly Genome) doesn't begin listing programmes for Radio 5 Live until the 1st January 2007, apart from a documentary from 1992 which was broadcast on BBC Radio Wales but has accidentally been tagged with 5Live.  For launch day, you have to look at the channel under its original name Radio 5, which the day before was still running episodes of Room 101, Cult Radio with Marc Riley and drama adaptations of E. Nesbitt and Jack Kerouac.  Only that station feels like it would commission the radio adventures of the Pertwee Doctor.

As the clips below demonstrate the day began at 5am with Morning Reports with Jane Garvey, followed by Peter Allen's The Breakfast Programme offering a direct rival to Radio 4's Today from 6am.  At 8:35 is The Magazine, "Diana Madill with the network's feature pages" filling the slot up to 10.04 which the Genome says has Out and About until 11:15 (about which I can find nothing) and "a documentary about life in Britain".  The 11:15 slot has different content each day, across the week: environmental news, natural history, health/film reviews, science/video reviews which sounds like exactly the sort of thing a new station does at the beginning but phased out very quickly.

At 12, Midday with (Eddie) Mair, 2pm its (Sybil) Ruscoe on Five and 4pm John Inverdale gets to have his whole name in the title of his Nationwide show, in the drive time slot.  At 7pm "News Extra" sounds like a more traditional news bulletin before, at 7:35pm to its nightly sport coverage with a documentary about Tommy Docherty giving way at 8pm to coverage of a league match between Sheffield United v West Ham United (Sheffield winning 3-2).  At 10pm its News Talk with Niall Dickson (most recently the chair of East Kent Hospitals Trust), Night Extra at 11pm, The Other Side of Midnight at midnight presented by Tim (son of Bill) Grundy, and then Up All Night with Rhod Sharp had its first show.

Of all the stations, Radio 5 Live has changed very little over thirty years.  Looking at anniversary day, the names have changed but the relative chunks of airtime remain the same.  It's less "bitty" with personalities covering two, three or four-hour chunks rather than filling the gaps between pre-recorded programmes.  Wake Up To Money which began as a portion of Morning Reports now fills the entire hour at 5am.  Even the overnight slot has remained live, with various presenters, particularly Dotun Adebayo offering a phone-in/magazine show for four hours after 1am, a slightly modified version of Up All Night.  

Radio 5 Live

"In the spring of 1994 Rhod Sharp and a deeply talented startup team led by editor Simon Waldman and assistant editor Ian Parkinson were hired to devise a night time show for the launch of Britain’s first 24 hour national news and sports station, BBC Radio 5 Live."
[Rhod Sharp]

"Charles Runcie, an editor on Radio 5 Live when it launched 30 years ago, remembers the build-up to what was a brand-new concept in radio."
[BBC News]

"It attracts over 5m listeners, but it nearly didn’t exist at all. On March 29th 1994, BBC 5live sprung from the ashes of BBC Radio 5 which had closed down quietly the night before. That predecessor, with its strange mix of education, sport and children’s programmes displaced from other services, was not seen as having been a huge success. Unlike the other BBC networks, Radio 5 boasted no ‘stationality’."
[Radio Moments]

"5 Live launched at 0500 on Monday 28 March 1994.  Over the past 30 years, here's how we reported on some of the biggest news and sport stories, along with some of our favourite moments too. Plus our presenters reflect on what 5 Live means to them."
[BBC Online]

"On 5 Live’s 30th birthday, Heidi Dawson says more of the BBC should be based outside London to reflect the national conversation."
[The Guardian]

"I should remind myself that people do actually read this newsletter, and sometimes if I’m criticising something, I’m criticising someone’s hard work.  So it was that I got an email from the BBC, noting that I’d be in MediaCityUK and “would I like to have a look at the visual radio setup for Nicky Campbell”. Yes, yes I would. And so, I did."
[James Cridland]

Men Behaving Badly

"From farting in a birthing pool to rolling down a giant penis, Martin Clunes and producer Beryl Vertue remember the laddish sitcom that defined an era."
The sitcom transferred to the BBC in 1994.
[The Guardian]

"Tonight, the 1990s sitcom whose title spelled out exactly what the audience saw: Men Behaving Badly, featuring contributions from producer Beryl Vertue, writer Simon Nye and stars Martin Clunes and Leslie Ash."
[BBC Sounds]

The Fast Show

"The first episode of BBC TV's The Fast Show in 1994 had 27 sketches in just half an hour.  Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse, former writers for Harry Enfield, created a concept which re-invigorated the sketch show format and crammed it with catch-phrases.  Sue MacGregor brings the cast back together to reflect on the series which launched their careers."
[BBC Sounds]

"The tailors were based on a guy who worked in a shop I went to as a teenager. His hand would go into your waistband and he’d say, “Oooh – a bit roomy in there!” My mum never liked those sketches’."
[The Guardian]

"One of my favourite things about The Fast Show is how many different textures it has."
About how the look of the Foreign News Sketches was achieved.
[Dirty Feed]


"Filmed in September 1993, this documentary is about young boys starting boarding prep school. It features Nick Duffell of Boarding School Survivors talking about surviving boarding school and his work with former boarders."
[Boarding School Survivors Support]


"Kirsty Wark brings together the cast of The Day Today. First broadcast in 1994, this six-part comedy lampooned the bombast of TV news."
[BBC Sounds]

"In the first of a new regular column looking back at the singular weirdness of the 1990s, Graham Williamson explores Roger Corman's takeover of BBC Two from December 1994 to bring us Weird Night. Welcome to Weird '90s..."
[Horrified Magazine]

"Explores tales of pressure and accusations of underhand dealings as she gathers together five key players in the foundation of the UK National Lottery."
[BBC Sounds]

"Fifty years after episode one was shown on ITV, the geek fest that is University Challenge has not only survived but also flourished."
[BBC Sounds]

"I get the idea with this project that I’m not really supposed to have favourites. The whole point is to celebrate a range of BBC programmes across the decades. Having a best one is a bit naughty, really. But on a good day, Smashie and Nicey – the End of an Era stands as my favourite TV show ever made. It somehow seems to represent everything that television can do as a medium, in 45 minutes of utter joy."
[Dirty Feed]

"Peter Fincham and Jon Plowman hear the inside story of Britain’s biggest TV comedies."
[BBC Sounds]


"The internet is not short of praise for Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse’s Smashie and Nicey: The End of an Era (TX: 4/4/94). This is not surprising, given that it’s their masterwork. What the internet is short of, mind, is going through End of an Era with a fine toothcomb, and picking out bits of obscure production detail."
[Dirty Feed]

"On November 26th 1992 Michael Checkland and John Birt presented Extending Choice, a document that had been carefully constructed after wide consultation across the whole of the BBC.  Before the final draft was agreed, it had been read and authorised by the Governors.  Nearly three years later we set for the BBC then and now how far they have been fulfilled."
[World Radio History] 

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1993

On Thursday 8th April 1993 viewers to BBC Breakfast were greeted with the news that the accompaniment to their morning routine would be a receiving a new look after the Easter weekend.  Following a brief (slightly arch) history of the programme from the Bough years through to the current Dando/Witchell period, it was revealed that the show would be joining the rebrand of the BBC's news service in which all of the daily bulletins, including the one, the six and the nine would share the same new "virtual studio" and opening featuring a giant "glass" effigy of the BBC's coat of arms upfront.

Thirty years later when the BBC's singular news "brand" permeates so much of its broadcasting with even local news programmes and Newsnight sharing the same "look", it's easy to forget there was a time when they were all visually different:  BBC Breakfast News with its spinning Earth in the C, the virtual camera making a trench run through a clock face embedded in the One O'Clock News (from the BBC) logo, the blue rolodex at the start of the Six O'Clock News (also from the BBC) and the transmitter inspired totalitarian logo at Nine, all with their own dramatic theme music.

Retaining three or four separate studios for programmes offering much the same content was clearly fairly wasteful in what was, even then, a cost conscious corporation.  The number of rival channels had also increased, with Sky News having launched a few years earlier and so giving different strands of television channels a distinctive and in this case "authoritative" image was an important way to stand out from the alternatives.  The fact that the BBC's designers had made the whole thing look like the briefing room on the Death Star was by-the-by.

Fortunately this new look was also pretty short lived.  After the launch of News 24 in 1997 with its friendlier flags and casual atmosphere, the brand had fragmented again with the new channel, BBC News bulletins, Breakfast News, regional news and BBC World all having different looks.  So another rebrand began in 1999 with bulletins on the main channels following the lead of the BBC's news channel and there's a very detailed history of the journey from the "cream and red look" through to the "white look" at the Wikipedia.

Live & Kicking

"We were about to go live when this kid got into the pen with Mr Blobby – and just starting punching him."
[The Guardian]

"How many Saturday morning programmes of the last decade can you name?"
[Off The Telly]

Fist of Fun

"When Lee and Herring were once asked where they got all their crazy ideas from, they answered “We stole them off The Goodies“."
[Off The Telly]

"After OTT published its retrospective on Lee and Herring in September 2000, both Stewart Lee and Richard Herring got in touch with the site. Obviously, we weren’t going to let them go without exploiting their generosity in some way, and so in October we took the opportunity to question them about their work."
[Off The Telly]

"We got a lot of saucy letters. And someone even sent in a Brian May made out of liquorice."
[The Guardian]


"BBC Radio 4 programme entitled 'Quietly Resisting' about the British Special Operations Executive agent Harry Rée during the Second World War."
[Imperial War Museum][BBC Programme Index]

"A episode of the Late Show from 1993 dedicated to the work of Toni Morrison, presented by Salman Rushdie."
[BBC Clips]


"Just before Christmas 2005, I find myself on the phone to Robert Bathurst. He’s doing the usual promotional rounds, having been press-ganged into talking up his imminent role in The Comic Strip revival “Sex Actually“."
[Off The Telly]

"Doctor Who has been on hiatus for several years."
[BBC Archive]


"Radio 1 entered the 1990s maintaining its position as Britain’s most popular radio network, held over the previous two decades, but in a short period of time, the station had become a national object of ridicule, excellently epitomised by Harry Enfield’s astutely created characters Smashey and Nicey."

"The modern BBC is the inheritor of a great tradition of quality, artistic talent, honest accurate reporting and above all independence. We must maintain and enhance this tradition while fitting the BBC for the fast -changing and competitive world into which we have been thrust."
[World Radio History] 

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1992

Not for the first time, I'm currently experiencing an overwhelming feeling of content overload, the sense of being faced with a near infinite amount of things to watch or read or listen to and not knowing which of it to experience next.  The last time I mentioned it was in 2020 and the affliction has become even more acute after the post-COVID streaming boom and the sheer amount of things which are being added every day.  Clearly some people are able to cope with this by narrowing their focus, but my anxiety addled brain finds it immensely difficult to see everything it wants to see and shuts down after unable to go with just one thing and putting on another episode of Taskmaster as a coping mechanism.

That's particularly acute for the long-tail, the material which I feel like I should have watched already, that everyone refers to but which I haven't managed to get to because of all the other things which have filled the spaces between work, food, sleep and the empty cries of loneliness in the darkness.  Even in  trying to focus on to my "traditional" interests, even some of the more obscure Shakespeare plays have multiple recordings by professional companies available now, my shelves and Big Finish account are bulging with Doctor Who stories bought and ignored and both of those are as nothing compared to the long list of archive television I've collected or can stream. 

Take Ghostwatch.  I missed Ghostwatch originally because it was broadcast the same night as my eighteenth birthday party at a church hall in Garston, where all of my school friends and a girl I had a mad crush on got to not meet the members of my extended family.  Even though we hadn't designated any tables, both groups stayed very much on opposite ends of the room without even gathering together for the dancing portions of the evening.  So at about the time of Ghostwatch's original transmission I would have been Cossack dancing with the girl I had mad crush on to the tune of Doctor Spin's Tetris, back when being at school forced me to have a social life.

For years it would be in the background, an article in SFX magazine here, a mention in a television clip show there but it wasn't until August 2nd 2019 (Letterboxd reminds me) after finding a copy in a charity shop that I saw it all of the way through, another in the aforementioned long list you could also call the "great stuff you were probably too young to really appreciate but it was probably about time you got around to" (or something snappier) along with Artemis 81.  As expected it was a deeply impressive piece of television, a forerunner to the found footage genre and although probably losing some verisimilitude due to running off a DVD rather than its original TX, certainly pretty terrifying.

You'd think I'd be happy about this.  But then I just think about all of the other "great stuff etc" on top of Ghostwatch which is right there but I'll never get around to.  The "tyranny of choice" as I called it in 2020.  Back then the solution seemed to be to stick to films and just new films.  But I haven't seen all of Bergman or Resnais or Kurasowa or in terms of actors Heddy Lamar, Cary Grant or Juliette Binoche.  On TV, I know I'd enjoy Sapphire and Steel but apparently the new Shogun series on Disney+ is excellent and I still have another sixty odd episode of the 90s X-Men animation to work through so I can then get the most pleasure from the revival.  Same with music and same with books.

In previous blog posts, I've tried to find solutions, giving myself strict rules as to what to watch, listen to or read which do work - for a while - before it starts to feel limiting and guilt sets in.  Like I said earlier, I wish I was someone who could just watch the occasional thing and not worry about any of this.  But I'm stuck in this brain, and this brain is constantly wondering why I'm watching this quite boring Japanese alien invasion film from Toho in the 1960s instead of something French, the one that won all the awards or that amazing documentary.  I'll just have to keep reminding myself that I can't watch everything and that there was a time when it was ok to miss Ghostwatch in favour of Cossack dancing.


"The director and writer of Ghostwatch Lesley Manning and Stephen Volk join Matthew Sweet and academic Lucy Arnold to look back at the reality–horror/pseudo-documentary TV, which aired on British tv screens on Halloween night 1992."
[BBC Sounds]

"Our producer received a letter from a woman asking for compensation to buy new trousers for her husband, as he had soiled the ones he was wearing."
[The Guardian]

"The writer, director and one of the producers join Adrian Chiles to discuss the controversial BBC programme, that aired on Halloween 1992."
[BBC Sounds]


"A special programme marking a decade of the BBC Computer Literacy Project."
[BBC Computer Literacy Project Archive]

"A BBC Essex series by Carron Garden visiting unusual homes in Essex. Recorded 1 January-1 February 1992."
[Essex Record Office]


"The makers of the 1990s BBC adaptation of Mary Norton's tales about tiny people recall the weird techniques they had to use to achieve that crucial 'Borrowers' eye perspective'."
[The Guardian]

"The 1990-1991 Gulf War had shown the BBC that there was an appetite for 24-hour radio news. The so-called “Scud FM”, officially titled “BBC Radio 4 News FM” had taken over the VHF frequencies of Radio 4 on the outbreak of that conflict, providing a full news service 17 hours a day."

"TV veterans Peter Fincham and Jon Plowman talk to the writers, producers, and performers behind Britain’s biggest TV comedy hits, and hear the inside story of how they brought their programmes to the screen."
[BBC Sounds]


Peabody Institutional Award 1992: BBC Radio
"For more than six decades, BBC Radio has been a source of information, education and entertainment for English-speaking audiences both in Britain and abroad."

"The BBC needs to keep closely in touch with its audience, and to develop clear objectives that reflect the audience's needs and interests. Once these objectives are set, the BBC needs to be able to assess and report on how it is doing against them. The Governors will report annually to the licence payers and Parliament on the BBC's performance."
[World Radio History] 

The Downside of Disney+

TV  There we have it.  Until about an hour ago, the co-production deal with Disney+ in the making of Doctor Who seemed to be all upside.  Larger budgets, a series every year for at least another four years and the possibility of it finally becoming a global franchise which is famous enough to have its own proper Lego that isn't just adding a fan-made mini-figure to the pirate set (or whatever).  There even seemed to be some agreement on the scheduling with the past four episodes premiering globally at the whims of the BBC One scheduling.  Well, it couldn't last.
Doctor Who is set to make an explosive return on 11 May.

The TARDIS will make its global premiere around the Whoniverse and for those in the UK, for the first time ever, the Doctor will land with two episodes premiering on BBC iPlayer at 00:00  on Saturday, before arriving on BBC One later that day right before the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final.

At the same time, those outside of the UK can watch the Doctor and Ruby on their epic adventures as the TARDIS is set to land on Disney+ where available.

Viewers in the UK will now be able to watch whenever and wherever they choose, with the option to watch from midnight on BBC iPlayer or tune in at primetime on Saturday nights on BBC One.
As though in the year of our lord Rassilon 2024, fans are going to wait until tea time to watch brand new Doctor Who episodes which have been in circulation for eighteen or nineteen hours.  Instead we're now all going to be watching our favourite programme at midnight every Friday night into Saturday morning when some of us will be tired as fuck and have work the following day.  It's either that or living through a digital iteration of the No Hiding Place episode of The Likely Lads week after sorry week unable to use social media or visit our favour news websites for fear of spoilers.

This will, of course, be part of the co-production agreement that going into the main series, Disney+ (the richer of the co-production partners) didn't want the global launch of these episodes to be at the whims of the BBC One scheduling which in fairness rarely follows a strict timing on a Saturday night any more so that everyone in the world can watch the episodes at the same time, 7pm ET as it's described in the press release, which means it'll be on a Friday evening in some parts of the world and in the middle of the night in others.  In Australia it'll be first thing in the morning.

I'm trying not to feel too cross about this and at least Russell T Davies will be able to spin a page of his Production Notes in the party circular offering us a metaphoric hug.  Plus it means that fans outside of the UK will see it at the same time as us after decades of it largely emerging there on whatever channel, at whatever time, days, months or even years after its original transmission.  Although you could argue that's been the case in the UK for a range of shows although that was usually in the era before everything which happens being talked about everywhere all at once.

It's just that Doctor Who's been one of the last remaining communal viewings amongst genre fans in the UK.  We'd watch the episode and then visit our social media of choice to talk about what we've just seen albeit with the understanding that some fans won't have been able to see it on TX and stinting our claps unless its something so big (ahem) that it would be impossible not to avoid it anyway.  Perhaps that'll still be the same now.  We'll just be doing at at one in the morning and hope that people have various words muted (as I did with Game of Thrones for many years).  Hey ho.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1991

Even though large parts of my school life have disappeared from my memory due to trauma or age or both, there is one image that remains vivid. The internet tells me it happened in early January 1991: sitting in the form room before registration and assembly, listening to coverage of the Gulf War on a radio that another boy had brought in for the purpose.

This was unusual. The school had strict rules about what could and couldn't happen in classrooms. Having a radio blasting out, even the news, was very much frowned upon. (Although having half the class taunt one of its pupils to the point of sobbing was apparently fine, but I digress. See what I mean about trauma?)

Radio 4 News FM, as it was officially known (or Scud FM as quickly dubbed by the media), ran from January 16th until March 2nd, 1991. The channel's usual schedule continued on longwave (LW). Despite its immense popularity, internal fears at the BBC about news and current affairs over-reaching led senior executives to close it abruptly as the war ended.

Also around that time, we were moving from a house in Speke to where we still live now. Scud FM became the backdrop for packing and unpacking, and the longest sustained period of my listening to the BBC's fourth channel (which had usually only been for repeats of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy).

Afterwards, I probably went back to my usual background music – Debbie Gibson tunes and shit. It was certainly the last time I remember a radio being smuggled into school. But, it held the door ajar slightly in my understanding of what was available on the BBC,  leading to Five Live becoming a mainstay during my university years.


"Midlands Today prepares for a move to a new studio, and the introduction of a separate news programme for the East Midlands."
[BBC Rewind]


"Noel’s House Party: A Decade Of Crinkley Bottom - some highlights from the archives, produced by Richard Latto."
NHP began this year and this (perhaps little seen) clip show was created specially for the History of the BBC website.
[BBC Clips]

"Nickelodeon asked me for ideas. I thought, All I do right now is watch my four and 15-month year old kids go to the bathroom."
[The Guardian]

"In the early summer of 1991 I was coming to the end of my degree course at the then Nottingham Polytechnic and found myself killing a few hours in its library whilst nervously awaiting my results. As I leafed through the day’s broadsheets, trying desperately to distract myself from my anxiety, I came across an article which caught my eye and excited me."
[Off The Telly]

"Revisiting Stephen Gallagher’s Chimera, an early 90s TV mini-series exploring the perilous consequences when scientific advancement meets government corruption…"
[Horrified Magazine]

"One thing I’ve become vaguely obsessed with over the past year is how often the things that “everyone” knows about a TV show turn out to be incorrect. Of course, by “everyone”, I don’t actually mean everyone. The person on the street doesn’t mutter Brittas Empire TX dates as they go about their shopping. At least not in my local Tesco."
[Dirty Feed]

"Although Thunderbirds had premiered on British television back in 1965 and would be repeated several times over the next two decades, the fragmented regional makeup of the British television landscape of the time meant that different regions would see different episodes airing at different times – with some regions receiving more broadcasts than others."
[The Official Gerry Anderson Website]

"Some people probably think I compile lists of recording dates for sitcoms in lieu of having anything interesting to say about them. These people are entirely correct.  Nonetheless, as I’ve just had a delightful time watching the whole run on iPlayer, let’s take a look at Series 1 of Andrew Marshall’s brilliant 2point4 children."
[Dirty Feed]


From Blondie to Lulu: The songs the BBC banned during the Gulf War
"When the Gulf War broke out in 1991, the BBC acted with responsibility."
[Far Out Magazine]

"This has been another testing year, filled with change and challenge for the BBC. But what is more significant for our millions of viewers and listeners, both in the UK and around the world, is that it has also been another year of programme achievement."
[World Radio History]

David Bordwell RIP.

Obituaries  There are only a few figures in life that have been as important to be as film theorist and historian David Bordwell, who left us on the 1st March.  I really began taking film serious in the mid-90s, but it wasn't until the mid-00s when I was exposed to his work through my MA course that I really understood how films were structured, how they worked as an art form.  Unlike other writers, he and his wife Kristen Thompson had the ability to make even the most esoteric concepts accessible and if you're at all interested in film, I'd point you towards any edition of Film Art (earlier editions are much cheaper and just as valid) and their blog.

On that blog, Kristen writes movingly about his final days.  The last thing he watched was a couple of episodes of The West Wing:

"He wanted to die at home rather than spending his last days at a hospice facility, and he did. I was with him. It was brief, and I don’t think he suffered. It happened within a few months of the fiftieth anniversary of when we moved in together in the summer of 1974. He was as wonderful a spouse as he was a scholar and a friend."

The post includes an obituary from the university he worked with quotes from Damien Chazelle and David Koepp.  If there's any justice, he'll be included in the Oscar obituary reel.

The Eighth Doctor (Whotopia: The Ultimate Guide To The Whoniverse)

Books  The cornerstone of BBC Books's 60th anniversary efforts, Whotopia is part of the legacy of Doctor Who reference books taking the effort right up to The Power of the Doctor, on this occasion resolutely sticking to the fiction rather than production.  Perhaps sensing that having a printed book containing this information is a bit old fashioned when WOTAN's successor is out there (not to mention every episode on the iPlayer), the authors, Jonathan Morris, Simon Guerrier and Una McCormack's twist is to have many of the mentioned individuals provide first person testimony for themselves in character, "incoming messages" mixing new material and dialogue straight from the show.  

As with so many of these projects its obviously an act of love and joy for this silly old series and that's reflected in the quarter page entry for Eighth, half a page if you include the publicity shot for Night of the Doctor.  This being an official publication, it's only allowed to reference the top and tail of his story so we find him wistfully reflecting on his regeneration and how alive he feels, not that there isn't an Easter egg for us long terms fans, "I think that's what's different about me.  The joy of life" (unless it's entirely co-incidental).  The business ends rather sharply but sweetly and feels entirely in character, which is why I'm "reviewing" it here and trying to think of a ...

Placement: Let's sneak it in after The Eight Doctors.  Perhaps he's chatting with Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1990

Welcome back.  To ease us into this final series, let's have another schedule survey, sticking with the main channel this time.  It's February 1990 and I'm in my fourth year at school (Year 10 in new money), navigating my GCSEs, nursing a few deeply unrequited teenage crushes and rushing home each night in time for Neighbours and whatever cult shows are on BBC Two (assuming there wasn't sport).  February 5th in 1990 was also on a Monday (although it wasn't also a leap year so the calendar falls out of sync after the 28th).

The day begins at 6am on BBC One with half an hour of Pages from Ceefax, then BBC Breakfast News mostly presented by Nicholas Witchell and Kirsty Walk (which replaced Breakfast Time the previous September).  It's described as "the most comprehensive television news programme available in the morning" in the Radio Times listing, perhaps to create a distinction with ITV's sofa bound Good Morning Britain and the segmented experimentation of Channel 4 Daily.

After a separate news bulletin at 9am, there's an initial twenty minute salvo of Open Air with Eamonn Holmes, which was due to end its fourth and final series the following May.  At this point, BBC One spent eighty odd minutes each morning producing live coverage of viewers comments of the previous night's television, the other hour turning up at 11am.  Remarkably, the earlier edition from a week later's on YouTube, in which pensioners shout into the abyss about Ben Elton, a BTS at Emmerdale and a very serious interview with Michael Cockrell about the rebel cricket tour of South Africa.

That's followed by Kilroy (ahem), The Flintstones: The Masquerade Party (s6, e11) and Children's BC with Simon Parkin presenting viewer's birthday cards (a tradition still going strong on CBeebies) in the midst of controversial Play School replacement Playdays and Roobarb.  Then at Five to Eleven, popular poetry show Five to Eleven, this week presented by Catherine Griller on whom I can find little online other than an IMDb page which lists some Armchair Theatre and ten episodes of Crossroads (here's a later episode so you can get the gist).

What's striking is how much new content is driving the schedule during the day, and live.  At midday there's Daytime Live With Sue Cook and Andy Craig (a lunchtime magazine programme from Pebble Mill), Going for Gold, Radio Times Holiday 90 Competition (a daytime iteration of the evening series in which Eamonn Holmes offers clues towards a prize offered in the magazine) and Bazaar (a mix of cookery and DIY) with Neighbours ("Henry returns from Brisbane with a new outlook on life.") and Ironside ("the wheelchair-bound detective investigates a syndicate who specialise in credit card thefts").

At 15:50 we're back in the broom cupboard, this time with Andy Crane aided by Ed The Duck (here's a clip from a fortnight later) in introducing Two By Two (songs about animals with Derek Griffiths), SuperTeb (narrated by Derek Griffiths), Jackanory (Michael Williams narrates Alison Prince's How's Business), BraveStarr (which I'd somehow forgotten had been broadcast in the UK), Newsround and Blue Peter in its Yvette Fielding, John Leslie, and Diane Louise Jordan phase (which I was presumably home in time for but have no memory of) and finally the evening repeat of Neighbours ("Henry returns from Brisbane with a new outlook on life.").

The evening schedule feels very familiar and initially sill live and studio based.  The Six O'clock News presented by Peter Sissons and Moira Stewart, local news, then the night's Wogan which the Radio Times knew far enough ahead would feature Linda Rondstadt, who'd recently hit with Don't Know Much featuring Aaron Neville.  US sitcom import Major Dad is next (and to this day I don't remember the lead actor Gerald McRaney as anything other than Major Dad) then Les Dawson's Blankety Blank with guests Henry Cooper, Caron Keating, Ellie Laine, Jeff Stevenson, Mollie Sugden and one of the reasons there are gaps in the Top of the Pops repeats.

Bracketing the Nine O'Clock News are a nature programme, Survivors (about the locust plague in South Africa), and a Panorama with Gavin Hewitt about the disillusionment in Russia following perestroika and just to show the past really is the past, much of the rest of the evening offers snooker highlights presented by David Icke.  By August of that year, Icke was sacked by the BBC (for impartiality reasons) after refusing to pay the Community Tax in protest (although he paid in the end) and the following May brought the infamous Wogan appearance.  The evening is rounded out with televisual You and Yours, The Advice Shop Hugh Scully and Helen Madden.

The Pips

"This week, the BBC has taken over the 'six-pip' radio time signal from the Royal Greenwich Observatory after 66 years. Plus, the study and measuring of time and why accurate time signals are needed."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"The Greenwich Time Signal (also known as "the pips") was used by many BBC Radio stations between 1924 and 1990."
[Royal Museums Greenwich]


"Review of international and national news as it affected Essex in 1990."
[Essex Record Office]


"After interviewing the great dramatist, I ended up being depicted as an insufferably smug hack in a very minor Potter work."
[The Guardian]


A three part history of the show until 2005 when this was originally posted.
[Off The Telly]

"Peter Fincham and Jon Plowman hear the inside story of Britain’s biggest TV comedies."
[BBC Sounds]

"They were looking for someone who could speak Penguinese. I needed the money."
[The Guardian]

"In one particularly arch episode of Yes, Prime Minister, Jim Hacker is seen lecturing his Private Secretary Bernard Woolley on the options open to an MP seeking to avoid answering a question."
[Off The Telly]

"When I first read the script, I was only 55 and I thought, God, I’m not ready to play old people yet."
[The Guardian]

"This fourth edition features Richard Herring and Sarah Smith looking at radio comedy in the early 1990s, when they were both starting out in - Sarah was the producer who gave Richard his first commission."
[BBC Sounds]

"The 1990s was a time of youthful self-confidence in British culture."
[The Poetry Archive]

"The BBC had a new series to schedule. Star Trek: The Next Generation finally appeared on BBC2 on 26 September 1990; almost exactly three years after Encounter At Farpoint premièred on 28 September 1987."
[Space Doubt]

"Charles Runcie, an editor on Radio 5 Live when it launched 25 years ago, remembers the build-up to what was a brand-new BBC radio concept."
[BBC Archive]


"The year under review has been more eventful and challenging for the BBC than any since I became Chairman at the end of 1986. The reporting of the Gulf war proved a testing experience for the BBC, but one in which television, radio and the World Service provided authoritative, balanced and reliable coverage for our different audiences in difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances. In turn, those audiences demonstrated their trust in the BBC by turning to us for information and analysis in increased numbers."
[World Radio History] 

Romola On Walking.

People  From The Guardian this week on the occasion of her appearing in Nachtland at the Young Vic.  It's about a decision to sell or burn a Hitler painting or as the interviewer points out, what Channel 4 did a couple of years ago.  On a lighter note:

"I go on very long walks, sometimes a whole day on my own. I walk around London, I walk around the Downs, I’ll sometimes just walk for miles in the countryside. Last year, I went to Paris and did a two-day walk. I just find it very soothing. Also, particularly as I get older, I’m feeling more communist!"


What's happened to the Doctor Who Annual?

Books  In the past week I've finally managed to get my hands on a copy of this year's Doctor Who Annual thanks to Blackwells.  It's fair to say I was whelmed.  Again.  Now I'm obviously not the target audience for these volumes, anyone over the age of ten probably isn't, but compared to the editions of even yesterday it feels threadbare, particularly in the area of original fiction.  

Amid the factual pieces and games there's a charming single story which allows veteran writer Steve Cole to tick the fourteenth Doctor off his list, one of the rare few.  A version of the Doctor with David Tennant's face has a rematch with the Sycorax, so there are plenty of callbacks to The Christmas Invasion.  

It's marked as "A Brand New Adventure" which it would have been on the day of publication, 7 September 2023.  But some kids opening and reading it on Christmas Day might have been a bit disappointed they also received the anthology, Ten Days of Christmas, which also features the same story, topping and tailing a series of Tenth Doctor stories and listed on the cover as an "exclusive" which was published a month after this.

It's not quite the same.  Whereas the whole story is as prose in the anthology, the annual offers a comic strip adaptation of the second half.  It's drawn by Doctor Who Adventures vet John Ross with his bold, brash, colourful style.  Nevertheless it is a pre-print of material which was due to be published again month later and could potentially have led to some parents paying twice for the same thing.  How did we get to this point?

Some history.  As probably everyone reading this will know, Doctor Who Annuals have been in publication since the mid-60s and this isn't the first occasion material has been reprinted.  Elements of annuals reappeared in omnibus form.  The first spin-off fiction I came across was at Speke Library, who had a copy of the Adventures in Time and Space anthology which collected material representing most of the previous annuals.  But it was a separate publication to the annual publications.

When the show returned, the 2006 annual included material written by the new showrunner and stories by all of the writers from the first series, all of whom had previous contributed to spin-off ventures so knew what was required.  Steven Moffat would later adapt his story What I Did on My Christmas Holidays by Sally Sparrow into the best Doctor Who story ever made that isn't Caves of Androzani, Blink.

The annual was a massive success for Panini, also publishers of Doctor Who Magazine and so the license was obviously handed over to someone else, namely the BBC Children's Books imprint of Penguin who've been producing it to this day.  The 2007 annual was a more simplistic affair with the flavour of the Doctor Who Adventures magazine in publication at the time, to the point of including a reprint of a strip from issue 2.

Russell T Davies was quite cross about this and rightly so.  Unfortunately I've been unable to trace the source for his annoyance, be it in a Doctor Who Magazine interview, Production Notes or The Writer's Tale.  I'm sure I haven't hallucinated it.  Either way he said that he'd make sure that it wouldn't happen again and it didn't.

Up until the 2020 edition, even after he'd left the show, every annual included some kind of original Doctor Who story, comics or prose or both varying in length and complexity.  Paul Lang, the senior designer of  Doctor Who Adventures, continued the tradition of publication even after it ended publication by essentially creating a new hardbacked edition of it each year which continued right through to the Thirteenth Doctor's first year.

But in the Doctor Who Annual 2020, something changed.  Published in 2019 (so pre-pandemic), this had a rather perfunctory episode guide (mixed with some puzzles) bracketed by two lengthy prose stories, nicely illustrated by George Ermos and Lauren Wills.  But the reader might be forgiven for finding them familiar - they were both reprints from books originally published in 2018, an excerpt from David Solomons'  The Secret in Vault 13 and The Rhino of Twenty-Three Strand Street from David Rudden's anthology Twelve Angels Weeping.

At the time this seemed like a rip-off.  Avid fans who read every new book as they're published will have seen these before and although the pictures are rather lovely, there'll be some kids or their parents who will have paid £7.99 for second hand material and what amounted to adverts for other books and even if they wouldn't have otherwise noticed, the adverts for those publications at the end of each story would have indicated such.  

After years and years of brilliant or at least unusual Christmas treats going into 2020, buyers of the annuals were handed something which had been re-gifted, shameless reprints from earlier sources and that's continued.  To be fair the Amazon and Good Reads pages for the book suggest that people were happy enough with their purchase with a fair few five-stars around.  But actual reviews often note that these stories are reprints and isn't it a shame?

The 2021 annual was a slight improvement.  The synopses within the episode guide are written as first person diary entries by the Doctor and the fam and at the end there's a section which ties in to the next year's Time Lord Victorious event, with River Song in her Melody Malone alter ego introducing the various characters and races who'd be appearing.  This is all new material even if it isn't a story exactly, more like another advert for all the other product.

But then the only fiction in the 2022 is a four page retelling in photo comic format of the first episode of the Daleks! animated story which was the Doctor Who YouTube channel's contribution to Time Lord Victorious, ending on a cliffhanger and a suggesting that readers should go there to see the conclusion.  Another reprint of existing material in a slightly different form.  Screenshotting the thing and adding speech bubbles is a technical and design achievement, but what's it for?

Fair play to the Official 60th Anniversary Annual 2023, which includes a blisteringly fun (almost) complete history of the Doctor written from the thirteenth Doctor's POV, wittily recapping some of the show's madness over the years, suggesting that Sixy did indeed regenerate after falling off his exercise bike and under the subheading "the wilderness years" noting in the wake of Seventh:

"everything went a bit quiet for a while.  There are no visual records of any of my adventures for a long time - although there are written archives."

There certainly are kids, a whole era of adventures, "Too Broad and Deep for the Small Screen" and in some case too pornographic, but I digress.  

Except the centrepiece of the book, at a moment which should be celebrating Jodie Whittaker's final year in the role and looking ahead to the future of the series, is "Clara Oswald and the Enchanted Forest" by Jasbinder Bilan featuring a character which hadn't been in the show for over five years which at the end we discover is pre-print from the Origin Stories anthology.

Which means since the comic strips in the 2019 edition, the hasn't been any original fiction exclusive to the Doctor Who Annual and in some cases, it's entirely possible that someone could receive books containing the same stories on Christmas Day which I'm sorry to say is a rip-off by the publisher, Penguin Random House UK, that otherwise has a sparkling track record in new Doctor Who fiction, from their new TARGET novelisations to the aforementioned anthologies.  Serious, they're otherwise brilliant.

What editorial decisions have led to this shift?  If it's budgetary, it's hard to see why they can't justify commissioning a writer or two to create new stories on top of the sterling design work, for what is sure to be one of their biggest sellers of the year at £9.99 a pop even if the paper and printing does cost more these days.  If it's because of a crush on deadlines, plan earlier.  If it's creative, a way of offering a shop window for other publications which might not have the same cache, well, that's just cynical.

There's a possibility that someone reading this, assuming they've come this far will know the answer to this and there's a perfectly reasonable explanation and honestly, I wrote most of this as a way of finding that out.  If, as ever, that I'm entirely off-base I'll be happy to edit this or even take it down.  I've tried desperately not to criticise individuals but the whole annual as published entity and everything which leads to it being like this.

Why does this matter?  Apart from diminishing the legacy of the annuals and making them something less than (especially now Panini's separate "Storybooks" or "Brilliant Books" don't exist any more), I'm just thinking about what it will be like for some parents and kids each Christmas.  Annuals used to be special events and at a cost of £9.99 this year, it feels like Penguin, outside of the editorial matter, are taking advantage of readers by not giving them value for money and instead offering up something they might already own.

Review 2023: A Review of 2023: December.

01    Snow

09    Bigeneration!

12    Tree up!

13    E3 down.

Review 2023: A Review of 2023: November.

01    The Whoniverse launches.  It does not include the first four episodes

11    Armistice Day

27    1985