A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1987.

It's been a few months since we looked at the BBC schedules and not since the start of the 1980s, so let's see what a typical day would have looked like for BBC One on the 11th December 1987.  It's a Friday, a couple of weeks before Christmas and the schedules are still in a transitional period between some of their earlier elements and what we might expect to see today.

After half an hour of Ceefax at 6am, the morning proper opens with a Christmas themed RKO short starring Edgar Kennedy, Poisoned Ivory, a kind-of proto-National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  This leads into Breakfast Time, now well into its desk bound era, with a soon to be leaving Frank Bough joined by Sally Magnusson and Jeremy Paxman.  At 8:40 the curio that was Open Air with its initial fifteen minute slot fronted by Eamonn Holmes.  

After a repeat of Neighbours from the day before, Kilroy, Going for Gold in its first series, Andy Crane on early CBBC duties with birthday greetings and just before the final hour of Open Air (a programme about television bestriding the schedules) there's Five to Eleven, a daily five minute slot in which a range of celebrities read poetry or short prose works in what was essentially Jackanory for adults.  Today's is presented by Gary Watson, who played Arthur Terrall in Doctor Who's Evil of the Daleks.

Into the afternoon and to Daytime Live with Pamela Armstrong, Alan Titchmarsh and Judi Spiers, one of the many shows presented from Pebble Mill.  Then, after the One O'Clock News (from the BBC) with Michael Burke (who'd recently been expunged from South Africa because they didn't like his reporting), Neighbours, for which the Radio Times has the uncertain billing "Mike becomes a 'lifeguard'."  

Then in the middle of everything, we find the Doris Day film By the Light of the Silvery Moon which glancing around, wasn't unusual - Wednesday and Thursday had Kevin Costner and Tommy Trinder films in the same timeslot.  Doris was followed by Ask Margo a consumer advice slot led by Margo McDonald, in the period when she wasn't an SNP politician.  CBBC follows (Corners, SuperTed, What's All This Then?, Newsround and the sit-in episode of Grange Hill).   At which point you might expect Neighbours, but it's too early in the run for it to pop enough to require a tea-time repeat so instead we have Masterteam 87 with Angela Rippon.

The evening schedule begins with the Six O'Clock News (from the BBC) with Sue Lawley and Philip Hayton, a couple of years before he was shuffled off to North West Tonight and decades before whatever this was.  After regional programmes, it's Wogan, for which the guests aren't listed on the BBC Programme Index.  His old show Blankety Blank followed at 19:40, "Special guests this week: Pat Coombs, Henry Cooper, Barry Cryer, Debbie Greenwood, Jenny Hanley, Tom Pepper" followed by the first repeat of Twenty Years of the Two Ronnies (with its writing credits which include Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Spike Milligan).

After the Nine O'Clock News (from the BBC) with Martyn Lewis and Debbie Thrower, the big prestige drama of the evening is episode two of The Marksman, a revenge thriller set in Liverpool adapted from a novel by Hugh McRae starring David Threlfall, Michael Angelis, Craig Charles, Leslie Ash, Andrew Schofield and Ray Kingsley.  Originally scheduled earlier in the year, it was postponed and apparently re-edited in the wake of the Hungerford mass shooting.  As if that wasn't dark enough, the late film is Alistair Maclean's Breakheart Pass, starring Charles Bronson about an ill fated journey into a diphtheria epidemic in 1870s California.  The night ends with edited highlights of a Chris Rea concert and the final weather before closedown.

What's noticeable about this schedule is how much of daytime is live (or as live) compared to today at least on BBC One.  After Breakfast and Morning Live, barring news broadcasts the only other slot is The One Show, at time of writing anyway.  It's also pretty homogenised, a mix of property, antiques and quiz shows and (strangely) programmes about financial fraud.  But the evenings aren't that different from 1987, surprisingly, with original documentaries, comedies and dramas.  There's even a late film from the 1970s on the day of writing (Friday 9th June 2023): The Exorcist.  

Brimstone and Treacle

"Aliya looks back at Dennis Potter's powerfully disturbing, formerly-banned 1976 television play Brimstone & Treacle..."
[Gen of Deek]

"Programme includes: playwright Dennis Potter on his TV play - and now film - Brimstone and Treacle, plus Joan Plowright on her role as Mrs Bates: Carol Churchill on her new play Top Girls at the Royal Court: Graham Payn on the newly published diaries of Sir Noel Coward. Presented by Natalie Wheen."
[BBC Sounds]

"In a BBC World Service broadcast in 1979, Dennis Potter – who would have turned 80 this weekend – talked to Michael Billington about the relationship between good and evil in his play Brimstone and Treacle."
[The Guardian]


"James Hawthorne, controller of the BBC in Belfast for the last ten years, retires today. Report by Linda Mitchell."
[BBC Rewind]


"This social event marked the closure of Designs Department at Western House, Great Portland Street and the merging of Design Group with Equipment Department, to form Design and Equipment Department at Avenue House, Power Road Chiswick.  The boat trip on the Thames symbolised the move from central to west London."

"The new BBC shop opened today on Arthur Street in Belfast. The event was attended by Lord Mayor Dixie Gilmore and James Hawthorne (BBC Northern Ireland Controller). Interview with Paul Devine (Shop Manager). Reporter: Kirsty Lang."
[BBC Rewind]


"Spotlight finishes using film after 26 years and switches entirely to electronic video cameras for its news gathering operations."
[BBC Rewind]

"There was a gap in children’s TV for a hero like Sam. Postman Pat was around, but how much can a postman really do?"
[The Guardian]

"BBC producer Stewart Morris visits Belfast to hold local auditions for Opportunity Knocks, a new series that begins in March. Reporter: Paul Clark."
[BBC Rewind]

"While watching a 1987 episode of Spitting Image the other day, something rather odd occurred. And something odd occurring during an episode of Spitting Image has rapidly turned into this site’s speciality."
This has a lot to do with Red Dwarf, in case you're confused.
[Dirty Feed]

"The BBC's Antiques Roadshow comes to the Ulster Hall. Report by Liz Fawcett."
[BBC Rewind]

"Neil Miles is a man who, much like myself, enjoys delving through piles of old videotapes in search of long forgotten footage. And his excellent YouTube channel recently delivered an intriguing slice of late night television in the form of a BBC engineering test from 1987."
[Curious British Telly]

"A new programme on Radio Ulster called the Fathom Line was launched at the Newry Arts Centre last night by BBC NI Governor Dr. James Kincaid. Report by Sean Rafferty."
[BBC Rewind]

"Stars including Phillip Schofield, Sarah Green, Trev and the man behind Gordon the Gopher tell Adrian Chiles what it was like working on the legendary Saturday morning TV show, 30 years after it first launched."
[BBC Sounds]

""Tonight is Halloween when strange things can happen, and even here live on BBC1, all is not what it seems."  And with those foreboding words on Halloween night 1987, the BBC1 globe transformed into a pumpkin, and one of the most remarkable pieces of television ever transmitted began."
[Dirty Feed]


"Journalists from the BBC and other broadcasting organisations went on strike for up to six hours today in protest over the ban on the television programme about the secret Zircon satellite project."
[BBC Rewind]

"If in 1988 our viewers and listeners felt they understood more about the way the BBC works and its aims, we are making progress."
[World Radio History] 

Christmas Links #11

 Bingley: Grandparents' joy at do-it-yourself Santa's grotto:
"Grandparents who created a Santa's grotto are expecting hundreds of children to their home this year."

"It is vital to do some basic safety checks on Christmas toys this year, ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi reports."

"Sex Education star Gatwa, 31, made his first appearance on Doctor Who during the last instalment of the 60th anniversary episodes."

"What happens when a Christmas tree farm plays a pivotal role in protecting the local watershed? A conservancy group in Wisconsin is transforming the farm into a preserve to protect its ecosystem."

"There are many pitfalls to buying presents, from seeking an instant reaction to a fear of sentimentality. But a few simple psychological principles can help you make better choices."

"No longer filled with bad jokes and plastic toys, the most covetable crackers contain treats your guests will treasure."

"The barnyard animals that have non-speaking parts in the nativity scene should not be overlooked this festive season."

"Hating Christmas is OK, actually. Normal, even. But every December, it hits me all over again."

"Anyone reading the blog last Christmas (or even just following me on one of the social media platforms I used at the time) likely remembers my big project last year."

Christmas Links #10

 Do you like ‘Silent Night’? There are more than 3,700 covers for you:
"“Silent Night” is not that silent after all."

"From ho ho hum tracks by Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber to bah humbug tunes by AC/DC and Afroman, these are the holiday songs you really need to avoid."

Editor's note: Let's you choose a song from Spotify then creates an endless remix.  Here's Once In A Lifetime [via]. 

"A football stadium DJ has apologised for playing Last Christmas by Wham!, potentially knocking more than 7,000 people out of cult game Whamageddon."

"As prices rise, more people are buying only for close relatives and friends, or getting out the glitter glue and making their own."

"Twelve of the year's best seasonal recordings."

"While the industry is starting to wind down ahead of the holiday break, a juicy package could liven things up before the new year. Deadline is hearing that Olivia Wilde is attached to direct Naughty, a Christmas comedy that has LuckyChap on as producers."

"A stone marker and sculpture in the city of Riga stake a claim for the very first community Christmas tree."

"As an American living in Britain in the 1990s, my first exposure to Christmas pudding was something of a shock. I had expected figs or plums, as in the “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” carol, but there were none. Neither did it resemble the cold custard-style dessert that Americans typically call pudding."

"Good news! A Charlie Brown Christmas is going to stream for free on Apple TV+ on December 16th and 17th for those without a subscription."

A Brief Note About Doctor Who's The Giggle.

TV  Evening.  As ever, this is not a review but I did have to say something after that spectacular finale of the 60th anniversary mini-series.  All three episodes have been superb, twisted versions of the alien invasion, base under siege and evil antagonist stories which have made up 95% of all Doctor Who since it began along with the "pure" historicals and Moffat loops.  Knowing that his strength isn't writing traditional multi-Doctor stories - which have become a bit old hat anyway really - RTD2 decided to offer up three brilliant examples of what Doctor Who can be, which is why he's one of the greatest writers this show and television in general has ever seen.

But of course Russell isn't afraid to also do something controversial and here we are with the bi-generation, his version of the multi-Doctor story in which the current incumbent gets to team up with the one will come after him, in this case the utterly beautiful Ncuti Gatwa, who himself is instantly the Doctor as well, the Mavic Chen ("with his masterplan") name-dropper.  The whole thing's turned on its head again, with the two of them totally in love with one another instead of being ridiculous chippy, different people with the same core being.  As the writer says on the commentary track, we've seen the regeneration as a negative enough times now.  Let's make it a happy occasion.

There'll probably be a number of reactions to this.  There'll be those who're cross because Ncuti didn't get the usual regeneration, popping out of the previous incumbent in the final moments of the episode, his first line "No way!" instead of some crack about his dental work or colour of his hair, sharing the limelight, a supporting player in the story of the Fourteenth Doctor.  That from now onwards, there'll be two contemporary Doctors, one parked on Earth, the other the protagonist going forward, the audience forever wondering why the Fourteenth Doctor doesn't step in the next time there's a global threat.  What happened during the Dalek occupations?  Hey?  Hey!?!

Firstly, I loved that this is how the Fifteenth's been introduced.  It's not unprecedented that current and future incarnations share the screen.  The finale of Deep Breath featured the Eleventh Doctor phoning forward to reassure Clara and the viewers that the angry Scots staggering about the street was still the same person (even if the rest of the season seemed designed to disabuse us of that).  The Watcher, an ambiguous manifestation of the Doctor's next incarnation followed Fourth around until the right moment and manifests in later regenerations elsewhere.  Think of it as the Pudsey Cutaway happening during The Parting of the Ways or something.  A taster of who's to come.

What about the idea that there will be two contemporary Doctors going forward existing simultaneously?  Well, there's already over a dozen incarnations swirling around one another in time and space, every now and then bumping into one another, in periods of dire emergencies or in the case of some comics licensees because it's a publication day.  Ncuti is still the same "Time Lord" going forward with all of the Fourteenth Doctor's memories if not the emotional baggage.  |It's just that there's another one branched off, enjoying a well earned retirement buzzing away now and then for a mini-adventure but otherwise happy to put his feet up and leave the running to his older self.

In the commentary for the episode, Russell suggests that because of the events at the close of this episode, every regeneration is now a bi-generation, with each incarnation finding themselves whole again in the spot where they originally made the change, their future selves having already headed off into new adventures, their own TARDIS nearby.  Which apart from making a whole bunch of spin-off stories much easier to place (the First Doctor's adventures with John and Gillian Who clearly happening after The Tenth Planet or not having to cram Season 6B in before Spearhead from Space), explains a lot of what Tales from the TARDIS was about.

Russell says that his aim is to loosen up some of the canonical rules (perhaps with an eye to giving the spin-offs more flexibility).  The Doctor's life is a series of branches with the Eighth Doctor awakening on Karn not long after the War Doctor's plunged into the fire, much to the surprise of the sisterhood.  Having sworn them to secrecy, still knowing that the universe needs to think that he's strayed to the dark side, dusts himself off and heads back into time, helping where he can, perhaps pretending to be his pre-regenerative self until such time that he get back to saving the universe on his own terms.  Corridors of new narrative possibilities have been opened up.  

What if, for example, it's the Fourteenth Doctor who becomes the Curator?  That would explain why he's so mysterious when encountering his younger selves, consolidating the person he is rather than moving forward.  He's still a "Time Lord" so he'll still regenerate when necessary, but instead of turning into a Ncuti clone, he continues to revisit some of the old faces, largely staying in one place and time but lending a hand as a mentor when necessary.  When Donna begins her job at UNIT, perhaps he decides to become a Curator of UNIT's Black Archive, a place which, like the TVA in Loki, exists outside of time.  But I've strayed off topic.

The point is, don't think about any of this too much.  The Doctor wasn't around for Torchwood's Miracle Day (or Children of Earth), just as what's left of the current version of that team aren't shown during The Giggle (they're probably off somewhere killing each other).  So the Fourteenth Doctor isn't helping the Fifteenth Doctor at every global catastrophe going forward because XYZ is happening off screen and don't worry about it, that's for future spin-off writers to cope with.  Sometimes you just do what's right for the story you're currently telling and in this case, the story was told very well.  Sorry, that turned into a bit of a review there.  Must keep an eye on that.

Additional:  Having slept on this, I think RTD views Doctor Who in epochal narrative terms, that everything which has happened up until this point rests on the Fourteenth Doctor's shoulders and we're now in the second Disney epoch with Ncuti, that Tennant represents the end of the a 60 year story arc begun in An Unearthly Child and Ncuti begins another, offering a jumping on point akin to when he first brought the show back.  This kind of intellectual jiggery-pokery is for fans really - most people'll just view it as this really cool thing that happened - but you can bet if the television show's ever rested again, there'll be whole PDAs covering the First Fourteen (or so) Doctor's self inflicted exile on Earth.

Christmas Links #9

 Christmas supplies at risk as Panama Canal suffers drought:
"One of the world’s most prominent trade routes, the Panama Canal, is facing the worst-ever drought on record - prompting fears that Christmas deliveries could be at risk."

"A 200-year-old tradition could come to an end when a Sheffield pub hosts its Christmas carol concert on Boxing Day."

"This holiday season, many Americans will be decorating Christmas trees, lighting Hanukkah candles, building gingerbread houses and savoring time with family and friends."

"Not only has Geoff Stonebanks decked the halls of his home in Seaford, he’s decked 32 Christmas trees and pretty much every surface you can lay your eyes on."

"Forget pricy imported flowers and plastic wreaths, there is plenty of inspiration in the garden – and from British-grown blooms."

"Gifts are personal. Gift guides are not."

"For scores of cable-television purists across the country, Hallmark has established itself as something of a feel-good pharmacy, its shelves lined with pills and potions in the form of holiday-moored movies helmed by Lacey Chabert and a slew of sexless soap stars."

"Royal Mail have released its Christmas survey results."

"These moss balls move in unison, and researchers are okay with not knowing why."

"Christmas may be just around the corner, but there's still time to spice up your festive dinner with a traditional Christmas pudding recipe from the history books.  Here, Richard Fitch, Historic Kitchens Manager at Historic Royal Palaces, reimagines a Victorian recipe that you can make at home just before Christmas day."

In the Bleak Midwinter.

Audio  Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without an Eighth Doctor boxed set now it seems and here's the follow up to November's Audacity, with another three stories featuring the Eighth Doctor's newest companion and the return of one of the audio originals.  Audacity and Charley have become fast friends (as did, by the sounds of the extras Jaye Griffiths and India Fisher who're thick as thieves in the interviews).  But that also means we're straight into the multi-companion structural change of having the Doctor off on his own investigating while his two friends spend most of their time together which Charley back in the seasoned traveller role she also fulfilled with C'rizz.

Although Audacity embraces travelling with the Doctor, it's also through necessity and she's unafraid to note the liberties Eighth and Charley take in their adventures.  When they steal a car in 1940s London, they're depriving someone of their mode of transport at Christmas and Audacity says so.  Charley suggests that the police will probably sort it out.  But its clear that Audacity is right - they've inconvenienced a stranger perhaps at their own critical moment - and although she's then quick to apologise, perhaps this is where one of the fault lines will appear in future stories.  Having introduced the notion that these stories are happening in the original first two seasons, Audacity won't be in the TARDIS crew forever.

Twenty-Four Doors in December

After the Stranded series, we're back at the Doctor's Baker Street house but in an earlier time frame, the 00s before Thomas Brewster converted it into flats.  The Doctor and his friends spend the whole of December here, the adventure structured around an advent calendar, a scene per day which allows for Audacity and Charley's friendship to bed in and for them to become involved in the life of Al Norton, a store Santa for whom fate is swirling around.  John Dorney's script feels like a successor to the old Short Trips at Christmas anthologies, although it is greatly enhanced by Jason Watkins open-hearted portrayal as Norton, trapped by his fears, weaknesses and circumstances.

The Empty Man

All three stories in this boxed set seem to pay homage to A Ghost Story for Christmas and The Empty Man references the format directly, both in the dialogue and the 1940s equivalent of a writer of scary stories who finds himself caught up in just such a mystery.  One of the genre of stories in which time would have continued as normal had the TARDIS not landed and brought along the antagonist, Tim Foley's script wrings out every potential resulting small tragedy not least about the ephemeral nature of one writer's work and how even the best scribes can be forgotten, something which is obviously true of most of us.

Winter of the Demon

Of course, being a totally chill fan, I could be writing about the A-plot of Roy Gill's story, a bread and butter megalomaniacal antagonist summoning a demon from beyond for nefarious gain ala The Daemons or Minuet in Hell with David Robb finally gaining a Doctor Who credit after years of circling.  Or that it's a pleasure to hear a story set in a Scottish metropolis for a change.  But let's face it, the most exciting element of this story is Charley finally gets a bit of romance.  She kisses a guy and for a moment you wonder if she's going to Susan Foreman her way out of the TARDIS (even though all three stories have been about foreshadowing her fate).  Scream!

Placement:  Directly after the Audacity box, but its notable that by the end Eighth, Audacity and Charley are still together which suggests we're going to be seeing more stories.

Christmas Links #8

"Merseyrail customers can make the most of travel around the Liverpool City Region this Christmas, as trains will be running every day over the festive period, except for Christmas Day."

"That is cauliflower."

Schoolgirl determined to help after mum's heartbreaking words at foodbank:
""Libbie Claus" has set up a massive Christmas operation this year to get gifts to children."

"If you ask me what movie I put on first thing in December to get in the holiday spirit I’ll tell you right away that it’s White Christmas. The 1954 musical is a classic for a host of reasons: the sparkling dialogue, the incredible dances with Vera Ellen, the comedy of Danny Kaye, the fantastic costumes by Edith Head, and the indelible voices of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney."

"The beloved Christmas music created and performed by American Jews."

"M. R. James (1862-1936) is the writer of ghost stories, both the acceptable literary standard-bearer for them and actually pretty bloody radical. In his youth, James saw an inexplicably horrible face through a gap in a fence."

"In 1885, in his house on the south coast of England, high on a fever and cocaine, Robert Louis Stevenson—thus far best known for Treasure Island, and still some distance from a famous author—scrawled down the original Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in just three days, declaring it the best and most important thing he’d ever written."

"See how the leaders of the free world and their families have decked the halls."

"A couple who put a shark sculpture in their driveway say they will decorate it for Christmas after it became a local landmark."

Christmas Links #7

"A COUNCIL which has axed all but one Christmas tree in the community it covers has been branded “Grinches”."

"There might be even more lore about the Star Wars Holiday Special than about the Star Wars universe itself. Aired once in November 1978 on CBS and then locked away beyond the reach of legitimate viewing, it sends Chewbacca back to his home planet to visit his family: his wife, Malla; his father, Itchy; and his son, Lumpy. (Yes. Lumpy.)"

"A Christmas grotto threatened with closure has been spared after councillors voted for it to stay open."

"Shops have reported record sales ahead of Christmas, with top prices paid for turkeys until late in the day. Elsewhere, there was busy trading generally with toy spending up 6% (mainly mechanical and educational toys) and the commercial success of the season being men's cosmetics."

"Half of Shakespeare’s plays would have been lost without it – and it is now among the most valuable books in the world."

"An end-of-Empire chiller, Lot No. 249 stars Kit Harington, Freddie Fox, Colin Ryan, John Heffernan, James Swanton, Jonathan Rigby and Andrew Horton."

"From how we shopped to festive celebrations."

“I think they heard a rumour.”

" A Christmas beer made from green peas and marinated red cabbage has become a festive hit in Iceland. Made by a small Reykjavik brewery, the recipe is inspired by Iceland's Christmas dinner."

Once upon a time, Tiffany commissioned Andy Warhol to illustrate a series of colourful greeting cards. Capturing the joy and whimsy of Christmas, these were offered each December from 1957 until 1962, the year Warhol debuted his iconic Campbell’s Soup Cans.

Christmas Links #6

An early Christmas present for the Eighth Doctor:
"She's back – and it's about time! India Fisher returns today for three brand-new full-cast audio dramas from Big Finish Productions."

"England’s oldest Christmas market has been scrapped after last year’s “massive success” left city leaders worrying over public safety.  A record 320,000 people visited Lincoln’s Christmas Market in 2022, the same year the event celebrated 40 years as the country’s longest-running festive market."

"What's the best Christmas gift you ever received? You probably didn't have to think about it; you knew it in your bones. Today, we're talking about the actual, tangible gift you found waiting for you under the tree and still think about it from time to time."

"The 1958 holiday classic was first released when she was just 13 years old."

"A pub has been reusing the same 77-year-old Christmas decorations in its public bar for more than 60 years."

"The festive season wasn’t always about mince pies and wanton consumerism. In fact, ancient folklore was more O Holy Fright than O Holy Night."

"This holiday season ERIKS Industrial Services is taking a step forward by foregoing the traditional indoor Christmas tree and planting a Norwegian spruce outside their Oldbury site."

"Dear Miss Manners: Over the years, I’ve maintained a special fondness for the act of writing and addressing Christmas cards to about 50 friends (old and new) and family members. I find taking a moment to think of valued relationships, even if only once a year, to be heart-warming and restorative."

"After getting loose on Sunday, the animals wandered on to the A11, forcing police to temporarily close the road in both directions for around two hours."

"In the early 1900s, Vienna-based surgical instrument maker Erwin Perzy was asked to create a bright surgical lightbulb, but instead, he invented the snow globe."

Christmas Links #5

 BBC Radio Merseyside: Sing Along with Santa:
"Fancy a little sing along with Santa this Christmas?  Then gather your loved ones for a very special event at BBC Radio Merseyside!"

"A break over the holidays is the perfect time for a lot of things: seeing your family, catching up with friends, eating a ton, reflecting. But most important of all, it’s a great time to watch a lot of TV, including the episodes made specifically for this time of year."

"Festivus is here! Which means it’s time to unbottle any pent-up anger to confront whatever or whoever has gotten under your skin this year – and later this month the Tampa Bay Times will publish these grievances."

"The Belvedere is one of the Georgian Quarter's many great pubs."

"Real talk: how does Santa get down the chimney? Mac Barnett has been wondering since he was a little kid."

"From making the perfect present to finding the cheapest way to send it, here’s how to spread festive cheer on a budget."

"A Christmas grotto that was built without planning permission could be ordered to be taken down by a council."

"'A very Mary Christmas'- Richard Slee reports on Tudor Christmas celebrations at Portsmouth's historic dockyards."

"Jen Hogan: And yet the complicated and complex operation of household appliances and in particular the lowly washing machine, remains a mystery to them."

"NI’s leading retail and leisure destination, The Junction, is on the lookout for NI’s most playful pup as it looks to appoint an official doggie toy tester in the run up to Christmas."

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1986.

If like me you're old enough to remember when your school had a single computer and it was a BBC Micro, you'll perhaps also have some memory of contributing to The Domesday Project.  There's full information below and access to a very good online emulator.  For the first time in decades I can have a look at the database and see if anything my primary school, Stockton Wood in Speke was actually included.

It was.  Most of the content is by Class 4S, the other cohort in the 4th year juniors (what's now called Year 6) who contributed the introduction, shopping survey (more seats, a sports shop, less litter) and a number of poems ("People say Speke is terrible / But I do not think so / AND I LIVE HERE!").    The section about Liverpool Airport is from "C.H. Elwood and class 4E" who also penned the entry about Speke Hall.  

Nothing I wrote has been included.  But Sonia Ely (who I only vaguely remember but recognise from her photo at Liverpool Airport) managed to get her interview with Reverend Amos from All Saints Church in and the entry about All Saint's Church is by Sharon Wycherley who I do remember (and was featured in a Liverpool Echo piece about the Fusion Festival in 2018 when she was 44 so that tracks).  We used to sit in the playground making daisy chains together.

The only photograph is the one above, of the roundabout at junction of Central Avenue and Western Avenue, which I remember well because my own house on Lovel Road was about half a kilometre directly ahead.  I'd also have to get off the bus on that corner sometimes when getting the bus back from secondary school.  I once told a girl I had a crush on that loved her standing next to that red telephone box.  She laughed in my face.  Good memories.

Here's roughly the same place, as close as I can get on Google Maps.  Some things have been renewed, the phone box has gone and you can see what the latest buses look like.  This view was taken in 2021.  Scrolling a bit further up the roads takes us unto April 2023 and even that junction box has gone.  The roundabout is still there but couldn't get a good angle.  The trees are still there too, but older.  The more the world is changing, the more it stays the same.

The only occasion I was able to use the project itself was for a limited time at Central Library, where it was hidden in a wooden television display case on the stage in the old International section (where the children's books are now).  I ventured up gingerly and sat in front of it, but was frankly too young to have the patience to navigate the various screens (something which is still cumbersome today).  Incredible achievement just slightly to early to be done justice by the technology.

The Domesday Project

"In 1986, 900 years after William the Conqueror’s original Domesday Book, the BBC published the Domesday Project. The project was probably the most ambitious attempt ever to capture the essence of life in the United Kingdom. Over a million people contributed to this digital snapshot of the country."
[Domesday Reloaded @ The National Archives]

"A segment from BBC Newsround in November 1986 about the Domesday Project. With footage from the Acorn Domesday exhibition stand."
[The Centre for Computing History]

"In addition to offering access to a number of working BBC Domesday systems here at the museum, we wanted to share a virtual method of exploring the system through an emulator that works in your browser.  You can explore the discs of the BBC Domesday system in a fully emulated BBC Master with an LVROM player."
[Centre for Computing History]

"Domesday86 is a project that aims to recreate the experience of the original BBC Domesday project using modern hardware and software. On this site you will find a growing collection of documentation for the original Acorn/BBC Domesday project as well as details of the Domesday86 project itself."

"Jeffrey Darlington, Andy Finney and Adrian Pearce describe the groundbreaking BBC Domesday Project of 1986, and explain how its unique multimedia collection has been preserved."

"The BBC Domesday Project began in 1986 when the public were invited to contribute images and text about their local areas for hosting on a leading edge technology of the day, the Advanced Interactive Video System. In 2011, the project was very successfully resurrected as the Domesday Reloaded Project with new contributions and as an online resource on the internet."
[Computer Weekly]

"The entry for Stanford in the Vale and the surrounding area, created by children at the Primary School, is repeated below. It provides a unique "snapshot" of the village as it was 38 years ago."
[Stanford in the Vale]


"This colour documentary film presented by Mark Curry from the BBC's Blue Peter programme, follows the work of the BBC Blue Peter appeal in 1986 that raised over two million pounds for the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind (Sightsavers) in Africa."
[Screen Archive South East]

"In July 1982, a 42-year-old addict in a San Jose, California jail became paralyzed--unable to move or talk. His symptoms, caused by a bad batch of synthetic heroin, were indistinguishable from those associated with Parkinson's disease, a degenerative nerve disorder that strikes the elderly."
This is a Horizon/NOVA programme with the US voiceover.

"This week's Antiques Roadshow comes from Ipswich Town Hall in Ipswich, Suffolk and features a three train musical bracket clock made by the 18th Century London clockmaker Thomas Gardner."
[BBC Rewind]

"Two series of compilations from Micro Live."
[BBC Computer Literacy Project Archive]


"Preparations underway for McGuigan boxing fight and rugby international match.  Report shows British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Outside Broadcast (OB) unit setting up satellite dishes and other television equipment."

"This is a story of treachery, death and retribution."
[Off The Telly]

"From out of an empty black screen, a solo accordion sounds a couple of chords. Then, a harmonica strikes up a wistful tune, a lilting accompaniment falls in behind, and the picture suddenly lights up to reveal the features of a gruff man buried deep in a trench coat, hat pulled down low, furtively leaning against a lamppost."
[Off The Telly]

"Paul Jackson visits the purpose-built TV studios of the longest running medical drama in the world. Born out of necessity (as a weapon in the weekly battle for audience-share on Saturday nights) "Casualty" has become one of BBC 1's most consistent performers."
[BBC Sounds]

'It has always been heavily censored. When the show started, we weren't even allowed to say the word toilet'
[The Guardian]

"Eamonn Holmes is joined live via satellite from Melbourne by the cast of Neighbours - the Australian soap opera that has rapidly become a phenomenon in the UK.  Originally broadcast 13 October, 1987."
[BBC Archive]


"In the aftermath of the recent General Election, it is worth remarking upon the increasingly symbiotic relationship between politics and the media."
[Off The Telly]

"This report is published in the 50th year of BBC Television. It is hard to equate the vitality which has produced EastEnders, Yes Minister and Crimewatch with an institution venerable enough to have been responsible for the world's first national television mission 50 years ago. Yet looked at per way, BBC Television has been td long enough to prove that today's programmes are part of a tradition of excellence on which the British public can rely, whether in drama, comedy, and factual programming or, indeed, in sport, music, entertainment, education, news or current affairs."
[World Radio History] 

Christmas Links #4

My Block, My Hood, My City lights up King Drive for the holidays
"The group "My Block, My Hood, My City" mobilized a small army of volunteers to light up King Drive for the holidays Saturday."

"NPR's Asma Khalid asks Palestinian Christians Munther Issac and Tamar Haddad about their efforts to convince American lawmakers to support a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas."

Handpicked festive music for every Christmas occasion!

"The department store boasts its own grotto for pets to have some festive face time with Santa … and business is brisk."

"Julian Pettifer reports on the Christmas angel decorations that hung in London's Regent Street in 1960, and how they found their way to Regent St, Mansfield. Introduced by Kenneth Allsop."

"People have always used the holiday season to celebrate and delight in the wonders of Christmas, from singing carols to decorating the home, to gatherings with family and friends, and drinking hot cocoa and egg nog. Most who celebrate would also add watching classic Christmas movies to that list."

"There are many ways to celebrate in the winter besides just Christmas and Hannukkah."

"When it comes to decorating for Christmas, there are no set rules - but how early - or late - do people start to trim their tree?"

"It's a fairly unremarkable station at first glance, but it's inspired a chilling Christmas tale."

Christmas Links #3


"The tree, on High Road, South Benfleet, was unveiled as part of festive celebrations throughout the town. However, it was met with ridicule by the public for its “embarrassing” appearance."

"36-minute performance is the centerpiece of upcoming The Benefit Concert Volume 20, documenting Warren Haynes' annual benefit show."

"With Christmas fast approaching, locals gather at the pub for a payout from the Christmas Club, and talk over what they plan to spend their savings on."

"From an iconic leg lamp to an antique escalator in a New York department store."

"From the perfect stocking filler to a Secret Santa surprise, our handy gift guide's got you covered. With top titles for everyone on your list, find a book they'll cherish, this Christmas and beyond."

"Another chance to listen and watch a selection of BBC Proms concerts over the festive period on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds."

"John Clague's colourful film captures those last exciting days before Christmas – with Christmas trees and Christmas lights all ready for the big switch-on."

"It’s the holiday season. A time of giving and so I thought I’d give you some fun festive activities! I loved fun little things like these as a kid it’s been a project I’ve been thinking about for ages. Well I finally did it. Here are some fun for all ages. Also if you make the decoration cube I’d love to see so please tag me if you follow me on social media.  All print offs are A4 size."

"Peterborough's Ferry Meadows is hosting its first ever Winter Festival, which will raise money for the upkeep of the park."

Christmas Links #2

BBC One Christmas Idents 2023 - Tabby McTat, Stick Man and The Gruffalo:
"The idents will be revealed on BBC One after Strictly Come Dancing on 2 December and will appear across the channel throughout the festive season."

"Mog’s Christmas is a special animated adaptation of Judith Kerr’s much-loved classic children’s book, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, produced by Lupus Films and will air on Channel 4 this Christmas."

"Eight acres (3.2 hectares) of the seasonal blooms have been growing for six months at the Uniplumo nursery, Grimes added."

"An eccentric parade of mechanical toys to tantalise 1920s kids - and to remind us that Christmas consumerism is nothing new."

"Won't You Guide My Sleigh Tonight is a family-friendly TTRPG that uses your Christmas tree!"

"For me, Christmas has always been more about the anticipation of it than the actual day. We spend so long looking forward to Christmas. But there is always at the centre of all this longing for Christmas, a heavy dose of nostalgia. We want yesterday’s Christmases, not tomorrow’s. And my Christmases past were mostly spent in that splendid city of Ilorin."

"Lincolnshire County Police run a special 'Turkey Patrol' to protect turkey farmer's turkeys from being stolen before Christmas."

"Gloria took the week after Thanksgiving off from writing the column, but she will be back next week. As her editor and a writer myself, I can attest to the rigors of writing a weekly column. She and I joke often that the best way to make a weekly fly-by is to write a weekly column!"

"Looking to hang lights around windows? With so many experts at our fingertips, we’ve got all of the information you could need to add some sparkle to your home this Christmas."

"There was trouble in the land, all on account of Christmas. Men _ stood bewildered and women were distracted, not knowing what to do. The trouble was that Christmas had become too small."

Together in Eclectic Dreams (Classic Doctors, New Monsters: The Stuff of Nightmares)

Audio  Disclosure:  when I listened to If I Should Die Before I Wake from the Classic Doctors, New Monsters: The Stuff of Nightmares boxset it was in isolation, what I mean is, I went straight to the story which had the Eighth Doctor's face on it and ignored the rest on the expectation that I'd come back to them after I'd caught up on everything else.  Then Summer came, then Autumn and with modern content consumption options which resemble the Temporal Loom exploding in Disney+'s Marvel's Loki (TM), completely forgot about it.  Until last night when I decided to do an audit of the Eighth Doctor material still to be covered and noticed he was listed as appearing in this Sixth Doctor story.  So, here we are.

Roy Gill's Together in Eclectic Dreams brings the return of the Dream Crabs from TV's Last Christmas.  The Sixth Doctor's companion Mari is experiencing nightmares, so he takes her to a monastery in the Archipelago of High Dream in the hopes they'll be able to offer some therapy.  During her first sleep observation session she finds herself inside another TARDIS and another Doctor who we know is the Eighth Doctor, sounding cantankerous and desperate because he's already well aware that he's lost in a dream and doesn't know which way to go, with Mari finally offering a lifeline.  As the story progresses, the characters find themselves slipping between various states of Inceptionesque slumber.

This is still the Sixth Doctor's story with the Eighth Doctor very much a supporting player.  But is he real or just part of the collective unconsciousness of the characters?  Sam the dream expert suggests that this "green man" changes faces and in his mental travels he's seen what sounds like the Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctors too, but I think it is supposed to be Eighth, perhaps from when he's also caught up in the crab's claws in the following story If I Should Die Before I Wake.  There's a wonderful moment when their two minds contact and we're treated to the poetry of their collective history including a "terrible" great-aunt who lived in a draughty house high in the Gallifreyan mountains who would nevertheless sing him lullabies.

Last Christmas offered up what the "boards" univerally acknowledged as one of the best companions we never got in the shape of Faye Marsay's Shona and her eclectic film collection.  Coincidentally, Big Finish have achieved the same with Mari, who between Gill's script and Susan Hingley's performance manages to create a figure as richly drawn as any of the official companions, funny and clever and who you simply enjoy spending time with and wanting to hear more from.  The point was obviously to create the perfect plus one so Sixth would feel the loss when she's not there.  In my head canon, the moment after the story ends is when he hear's Charley's distress call at the beginning of The Condemned, explaining why he's so open to having this stranger on board in the ensuring episodes.

Placement:  Assuming this is a real Eighth Doctor, I'll put it in front of the next story in the boxset.

Christmas Links #1

"Make your wrapping stand out with this luxury gift wrap from Sugababes." (previously)

Tourists exploring the historic Berkshire royal residence will be able to see it transformed for the festive season.

"The 'living tree' in Hattersley, Greater Manchester, has been likened to a twig and branded a “disgrace” by disappointed locals."

"It's quite a sudden change - announced three days ago and being introduced in three days time."

"The enchanted home with halls decked out in epic Swiftie fashion is going viral for its ode to the beloved singer this holiday season."

"The internet is abuzz with the results of this year’s rundown, with Taylor Swift coming out on top as 2023’s most streamed artist."

"The Shard has had a festive makeover, with the London skyscraper fitted with 575 LED panels for a Christmas lights show."

"Last week, Christmas markets opened across Germany, and with a few weeks left until Christmas, illuminated holiday displays, parades, and colorful markets are starting to light up the night. From the Americas to Europe, Asia, and elsewhere, gathered below is a collection of holiday cheer and light, wrapped up in 25 photographs."

Till Death Us Do Part (The Paternoster Gang: Rogue's Gallery)

Audio  Ah The Paternoster Gang.  At least once a year, Big Finish have the Eighth Doctor wander into one of their spin-off series and finally, he's turned up in Victorian England and bumped into Vastra, Jenny and Strax.  With only a finite amount of money at my disposal, I avoided the previous series, only really dipping my toe in via The Eighth of March box, Once and Future and the crossover with Jago & Lightfoot.  Steven Moffat apparently pitched this spin-off when he was showrunner, with the opening half of The Crimson Horror looking for all the world like a backdoor pilot.  He was knocked back but at least thanks to our audio BF we can have some idea of what such a thing would be like.

It's fun.  Having not heard the opening box, I don't know how much this replicates the formula, but it's very much the s7/Torchwood/SJA model of an alien of the week in a Holmisan period setting usually being exploited by some local hoodlum with the gang investigating then breaking the case wide open.  The characters are the draw, the naughty interplay between Vastra and Jenny whose relationship can be explored in greater detail and the sheer brilliance of Strax, played with such determination by Dan Starkey (who also writes the second story in the series) and probably offers the most laughs across these three episodes.

Till Death Us Do Part

Vastra and Jenny are finally having a wedding but the planning and ceremony are interrupted by a series of curious events with duplicates of themselves and others, creating havoc.  There is a general sense of unease throughout as characters sound almost but not exactly like themselves and the Eighth Doctor appears all over the place but not apparently in a linear order and out of sorts.  DWM's reviewer attributes this to Paul, suggesting he sounds "distracted and possibly even a little bit confused by it all" but it's obviously because the character himself is supposed to be: he's forgetful, skittish and one minute knows who Jenny is and the next has no idea.

Placement:  Like The Truth of Peladon, he's wearing his Dark Eyes leathers on the cover even though there isn't really a gap for him to be travelling along, so I'll put it next to that for now unless something else crops up.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1985.

The "Broom Cupboard", CBBC's in-vision presentation began 9th September 1985 and in a slight break of format here's a polaroid of someone who would have been an avid viewer taken a month later on the  6th October.  That's me hunched over the Acorn Electron and judging by the finger positions probably playing Chuckie Egg.  It was always Chuckie Egg, partly because it was at the start of Beau Jolly's Ten Computer Hits compilation and a relatively fast loader from the ancient tape deck I was using.

It's a Sunday, so it's a rare privilege to be using the main television in the back living room what with the block of programmes which included Songs of Praise, Antiques Roadshow, Open All Hours and Howard's Way.  Perhaps this was the morning instead, before sunrise, or the flash has simply blown out the sunlight through the windows.  Either way, nothing much has changed.  I'm still hunched over a computer although fortunately I don't have to pack it all away every time I use it.


The Broom Cupboard Opens

"Ask anyone over the age of 20 what they think of children’s television these days and nine times out of 10 they’ll tell you it’s inane rubbish. The main reason? Those presenters!"
[Off The Telly]

"At 9pm on 22 November, 2005, former Children’s BBC presenter Andy Crane was en route to Salford Quays in Manchester, heading for the studios of Century FM where he would be hosting his evening phone-in show, Love Lines. It was while he was making this journey that he spoke to OTT about his career in children’s television, and where life had taken him since he bade farewell to Edd the Duck."
[Off The Telly]

"When I give my name to make a restaurant reservation, everyone starts singing the Dogtanian theme song at me. The same happens in Portugal, in France, in Italy. It’s unbelievable."
[The Guardian]


"A questioning, almost iconoclastic series looking critically at the claims made for computers in education and at how the reality fell short of the hype. Introduced by Tim O'Shea."
[BBC Computer Literacy Project Archive]

"Six programmes looking at the way computer based technology helped people with various kinds of disability."
[BBC Computer Literacy Project Archive]


"Here's how the legendary Keith Floyd changed cooking programmes forever."
[BBC Clips]

"BBC Northern Ireland controller James Hawthorne has withdrawn his offer to resign in protest at banning of the controversial Real Lives documentary. Report by Denis Murray."
[BBC Rewind]


"Opening ceremony today for the new £1m purpose-built Radio Foyle studios in Derry/Londonderry, performed by retiring BBC governor for Northern Ireland, Lady Lucy Faulkner."
[BBC Rewind]


"In the 1980s, the BBC devised a new weapon in its ratings battle against ITV: EastEnders. In part eight of our 13-part series on the history of the BBC, David Hendy explores how a mix of masterful publicity and melodramatic plots propelled the drama to popular success..."
[History Extra]

"I had my teeth coloured green to play Nick on heroin. Security wouldn't let me in the building."
[The Guardian]

"This third edition features Hugh Dennis and Jim Eldridge looking at radio comedy in the late 1980s."
[BBC Sounds]

"1985 was a year of relaunches for BBC One. The new globe, EastEnders and Wogan all brought a new momentum to the channel. But the revamp of the Nine o’Clock News this week in 1985 was also a key move."
[Clean Feed]

"Farewell, magnetic tape and sticky symbols! The BBC weather report is riding the winds of technological change.  Simon Groom gets a hands-on demonstration of the BBC's new computerised forecasting system, with a little help from Bill Giles, Michael Fish, Liz Jones... and something called a mouse.  This clip is from Blue Peter, originally broadcast 18 February, 1985."
[BBC Archive]Annual Report

"The BBC Symphony Orchestra comes to Belfast for first time since 1967 to appear in the Ulster Hall. Gillian Harbinson speaks to General Manager William Relton and Belfast born member Patrick Lannigan."
[BBC Rewind]


"Twenty four hour strike by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Independent Television (ITV) over the banning of BBC documentary ‘Real Lives At The Edge of The Union’ featuring Martin McGuinness."

"The past year has been a testing one for the BBC. As the licence fee debate got underway, the Corporation co- operated in two independent reviews, examining value-formoney in both the external and domestic services. A high level of press and political interest continued throughout 1984 -85, not all of it constructive. It says much for our creative staff that they did not allow those distractions to prevent them from reporting the events of a troubled political year with objectivity or from producing a distinguished range of entertaining and innovative programmes."
[World Radio History]