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» Wednesday, June 06, 2007Liberated
My Amazon.co.uk order arrived today, slightly the worse for wear. The Post Awful had strapped it on both sides, it having broken apart a bit in transit. But the contents were all securely shrink wrapped and hadn't been touched. I had just gone ahead and ordered the rest of Blake's 7 (I already had third series, as it was my favorite of the four), and also all of Doctor in the House, plus a book of Dave Allen's best routines/stories.
I made the acquaintance of Doctor in the House way back when (1971) when the Prime Time Access Rule sent local stations scrambling for programming. (For those non-old fogeys reading this blog, prime time television used to start at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time up to 1970. Then the FCC pushed it back a half hour, hoping to encourage first run local programming. Few stations did so; they instead bought syndicated game shows and packages like Doctor in the House from Britain. Original, cheaply-made series, many of them produced in Canada, also filled these slots: Dr. Simon Lockelater retooled as Police SurgeonYoung Dr. Kildare, Primus, the Persuaders...).
There were actually several different "Doctor" series starting with Doctor in the House: Doctor at Large, Doctor in Charge, Doctor at Sea, etc., but they were all marketed here in the States under the Doctor in the House banner title. I always loved the first, medical school antics and of course was delighted to see the set released. Doctor at Large is now in release, and presumably the others coming along soon.
Blake's 7 I first heard about from my friends in Boston. They had received camera copies from friends in England and we had great fun watching this now blue-tinted series on small televisions. (What's a camra copy? You get a television and a VCR that plays PALthe British TV format and aim a video camera that records in NTSCthe American systemat the screen. Voíla!, a tape capable of playing on American televisions.) The first B7 I ever saw was "City at the Edge of the World" and Vila Restal is still my favorite B7 character. I spent the late evenings/early mornings, from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. at the only MediaWest*Con I ever attended watching B7 episodes in the film room. Even now the theme songs reminds me of that convention and of Deb Walsh and Mary Fall's old apartment up in Malden. (Deb later did a fanzine called "B7 Complex" to which I contributed a piece of artworkAvon and Vila, of courseand a poemabout Vila, of course.)
Blake's 7 later got picked up by the PBS station here in the late 1980s, so I had all the episodes on tape, but the video was aging badly (one of the tapes with series two was full of dropouts to the point where the tape wouldn't play any longer). Hence the DVDs, finally.
I watched bits of "The Way Back" and most of "Space Fall" during lunch. I had heard there were layer change problems on some of the discs, particulary during "Space Fall," but the Cyberhome played them flawlessly. These are probably new pressings, so maybe that problem was taken care of. I just finished watching "Gambit," a second series favorite (Avon and Vila again).
For a nearly 40-year-old series, it all looks quite nice. Of course with today's special effects, the BBC's minute budget on this series is even more obvious (as if it wasn't back when we saw it in the 1980s!), but I felt that gave the series an advantage. Instead of emphasizing flash and glitter, we had stories, for the most part, that emphasized characterization and plot. I'd much rather watch a substandard set with some thought behind the story and protagonists than a bunch of CGI flash with laughable plots and cardboard characters.
Incidentally, it appears I got my order in just in time. I went back to Amazon.co.uk's site this morning and discovered that both series 1 and 4 had gone up at least six pounds and both Doctor in the House sets had gone up two pounds each.