14.12.18

The butterfly effect (sort of)

I have no idea who arranged the schedules for BBC1 in the 1970s, but whoever it was, I’m grateful to them. At the end of 1974, the channel had a Sci-Fi Season: for seven Wednesdays, in between the news magazine Nationwide and a crime drama, they screened a set of SF films I’d never even heard of before.

After some digging around, I’ve discovered that the complete season was…

  •     6 November 6:35pm Forbidden Planet
  •     13 November 6:50pm The Incredible Shrinking Man
  •     20 November 6:55pm Village of the Damned
  •     27 November 6:40pm The Day the Earth Stood Still
  •     4 December 6:45pm Visit to a Small Planet
  •     11 December 6:40pm Them!
  •     18 December 6:30pm The Time Machine

With the exception of Visit To A Small Planet - a Jerry Lewis comedy which I know I saw but which made not the slightest impression on me - I sat absolutely riveted to each and every one of those movies. I’d read some SF, and I loved Doctor Who, but nothing had ever expanded my mental horizons in quite the same way before. The underground city of the Krell! The soundless horror on the face of that little girl as the ants call out across the desert! Klaatu… barada… nikto…!

Those films, more than anything else I think, sparked my lifelong love of science fiction as a cauldron of interesting and unsettling ideas. For very personal reasons, too, they struck a chord which continues to reverberate.

They - along with many other SF books and movies - are embedded in my brain and definitely influence the way I write my own books. As soon as someone invents a viable time capsule, I’m hopping back to TV Centre, 1974, and saying a big thank you on behalf of a scrawny little kid in Leamington Spa, sitting cross-legged on the carpet in front of the telly.