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Very British Futures

Very British Futures

By Gareth Preston
A critical look back at some British television's most interesting science fiction series. From cult favourites like "The Tripods" to obscurities such as "The Uninvited". Each episode, host Gareth Preston is joined by special guests to discuss a show, celebrating its achievements and appraising the mistakes.

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Out of the Unknown

Very British Futures

Outcasts followed the trials of humanity's first, and it would seem, last colony on a new planet. A new frontier of hope for a better world, but dogged by human weaknesses of the oldest kind. A major new BBC adult science fiction series for the 21st century. At least that was the pitch. Kudos were one of the coolest TV companies around, with dramas like Life on Mars and Spooks under their belt. Writer and producer Ben Richards had made his name with the latter and had recently written cult drama Party Animals. The cast was filled with talents like Liam Cunningham, Eric Maibus and Hermione Norris and well-spent budget and South African location meant that this show looked glossy and impressive. However as soon as Outcasts hit the airwaves it received a critical drubbing and indifference from both the mainstream and SF genre audiences. What went wrong? How much went right? This episode Gareth Preston is joined by three returning voices Dr Rebecca Wray, John Isles and Nicky Smalley to discuss mysterious aliens, petulant teenagers and how much influence Battlestar Galactica had. Follow us on Twitter at @FuturesVery and at for more news and reviews. Find out more about the forthcoming podcasts Tripodscast by following @tripodscast and Unended by following @unended_podcast The interview with Ben Richards we reference several time can be read in full at Den of Geek. Music by Charti Art Produced by Gareth Preston sWwkxy3CJdvbXJ7lepTV
September 22, 2021
Des Kinvig's small world is turned upside when he discovers one of his customers, sexy Miss Griffin is in fact an alien from Mercury, fighting a secret war with the Xux. Is he really the only man who can help her save the Earth? Or is he just a desperate fantasist who's been listening to his UFO-mad friend Jim Piper for too long? Nigel Kneale, creator of Quatermass, writer of TV classics such The Stone Tape, 1984, and Beasts, took an unexpected turn into situation comedy for 1981's Kinvig. Starring Tony Haygarth, Patsy Rowlands, Prunella Gee and Colin Jeavons. A science fiction parody that mocked many of his fans, it has remained one of the curios of Eighties television. Could it ever have worked? Is funny now and was it even then? Taking a closer look at with Gareth Preston, in one person's case against their will, are Tim Reid and Charles Auchterlonie, hosts of The Randomiser podcast. Music by Chatri Art Produced by Gareth Preston Follow the podcast on twitter at @FuturesVery and for more information and reviews, visit 
August 24, 2021
Out of the Unknown
Deep space explorers encountering strange new dangers. Mutant powers hidden among us. Futuristic societies with surprising moralities. Cutting edge technology bringing unexpected dilemmas for the people who use it. Created by the pioneering television producer Irene Shubik and featuring some of the leading talents on television on both sides of the lens, Out of the Unknown remains one of the BBC's best science fiction series. Drawing on stories from SF masters such as Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, John Wyndham and John Brunner, as well as original scripts, it remains one of television's most sustained attempts to adapt the mood of literary science fiction. Gareth Preston is joined by Stephen Hatcher and Dylan Rees to discuss the series, which sadly is missing half its episodes, yet what remains is still thrilling and challenging. Along the way they pay particular attention to three key episodes: The Dead Past, Some Lapse of Time and The Machine Stops. Music by Chatri Art Produced by Gareth Preston Follow us on Twitter @FuturesVery or visit for more information.
August 10, 2021
The Nightmare Man
The tourist season is over and Inverdee Island is closing down and preparing for the winter. But when the body of Shelia Anderson is discovered, seemingly torn apart by a killer with inhuman strength, the islanders must join together to fight something terrifyingly unknown. Broadcast only once in 1981, The Nightmare Man has achieved cult status as rare but expertly made piece of primetime SF/Horror from the BBC. Looking into the roots of this drama and Child of Vodyanoi, the original novel it is adapted from, Gareth Preston is joined by writers Ian Taylor and John Isles. Can it be compared with Doctor Who of the time? How well does Cornwall stand in for Scotland? How scary is it for a modern audience? Produced by Gareth Preston Music by Chatri Art ( ) Ian Taylor's book on the career of Jenny Agutter All Sorts of Things May Happen is available from We Belong Dead books.
July 27, 2021
It's just another day in Sheffield, everyone going about their own affairs, when suddenly the unthinkable happens - a nuclear strike. When the survivors scrabble out of the rubble, that is just the beginning of a waking nightmare, as modern society quickly crumbles into starvation and suffering. The BBC2 TV play Threads was a television landmark that is still as powerful today as it was in 1982. Written by Barry (Kes) Hines and directed by Mick Jackson before he went to Hollywood, it is a polemic, extensively researched attempt to depict the true horror of life after a nuclear conflict. Joining Gareth Preston to discuss this memorable production are author Rik Hoskin and lecturer Andrew Roe-Crines. Follow Very British Futures on Twitter @FuturesVery and find out more at Bystander 27, Rik Hoskin's latest novel is available at all good bookshops. You can read Selecting Starmer, one of Andrew Roe-Crines' recent articles on left-wing politics, for free at
July 13, 2021
Star Cops
Mankind is busy colonising the solar system. Space stations in orbit, a busy moonbase, and pioneers on Mars. A new frontier however brings new opportunities for crime: industrial, political and personal. That's where the International Space Police Force (ISPF) come in, known sardonically as the Star Cops. Now career cop Nathan Spring has been reluctantly sent into space to shake up the volunteers and turn them into a real police service. Created by Chris Boucher, writer for Blake's 7 and Shoestring amongst other shows, Star Cops was broadcast to little acclaim in 1987, but has built up a cult following over the years and is widely regarded as one of great lost opportunities of British SF television. Taking an appreciative look back with host Gareth Preston are Peter Grehen, Kevin Hiley and Dr Rebecca Wray. Music by Chatri Art Produced by Gareth Preston Follow us on Twitter @FuturesVery or visit for more information For more information on Peter Grehen's novels and other writings visit For more information on Kevin Hiley and Westlake Films visit
June 29, 2021
Max Headroom - 20 Minutes into the Future
Somewhere in the world, sometime in the future where television is the only growth industry, star reporter Edison Carter is on the track of hot new story about a new kind of advertising, unskippable, unavoidable and for many people - fatal. When boy genius Bryce sets a lethal trap for him, Edison is left in a coma, but a copy of his mind is about to become something unique - the world's first computer generated lifeform - Max Headroom! Catch the wave with us back to 1985 when for a few months pop culture went M-M-M-Max mad. The TV film, the pop videos, the fizzy drinks, the legend that was Max Headroom. Joining Gareth Preston from their own personal TV studios are talking heads Amy Elizabeth and Steve Noble. Blade Runner, Ultravox, Shakespeare and early Eighties computing are all in there, along with a bonus chat about the Red Dwarf Smegazine. Music by Chatri Art ( ) Produced by Gareth Preston Follow us on Twitter @FuturesVery and at
June 15, 2021
The Uninvited
When retired photojournalist Steve Blake sees a man die in a car explosion, then meets the same man the next day apparently unscathed, it is the beginning of a terrifying journey. The thread leads Blake and a woman called Melissa Gates to the mystery of the disappearance of Sweet Hope beneath the sea, a village whose population was miraculously rescued that night by Constable Philip Gates. Or were they? After a horrific discovery underwater, Steve and Melissa realise they have uncovered a secret alien invasion. Who can they convince? Who can they trust? Including each other? Made in 1997, by Zenith Entertainment for ITV, The Uninvited was a alien conspiracy thriller firmly in the tradition of Sixties US television series The Invaders, with nods to John Wyndham. Starring Douglas Hodge, Leslie Grantham and Sylvestra Le Touzel. Join Gareth Preston, John Isles and Nicky Smalley as they go back to an era where the internet was still a strange new medium for most people, mainstream SF was a rare sight on British television screens, and ITV seemed to want every drama to be a prestige murder mystery. Music - Chatri Art ( ) Producer - Gareth Preston Follow us on Twitter at @FuturesVery and visit for more reviews and news.
June 01, 2021
Star Maidens
The rogue planet Medusa arrives in our solar system. Beneath its surface is an advanced alien civilisation where women rule and men are slaves. Adam and Shem steal a space yacht and travel to Earth, a paradise where it is rumoured that men are in charge and women obey. Hot in pursuit are Security Chief Octavia and Councillor Fulvia, Adam's owner. A space adventure series, a satire on the battle of the sexes, a SF parody, or a seriously intended rival to Gerry Anderson's Century 21 productions? Star Maidens is a mass of contradictions wrapped in Seventies disco futurism and C&A fashion disasters. Joining host Gareth Preston to try and untangle this British/German patchwork is Dr Rebecca Wray and Kevin Hiley. Music by Chatri Ahpornsiri ( ) Production by Gareth Preston You can follow us on @FuturesVery on Twitter for photos, previews of upcoming episodes and discussion. Or take a look at for more information and reviews.
May 18, 2021
The Tripods
Earth 2089. A time of peace and contentment thanks to the benevolent rule of the Tripods, huge machine beings who "cap" teenagers to make them productive adults. Yet, Will Parker believes there is something very wrong with the world, and together with his cousin Henry, sets out on a quest to find the legendary Free Men and ultimately topple the Tripods. At its time it was the biggest SF production ever mounted by the BBC. Yet two years in it was unceremoniously cancelled, leaving its characters on a grim cliffhanger. Join Gareth, with guests Andrew Roe-Crines and Kevin Hiley as they take a deep dive into the John Christopher's celebrated SF trilogy. How does the series stand up today? In a larger picture, were the Tripods and their secret Masters really the good guys? Follow us on Twitter at @FuturesVery and visit for more news and reviews.
May 04, 2021
Knights of God
In the near-future (2020!) post civil war Britain is ruled by a military dictatorship - The Knights of God. A young man called Gervaise becomes a key player in both the resistance and the plans of the fanatical Prior Mordrin. We journey back to the Eighties to take a critical look at ITV's post-apocalyptic Sunday teatime adventure series, which featured an impressive cast and budget. Why did it remind us of Harry Potter? What motivates the Knights? How do these characters get around the country so fast? Gareth Preston is joined by Kevin Hiley and Dr Rebecca Wray to consider violence, religion and why some series seem to fade into obscurity. Music by Chatri Art ( Follow us on Twitter @FuturesVery
April 20, 2021
Pathfinders in Space
At the beginning of the space age, a plucky band of scientists and children launch into adventures on the Moon, Mars and Venus. They are - Pathfinders in Space! UK television has created some of most influential, imaginative and scary science fiction in the medium's short history. Take a journey into some of the lesser known regions with Very British Futures. We begin with the ABC 1961-62 teatime drama series created by Sydney Newman, the television pioneer who would later devise Doctor Who for the BBC. What is the secret of Gerald Flood's acting? How much research did writers Malcolm Hulke and Eric Paice do? Why did they deliberately put microphone booms into the frame? Where does the Lost Planet fit in? Host Gareth Preston is joined by Nigel J Anderson and Brian Clarke to celebrate this overlooked science fiction programme. Music by Chatri Art (
April 08, 2021