Friday, May 30, 2008

Space cadet

(I know, I know, enough of the 70s schtick already. Who does he think he is, Andrew Collins? Plaid Stallions, even? If you can't face more of the same, go and check out Rimshot's short story.)


When I was tiny, I wasn't allowed to watch ITV. My mother's justification was that it was full of adverts that would corrupt my unformed psyche; but there was an unspoken acknowledgement that the real problem with the commercial channel was that it was a bit, well, common.

This left me in a quandary, because playground conversation inevitably revolved around what was on telly, and I was by definition excluded from a great chunk of it. Not all, of course: if we were discussing Dr Who, The Dukes of Hazzard or Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (all BBC), I was on solid ground. But if the others spoke of The Six Million Dollar Man, Planet of the Apes or The Tomorrow People, I was reduced to vigorous nodding and the occasional non-commital "Yeah, that was a good bit, wasn't it?"

These days, of course, I'd be able to busk the contents of last night's viewing from Wikipedia. But if my nine-year-old self was going to rise from the base of the school social pyramid, I'd need to be more imaginative. My saviour came in the form of the local toy shop, which was stacked with merchandise from all the big TV shows, in particular plastic models of the key characters. By memorising the names and what they looked like, I found it easier to work out what was going on.

One day, the talk turned to Space 1999. The general consensus was that it was really good, partly because the monsters were scarier than those in, say, Star Trek. I was well prepared. "Yeah," I chipped in, "my favourite monster's Allen."

All eyes turned to me. There was a brief, unpleasant silence.

"There isn't a monster called Allen," said one boy.

"Yes there is," I floundered. "Mysterious Allen."

They all laughed and called me a spazmo, but wouldn't tell me why. Crestfallen, I trudged back to the toy shop, and re-checked the Space 1999 toys.

"Mysterious ALIEN," I hissed to myself, and went home to watch Blue Peter, or something similarly middle-class and improving.


patroclus said...

Oh, I had the same - the kids in the playground always wanted to play Sapphire and Steel, but I couldn't join in because I didn't know what it was.

Still, look at us now, eh, running the country and everything...oh.

Rog said...

Mysterious Allen !!!!

(I would have watched that!)

Geoff said...

Wasn't Mysterious Allen on that Bob Dylan video?

Betty said...

Well, my parents were factory workers but still insisted on an ITV ban, because they wanted me to be a *secretary* or something *nice* like that when I grew up, arf arf.

You can imagine how well this went down in my hard, inner city (er ... well, not quite ...) primary school.

I'm still frustrated about not knowing anything about Ashya, the presenter of Lift Off ... and I didn't see Magpie ...

Rosie said...

aw, i read that story and fell a little bit in love with you, Tim.

Tim F said...

I've seen it, Patroclus, and I'm none the wiser.

Exactly, Murph, it's better, isn't it?

Mysterious and not a little creepy, Geoff.

I'm quite glad I wasn't aware of Ayshea at the time, Betty. She was quite a fox, and it might have corrupted me irrevocably.

Incidentally, I've just received an e-mail from my mother asking if I hate her for depriving me of Bless This House, etc. I think she's more worried that you lot might think I do.

Tim F said...

Shucks, Rosie. I'm blushing in ones and zeroes.

Annie said...

Awwwww. Little Tim. This goes some way to explaining your love of pop culture, do you think?

Dick Headley said...

Good story. I probably wouldn't have been able to resist feeling crestfalien.

Billy said...

I was allowed to watch ITV! Yeah!

Although I preferred BBC, except for Blue Peter.

Rimshot said...

I don't know what ITV is, but if BBC was sans Space 1999, then you may have cause to file an abuse complaint.

I had the Eagle I spacecraft complete with Capt. Koenig and Dr. whateverhernamewas. I often wish I still had it.

dinahmow said...

Funny how the span of a generation can make such a difference.
In my "formative years" (no TV in New Zealand then) it was comics that were not allowed.I was granted some flexibility with "Girl" although I preferred the boys' comanion edition,"Eagle." Your parents, Tim, probably read these!
Mother thought that most comics relied too heavily on graphic illustration and limited vocabulary.
But the playground angst was no different.

Tim F said...

Annie: What, you mean Charlie's Angels was the subject of some sort of grail quest? Maybe.

I can't imagine your crest falling for anything, Dick.

Your parents clearly had no ambitions for you, Billy. Not even a secretary.

Did you have an Evel Knievel doll as well, Rimshot?

My dad definitely had Eagle, Dinah. I was allowed comics (Monster Fun was my favourite) as long as I read books as well, which was no problem.

Rimshot said...

"ACTION FIGURE", good sir...Action Figure.

Spinsterella said...

I missed out when I was a kid by being the only one in the whole class (P3) who wasn't allowed to watch the A-Team.

This was because it clashed with The Late, Late Breakfast Show with Noel Edmonds, which my whole family watched.

Kind of disproves the notion that the BBC was the high-brow entertainment provider of the two, really, doesn't it?

Tim F said...

My apologies to you, Rimshot, and to the late Mr Knievel, and to his injection-moulded simulacrum, who is as undolly as they come.

Spin: If Noel Edmonds had appeared on the A-Team, instead of Boy George, what effect would this have had on the course of world events?

I have similar thoughts about Phil Collins, Miami Vice and Simon Mayo.

Jun Okumura said...

I can't imagine your crest falling for anything, Dick.

Hmm, do I see a double entendre, or is there something in the whiskey?

Seriously, Tim, you're lucky your Mysterious Allen was only imaginary. I spent my first two months in Carlyle Elementary School believing there were two identical John MacKays in my class. The saving grace was that I couldn't speak a word of English at the time--that may have had something to do with my mistake in the first place--so nobody found out about about my delusions. The Thais haven't been ragging you about your "Allen" either, have they? Stay there, Tim; it's safer that way.

Tim F said...

As far as the Thais are concerned, Jun, I'm the mysterious allen.

llewtrah said...

My kid sisters got scared during one episode of Space 1999 (Black Sun) and mum changed channels. The episode was never repeated, even on early Saturday mornings (at least not on Anglia) and it was 20 years before I found the video of that episode and finally saw the end of it. It was a great sense of closure!