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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

10 Comments

  1. Prole Hole
    January 31, 2014 @ 4:33 am

    A strangely under-appreciated but enjoyable series, and its attempts to actually show a realistic space environment (no gravity!) are rather endearing. Nicely written essay – I've also read it elsewhere said of Star Cops that it wasn't cop enough for people who like cop shows and not sci-fi enough for people who like sci-fi, and I think there's probably a grain of truth to that. It's attempts to show a realistic future are pleasingly sincere in a trying-to-ape-2001 sort of way, but it's understandable why it didn't take off with the general public.

    Reply

  2. Jesse
    January 31, 2014 @ 5:49 am

    all the Children of Earth entries

    Wait—you're covering each episode individually? Does this mean there'll be a month of Miracle Day?

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  3. gatchamandave
    January 31, 2014 @ 6:12 am

    Smashing. I've always felt that Star Cops was a curious and blatant ommission from this project, and it's good to see it finally covered. And so well considered too – kudos.

    Some additional info I can pass on:-

    1. Boucher's canniness extended to character conception – he knew Star Cops was bound to recruit Graeme Harper as a key director and that he would fill the parts with actors he liked to work with. So Trevor Cooper would be along and thus, since Chris also liked the man's work, specifically conceived Colin Deavis for him

    2.Since he would therefore be a Big Lad, Colin was further conceived of as the one member of the ISPC who actually wants to be there, thanks to the delights of low gravity. Which is why he essentially recruits himself.

    3. Speaking of loe gravity, Gridneff's naivety extended to his belief that NASA had a room at the Cape where they could, er, switch the gravity off, and maybe the BBC could lease it ? Of course, as any fu noze, that room is in fact in Nevada.

    4. Mat Irvine at a convention I attendedin '93 expressed frustration at the production team's inability to decide on a coherent aesthetic for the series. One minute space was to look "lived in", and the hardware was to be extrapolated from Apollo programme likely spin offs such as modular deep space vehicles, the next it was all Frank Hampson stylishness, a place of sweeping curves and leather lined control cabins. Best example is the billionaire computer whizz's study in Intelligent Listening for Beginner:- " shipped out at great expense, Commander". From what appears to be the local B&Q.

    5. Rule 1 for any SF series that wants to be taken as "gritty and hard edged".Never, ever, ever have a pop song for your opening titles. Of course, It Won't Be Easy isn't as bad as Faith of the Heart for Enterprise, but there's a baw hair between them.

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  4. Iain Coleman
    January 31, 2014 @ 6:29 am

    1. Boucher's canniness extended to character conception – he knew Star Cops was bound to recruit Graeme Harper as a key director and that he would fill the parts with actors he liked to work with. So Trevor Cooper would be along and thus, since Chris also liked the man's work, specifically conceived Colin Deavis for him

    I had no idea about that. Brilliant!

    Reply

  5. Chadwick
    January 31, 2014 @ 7:00 am

    I disagree with both the assessment of the Space Defence Initiative and the problems with Star Cops.

    First off, the SDI was created because Reagan wanted to circumvent Mutually Assured Destruction and Edward Tellar gave him a theory as a way of doing it. The Soviets weren't so much against the militarisation of space (they had put the first killer satellites; machines that fired ball bearings at a Western satellite) but their biggest worry was that as the Americans put unlimited funds and backing into getting to the Moon first, they feared that the Americans could also make the SDI work and render their entire deterrent force obsolete at a stroke. Keeping up with American technology was crippling their economy.

    As for Star Cops, the big problem wasn't the spaceflight zeitgeist evaporating, the problem was a BBC that was getting fed up with producing science fiction series. Both Jonathan Powell and Michael Grade were sceptical about the genre, and both felt that if BBC productions couldn't match what was going on in cinematic sci-fi then it wouldn't bother. The impending arrival of Star Trek: The Next Generation (which the BBC were negotiating to screen) didn't help Boucher's cause either. Star Cops was shunted onto BBC 2 as a niche programme with very obvious blue screen effects and the problems of doing SFX with 1980s videotape technology. The public, and the reviewers, were put off by a show that was clearly being made to the standards of old school BBC drama productions right at the point where TV drama was becoming more polished and didn't overreach its ambitions.

    The Cold War zeitgeist and anti-Reagan theory is interesting, but it doesn't hold water for me.

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  6. William Whyte
    January 31, 2014 @ 8:01 am

    FWIW, it wasn't keeping up with American technology that was crippling the Soviet economy, it was the fact that communism (at least as implemented in Russia) doesn't work.

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  7. Josiah Rowe
    January 31, 2014 @ 8:43 am

    Those two theories are not incompatible.

    Reply

  8. Iain Coleman
    January 31, 2014 @ 10:07 am

    I don't see anything to disagree with in your account of SDI, ad so I'm not sure why you think you disagree with me. I would just add some additional contextual points.

    First, from a technological point of view, SDI was a fantasy. It was never going to actually work in terms of protecting the US from a Soviet attack, although it was obviously useful as a political tool and as a way of employing engineers.

    Secondly, there really was a fear, in the USSR and in Europe, that the US might be emboldened by feelings of invulnerability to launch a nuclear attack of its own. These fears were nothing new – the primary reason why the UK became a nuclear power was to have enough credibility and influence with the US to dissuade them from doing something stupid like starting a nuclear war – but the combination of SDI and Reagan's bellicose rhetoric heightened those fears considerably.

    Certainly, whatever anyone else may think, Chris Boucher was profoundly concerned about US militarism and those concerns are manifest in his scripts for Star Cops.

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  9. BPiper
    January 31, 2014 @ 12:03 pm

    Thanks for this column. I enjoyed Star Cops, and recorded every episode on VHS when they aired locally. I still have them on a shelf somewhere, and after this I should pull them out and watch again.

    Reply

  10. Matthew Blanchette
    January 31, 2014 @ 11:39 pm

    It's interesting that you mention Juliet Bravo, since Antony Root, the trainee script editor who worked on Who between Bidmead and Saward, only left because he was offered a temporary script editor position on Bravo, and JNT had not made his hiring permament… yet.

    If I recall correctly, Saward in turn was meant as a temp hire, with JNT assuming that Root would be able to come back to Who after Saward's three months were up. The only reason Saward's position became permanent is due to the Christopher Priest-penned story for Season 19 rather acrimoniously falling apart, forcing Saward to write "Earthshock" relatively on-the-fly. This, coming on the heels of Root being confirmed to script edit Juliet Bravo in a permament capacity due to the success of his three-month stint there, led to JNT giving a similar appointment to Saward, rather than switching horses again.

    Root didn't seem to make much of an impact while he'd been on Who; if he'd been able to return, though, the show might've been better off. Who knows, eh?

    thumbs nose Who… nose?

    grimaces sadly; walks away

    Reply

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