Dark British TV Thrillers Opening Themes That Were Freaky As F…

It’s no wonder Generation X is so messed up. TV broadcasts for our growing years consisted of experimental science fiction thrillers and pitch black dramas. Some directly aimed at the teenager, others not. However there was nothing else on the three channels of choice so we sat there in our youth having our minds freaked out. And of course we loved it. It wasn’t just the dark content to the shows or the music that got under your skin. They also specialised with inventive twisted intro sequences. Here’s a few picks.

  • The Day Of The Triffids (1981)

The Day of the Triffids was essential watching and the talk of the school yard. It was an adaptation by Douglas Livingstone of John Wyndham’s 1951 classic novel which we would later be taught in our school. The opening scene has been copied many times with the man waking up all bandaged in hospital to find the world empty and filled with death! 28 Days Later (2002) did it and so did the zombie series The Walking Dead (2010). This time it was the big bearded Yorkshireman John Duttine who plays our hero Bill. He and the other survivors have to battle not zombies but giant, well……. flowers! And it was awesome. The music was composed by Christopher Gunning. The opening intro really conveys it’s bleak nature.

  • The Tomorrow People (1973-1979)

The Tomorrow People was, would you believe it from that intro, a children’s program. It was created by Roger Price. The music was composed by Dudley Simpson who also wrote the music for Blake’s 7 among other things. The opening sequence accompanied by the dark twisted imagines cascading over each other alongside that fantastic theme is simply stunning. I adored this series as a kid. It was to show the next stage of human evolution, the tomorrow people. Like X-men of sorts but less showy and more grounded. There abilities included psionic powers such as telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation. Each episode they would fight aliens and strange spiritual cults from different dimensions. It was great entertainment. It would be reprised and updated in The Tomorrow People (1992) I dropped in on a few episodes and enjoyed it.

  • Threads (1984)

Threads was a TV movie rather than a series. It scared the hell out of everyone. It was shown around the world and included a introduction from a presenter informing us it was depiction. It was horrifying and yet another reminder for us youngsters that we were gonna die in an apocalyptic war. It was everywhere. We’d had the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp CND protests. Later we’d get Raymond Briggs super sad animated disaster movie When The Wind Blows (1986) as an elderly couple trying to survive through a nuclear fallout. David Bowie did a music video for it. We had pop groups like Ultravox giving us Dancing With Tears In Our Eyes as the bombs dropped. And Frankie Goes To Hollywood had Two Tribes Go To War as the nuclear powers clashed and fought. It was dark times. Written by Barry Hines and directed and produced by Mick Jackson and filmed in the city of Sheffield. I couldn’t find the intro to Threads but it contained a spider threading it web……..

  • Chocky (1984)

Lets lighten up a little with Chocky! A children’s series about a young kid called Matthew Gore (Andrew Ellams) who appears to be going slowly insane talking to his imaginary friend. He is in fact possessed by a mysterious extraterrestrial visitor. The opening intro graphics are brilliant but it’s the music I loved so much. Amazing synth work that gave a real sense of pure sadness. Here’s the thing, I stumbled across the theme about 5 years ago and nearly laid an egg. An egg filled with all my youth essence and wasted forgotten dreams. Haha! It crushed me with nostalgia. The theme song is by composer John Hyde who was in an experimental synth trio called The Gadgets. Chocky was written by The Day of the Triffids guy John Wyndham and there were two sequels called Chocky’s Children and Chocky’s Challenge.

  • Survivors (1975 – 1977)

Now Survivors will makes us feel all nice and homely. We got this! We living this story line right now but thankfully nothing in comparison with the furiousness in deaths. A Chinese scientist accidentally releases an apocalyptic plague pandemic that quickly spreads across the world via air travel. The death rate kills approximately 4,999 out of every 5,000 human beings on the planet within a matter of weeks! Oh for the sweet love of Covid! (Of course I’m only joking). The opening sequence puts events in to play with composer Anthony Isaac doing the score. The series was created by Terry Nation who would go on to co-write Blake’s 7 and created the idea for the Dr Who’s nemesis, The Dalek’s. Survivors was remade for a two series run in 2008.

  • 1990 (1977 – 1978)

1990 was dubbed “Nineteen Eighty-Four plus six” by its creator, Wilfred Greatorex. With a similar theme as the classic writings of George Orwell.. Totalitarianism and mass surveillance all run by an oppressive Government program called the Public Control Department. The usual stuff, bringing a hardstand on our civil liberties etc. One man, a journalist called Jim Kyle played by the man of many woods, Edward Woodward. I’d never seen the series apart from the opening intro. Two people trapped in a white walled box. The theme score is amazing and composed by John Cameron who worked his magic on the beautiful soundtrack for the Ken Loach classic Kes (1969). The series is on YT and has not long been released on DVD which I’m going to have to purchase soon.

  • Tales of The Unexpected (1977 – 1988)

Of course Tales of The Unexpected had to be here. The series starts with an introduction by the creator and writer of many of the original tales, Roald Dahl. Not all were scary but they all had a strange vibe. It didn’t help that the opening theme tune announced that it was time to be freaked out. Watching the title sequence is so nostalgic. The music, by composer Ron Grainer, just set’s the scene for the bizarre. The theme was accompanied by naked dancing women in fire, glitching images along with tarot cards and skulls. Man O Man what were are parents thinking letting us stay up and watch these weird fables! Yeah we loved them for it. One of my all time favorites was called the Parson’s Pleasure with John Gielgud. It wasn’t scary just a moral yarn. There were so many episodes and so many famous faces. Joan Collins appears a few times. One with a wooden statue I remembered from the time but there’s also a really weird one. I’d never seen it until “lockdown” this year. It’s on YouTube called Georgy Porgy and it’s so funny and totally freaking weird LOL.. Do you have a favourite?

  • Middle English (1981? – ?)

Middle English was an Thames Television ITV (later Channel Four) series that featured educational stories made for schools from writers and filmmakers. Shown around lunch time on TV. Sometimes teachers would show them in class but mostly you’d be bunking off school ill or having a crafty pretend sick day. On the whole they were innocent tales about life skills and stuff but every so often one would appear with a creepy, eerie feel. I remember sitting there alone on the sofa with my pack lunch box and Middle English came on with a story about a man who dug up a green bottle which contained some evil spirit curse. I’ve searched for it but can’t find reference to it. It was well freaky. There’s a few on YT. There was one with a writer, Aidan Chambers, talking about the history of Ghosts. Another about a spirit of a crying woman that haunts a family home in a story called Interference. And one other I recalled about three young boys from a coastal village encountering an injured soldier called A Game of Soldiers (Missing episodes unfortunately)

  • Doomwatch (1970 -1972)

Truth be told I didn’t see Doomwatch in my youth. That beginning introduction sequence does exactly what it says. Brings DOOM. The dramatic music from Max Harris featuring an exploding mushroom cloud with the red colour wash and giant Doomwatch letters. This series looks ace. A scientific government agency led by Doctor Spencer Quist (John Paul) tasked with investigating and combating various ecological and technological dangers. One thing I do know about the series is that it spawned a feature film with the same name in 1972 and starred Ian Bannen, Judy Geeson and George Sanders. You can watch it here on YouTube. A fellow film friend did a review not so long ago, it’s here Doomwatch for a read. I’m gonna watch the film soon and hopefully track down few episodes from the series.

  • Sapphire and Steel (1979 – 1982)

Sapphire and Steel was a supernatural science fiction series starring David McCallum as Steel and Joanna Lumley as Sapphire. And truthfully they didn’t come more freaky and creepy than this. Can we sue are parents for letting us watch it? Of course I’m joking as I have nothing but respect for them letting me sit and mess with my mind. Nothing better than going to school the next day and chatting with your friends about the crazy that happened. Sapphire and Steel were two inter-dimensional operatives tasked with controlling forces from different dimensions. Spirits and dangerous energies trying to break through into our world. Trapped entities. Ghostly forces in rooms, spirits from the past singing old war songs like “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag” in an underground tube station. Featureless faces and invisible rooms. Swans and instantly growing babies to humans. The eeriness was amplified by the fact that our two operatives can talk telepathically with each other and had an air of something alien, something cold about them. It was completely fascinating. The intro sequence with the electronic music from composer Cyril Ornadel alongside the narrators voice gave the series such immense wonder. It scared the crap out of me but I loved every single second.

Hope you enjoy the selections? Hope it didn’t bring back too many unreleased, regressed, deep down hidden bad memories and fears from this wonderful era of dark television? Feel completely free to comment on any you remember that freaked you or any you have to add. There were two more I found that didn’t make the list. Here they are.

  • Picture Box (1966 – ?)

The opening introduction to Picture Box was just plain weird. It featured a Victorian looking elegant jewelry box with the strange sound of a musical instrument called a glass harmonica. The image and the sound was so odd to start a children’s program. It was presented by Alan Rothwell and followed the same path as the above mentioned Middle English programming for schools. Apart from the presenter and that strange opening I can’t recall any of the stories.

  • Children Of The Stones (1977)

Children Of The Stones. My god what the f…! That opening intro has to be one of the scariest opening to a family drama ever! Set within the real Stones of Avebury. If I had seen this one I surely buried that deep, deep down to hopefully never be released. So lets leave this article here before anything starts to break free and destory my mind!

Big thanks for popping in for a look. Hope you have a great weekend.

All the best…. Mikey

PS) If you fancy more like this post you might like Wolfies Top Ten British TV Show Themes From His Youth

34 thoughts on “Dark British TV Thrillers Opening Themes That Were Freaky As F…

    • Oh good call Randall. Edge of Darkness sounds dark and twisted.
      That one past me by. Hadn’t heard of it before.
      Tried to find an intro theme clip but couldn’t however I watched a great little preview clip.
      I’ll add link for others to see.
      Wow this sounds like something I need to see. Though I’m not gonna read into it too much. Gonna see if there’s a cheap box-set or stream somewhere.
      Hey it’s Lord Percy and the wild game hunter from Jurassic Park “Clever girl”.
      Also sexy Sorsha Joanne Whalley and baseball bat Joe Don Baker.
      That’s an interesting cast.
      I gotta see this, I’ll probably regret it, LOL the edge falls into pure darkness.
      Off to investigate. 👍

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wolfie try this Eric Clapton and Michael Kaman were the composers, haunting theme

        The original TV theme

        Eric Clapton performing with full orchestral power

        Liked by 1 person

        • WOW that full orchestra slams you with full power like you say. That’s amazing.
          You know what something about that melody in the riff that I kind of feel I’ve heard before.
          Maybe it was played on the radio at the time or something!
          Eric’s going for it. Amazing jam.
          Thanks for the links.
          BTW notepad next to me says find “Edge of Darkness” today!
          I’m on it and much obliged for the nod. Cheers 🙂
          Mikey

          Like

        • I’m sure I’ve seen that but don’t recall any of the story. I’m not gonna check yet as I’ve found the series and watched two episodes last night. I’m hooked 🙂
          Should have it done this week and will pop back to say how I got on hehe. So far this is right up my street but I’m on tender hooks to what’s gonna happen.

          Like

        • Finished it last night. Really loved it. Thanks for the nudge. Think I might of over thought how dark it was gonna be as my mind was racing ahead to what it was gonna be and in the end it wasn’t too bad. hehe.. Nothing sets you off on a wrong path when in the first 10 minutes he finds his daughter dildo and kisses it! LOL.. I was going through all manner of crazy concepts to him imagining the whole thing as they kept sending him for mental health check ups! I even wondered if Joe Don Baker might of even been an imaginary friend. My problem is I always over analyse.

          I guess it been years since you had seen it but the Jedburgh’s plutonium clap was brilliant. I loved the whole potholing down the tunnels and then finding the old bunker filled with wine and crazy stuff. Then the actual nuclear holding site was dramatic and well done too. It was all ace.

          So after I finished it I saw the Mel film was on Amazon. I hadn’t seen it before. I had to watch it. And WOW that was so crap. Mel’s Boston accent was terrible! Actually everything was terrible. Ray Winstone didn’t do anything! But the worst thing of all was reading that director Martin Campbell had made the whole TV series!!! WTF was he thinking! Even with them cutting out all the best bits there should of been a good film there but hell no LOL…

          Thanks again Randall for the superb recommendation.

          Like

          • Hi Wolfie,

            Glad you liked it, the get it while it’s hot remark from Jedburgh was great. Have you ever seen Rod Serling’s night gallery? American TV show 1970-1973, 43 episodes. Or Tales from the Crypt, 1989-1996? If not check them out.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Big fan of Serling’s Twilight Zone of course but whereas I know Night Gallery I have yet to watch it, yet. Sounds like I will be looking out for the box-set. I did watch random episodes of Tales From Crypt when they were on. Be good to revisit some of the high rated episodes one day soon. Thanks for the recommends. 🙂

              Like

  1. Great feature! Plenty of new to me shows here across the pond. I’ve seen a couple Sapphire shows but that’s about it. I’d say we had a number of memorable shows to scare us as well, Kolchak probably my favorite of the genre growing up. I’d also point out we had a large number of TV movies that were sci-fi and horror that are sadly neglected and many are hard to find.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sapphire and Steel was Freaky with a capital F for sure. Eerie and much loved.
      Kolchak so brilliant. I didn’t get to see the whistling supernatural hunter until sometime in the 90’s when I caught The Night Stalker on TV. Then I found the series box-set much later on and loved it! Amazing.
      Strange connection with a TV Movie I’ve been meaning to do a review of since starting my blog. I started writing it but got sidetracked. I’m sure you will know it, the sci-fi movie The Questor Tapes from 1974. Massive cheesy fun that one but weirdly they use the Kolchak music as the sound track.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Here I thought you meant 1973’s The Norliss Tapes! Same team from Kolchak – Dan Curtis and company directed and produced. A fun flick from the TV era of horror AND has Angie Dickinson. Now I’m off to learn more about the Questor Tapes….. LOL.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I hadn’t heard of the Norliss Tapes. I see our main from The Invaders is playing another David. Sounds like a good companion piece for Kolchak. The Questor Tapes is a Gene Roddenberry TV movie from 1974 that I guess was hoping for a TV series. Features an android super-human. It’s actually better than it sounds. Remember sitting there and then the Kolchak music turns up. 🙂
          https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070585/

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Nostalgia indeed with TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED.

    I think my two favourite episodes of that show were – THE SOUND MACHINE (Season 4) – A botanist invents a machine that translates the sound of plants into speech. What he hears gives him a shock.

    A DIP IN THE POOL (Season 1) – A man on a cruise ship, takes part in a bet to predict how far the ship will travel in 24 hours. He calculates that he will win if the ship is delayed a little—if, for instance, it has to turn back to collect a man overboard. To win by cheating, he waits until a woman and he are alone on the deck, and then he pretends to fall overboard. Unfortunately for him, the woman is not what he thinks she is.

    Have not thought about this series since back in the day. Thankyou so much for the memory prompt. Am I allowed to wheel out the ‘old cliche – ‘They don’t make ’em like this anymore’?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry Glen for the late reply. Got a bit caught up.
      So cool you too remember Tales of the unexpected too.
      I don’t recall The Sound Machine at all but very intrigued to dig that one for a watch.
      A Dip In The Pool must of been seen back in the day as it feels from your excellent description that I have seen but I just can’t jog it out completely from the memory banks. For the best, as now I really have to track that one down too.

      Haha the old cliche was made for that moment alone ‘They don’t make ’em like this anymore’? So true as always is that saying.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post Wolfie 🙂 The one for The Tomorrow People is really psychedelic isn’t it? 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    P.S. even though this is more freaky, do you remember this awesome Genesis music video 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

        • Haha yes indeed. There was a little doc on Spitting Image 12 plus years ago if you didn’t already know. The quality is a not great and it’s been split into three parts but it’s well worth a watch. I seem to remember all the puppets were starting to disintegrate overtime. Lucky they didn’t need to use them for the new series. Though I would imagine they would of aged much the same as the real ones so you probably wouldn’t notice. HEHE

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Stop, you’re giving me nightmares!

    Ha, I really enjoyed this. Some surprises there. Tales of the Unexpected seems to be on Youtube, so I’m tempted to check that out now. I didn’t know they were only half hour things. Some good casts in those. Anglia TV’s finest hour! (or half hour).

    Never seen Children of the Stones but I’ve been to Avebury. It’s actually quite pleasant! They managed to make it look incredibly sinister and threatening.

    I watched Sapphire and Steel fairly recently. Uneven, but occasionally great. I also saw 1990 for the first time this year. It’s actually pretty good and well worth a watch.

    Also, don’t forget about all those scary public information films. They are what really messed kids up!

    Liked by 2 people

    • XXXKING HELL! Jay. That gave me cold shivers. Good gosh I hadn’t heard that Grim Reaper in the dark lonely water danger video since I was 8 or younger. They really were the most messed up PIF. Strangers and molesters around every corner. Death waiting to grab you with his cold hand. Rest in pieces under a car. It was all relentless. Amazing we come out some what sane now in life??!!? Well maybe!!

      I’m gonna keep a look out for a cheap box set of the entire series of 1990. It looks right up my gritty old tv street. Might treat myself for xmas.
      Haha yes Avebury is quite pleasant, well until that opening theme plays out on the fields and valleys. Spoooooooky.

      Yeah most are around 25 minutes long tbh. You gotta see Georgy Porgy for pure BONKERS. Big lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, that was weird – as promised! WTF did I just see? Dahl’s intro was so strange, I guess that was a bit of misdirection.

        I watched two more! “Neck”, which I’d seen a TV spot for ages ago and wondered how it ended. Joan Collins was in that one too, plus John Gielgud, Peter Bowles and Michael Aldridge. Impressive casts in these. Quite enjoyed the humour and performances in that one. Not sure the ending was really unexpected though.

        Then I watched the first episode, but the young guy in it was really stilted. Jose Ferrer was good. The car was a very nice “Hagwar” as well, a series 1 XJ. Funny twist. Also, Pamela Stephenson was quite sexy.

        Liked by 1 person

        • No way you went in and watched it. I didn’t think you would. LOL it’s so strange. Who knows what the undercurrent meanings were on that one. The church scene was hilarious.
          “Neck” is one of the ones I really remember from being a kid. I should go back and re-watch it. It’s amazing how many actors are dotted about and even coming back for different stories. Lots of humour and adult content hidden just under our young noses.
          Dahl introducing them was ace and like you say strange they way he outlines the story and changes them a bit.
          Oh yes Pamela Stephenson was indeed sexy. The best thing in Superman III by far, well yeah I know she was annoying but hey she still hot.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Well you recommended it, so I thought I ought to! They are only 25 minutes so they don’t outstay their welcome. I’ll probably watch a few more. I vaguely remember there being one starring John Mills, so I’ll probably have a look for that …

            Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the nice comment Henry. Haha yes Day of the Triffids was scary great fun.
      Even Howard Keel had a good go at the freaky killer flowers in the 60s film.
      Looking back they are such silly monsters you could easy just leg it from but then again they made every one blind for their ease of food capture. Not so silly tulips after all 🙂
      All the best
      Mikey

      Like

  5. Well, have not heard of any of these except, weirdly (or maybe not) Day of the Triffids. Maybe not so weird, ’cause hubby watched this as a kid and then came across it a few years ago and we binged all of it, lol. Lots of fun! I would have liked that as a kid, I think, although I wasn’t big into sci-fi.

    “I stumbled across the theme about 5 years ago and nearly laid an egg. An egg filled with all my youth essence and wasted forgotten dreams.”
    LOL
    This happened recently, too, to us with hubby digging up Space 1999. We watched most of the first season, but the second season, where they inexplicably changed their whole tone to “attract an American audience” and it became a ridiculous nonsensical circus, we couldn’t even stand one episode! But I was hearing a lot about hubby’s forgotten dreams and desires during this outing, and then of course I started thinking about mine, and the mood took a definite downer before we were able to wrench it back up again.

    “Dancing with Tears in our Eyes as the bombs dropped…”
    So many movies and shows spelling out our imminent destruction, huh? One of the worst here was Testament from the ’80s. It’s pretty much impossible not to walk out of there either teary eyed or feeling vaguely nauseous.

    Your Middle English sounds like our Children’s Film Festival. I don’t remember ANY of the stories. Probably because I only saw them one time an then the show didn’t go into syndication. That’s how things get burned into my memory: pure and brutal rote. They were morality stories, I think, for the most part, with some kind of educational factor like yours, but definitely also had that eerie, haunting feel to many of them. I remember the feeling very clearly. So weird how the mind works.

    And the nostalgic opening sequences of shows….man, oh, man! For me it was Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Bewitched, The Jeffersons, Star Trek. Hearing the music is like the sense of smell. Have you ever noticed that when a certain smell wafts under your nose that’s from your way distant past, it immediately shoots you back 20, 30 years to that time and to whatever the smell was associated with? Smell is like a time machine. I think music is too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah I think Day of the Triffids is just about the perfect pitch of science fiction and gritty drama for both parties to get into. Like War Of The Worlds. If you love both genres you were set up good and proper.

      Haha the egg of forgotten dreams. Yes it’s true to say that happens a lot in my world. Oh I love Space 1999. Yeah there’s a shift in the story telling. Of course it’s bonkers to start with but then they stick it in a blender. The theme tune changed too. Still great but not as good as the first. ” it became a ridiculous nonsensical circus” lol it’s been so long. I’m hoping to pick up a box-set or track it down on Netflix or somewhere. I’m sure I’ll still love it. I can do campy sci-fi going off on a ridiculous nonsensical tangent pretty good to be fair. lol.

      I have Testament on my hard drive. I saw some of it many years ago and it was dark. I wanna watch it in full but it’s hard to find the time to sit and watch something of that nature. Stretch my legs, crack my fingers, sit back relaxed. “Cool time to watch a family ripped apart from a nuclear holocaust”. OK bring it on.

      I just had a flick through a few Children’s Film Festival epis on YT. Yes very similar to the Middle English vibe of television. Even the innocent ones like a kid sitting on a fairground horse has a certain air of sadness to it. You so right they were never shown again but some did burn their way into your memory. The young brain as a sponge. They knew what they doing! I’m sure we are programmed like Manchurian candidates?!?!?

      Music a hundred percent. It always throws be back into time. I still got my records from my teenage years right up to now. The sounds take you back.. Smell to. Haha I like that. “Smell is like a time machine”. I do smoke but not very often anymore. Managed to stop it but occasionally I’ll have a few rollies. (side note ordered a big fat cigar for NYE, a tradition) Anyhow. The smell, gross to many I guess but for me, the smoke, with beer and the warmth in a my backroom can throw me back to memories of my Dad and Granddad. And Wright’s coal tar soap. I wouldn’t use it now but that shoots me straight back to my lovely Nana’s house.

      Thank Stacey for the big ass comment. 🙂
      All the best
      Mikey

      Liked by 1 person

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