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