Philip Braithwaite
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British science fiction television in the consensus era
Authority and paternalism
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This chapter analyses some of the most salient examples of science fiction television produced before the Thatcher era, arguing that generic science fiction television in the 1970s, the decade before Thatcher’s election, aligns itself in broad terms with modernist ideas about technological and teleological progress – the advancement of humanity; the faith in, and simultaneous dread of, technology – as well as simplified moral positions assuming a certainty and objectivity. But this chapter also shows that the moral dilemmas more commonly faced by characters in the 1980s are beginning to surface here. On ITV the spectre of ‘Americanisation’ was beginning to loom, while on the BBC science fiction was treated with a more aloof attitude. In both cases, however, there is a stable hierarchy, with the authority of the middle-class white man at the apex. There is an ethos of collectivism found in most of the series here: people work in teams, and rarely is the individual prized over the group. This reflects the social-democratic nature of the post-war consensus era. The authority of the white male leader, seen as benign, is largely taken as axiomatic. This was to radically alter in the Thatcher era, buckling under the pressure of what Stuart Hall called the ‘authoritarian populism’ that these Thatcherite series negotiate.

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Time Lords and Star Cops

British science fiction television in the 1970s–1980s


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