December 4, 2023

The 70s 80s 90s Blog

Three Decades of History with TV historian Tony McMahon

Science fiction obsessed 1970s kids – like me!

2 min read
1970s kids were obsessed with science fiction as we were influenced by the Apollo space missions and the Soviet cosmonaut program
1970s science fiction

When some of your earliest memories are watching the Apollo rockets launching into space and astronauts walking on the moon – it was hardly surprising that 1970s kids were obsessed with science fiction.

Not that today’s kids aren’t equally – if differently – obsessed. But the prospect of space travel and the challenges we would face seemed much more real when we’d put human beings on the surface of the moon and were sending probes to other planets.

This was all part of the Cold War in hindsight. The United States sent up astronauts. And the Soviet Union was sending up cosmonauts. And both were in spacecraft that had less technology than the smartphone in your hand.

Well, maybe a slight exaggeration but I was horrified at an exhibition on the Soviet space program a few years ago in London to discover that a female cosmonaut hurtling back to earth in a crazily small metal sphere had to literally reboot the on-board technology when it failed. Luckily she survived.

1970s TV was full of science fiction from Space 1999 to the very atmospheric UFO series – about a crack team trying to stop an alien invasion of Earth. And then there was good old Doctor Who chugging along and a new early evening sci-fi series on the BBC – Blake’s 7. The latter had a cult following but there’s a reason it doesn’t get repeated much!

ITV got in on the sci-fi act with The Tomorrow People – a rather baffling drama series about young people with special powers in a disused London Underground station solving galactic mysteries. For a while, it featured a character played by the drummer of a real-life pop band called Flintlock.

The 1970s also saw science fiction rule at the cinema. There was an astonishing number of outer space related movies from the obvious E.T and Star Wars through to Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica, Planet of the Apes, Death Race 2000, Alien, Logan’s Run, The Andromeda Strain and so on…

Plus the 1970s gave us a heap of science fiction conspiracy theories with the movie Capricorn One, for example, illustrating how the moon landings never happened. Or did they?

Meanwhile, as a kid in the London suburbs, I collected Brooke Bond picture cards of space related stuff and stuck them into the album supplied. Found the album the other day and it’s such a cool, retro piece of 1970s science fiction kitsch. God I loved that decade!

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