Today: May 28, 2024

Vintage BBC Television in HD

Looking for your next binge? Perhaps you’d be interested in taking a stroll down memory lane to enjoy some nostalgia with BBC Studios, who have been on a run restoring and releasing some of their most celebrated programmes in stunning high definition on Blu-ray. 

Here are our picks for some of the best…

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY / SMILEY’S PEOPLE (1979-1982)

“In ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ (1979), George Smiley has been in ‘retirement’ for some time. However, the retiring superspy finds himself summoned back to the British secret service when it transpires that an enemy infiltrator is at work in the department. Smiley returns once again in ‘Smiley’s People’ (1982) following the murder of his friend, General Vladimir, a Russian who once worked for British Intelligence. When it transpires that Vladimir was in fact a double agent, Smiley becomes engaged in a battle of wills.”

Long before Gary Oldman was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of John le Carré’s beloved intelligence officer George Smiley, the role was defined by Sir Alec Guinness in two acclaimed BBC adaptations. Cited by Le Carré as his favourite screen versions of his works attributing this to Guinness, the timeless and thrilling espionage thriller-dramas are just as compelling today as they’ve ever been. With mesmerising performances and incredible dialogue, the two adaptations offer the definitive Le Carré experience full of double-crossings, betrayal and complexity – and they’re all the more engrossing on Blu-ray. The passionate restoration breathes new life into the acclaimed series and reminds viewers just why it is considered one of the finest pieces of television the BBC ever put out.

DOCTOR WHO: THE COLLECTION (1971-1989, more to be released)

“Doctor Who chronicled the adventures of an eccentric time-traveling scientist from the remote planet Gallifrey, home of the Time Lords. The Doctor, a Time Lord himself, travelled through time and space in his unique craft, the TARDIS, an acronym for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space, to save the galaxy from numerous threats.”

Well, this one certainly needs to introduction! Perhaps the most iconic science-fiction series in history, Doctor Who has been delighting audiences of all ages since its humble beginnings in 1963. For several years, BBC have slowly-but-surely been restoring and releasing the classic seasons of the series as part of ‘Doctor Who: The Collection’. With most eras and Doctors now available in HD, it’s certainly a great time for fans of the celebrated character. With each season boasting luxurious packaging (although now being re-released slowly in standard cases) and ridiculous amounts of special features, these definitive releases serve as the final word on the classic Who eras.

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1958-1959)

“When a strange capsule is unearthed at an archaeological excavation in London, an unexploded bomb is initially suspected. However, with a history of supernatural events in the area going back many centuries and with events at the dig site about to take an unexpectedly alien turn, the origins of the capsule are soon revealed to be far more distant than anyone could have imagined.”

Cited as an influence on both Stephen King and John Carpenter among other horror and science fiction maestros, with Mark Gatiss saying in 2006; “What sci-fi pieces of the past 50 years doesn’t owe Nigel Kneale (creator) a huge debt?”. The utterly gripping series has been remastered from the original film elements for its Blu-ray release, presenting the series as it is supposed to be experienced in glorious high definition. With incredible special features and a collector’s booklet included to offer valuable insight into the series’ production and legacy, this is an essential slice of classic British television.

THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1981)

“After meteors enter Earth’s atmosphere, blinding much of the planet’s population in the process, plant-like creatures known as Triffids emerge from the craters and begin to take over. It’s up to the few sighted people left alive to find a safe haven and desperately seek a way to defeat the leafy extra-terrestrials.” 

While it isn’t the first – or indeed last – adaptation of John Wyndham’s 1951 novel, this BBC adaptation stands confidently as the best. Described by BFI’s Screenonline as a “compelling and understated thriller”, this dark and brutal post-apocalyptic drama is an incredible piece of television that, despite its age, still shocks and engrosses in equal measure. The six-part ’81 adaptation brings Wyndham’s novel to life stunningly, and is an absolute must-see for anyone interested in British sci-fi.

ALL OF THE ABOVE – AND MANY MORE CLASSIC TITLES – ARE AVAILABLE NOW ON BLU-RAY FROM BBC STUDIOS 

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