Bring back Tomorrow’s World

Mark Pickavance is going through a mid-life crisis. He wants his childhood back - and that includes the seminal science show Tomorrow's World...

Before I get a flood of e-mails, or men in white coats appear, I need to clarify the suggestion that Tomorrow’s World should be resurrected. While I have fond memories of the late Raymond Baxter, it’s not like I want to see him digitally regenerated, like an unlicensed DNA experiment fusing James Bigglesworth and Max Headroom.

No, that would be scary and creepy. What I’d like is a weekly science and technology show that showcases what’s happening around the world. Is that too much to ask, or is the budget for endless costume dramas and Jonathon Ross at the BBC consuming their entire budget?

As a youngster I was hooked on this show, as it presented unbelievably cool technological developments that would be with us ‘very soon’, irrespective of how practical they actually were or how impossibly expensive they would be to achieve. What Tomorrow’s World did provide was a weekly insight into how crazy some scientists were, and the consistent message that flying cars weren’t far away, and we’d all be taking holidays on the moon by the year 2000. Fantastic!

Obviously in retrospect 98% of it was completely bunk, but it was a curious entertainment of sorts. Retrospectively much of it appears to be a PR campaign to convince the general public that mad scientists were ‘nice’ or mostly harmless, rather than the architects of our ultimate destruction. Given the recent Cuban crisis, this was a thought that wasn’t far from many people’s minds back in 1965, when the show first appeared.

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The way it did this was to offer the presenters as viewer surrogates, and make them appear as equally confused by the technology as we would be. Looking back now it all seems excessively twee and naive. Science was our friend and needed our support – even if it was being used to design new and better ways to kill us all.

Actually, when I said “appear as equally confused”, it probably wasn’t much of an act. Because given the number of times that they pointed to a “mi-cro-pro-cess-or” with a chubby digit directed towards something entirely different was legendary. But it’s important to remember that Tomorrow’s World piloted the concept of dumbing down for British viewers, and as such, its influence on modern science shows, or TV in general is irrefutable. If people really understood the implications of some of this technology they might not buy it, and we couldn’t have that!

Given these obvious failings why would I have it back? Because I’m desperate for some other platform for new technology to be presented and discussed than the horrific Channel 5 I’m- so-excited-playing-with this-I-just-wee’d-myself Gadget Show. Or the BBC’s excruciatingly painful technology-is-hip Click. These both present science in such a bland who-gives-a-stuff-how-it-works way that they make the very worst of Tomorrow’s World seem like a personal insight into special relativity given by Albert Einstein himself.

Therefore if we’re going to get a dumb science show I’d like it to be one I like, with people who’ve obviously no idea what they’re presenting or the implications of its introduction into society.

But until then, let’s relive a few memories:


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