70s kids obsessed with outer space

Growing up in the 70s meant looking up at the stars and wondering when we’d find alien life. We started the decade with the last few manned flights to the moon by both the United States and the Soviets. Astronauts and cosmonauts competing to plant their flag on its surface.

Copyright: BBC (fair use)

This generated a deeply nerdy fascination among many kids in the whole subject of space travel. Whether it was buying models of space craft, reading sci-fi comics or watching TV dramas about UFOs and extra-terrestrials – the 70s wanted us to focus on galaxies far, far away.

Teatime viewing after school could have involved The Tomorrow People on ITV – a rather baffling show 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.

While over on the BBC, you could fly into outer space with our very own answer to Star Trek – yes, I give you Blake’s 7. At the time, it seemed amazing. On a re-watch, it’s like a group of Shakespearian actors condemned to roam the solar system harrumphing at each other.

There were 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 70s gave us a heap of conspiracy theories with the movie Capricorn One, for example, illustrating how the moon landings never happened.

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 70s kitsch. God I loved that decade!


What did people around Thatcher think about race relations?

So what did Thatcher and the people around her think about race related issues in the 70s and 80s?

One of her key advisers, Alfred Sherman, had views on ethnic minority issues that would be regarded as slightly beyond the pale in our more inclusive times.   One such was that immigration had been from cultures that were alien to English values including “sex, honesty, public display and respect for the law”.

A recurring theme from Sherman was that waves of immigrants from ‘alien cultures’ had resulted in a loss of control of what it meant to be British.  If this sounds familiar, it’s because Margaret Thatcher similarly remarked in 1978 on TV that many Britons “fear rather being swamped by an alien culture”.

Winston Churchill

Behind Thatcher, on the Tory backbenches, views on immigration and race relations were a touch reactionary.  In one debate on immigration in the House of Commons on 5th July, 1976 –  some rum comments were made.

Winston Churchill’s grandson, who shared the same name but not the same glittering career as the war leader, thought the tolerance and generosity of the British people was being tested to the limit.

We can not fail to recognise the deep bitterness that exists among ordinary people who one day were living in Lancashire and woke up the next day in New Delhi Calcutta or Kingston, Jamaica.

During the 1976 debate, Churchill pointed out that a West Indian had told him at his MP’s surgery that he would remove his daughter from a school, which was 75% immigrant, because she had no chance of a ‘proper English education’.  Churchill added, “that man was as black as your coat, Mr Deputy Speaker”.

John Stokes, MP for Halesowen and Stourbridge claimed that a petition to the Home Office might be replied to in six weeks but an “immigrant leader” who wanted to see the Prime Minister would get an audience in two days.

He went on to claim that a vast gap existed between what he called the pro-immigrant camp – made up of race relations people, intellectuals, the media and do-gooders – and “the ordinary people who look to us in the House of Commons for protection”.

They do not want a multi-racial society.  They do not believe that integration will work.

And in case anybody thought that by immigration, the Commons debate might be referring to all those who entered the UK, George Rodgers – MP for Chorley – put them on the right track.

The difficulties revolve around the colour of people’s skins.  We should bear that in mind and recognise the problem, not avoid it.

And so it went on with Nicholas Winterton, MP for Macclesfield, even demanding that the then Labour government apologise to Enoch Powell for the comments they had made after his notorious 1968 anti-immigration ‘rivers of blood’ speech.

Three years later, the 1979 Conservative Manifesto would include proposals for toughening up of immigration policy directly under its promises on fighting crime.  It acknowledged that the ethnic minorities had made a valuable contribution to the life of the nation.

But firm immigration control for the future is essential if we are to achieve good community relations.

Top movies of 1979

AlienThe 70s was an incredible decade for movies. And it ended with some real corkers that covered key themes of the time. Alien and Star Trek continued the decade’s obsession with space travel. This was, after all, the era of the Apollo missions and men on the moon.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture revived the cult 60s TV series for the big screen. The actors were noticeably craggier! Alien conveyed a dark and dystopian view of a space age future where the monsters were truly horrific and your fellow humans were a thoroughly dysfunctional bunch.

Kramer vs Kramer centred on a divorce and the devastating results of a couple splitting up. It’s not a movie that gets repeated much on our satellite TV channels but in 1979, it grossed significantly more than Alien.

Rocky II was set in the boxing ring – a sport that was dominated by giants in the 70s and was Saturday TV viewing for millions on both the BBC and ITV. And finally, Apocalypse Now brought  home the continuing angst caused by the failed Vietnam War with a story based on Joseph Conrad’s gloomy novel Heart of Darkness.

Here’s a list of the top five grossing movies for 1979:

  • Kramer vs Kramer – US$106m
  • Rocky II – US$85m
  • Apocalypse Now – US$83m
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture – US$82m
  • Alien: US$80m