Thursday, 29 August 2013


This Enterprise-alike corridor was probably the most traversed part of BBC TELEVISION CENTRE: it was the corridor which began (or ended) at Main Reception and travelled through Stage 6, Stage 5 and the Spur to the original Reception area, latterly renamed Stage Door.  Any staff or visitors who used Main Reception had to walk along this surprisingly narrow corridor.  Depending on where you worked in the building, it might take another 5-10 minutes to actually leave the building at the end of your shift.

Coming off the corridor at this end were two large open plan offices (one on each side) that housed various BBC News and Current Affairs TV and Radio production teams including Newsnight etc.  Those offices were always daunting if you had no idea what the person you were looking for actually looked like.

Looking into the distance: A service corridor fed in from the right.  On the left was the entrance to the Foyer which was a combined eating/ drinking area for BBC staff and a holding area for audiences waiting to attend a recording in one of the studios.

This area also hosted the BBC Shop which sold various BBC-branded items to staff and visitors alike.  This was a holdover from a larger chain of stores that operated as standalone units.  There was one near Broadcasting House (as I recall, they were turfed out of BH itself because of the rebuilding) and another in Kingston.  And - I know - others as well.  They were good stores and another way for the BBC to interact with the public but the economies-of-scale against the web were never there and they were all closed (with the exception of this one and some - including one in Brighton- that were operated by a different part of the corporation).

The brown door in the distance led to a small studio (TC0) which had various functions in the time I was at TVC including a dubbing suite and - later - an experimental VR suite.  I think it was also used for Children's continuity at some point.  Later I think it languished largely unused.

The corridor does a little bend to accommodate the studio and then continues on to the area that housed the WH Smith concession, the facilities management office and the audience access - up a flight of stairs - to TC8.

Beyond that... Stage Door and the main building.

Roughly where I stood to take this picture is where the dump bins that held ARIEL, the weekly staff newspaper sat.  This was an essential weekly read and pretty much the only way to find out what was going on across such a vast organisation.  It held out longer than I expected but eventually succumbed to cost-cutting.



Here's another of those pre-launch pieces that appeared in the back pages of the DEATH'S HEAD II limited series plugging the upcoming main push of five regular MARVEL UK books (four ongoing series and one limited series).

The inter-dimensional mercenaries WARHEADS were a good example of M-UK trying to do something a little different with the initial Genesis 92 books rather than just slavishly replicating the superhero fare pumped-out by the parent company.

It's the sort of strip that would probably have felt at home - with a few tweaks - in the pages of 2000AD.  That helped the early issues of the British anthology OVERKILL feel like a serious contender to Tharg's crown before it started to succumb to the same biceps-bums-tits-&-guns malaise that did the US books no favours.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


Here's a rather unattractive sight that greeted visitors to BBC TELEVISION CENTRE coming to see shows recorded in one of the studios: an ugly great slab of metal erected outside a ground floor office (pretty much next door to the considerably less protected hairdressers) in Stage Five.

Behind the tin shield was TVC's Security Office.  I never had cause to visit it myself so I can't say exactly what went on inside but I suspect they co-ordinated the various security patrols that roamed the corridors and reacted to any specific situations which required their attendance.

This part of the site could be something of an afternoon sun trap which must have made the security office pretty uncomfortable during the occasional days of sunshine.

I don't recall exactly when this screen was erected but I think it coincided with the construction of the Westfield shopping mall across the road.  The new development was built on semi-derelict land which had previously housed railway goods yards and TVC's notoriously dodgy overflow car park (basically a muddy wasteland), deemed so dangerous that female staff could request a security escort if returning to their car in the evening.

The railway yards had been the target of German bombs during the war and there was a serious suspicion that inert bombs could be disturbed - and potentially detonated - during construction.  I think someone in the BBC realised that the security office was vulnerable to any such big bang and required additional protection.  The rest of the building was hardly bomb proof either (although I suspect the glass in Stage 6, facing Wood Lane and subject to an IRA bomb attack several years previously, was tougher than the bog-standard windows used on the rest of the site) but other staff were presumably left to take their chances.

As part of the same work, a large new pedestrian gate was installed at the back of the site, adjacent to the Restaurant Block and the Blue Peter Garden which would have allowed large numbers of people to be evacuated into Hammersmith Park in an emergency.

I recall reading somewhere that if TVC was evacuated for any length of time it would take days (weeks?) for it to be brought fully back into service because it would take ages to power-up all the systems and technology and bring it back on-line.

At the beginning of this period, the BBC Broadcast playout suites for assorted BBC and UKTV channels were still housed in the wedge area located behind South Hall lifts (with the Enterprise-like Pres Control nearby on the third floor) so there would have been disruption to usual services beyond the evacuation of the studios and News Centre.  They later relocated to the Broadcast Centre on the White City site down the road.  In retrospect, another sign that TVC's days were numbered...


My weekly EAGLE Cover Gallery reaches back 23 years this week for the issues published during August 1986.

Beam On!

- To Be Continued - 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


The lights are on... but no one is home.

This is the BBC WORLD NEWS GALLERY shortly before BBC TELEVISION CENTRE was decommissioned.  The channel had already relocated to New Broadcasting House by this point but the studio and gallery were still operational - albeit unstaffed.

It's possible that the adjacent studio was still being used for the odd recording and/ or training or that the equipment was being left running so that - in an emergency - the channel could relocate to TVC and resume broadcasts.

The gallery, tucked into one corner of the News Room, was originally build for BBC NEWS 24 (aka The BBC News Channel) and sat right next to the semi open plan studio itself.  The studio was originally built for N24 but extensively reconfigured for BBC WN when the News Channel started sharing the studios used for BBC ONE bulletins.


This is the second instalment of THE PUNISHER Cover Gallery, covering the issues with a September 1989 cover date (issues 5-9).

The Marvel UK weekly ultimately ran for 30 issues before shuttering without warning.

- To Be Continued - 

Friday, 23 August 2013


This is one thing that I found was guaranteed to surprise any first-time visitors to BBC TELEVISION CENTRE: It had its own miniature branch of WH Smith on the ground floor.

TVC was so large and - until the opening of the Westfield mall, very underserved by local shops that its (relatively) captive staff and visitors must have ensured a steady turnover.

The mini-branch was - technically - run along the same lines as one of their travel shops (airports, railway stations etc.) which meant a similar mix of magazines, cards, stationary, paperbacks, nik-naks and sweets.  None of which were stocked in much depth and, certainly in the nik-naks and confectionary categories, frequently vastly overpriced.

The travel shop designation meant that sometimes they would participate in newspaper giveaway (usually DVD) promotions... and sometimes not.  It was handy to be able to just pop in and pick-up whatever the freebie was on the way upstairs to the office.  But potentially embarrassing if someone spotted you in the lift clutching 'the wrong sort of newspaper'.

The branch occupied a ground floor space opposite the ID Card/ Facilities Management office somewhat mid-way between the Reception area and North Hall lifts adjacent to Stage Door (aka the original reception... which we'll get to).

For the first few years I worked at TVC, there was a independent newsagent located in what amounted to (or seemed to me) to be little more than a converted cupboard in the same location.  I'm not sure what was adjacent to it but the space was expanded considerably when WHS rolled-up.  I recall that there was some controversy in the pages of ARIEL (the weekly staff newsletter beloved by the media as it usually provided a juicy tale of Corporation inefficiency or mice infestation that could be regurgitated, frequently uncredited, in the press on Wednesday or Thursday) when the previous independent newsagent was ousted.  I think it would be true to say that he had a better magazine selection.

Although they slowly shuttered over time (as choice increased and staff numbers diminished), the ground floor also boasted a hairdressers, a dry cleaners (I think!) and flower shop when I first joined.  The punningly-named "Auntie's Blooms" (see what they did there?) shuttered shortly after there was a change to the expenses rules which put the kibosh on using BBC money to pay for flowers for staff and contributors.


It's November 1982... and that means Halloween (technically October but cover-dates represent the off-sale date rather than the day an issue hit the newsagents) and Bonfire Night in quick succession.  Two important landmark days in the calendar of any British kid.

The latter confirms that the frequently themed cover art for Marvel UK's SCOOBY-DOO AND HIS T.V. FRIENDS were, possibly, commissioned here in the UK.  Guy Fawkes Night is a very British thing... although there's no reason why - as part of the package of material that Hanna Barbara licensed - they didn't include a generic 'fireworks' cover that could be used for any explosives-themed local festival.

Thursday, 22 August 2013


Moving inside... this was a very surreptitiously snapped picture of a virtually empty Main Reception from the final week.

This is at the very front of the (relatively) modern extension, known as Stage 6 (the naming relates to the point in the site's history that the extension was built rather than anything to do with studios and sound stages), which opened immediately onto Wood Lane.  It replaced the better known original reception, part of the main "doughnut"building, that was renamed "Stage Door" and only accessible to staff and visitors already permitted access to the site.  Anyone could wander into Main Reception.

The revolving doors were fitted sometime circa 2000 in response to a security scare (As I recall, someone was able to clamber over the previous turnstile/ gate arrangement and menace Anna Ford) and were notorious for either being out-of-order or allowing a user to enter before malfunctioning and "reversing" slowly, shoving the unfortunate user back out of the doors.  In all the years I used them, the doors never lost that vague hint of danger and unpredictability.

Facilities Management produced a "Users' Guide" leaflet explaining how to use the doors at some point.  This was picked-up in the press as a 'dozy BBC staff need guide to using revolving doors' story.  I wish I'd kept a copy of that leaflet.

Immediately above the reception was the newsroom which, across various open-plan offices, television and radio studios, housed the Corporation's domestic and international news operations.  Compared with the vast atriums and deck plans of New Broadcasting House, it was (in retrospect) pretty low key but - at the time - seemed grand.

The roof design is - for me - reminiscent of the NCC 1701-D.

There were times when this place was heaving, packed-full of assorted guests, contributors and members of the public arriving for programmes and tours.  Big events, like Children in Need, would mean it was particularly busy.  I never got to know any of the reception staff well but I always found them a pleasure to work with.  Always happy, smiling and professional.

This was also the scene of my one-and-only meeting with ex-Director General Greg Dyke.  It's fair to say that he was a leader that inspired great loyalty from his "troops".  I always said he was the sort of boss that would tell you you'd been made redundant but instantly convince you that it was for the greater good so you felt good about it.  On the day of his dismissal, staff spontaneously walked out in a sign of protest and solidarity.  I think the vast majority felt that the Hutton Enquiry had been unfairly critical of the BBC.  We expected everyone to be found to be partially at fault but - as the top-line results were being read out on live TV - we realised it looked very bad.  I remember someone in our office saying "this could be all our jobs" as the knife twisted deeper.

When we heard Greg had "resigned" (he was sacked), we walked out onto Wood Lane and he left Broadcasting House (it's interesting to rewatch the footage of his leaving... he departs from a side door in the BH extension which was subsequently demolished in the rebuilding work that created New Broadcasting House) to travel by car to Television Centre to 'say goodbye'.  We all followed him into Main Reception (the space was heaving) and - suddenly - the crowd parted in front of me and he stepped forward and shook my hand.  He must have shaken a million hands that day but it was an unforgettable moment.  He then went upstairs to the newsroom, stood on a desk, and gave an impromptu speech about - if I recall correctly - the quality and independence of BBC journalism.

The space will survive - in some form - as the BBC will reoccupy some of Stage 6 when BBC Worldwide, the commercial subsidiary responsible for international sales and channels, merchandising and licensing, moves in after the redevelopment.  A solitary BBC outpost in what used to be a BBC city (TVC, Centre House, the White City Building, the Broadcast Centre, the Media Centre and Woodlands as well as various ancillary buildings dotted around the immediate area housing people like BBC Technology) in West London.


Here's the second of the EAGLE COLLECTION full-page pin-ups that occasionally graced the pages of the EAGLE between October 1983 and May 1984.  This particular one appeared in the issue dated 22 October 1983.

One Eyed Jack was a Dirty Harry - ahem - knockoff (tough cop.  big gun) that had appeared in VALIANT the previous decade and dusted-off, to reduce costs, in the Eagle.  At the time, I had no idea who the character was (something I guess the Eagle powers-that-be would apply to most of their readership) but I could tell that the strip was curiously dated.  Maybe it was the flares!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


This is something that I hope will become a new STARLOGGED recurring feature: a photo gallery of the last days of the BBC's TELEVISION CENTRE as working studios and offices.

I was lucky enough to be able to wander its hallowed corridors earlier this year in the final few days before it closed for redevelopment and I snapped as many pictures as the battery on my phone would allow.  Not because I'm an amazing photographer (that much will become clear, although I blame the technical deficiencies of my antiquated camera phone) but because there were so many memories I wanted to preserve.

I worked at TVC for years and, although arguably its glory days were already long-gone, it was still the most fantastic place to work.  Constantly surprising, often frustrating and confusing, it was a magical place packed full of surprises, secrets and new things to discover.  Even at the very end - as I roamed around for the final time - I still visited parts of the building (or, to be more accurate, buildings) that I had never been to before.

I tried to snap as many corridors, corners and tucked-away places as I could because I knew I'd never get another chance... and they'd be lost forever as soon as the building is partially-demolished and stripped clean to make way for flats, a hotel and a small BBC presence (a few of the studios will remain, along with BBC Worldwide who'll move into the former BBC News space at the front of the building).

I should explain that - technically - photography on BBC premises is forbidden so - technically - I was doing this covertly.  That's why I wasn't wandering around with a top-notch camera and all the associated gubbins.  


This is a nice little three-pager from TV TIMES 12-18 January 1991 about ITN, news provider to ITV and Channel Four, moving from their old studios and newsroom on Wells Street to their new - and still current - headquarters at 200 Grays Inn Road.

Their old HQ is still at the top end of Wells Street, although its now been converted into flats.  When I attended university close by in the early 1990s, it was still empty and awaiting redevelopment.  It was still possible to see where the "ITN House" name had appeared above the door.

Now I work in offices close by and I still walk past the building most days.

As an aside, my university was undergoing redevelopment and renewal work whilst I was studying which meant that - come exam season, the usual exam halls were out of commission.  Their solution was to hire a local vacant office block to house them.  Whilst I was queuing outside the non-discript piece of sixties arcitecture I suddenly realised that it seemed a little familiar... and a bit of detective work soon revealed that it was the former Thames Television offices - vacated after they lost their ITV franchise - on Euston Road.  The block, and indeed its neighbours, is now long-since demolished and replaced by modern offices... but it's still cool to know I inadvertently have a very small association with Thames.


Another four eye-catching EAGLE covers, from July 1986.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013



Here's another of the preview pieces from the 1992 DEATH'S HEAD II limited series, a beachhead by Marvel UK into the (briefly) booming (and potentially highly lucrative) US market of the early 1990s.

Each of the four issues also featured several pages plugging the upcoming first wave of GENESIS 92 books.

HELL'S ANGEL had to undergo a swift name change, on both sides of the Atlantic, when the biker group got wind of the character and called in their lawyers.  It seems that the Marvel UK legal team hadn't done their checks very well.

1990: STRIP House ad (Marvel UK)

I mentioned MARVEL UK's STRIP in my previous THE PUNISHER post: it was another attempt by the ailing British comics industry (BBC TWO's THE MONEY PROGRAMME had run a piece on the sorry state of the industry back in 1985) to chase older and lapsed readers to counter the collapse of the more traditional - and younger - readership.

I have a complete run of STRIP back issues filed away somewhere and - come the day I unearth them - I'll post them all here but, in the meantime...

... this is a January 1990 House Ad.

1989: THE PUNISHER weekly (Marvel UK)

THE PUNISHER is one of those late-entry MARVEL UK books that generally seems to get overlooked.  Launched 14 years ago (almost to the week), it arguably peaked too soon: the character was warming-up nicely across the Atlantic but wasn't yet at his early nineties peak where he fitted perfectly into the "big gun" aesthetics of the Dark Age of comics.

The character was about to make his movie debut in the first - New World produced - Punisher "feature" film although its dubious quality (its really not that bad - albeit not terribly faithful to the comics either), patchy distribution and New World's financial predicament all conspired to make its impact minimal.

M-UK were also pitching the weekly (very latterly fortnightly) at an older market: just before it became the flavour-of-the-month potential saviour of the British business.

The Punisher racked-up 30 issues.  The first 29 appeared weekly before - apparently at the last minute - switching to a fortnightly frequency with issue 30.  Things were obvious worse than Arundel House first feared as although the 31st issue was promoted as usual, it never appeared.

Frank Castle, in an old-of-continuity early appearance, did briefly transfer over to the (even more numerically challenged) STRIP.

The title strip initially reprinted the limited series before picking-up with reruns of the ongoing US book.  The back-up strip for the first three issues was another outing of Marvel's ROBOCOP movie adaptation (previously published in a one-shot special) before stepping aside in favour of THE 'NAM.

Marvel's war-is-hell strip, once improbably mooted for a slot in ACTION FORCE, had gathered a lot of buzz (and - initially - a lot of readers) when it made its US debut a few years early.

Harsh economics meant that the second feature was relegated to the the black & white pages (in the former's case it had originally appeared - on both sides of the Atlantic - sans colour) although cover-to-cover colour was added later.

The first issue - a stonking double-sized outing - also came with a free pin badge.  The copy I have still has it attached.

The covers on the earliest issues were uncredited, a policy that was later reversed.  There's a surprising amount of British-created covers for what was - really - an all-reprint weekly.

Marvel's post-movie ROBOCOP adventures made a brief British comeback as one of the strips in the even-shorter-lived HAVOC.

5 August 1989

12 August 1989

19 August 1989

26 August 1989

- To Be Continued - 

Monday, 19 August 2013

1974: MARVEL 1975 ANNUALS HOUSE AD (Marvel UK)

As I posted last week, this is the beginning of "ANNUAL SEASON", that time of year when no visit to a larger newsagent or bookshop wasn't complete without perusing the copious number of annuals on sale.

Today's house ad, from November 1974, plugs MARVEL UK's three 1975 cover-dated offerings: MARVEL, THE AVENGERS and SPIDER-MAN.


Here's another dispatch from Redan Place: the CYRIL strip from RETURN OF THE JEDI issue 87 (16 February 1985). The mystery deepens...

- To Be Continued - 



Here's another STARLOGGED favourite from the pages of MEDIASCENE magazine: the cover feature that accompanied the debut of BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY.

Friday, 16 August 2013


Late August/ early September would always mean the first sightings of the following year's annuals (for late-comers: British annuals, despite being pitched firmly at the Christmas market, would always be dated - if dated at all - for the following year so, in 1985, you would expect to find 1986 annuals on sale) in WH Smith, Martins, Woolworths and other newsagents/ booksellers.

The line-up would generally be spin-offs from existing (and often long-since defunct) comics, flavour-of-the-month media characters from TV and film, pop stars and more general (and, to be, duller) gender-specific slightly-worthy tomes which you'd never get excited about but - presumably - unsure older relatives would consider a safe bet gift.

Having a September birthday had one advantage: the ability to draw-up a first-round wish list long before Christmas.  In those days, annuals were still a big deal (the margins were probably massive for retailers) and any half-way decent retailer would give them a large display fixture (normally a table of some sort) which could then be scanned eagerly for any likely candidates.

Christmas was the second-round of the gift-list.  Scooping up anything not available... or at the bottom of the birthday list... a few months earlier.

Round-three was the post-Christmas sales when retailer would often hastily reduce their remaining stock to get shot of them ASAP.

Round-four was when overstocks and unsolds hit discount booksellers and market stalls.  That was often a chance to snaffle-up editions that had suffered from remarkably poor distribution in proper retailers.  I recall being able to pick up STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, MISSION GALACTICA: THE CYLON ATTACK and SECRET WARS from those outlets.

Then - of course - there was the less reliable - but often rewarding - secondhand and charity shops.  DOCTOR WHO and MARVEL annuals seemed to be a specialism of such outlets and a canny shopper could - over time - accumulate quite a collection.

This is an IPC house ad, from November 1985, plugging some of the Fleetway wares for the following year.  They churned-out dozens of annuals each year so this would only be a male-friendly sampling (the ad appeared, after all, in the EAGLE).  I know, from the covers featured, I had the EAGLE, 2000AD, JUDGE DREDD and BATTLE ACTION FORCE books that year.


More Scooby shenanigans from this long-forgotten (except by me) slice of MARVEL UK goodness.

These four issues of SCOOBY-DOO AND HIS T.V. FRIENDS appeared through October 1982.

- To Be Continued - 
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