Remember life before the internet? It did indeed exist, with our knowledge of the world coming not from Wikipedia, but from books, magazines and fact-based TV shows like Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World, an early 80s TV series described as ‘an investigation into the world of the paranormal’.
Arthur C. Clarke (as he never ceases to remind you) is the writer of 2001: Space Odyssey and pioneer of the communications satellite. But back in the 80s, he was retired and living in Sri Lanka, spending his days playing table tennis in high-waisted trousers. And bringing the world of the strange to our TV screens.
In truth, there’s not much Arthur here – he introduces it, sums up at the end and occasionally pops up when some comment is needed. Apart fro that, this is just well-made factual TV, voiced by veteran newsreader Gordon Honeycombe and researched by a strong team headed up by the star of the current UK tax ads, Adam Hart-Davis.
And that level of quality means the show is still very watchable today. Eye-witness accounts, original photos, academic analysis – it’s all serious stuff, albeit with that sensationalist angle to pull in the viewers. And the subject matter still gets us talking today – Loch Ness Monster, sea beasts, giant drawings on hills, stone circles, aliens, weird creatures, objects falling from the sky – if a programme about any of those was on tonight, I’d probably give it a go.
But time hasn’t been too kind in other ways. Firstly, we do have the internet – and if you look up many of the theories thrown up by the show, you’ll find many have since been discredited. Some of the interviews are unintentionally amusing too – if it’s not the poor quality wigs (all too common in the early 80s it seems), it’s the alarming similarity to The Day Today.
But that just adds to the overall entertainment. I wasn’t convinced I was going to enjoy this series, but I’ve been strangely drawn into it. If you like your factual TV, particularly about the ‘paranormal’, you’ll enjoy this DVD set. If the thought of a monotone voiceover describing grainy footage of a yeti doesn’t do much for you, it might be one to avoid.