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Top 10 Moments in British Sci-Fi History

VO: Richard Bush WRITTEN BY: Andrea Buccino
Don’t panic, and remember to bring your towel. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Moments in British Sci-Fi History. For this list, we take a look at some of the most important moments in the history of British science fiction, encompassing literature, film and other media. Special thanks to our user WordToTheWes for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Top 10 Moments in British Sci-Fi History

Don’t panic, and remember to bring your towel. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Moments in British Sci-Fi History.

For this list, we take a look at some of the most important moments in the history of British science fiction, encompassing literature, film and other media.

#10: Judge Dredd, Judge Death and the Dark Judges
“2000 AD” (1977-)

He first appeared in the second issue of the standard-setting sci-fi magazine “2000 AD” in 1977, and has since become the most popular British comic book character in the world. “Judge Dredd” is an institution, and many a brilliant writer and artist, who went on to make their fortune across the pond, began their careers and honed their skills on its pages. But of the myriad of brilliant stories Dredd has given us through the years, the Dark Judges cycle is probably the most well-known and influential.

#9: “Quatermass and the Pit” (1967)

Bernard Quatermass is arguably one of the most influential characters from British TV, once described as “the first British television hero”, and the protagonist of three BBC sci-fi serials from the 1950s – later remade for the big screen by Hammer. Of the three entries in the theatrical series, “Quatermass and the Pit” is widely regarded as one of Hammer's finest ever films. In it, while investigating a strange rocket found while digging a new line for the London Underground, Professor Quatermass discovers that aliens might be behind the rise of humanity.

#8: “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (1949)

George Orwell's dystopian masterpiece has claimed its rightful place both in popular and high culture and is now regarded as one of the cornerstones of modern British literature. A brilliant novel set in a totalitarian Britain in which every aspect of life is ruled by the Party under the watchful eye of Big Brother, many of its concepts and language have now become part of everyday speech, both in the UK and abroad. When the adjective “Orwellian” becomes a common word in its own right, you know you’ve made more than a dent into mainstream popular culture.

#7: “Alien” (1979)

When Ridley Scott’s innovative sci-fi horror first hit theatres, a new kind of fear was born. The original “Alien”, which marked the beginning of one of the best known and most beloved franchises in the genre, was unlike most of the science fiction that came before it: a claustrophobic monster movie, with overt sexual imagery used to create the infamous shape of the xenomorph that would haunt cinemagoers’ nightmares for generations to come. It stands to this day as an example of chilling brilliance – often imitated, but rarely equalled.

#6: “A Clockwork Orange” (1971)

Dystopia is an important theme in British science fiction, tackled from a variety of different, varyinglycomplex perspectives. Anthony Burgess’ seminal novel “A Clockwork Orange” went as far as inventing a whole new dialect, Nadsat, to describe it, and later became one of Britain’s most controversial and celebrated films, courtesy of director Stanley Kubrick. The adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven, as the movie promo poster puts it, are really a parable on free will and the question of choice.

#5: “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (1978)

Douglas Adams' comedy sci-fi masterpiece was born as a BBC radio play series and soon after became the brilliant sequence of novels, written by Adams himself. “Hitchhiker’s” also spawned a BBC TV series (which sported some of the same cast as the original radio show) and more recently a big budget movie adaptation. There has even been a live tour of the radio play. A cult classic on par with any great British comedy, its seemingly light-hearted tone reveals a deep satirical take on society. It’s another that’s often imitated, but this kind of genius will likely never be bettered.

#4: “The Prisoner” (1967-68)

Decades before television was widely considered a respectable artistic medium in its own right, Patrick McGoohan was already harnessing its potential. For many, “The Prisoner” is one of the most important TV series evermade, and today it’s an indelible part of British consciousness and pop culture. It follows a spy, only known as Number Six, who after resigning is kidnapped and brought to The Village to gain information. This dystopian, psychedelic sci-fi showcase influenced almost every subsequent foray into the genre, and pioneered the quality of television we now take for granted.

#3: The First Regeneration
“Doctor Who” (1963-)

As one of the most popular and pioneering sci-fi series in Britain and the world, “Doctor Who” quickly became a cult favourite. And despite its original ousting in ’89, and a short attempt to rejuvenate it in the ‘90s, the Doctor, the TARDIS and the time-travelling adventures were brought back to great acclaim in 2005 – with the series still going strong. William Hartnell’s first regeneration was perhaps the most pivotal moment from the original run, allowing the good Gallifreyan to thrive for decades. A story-telling trick which has since become a major part of the overall legend – it has provided some iconic moments.

#2: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

Held the world over as one of the finest, if not simply the greatestscience fiction film ever made, Kubrick’s masterpiece was actually inspired by “The Sentinel”, a short story by British writer Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke also wrote the eponymous novel while the film was being made, after he and the legendary director worked together to develop the story of “2001”. Both iterations of this classic have had a truly immense impact on the genre, and are often cited as some of the most ambitious, experimental and exciting examples of sci-fi in history.

#1: “The War of the Worlds” (1898)

H. G. Wells' classic about an alien invasion is one of the most instantly recognisable sci-fi stories ever written. Wells is, after all, widely regarded as the father of science fiction, perhaps making his place as number one on today’s list obvious, but due. “The War of the Worlds” has been adapted countless times for screen and radio, with the Orson Welles version (which caused a bit of a panic when some listeners believed it was a real-life newscast) being probably the most famous. Overall, this tale embraces the human fear of ‘what’s out there’, but also our never-ending curiosity, and our ongoing quest to glean more.

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