The Beatles’ half-remembered excursion into fantasy telly.
There’s oxygen and there’s The Beatles. Both have been vital to my survival. But before we begin I probably need to make my case. What is a piece on pop group The Beatles’ 1965-1967 animated TV series doing in sci-fi magazine SFX? Short answer: lots of it is sci-fi! Okay, it’s mainly in that sort of wacky, detached-reality, junior cartoon show kind of way, but consider the following summaries of what happens in some episodes: John is kidnapped by a mad scientist who wants the Beatle’s brain for his monster; Ringo wanders into the woods in Transylvania where he meets a witch; Paul gets kidnapped by “Professor Psycho” who wants him to marry his creation, Vampiress, half girl and half bat; John is shrunk after going for a swim in a pond with potion in. And much more. Including the band taking a trip 23 billion miles from Earth with a beautiful female alien.
I wasn’t watching these shows back in the ’60s – I’m not that old! I didn’t even discover them until 2009, more than 20 years after my Beatles obsession proper started in 1987. But when it became clear to me that I had to see them I dashed to eBay, where I bought two bootleg discs with all 39 episodes on them (there has, to date, been no official DVD release of the series, sadly). Each episode, although created in a hurry by rushed creatives, is full of delight – goofy, light-hearted and freewheeling – hurling us back to the most glorious decade of them all, which was reigned over by the most glorious band of them all. The Beatles were always entwined with the fantastic: three of their five films – Help!, Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine – have strong fantasy elements (particularly Submarine, natch); promotional films such as “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Free As A Bird” utilise a dreamlike palette; and of course songs like “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, “I Am The Walrus” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” are fully immersed in a wondrous psychedelic fug. Plasticine porters with looking-glass ties, indeed. So this animated series is just another part of the remarkable creative explosion that the Fab Four bestowed upon the world – and that includes the world of sci-fi and fantasy.
Russell dug the new Eight Days A Week film last month.