G&TV: Space Cadets

We’re going back 22 years for this month’s G&TV, a fact that will no doubt unsettle any readers who remember watching it at the time. Not to be confused with a completely unrelated Channel 4 show called Space Cadets, which involved tricking gullible young people into thinking they were going into space when in fact they were just in a big warehouse, this Space Cadets was a 1997 panel show dedicated to science-fiction, following in the wake of other single-topic shows like They Think It’s All Over and Never Mind The Buzzcocks. It was hosted by Greg Proops, with team captains Bill Bailey and Craig Charles.

It wasn’t very good. The format was pretty run of the mill – a what happened next round, then a picture round, a bit of Call My Bluff with sci-fi props and a final quickfire trivia round – with nothing particularly unique or memorable to set it apart. The shows were often shambolic, with panellists shouting over each other and Proops coming up short in keeping control, the editing slapdash and the production values failing to disguise the evidently low budget. Although I did like Greg’s Davros-inspired chair. The first episode is available in full on YouTube, complete with original in-vision continuity announcement, and one of the guests is another familiar Red Dwarf face:

It’s clear that Greg is a little starstruck by Shatner, who is a fantastic booking for such a show in all fairness, and the only panellist who was able to opt out of the cheap vaguely Star Treky uniforms. Hattie is the only woman out of seven participants, and she doesn’t get a great deal of screen time, often seen struggling to get her voice heard, for some mysterious reason. The other guests are future Still Game star Ford Kiernan and sci-fi writer Kim Newman, the only one on the panel with any degree of expertise on the subject matter. The increasingly sneery tone whenever Kim gets a question right is indicative of an attitude that permeates the show, and is one of the biggest reasons for its failure. It never truly embraced a love of science-fiction, opting for a detached semi-ironic approach that only served to distance the show from the geek audience it needed to survive.

But it was almost worth it just for this image, I suppose:

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19 Responses to G&TV: Space Cadets

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  1. During the closing credits, the continuity announcer says the show was on late on Wednesday nights, but my memory of seeing it was on Fridays at 6/6:30 kinda time. Was it getting a concurrent repeat run later in the week, a’la TMWRNJ (or was it Fist of Fun) and RD VII?

    Either way, this was a bit of weird show for me as I loved Red Dwarf, was also a fan of Greg Proops and Bill Bailey, and was very into the aforementioned comedy panel shows of the time, but didn’t give a flying fuck about anything sci-fi. Consequently, I quickly got bored of all the old movie clips and not knowing the answers to anything, and mostly just enjoyed it for its sneery tone and detached semi-ironic approach.

  2. The in-vision continuity announcer is Gary Terzza – I did a workshop with him a few years back. What a guy.

  3. Bit crap but fun. I didn’t see it at the time, but would have got more out of it than Buzzcocks.

    Did They Think It’s All Over have that level of smart shaming when someone knew a fact?

  4. I loved this at the time. Rob Grant was in an episode. His answer for getting a question right about What Happened Next has stuck with me since broadcast: “I’m a writer.”

  5. And Bill Bailey was funny then, too!

  6. Couldn’t have told you what day of the week but yes, it was definitely on at teatime. I remember a skutter being the mystery prop one week, and in another episode it was a silver ball and Craig did his keepie uppie using just his head trick with it.

  7. Seven episodes here including the Rob Grant one and a second Shatner appearance:

  8. Urgh. This.

    I remember being very interested in this, and diligently watching it for the first few weeks although it held very interest due to its obsession with creaky old US sci-fi movies that I’d never heard of and the show didn’t exactly promote, preferring instead to make shit jokes about how dated they were. I went on holiday about half-way through the run, and then came back with about 5 episodes to watch. After a binge watch, I could take no more. It wasn’t the worst thing I watched in 1997 due to my affection for Red Dwarf (that was Funky Bunker…or Captain Butler…or A Prince Among Men…or Ouroboros)…but it was up there.

  9. I’ve got a video with the full series on, I think. I’ve certainly got some scattered about on assorted vids.

  10. Was Buzzcocks the last/longest-lived of the breed of single-topic panel shows?

  11. Depends whether you’d call ‘the news’ a single topic, because there’s one that’s been going on a lot longer.

    But yeah, it was the only one of that glut of ’90s theme-centric panel shows that seemed to last a long time. They Think it’s All Over had a decent run, but wasn’t always that great anyway.

  12. Question of Sport? Predates them, so wouldn’t count if you’re looking 90s onwards mind. Same format though really.

  13. Whoa, I just watched some of this and its terrible. Really embarrassing.

    The joke in the intro section about Hattie being “respected by millions of fans” was (presumably unintentionally) rather insulting for the sake of an unrewarding bait-and-switch.

    And the editing! When Proops does his “Jabba Wanker” Salacious Crumb impression, we cut to Bill who appears to look on with awe at how anyone could say anything so funny. I doubt this happened. He should have sued.

    I remember liking Space Cadets at the time because (a) I was a child, and (b) it must have felt like some very welcome additional “genre” content on mainstream telly (right after ST:TNG if memory serves) when there wasn’t much of it about.

    But ouch. It can fuck right off.

  14. G&T Admin

    One thing I always really liked about Space Cadets: the title sequence. It’s really nicely put together, especially the final pullback from Bill and Craig doing his shooty thing.

    It’s difficult to imagine a panel show having this kind of care put into its title sequence these days. HIGNFY vaguely counts, but that’s because they have a history of title sequences to live up to. A new show wouldn’t stand a chance.

  15. I wonder what the hell persuaded Shatner to do this?

    There is definitely two eras of William Shatner TV show appearances. Around about the mid 2000s i think he finally just let go and embraced his cult status and was happy to act the fool. His chatshow appearances on Craig Ferguson’s show at the time certainly prove that. But around about this time, he was still taking himself very seriously, so god knows what made him do it. Did he really need the money?

  16. >Did he really need the money?
    Dude was advertising Bran Flakes around this time too. Presumably he was low on cash after his second divorce.

  17. G&T Admin

    From a professional point of view, I’d just like to say that the VO over the end credits comes in at the perfect point.

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