1 9 6 8 – 1 9 7 0 (UK)
26 x 20 minute episodes
Beginning its first 13-week run on 2 November 1968 and billed as an ‘electronic comic’, this Saturday lunchtime BBC children’s programme was originally “hosted” by a talking pinball machine which linked the various segments – such as animated sci-fi serial Skayn (voiced by Sheelagh McGrath, Gordon Clyde and Anthony Jackson), clips from Disney cartoons, knock-knock jokes, guest performers and a “thrill spot” which took viewers close-up on hair-raising action like water-skiing or riding a motorbike on the ‘wall of death’.
Built by BBC Visual Effects designer Mike Ellis (father of Blue Peter presenter Janet), the pinball machine was a fully functioning prop, with its electronic voice provided by Brian Hodgson of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
By the second series – which premiered on 6 December 1969 – the pinball machine was gone (although its electronic voice remained), and the main links were provided from a studio featuring a collection of oversized bubbling test tubes and brightly flashing lights.
Skayn eventually gave way to Susan Starr of the Circus, voiced by Jennifer Hill, Alan Devereux and Stanley Page, but the Disney clips, corny jokes and guest performers remained, augmented by music videos for contemporary songs such as Get Away by Georgie Fame and Finchley Central by The New Vaudeville Band.
Pinball machine voice