Saturday night, back in 1980, I was informed of the remarkable story of a US pilot, who had been propelled, by accident, 500 years into the future. His name was Buck Rogers, and after waking up slightly bewildered by his experience, he soon overcame his misgivings and went on to have weekly adventures in his TV show.
There are still many things that are alien about the future Buck Rogers found himself in. We do not do much travelling around space; we do not find it necessary to adopt a blanket policy on white jumpsuits regardless of shape, size and gender; we have so far resisted the allure of intergalactic warfare and, most disappointingly, the vision of the well-trained, domestic robot remains as distant now as it did in 1980. (Side note: Twiki, Rogers’s electric sidekick occupies a unique position in the unthreatening android Venn diagram, being precisely 50% Camp, í la C3PO, and 50% Childlike, like C3PO’s cute little pal.)
In one respect though, Buck Rogers’s future is here right now. His Snozzopod (future speak for bedroom) was notably uncluttered compared with the rooms of his viewers. There were no shelves of dusty vinyl, no artfully strewn magazines, no piles of VHS cassettes. When he wanted to listen to music, he pushed a button, when he wanted to check out an old episode of The Clangers he pushed another button (or maybe the same button twice, you have YouTube, you can check) and when he wanted the latest weather, headlines or traffic reports he did the same. He was, in short, just like us.
Or, just like you, I should say, because I cling to DVD, to CD, to paper and even to VHS. I even get Time Out delivered once a week. Despite these fusty ties to the tradional consumption of culture, I am now to begin my own odyssey into the future, I am going to start watching films on the internet.
Unlike Buck Rogers, I have control over the launch of my epic adventure. I opt for something small. Trust me, nobody will be putting my exploits up against Doctor Who on a Saturday night. I begin by searching for The Alder Woodwasp and Its Insect Enemies, a nature film from 1960, known principally for its ground-breaking camera techniques, including a novel way to avoid the combustion of delicate cast members under lights. Unfortunately, only part of the film is available to view online so I’m afraid that just one of the trumpeted insect enemies appears. This leaves a lot of billing for one parasitic wasp, however gruesome its habits, to bear. Audacious Striatus is remarkable, but not exactly Godzilla; even in comparison with other parasites it is a bit dull. What a shame that the internet has no room for footage of the famously ‘gregarious’ Xiphydriophaga.
So my first steps end in slight disappointment. Oh well, I will not let this setback dishearten me. Buck Rogers is my model, and I don’t recall him getting disheartened. If only I had a small, camp, childllike robot to give me a few tips.