Oliver Postgate’s world of Norse folklore The Saga of Noggin The Nog, which aired on BBC One in the mid sixties, featured crude animation, diddy Norse folk with names like Noggin, Nooka, Knut and Graculus, and a hypnotically-voiced narrator. It was brilliant!
Why was it so memorable?
Charmed a generation with its fantastical tales of heroism, danger, magic and adventure in a world of quaint folklore.
What do you get if you cross Noggin with Knut?
You’d have to ask his dad, King Knut, about the time and place. But the character was created by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin.
Scholars of Norse were they?
Hardly. Firmin became fascinated by chess pieces from the Isle of Lewis in the British Museum while an art student. He became obsessed with what he described as Nogmania.
So how did one man’s Nogmania make it to TV?
Peter Firmin wrote an adventure about a prince who travelled to claim his Eskimo bride. He showed it to Oliver Postgate and together they wangled a commission from the BBC.
Come off it, bunged them a few hundred quid. Firmin and Postgate initially cobbled together six 10-minute animated films using basic materials and animation techniques. Postgate provided the hypnotic voice of the narrator.
What was it all about?
An elaborate folklore set in the fictional land of Nog. For imagination it could be compared to Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings, but lacked the depth and complexity.
It focused on the deeds of Noggin, King of the Nogs. He was a peace-loving man but had a variety of challenges to cope with including an encounter with an Ice Dragon. There was also his nemesis Nogbad The Bad, his uncle who’d been exiled to Finland, but was hellbent on usurping him.
Tell me more about Noggin?
“He is the antithesis of the decisive, bloodthirsty Vikings of history, in that he is gentle, friendly and very often doesn’t know what to do next,” explains creator Oliver Postgate.
Noggin had seen her face in his knife, as you do, and travelled to the end of the world to bring her back from the land of the midnight sun. Together they had a son called Knut.
And Nogbad The Bad?
A sort of Terry-Thomas villain whom Oliver Postgate said was “the vilest of all wicked uncles”. He was out to nobble Noggin but his plans always backfired.
Amassive green bird, Graculus, that had been raised by Nooka and became a sage and devoted servant to Noggin, saving him during many an adventure. There was also the dragon Grollife who breathed ice rather than fire, Olaf the Lofty and strongman Thor Nogson.
In all, 30 episodes were made with two being remade in colour in 1982. Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin also dreamed up cult classics Ivor The Engine, Bagpuss and the The Clangers.
A dynamic duo?
Indeed, but their style of film-making went out of fashion in the mid ’80s and the commissions dried up — much to Postgate’s anger.
“In the Lands of the North, where the black rocks stand guard against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long, the men of the Northlands sit by their great log fires and they tell a tale…”
How about some Nooka darlin’? Anyone for a piece of fruit and Knut?
Not to be confused with?
Curious yellow drink egg-nog
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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