Sci-Fi's British Empire

Accenting a cinema's English roots

Published: Aug 03 2015, 01:01:am

B.C. Day: British Empire Fantasies

July 29, 2011.

SINCE 1974, THE FIRST Monday in August has been the civic holiday known as B.C. Day. As ours is the only province to include British in its name, it's only right we take a moment to recall our imperial connections. Though the sun may have set on the actual empire, it is a truth universally acknowledged that Britannic science fiction and fantasy rules in this so-called American century.

1.    Boldly going where no motion picture had gone before, this style-setting 1936 English epic offered Toronto-born Raymond Massey flying to the rescue of all mankind in a screenplay by an acknowledged father of science fiction. Name him and name the book that he adapted for the screen.
2.    In his 1956 film debut, Zehner, Saskatchewan-born John Vernon was unseen, providing the voice of the omnipresent Big Brother. The film was directed by English sci-fi cinema pioneer Michael Anderson, who emigrated to Canada in the 1960s. Name the movie and the author of the novel upon which it is based.

3.    With special effects inspired by the NFB short documentary Universe and its narrator Douglas Rain in a key role, the shot-in-London 2001: A Space Odyssey  (1968) has its roots in science fiction's golden age. Name its English screenwriter and his original story upon which the film is based.

4.    David Cronenberg's regular musical collaborator, Toronto-born Howard Shore, ascended to the pantheon of great fantasy film composers by scoring an epic 2001-2003 trilogy based on a popular series of ripping yarns written by a verbalistic Oxford don. Name the author and series title.

5.    British Columbia's connection to the first fantasy phenomenon of the 21st century — and the source of eight feature films released between 2001 and 2011 — is the fact that this best-selling book series was published in Canada by Vancouver's Raincoast Books. Name its author and the title character.


     During his decade in Britain, Toronto-born broadcast executive Sydney Newman was responsible for the creation of the world's longest-running science-fiction television series. Described by the Times as "quintessential to being British,"  the show generated three feature films, one of which was shot in Vancouver. Name it.


1.    H.G. Wells. Based on the 1933 novel The Shape of things to Come, director William Cameron Menzies Things to Come foreshadows the Second World War and manned space flight. The photo at the top of this page is from the film.

2.    1984, adapted from the 1948 novel by George Orwell (who was born Eric Blair in India during the British Raj).

3.    Arthur C. Clarke, who expanded his 1948 short story The Sentinel for director Stanley Kubrick, in the process creating the character HAL 9000 (voiced by Winnipeg-born Douglas Rain).

4.    J.R.R. (for John Ronald Reuel) Tolkien. His The Lord of the Rings trilogy was published from 1954 to 1955.
5.    J.K. Rowling. Her boy wizard Harry Potter is featured in a seven-book series published between 1997 and 2007.

Doctor Who (1996). Set in San Francisco, it starred Paul McGann as the eighth Doctor (with a guest appearance by the seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy).


The above is a restored version of a VCON 36 website quiz by Michael Walsh originally posted in 2011. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.