TELEVISION WAS MY babysitter. As a child growing up in the ’60s, I would race home from school, grab a plate of biscuits and a glass of milk, and spend the afternoon on the couch watching back-to-back American cartoons and sitcoms. Several decades later, I can still sing the theme songs to Mr Ed, Gilligan’s Island and Super Chicken, if asked nicely. Though my favourite by far was Milton the Monster, in which the diminutive Professor Montgomery Weirdo from Horror Hill, and his anaemic, lanky assistant Count Kook, concocted a grotesque son out of primordial soup. As well as ‘six drops of the essence of terror and five drops of sinister sauce’, they spilled way too much ‘tincture of tenderness’ into the cocktail they titrated in their secret laboratory. As a result, Milton was born a gentle giant instead of a terrifying monster.
By the time the early ’70s rolled around, I’d moved on from heroic dumbclucks and mad scientists to become a Trekkie, an ardent follower of the sci-fi series Star Trek, set in the twenty-third century. I recited the opening monologue of each episode, along with the earnest and often bolshy Captain James Kirk: ‘Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.’
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