A brief history of Cult Times

1999

The last five years have seen a number of changes. Trek series have come and gone, series like Babylon 5 and The X-Files have made a huge impact on fans of Cult TV, and old favourites – OK, we’re talking about Doctor Who – have refused to fade away.

Throughout, Cult Times has been on hand to observe, comment and tell you what time to tune in. In this issue, the magazine’s five successive editors look back at the last 50 months of Cult TV…
selected from
Cult Times #50

Richard Atkinson is the longest-serving editor of Cult Times. He arrived in November 1996, eventually inheriting a keyboard covered in orange juice, a slice of carrot cake and a cupboard full of Inspector Morse videos*

The other day, review copies of the Buffy Season One Box Set (which you can win in a phone-in competition in this issue - sorry, open to UK callers only) arrived in the office. All of a sudden it became unusually busy around my desk (not a common occurrence as you can imagine) as people slyly tried to wander off with them.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer is undoubtedly this year’s Phenomenon. You only have to go to HMV to find Buffy everywhere you turn: books, postcards, posters and, naturally, magazines. Cult Times first featured the series in its February 1998 issue – an interview with Nicholas Brendon – but it wasn’t until this year that it really started to take off. In January it made its terrestrial début on BBC2, and Sky 1 are now approaching the end of Season Three, mere months after it was broadcast in the US.

It’s not difficult to see why Buffy’s so popular. With its young and attractive cast, and a format that balances action and comedy, you could argue that it’s designed to appeal to an audience over and above everything else. But that’s probably the point: at least a part of the series’ charm is that it doesn’t have some incredibly clever agenda weighing it down. There are monsters out there, they’re bad, let’s go and get them with a big stick!

I was initially worried that the series made good and evil so clear cut, and that the only way they had to deal with evil was to put a stake through its heart, but as I say, it’s not that serious. It’s meant to entertain. And when it does have something to say for itself, generally it does so confidently and without a fuss.

This issue, Sarah Michelle Gellar talks about people identifying with Buffy. Despite being a superhero, she has her vulnerabilities like all of us. She’s learnt what she can cope with and what she can’t. After completing the biggest ever issue of Cult Times I can certainly identify with that.

Of course, I shouldn’t be saying all this. A much wiser colleague of mine once told me that it’s the editor’s job to be impartial. Not to pick out favourites and alienate any readers who might be uninterested. Don’t get me wrong, Cult Times never likes one thing to the exclusion of all else. In fact it was my original intention to write about the end of Deep Space Nine in this slot.

I decided against this because as we embark upon another 50 issues, I wanted to talk about something that would be continuing with us. Star Trek: Voyager has certainly found its feet, although every now and then it tends to misplace them. It will probably be another few years, if at all, before Doctor Who returns. The X-Files, whilst still having moments of inspired genius, seems to even have lost the interest of those who work on it. And there doesn’t seem to be any hope – last, best or otherwise – for more Babylon projects.

I’m sure Buffy, however, will keep your attention for a good while yet.

Richard Atkinson

Montage based on photos © Jean Cummings/Moonglow Pictures/David Miller. Yes, OK, it's a fake...
Willow, Richard Atkinson, Oz. Spot the odd one out.
*You'll have to read about his predecessors to find out why this should be. Meanwhile, here's Richard lounging around with the stars on the Buffy set
(Ha! He's just pretending. At least I've been in the same cinema as Sarah Michelle Gellar – Web Ed.)

For more about your favourite series, read Cult Times Celebration 50th issue available now, £3.50 ($6.99)

Can't find it locally? You can order it here

Feature © Visual Imagination 1999. Not for reproduction.

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