Looking Back At NEBULOUS - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Looking Back At NEBULOUS

Chris Morley calls in KENT.
There’s an argument for saying that to spoof something incredibly well you really have to love it. With this in mind, Mark Gatiss was probably the perfect man to give voice to Professor Boffo Nebulous, head of KENT - the Key Environmental Non-Judgmental Taskforce - and leading man of Nebulous, the Graham Duff-penned tongue in cheek homage to classic science fiction programmes, like Quatermass, Doomwatch and more than a dollop of the Jon Pertwee years of Doctor Who.

Finding a home on Radio 4 & first broadcast from January 6th 2005 (perhaps not entirely coincidentally the year the Doctor returned to our screens), Night Of The Vegetarians served as an introduction to KENT’s work attempting to put the world right following a famine known as The Withering. Among other things this has forced the Earth into a new orbit which has made every day except Thursday 25 hours long - only Thursday hasn’t happened for a decade thanks to time anomalies! A day-long ice age has also already happened & Oxford University is now an island. Pigeons & vegetarians are now endangered species as well… A species the mysterious Doctor Klench, played by David Warner aka the Unbound Third Doctor, is keen to exploit.

If there's something ever-so Third Doctor-ish about Gatiss' Professor Boffo Nebulous, then there's no prizes for guessing who the inspiration for his arch-enemy, Warner's Doctor Klench, might be. And he’s made a deal with a race of super-intelligent cacti to help his scheme along, as you do.
Just to ram home the Pertwee vibes, the second episode in the first series, The Loverly Invasion, is a direct riff on the basic plot of The Claws Of Axos as three impossibly beautiful naked men land in the Withering-hit Midlands and proceed to charm everyone except our hero, who discovers that they are in fact "giant electric worms, who drool acid and bark".
Professor Nebulous: Who knows what extraterrestrial horrors await us.
Jez: Hi there!
Sir Ronald: Men!? Beautiful, naked men!
Jez: We are the Lovely! My name's Jez, and I'm not afraid to show me emotions!
Leo: My name's Leo! I love all sport, especially your favourite sport!
P.Q.: Ermm... and I'm P.Q., the quiet one.
Two episodes later the KENT offices themselves are the star as a new paint job sends Brigadier-substitute Sir Ronald Rowlands (Graham Crowden) round the twist in Madness Is A Strange Colour.
“One minute I'm in my office ordering the decriminalisation of Lego, the next minute I've gone insane!”
The Coincidence Machine, following on from the havoc so nearly wreaked by the colour garrow, just can’t help but borrow from Inferno in taking the Professor to an alternate universe where everything is quite literally spelt differently - as that’s the only word in use/ Oh, and the curtains are terrible!

Series two opens with a guest appearance from an actual former Doctor, Peter Davison, in The Deptford Wives, as men who’ve taken a missus from the Deptford Islands - another Withering casualty - soon end up dead from extreme pampering!
“We haven't seen slaughter like this since the Notting Hill Carnivore.”
Klench reappears in time for I, Nebulous, to swap bodies with the Professor just to embarrass him when he’s made head of security at a galactic peace conference. Notes of Day Of The Daleks perhaps, for the connoisseur!
“It's the Sentient Candle of Luxembourg. He's... snuffed it.”
Kate O’ Mara, aka the Rani, then pops up in Tempus Fugitive, as the KENT crew are dispersed through time looking for fragments of Linda Adnil - a scientist who, in the Nebulous universe, has invented time travel - a probable nod to Scaroth’s similar situation in City Of Death.

Professor Nebulous: I'm afraid as director of KENT I'm unlikely to be allowed a holiday. Even a working holiday. And certainly not right now.
Sir Ronald: Sir Ronald Rolands here. I want you to take a holiday -- a working holiday -- right now, in the far distant future.
Professor Nebulous: I'm sorry?
Sir Ronald: Or perhaps in the far distant past, right now.
Professor Nebulous: Sir Ronald, have you gone stark raving paradoxical?
Series Three opens with Klench once again returning, only this time claiming to have renounced evil - as the Master of course does in The Sea Devils - as part of Genesis Of The Aftermath. The race who apparently set Klench down a path of redemption, the Byborg, offer those they meet the chance to go back & correct their biggest mistake, which in Nebulous’ case is his implied accidental destruction of the Isle of Wight, having only intended to move it an inch to the left!
“We face excessive peril, bloody violence, and one instance of strong language, so the public doesn't have to. Why, the sheer amount of paranormal activity in the Cardiff area alone is starting to threaten the Earth's plausibility shield!”
KENT finally get an undercover assignment in The Past Must Be Destroyed, an investigation into the disappearances of lecturers at Nebulous’ former university, Bridgeoxton - the result of an alliance between the Infernons & a history professor who feels there’s just too much of it to teach. Then a trip to Atlantis for The Girl With The Liquid Face in a sort of warped take on The Underwater Menace.
Sir Ronald: What kept you?
Professor Nebulous: Travel by transmat is highly complex, sir. Our bodies were reduced to billions of molecules, transported here via zeta wave then instantly reassembled. Unfortunately, due to engineering works, a portion of our journey was by special bus.
Another former Doctor joins the fray for the last episode of the third series, David Tennant guesting in Us And Phlegm as 99 % of Withered Britain’s workers call in sick thanks to the machinations of phlegm/mucus hybrid race the Phlegmbions & their ally - Nebulous’s old GP, Doctor Beep.
Nebulous: My brain is like fire and ice.
Phlegmbian: Your brain is like tepid water?
Nebulous: Tepid like the fox! On this world I am known as the oncoming drizzle.
Following its broadcast, the series itself was no more. A glance at the outlines for some of the uncompleted episodes for what would have followed reveals a starting nod to Terror Of The Zygons in When Bagpipes Walked The Earth, as the Loch Ness Monster is outed as a man in a costume controlled by an unnamed deep-fried alien species! Brian Blessed was to have provided the voice of a sentient snack in The Forever Sandwich as Nebulous battles to finish a cheese sarnie, before an evil so horrific it was wiped by the BBC is the subject of The Horrornauts, which is said to have generated several complaints, questions in Parliament & a possible abdication by the Queen. The last episode to be drafted was The Power Of The Cushions - people being found half-eaten after a sit down in a parody of Terror Of The Autons.

What of the future of Nebulous, then? No less than creator Graham Duff himself has suggested that Nebulous could return as an animated series - a possibility teased with the May 2019 release of an adaptation of Night Of The Vegetarians, as seen at the top of this page. Bod be praised!

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