On the box

Dark rumours still abound of tiresomely Kafkaesque goings-on in the tight-collared bureaucracy that is John Birt's BBC. What a dungeon of cowed clerks it must be, with the old chatter about culture and the pursuit of the beautiful peremptorily replaced by finger-wagging budget Cerberuses and eldritch new hierarchical structures. To test this theory, an idle phone call to the Beeb's News and Current Affairs Press Office was made. On the box urgently wanted to grill the esteemed officers about US elections, brown as the new black, life on Mars and so forth. Instead, the entire crew were absent for two days on a "Departmental Management" course, leaving only a charming junior to staff the phone lines. Well, it's summer, one charitably supposes, and no news is good news.

To celebrate three decades of the Starship Enterprise, slouch in front of BBC2's Star Trek Night (Mon), the highlights of which are: Science: the Final Frontier (8pm), examining the feasibility of matter transference, warp drive, "Phasers on stun" and so forth; Star Trek Story (9.25pm), portrays the cultural impact of the series in the cold war years; and Star Trek: Voyager (10.50pm), the pilot episode of the latest spin-off. Not many people know that the Star Trek line which accompanied human transportation was a misheard version of the catchphrase current in a Milwaukee seafood restaurant, owned by an old man in a kilt. "Bream me up, Scotty." You heard it here first.

Grim news from the audience ratings front. A paltry 2.72 million of you watched last week's edition of Frasier (C4), the pricelessy dippy American sitcom about a radio psychiatrist with an enormous cranium. That's only 86 per cent of the audience of (snooze) Countdown, and 73 per cent of the increasingly emetic Friends. Such people need their heads examined.

STEVEN POOLE

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