By Will Barber Taylor
Spike Milligan’s anarchic and surreal comedy sketch show Q5 was first shown on BBC Two in March 1969, six months before the launch of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The Python team admit it gave them carte blanche to up their own silliness quotient, but their own TV days were over by the time Spike was offered a second series, Q6, in 1975. Qs 7,8 and 9 followed over the next five years.
This five-disc set collects all the surviving shows together for the first time. Four episodes of Q5 were wiped, but the three that remain changed the face of TV comedy forever, ushering in new generations of “alternative” talent from Kenny Everett and Not the Nine O’Clock News to Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer.
Spike is joined as a performer by John Bluthal, Peter Jones, Bob Todd, Chris Langham, Julia Breck and John Rappaport, and in the early shows by Richard Ingrahams, John Wells and Fanny Carby. Shambolic sets and rough and ready wardrobes set the scene for comedy mayhem, and sketches and gags stop abruptly, overlap or repeat for maximum confusion.
A comedy Hitler in a frequent abrasive presence, world leaders of the day are routinely mocked, and madcap skits include an interview with the Queen’s chicken, a grandmother -hurling contest, Jehovah’s burglars, the smallest police station in the world and irresistibly dotty Pakistani Daleks.
Q is one of the great goliaths of comedy. Spike Milligan’s epic series has influenced almost all British comedians since it originally aired in the 1960s. Milligan came from a comic tradition that was steeped in the absurd – he rose to fame with his creation The Goon Show and alongside Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe ensured the most surreal comedy BBC Radio ever broadcast was a smash hit. This bizarre, sketch tradition ensured that when Milligan transferred to television he knew what he was faced with. BBC television in the late 60s was far from surreal and bringing forth “alternative” comedy was no easy task. The fact that Milligan did this so effectively and with such flair is a testament to his genius.
As can be expected, all the best sketches are included – the Pakistani Daleks, The Fresh Fruit Song, Irish Astronauts, The Lord’s Prayer and many more besides. The quality of the episodes is excellent and much praise must be given to the restoration effort made by the producers of the DVD.
The Almost Complete Q DVD boxset is by far and away the best release of Spike Milligan’s seminal series we are likely to get – unless, by some form of magic the missing episodes of Q5 are returned to the BBC. It proves why Milligan is known as the godfather of alternative comedy – his surreal, witty, acerbic humour is seen throughout the series and whilst some skits may be seen as problematic now, the series as a whole is a joyful and heart-warming experience. I highly recommend purchasing it.
With thanks to Simply Media. You can purchase the Almost Complete Q DVD Boxset from Amazon here.