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Jodrell Bank Appearances in SF

I've discussed the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank observatory, and in particular the iconic Lovell Telescope, in several blog entries, including: An Icon of Futures Past and Our Ears on the Sky. Given its frequent appearances in SF, this page gathers together some of the references to the telescope and observatory.

As Itself

These entries actually discuss the Jodrell Bank observatory in its own right.

Appearing in Fiction as important locations or plot driver:

  • The Magic Ingredient - William F Temple - Science Fantasy v13n38 1959 12. Begins with a scientist soliciting funding for a radio telescope to rival Jodrell Bank, before going on to an encounter with martians - interesting snapshot of time that discusses Jodrell Bank's own funding difficulties.
  • Masters of Venus (children's television series, 1962) - used to track British rocket Astarte when it takes off with two children aboard. Repeated mentions and occasional glimpses of images of the telescopes. Also use of Woomera, Cape Canaveral and other radio telescopes.
  • TV21 magazine Universe edition No 10 - 1965 - Jodrell Bank used for tracking in Fireball XL5 in several newspaper-style cover stories.
  • Doctor Who - the Tenth Planet (1966) - two separate mentions of using Jodrell Bank and Mount Palomar to track or study the planet Mondas.
  • Host Planet Earth (1967, radio play) - British space effort affected by disease.
  • The Fourth Profession - 1971 - Larry Niven - mention of Jodrell Bank discovery of Sgr A*.
  • Link by John Rankine, Amazing Stories v46n05 (1973 01). Aliens choose Jodrell Bank as their arrival point.
  • Meteor (film, 1979)
  • “Ministry of Space” by Ellis, Weston & Martin - 2004 - shown in a parallel universe where it exemplifies an advanced British role in the space race.
  • Boneland, Alan Garner (2012) - workplace of main character, and setting of several scenes.

Appearing in Fiction as mentions in passing.

  • F&SF v017n06 (1959 12). The Terra-Venusian War of 1979 - Gerard E Neyroud -mentions reports from astronomers at Palomar, the RGO at Herstmonceux and Jodrell Bank, although seems somewhat confused about the latter as it appears to describe optical rather than radio astronomy.
  • J G Ballard - The Voices of Time (1960).
  • The Funnel - Harold Parsons - New Worlds #097v33 (1960 08)
  • The Avengers episode "From Venus with Love" (1967) mentions that character Venus Brown trained at Jodrell Bank, while another character is a radio astronomer.
  • Mama Come Home - 1968 - James Tiptree Jr - use of Jodrell Bank for METI.
  • New Writings in SF 14 (1969) - Green Five Renegade - M John Harrison
  • Midsummer Century - James Blish (1972) - features an ex-Jodrell Bank radio astronomer.
  • Shaffery among the Immortals - Frederick Pohl - Fantasy & Science Fiction v043n01 (1972 07)
  • Derelict - Duncan Lunnan - Amazing Stories v47n06 (1974 04)
  • Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (radio, 1978) - mention in passing that it failed to track the Vogon fleet.
  • The Dark Companion - John M Ford - Asimov's v05n10 (1981 09 28)
  • The cover of Comet Halley (Hoyle, 1985) featured the iconic Lowell telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory despite it only being mentioned once in passing in the text!
  • Doctor Who - The Gallifrey Chronicles - Eighth Doctor novel, mentions Jodrell Bank.
    Doctor Who - The Crawling Terror - Twelth Doctor novel (mention)
    Doctor Who - Remembrance of the Daleks - Seventh Doctor TV serial. Jodrell Bank tracks a Dalek spaceship.

Indirect references in fiction:

  • The Five Hells of Orion - Frederick Pohl (Worlds of If, 1963) - Starship Jodrell Bank, named after the observatory

As a Radio Telescope

In these entries, the visual iconography of the Lovell telescope is used as a shorthand for a generic radio telescope, or stands in for another (usually fictional) named facility.

  • Doctor Who - "Logopolis" (1981) - on screen as The Pharos Project
  • Doctor Who magazine - Summer Holiday Special (1974) - comic image as generic radio telescope
  •  Doctor Solar Man of the Atom (#27, 1962) - comic as Kendall Banks observatory
  •  Strange Adventures (vol 1, #151, 1963) - comic image as generic radio telescope
  • Angus MacVicar’s Satellite 7 (1958) - cover image as generic radio telescope
  • The cover of the 1974 edition of The Listeners superposes a pictogram based on the Arecibo message on yet another image of the Jodrell Bank 76m Lovell Telescope. - as generic radio telescope

In SF-related factual sources:

  • Doctor Who Annuals 1969 and 1981 - Factual article
  • Dan Dare’s Space Annual 1963 - Factual article
  • The Eagle Annual: The best of the 1960s comic (published 2009). - Factual article
  • Examples include articles in
    Planet Stories v05n08 (1952 09);
    Fantastic Universe v12n01 (1959 11), v11n04 (1959 07);
    Worlds of Tomorrow v01n06 (1964 02);
    Science Fiction Plus v01n07 (1953 12);
    New Worlds #035v12 (1955 05), #060v20 (1957 06);
    Authentic Science Fiction Monthly 049 (1954 09), 074 (1956 11) etc.

TV Century 21 number 10 (1965) cover:
Cover story of TV Century 21 comic number 10 in 1965