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Entry updated 1 January 2021. Tagged: Character, Film.

1. Nickname of airman James Bigglesworth, a character created by W E Johns (whom see) for a lengthy sequence of books and stories published from 1932, beginning with his exploits flying Sopwith Camels in World War One. Biggles's adventures continued through World War Two and well into the post-war era until the author's death in 1968, and after; a final book of uncollected stories appeared in 1999. One novel, Biggles Hits the Trail (1935) is sf, as are several stories in Biggles – Charter Pilot: The Adventures of Biggles & Co on a World-Wide Cruise of Scientific Investigation (coll 1943).

2. UK film (1986; vt Biggles: Adventures in Time; vt Biggles Gets Off the Ground). Universal / Compact Yellowbill / Tambarle. Directed by John Hough; produced by Pom Oliver and Kent Walwin; executive producer Adrian Scrope. Special effects by David Harris. Written by John Groves and Kent Walwin based on characters created by W E Johns. Cast includes Peter Cushing, Neil Dickson, Daniel Flynn, Marcus Gilbert, Francesca Gonshaw, William Hootkins, Fiona Hutchinson, Alex Hyde-White, James Saxon and Michael Siberry. 92 minutes. Colour.

Present-day fast-foods entrepreneur Jim Ferguson (Hyde-White) of New York discovers through a series of Timeslip episodes that he is a "time twin" of the legendary World War One fighter ace Biggles (Dickson); each spontaneously undergoes Time Travel to come to the help of his "twin" when danger threatens. Although his disappearances into the past trouble his fiancée Debbie Stephens (Hutchinson), Ferguson is prepared to dismiss them as hallucination until the ancient RAF Commodore William Raymond (Cushing) persuades him that the aid he gives/gave to Biggles in destroying a German secret Weapon is/was important if the present is to be preserved (see also Time Police). At last Biggles and the "sound weapon" are brought into present-day London, where the sonic device is destroyed. Naturally Biggles's usual flying squadron companions Algy (Siberry), Bertie (Saxon) and Ginger (Flynn) have their parts to play, as does his regular German adversary Erich von Stalhein (Gilbert).

Although Biggles is rather flatly scripted and feels like Steven Spielberg on the cheap, it retains some interest as Fantastika thanks to its notion of travel not only through Time but from the mundane into a created Alternate World – and vice versa. The film was neither a critical nor a box-office success, but eventually crept into profit via repeats and video sales, acquiring something of a cult reputation.

There are two novelizations: Biggles: The Untold Story (graph 1986) by Peter James, a picture book, and Biggles: The Movie (1986) by Trevor Hoyle writing as by Larry Milne. There was also a tie-in Videogame, Biggles (1986), released by Image Works for various platforms. [JGr/DRL]


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