BBC Two (partially lost idents of British television channel; 1991-2001)
BBC Two is a British public broadcast television channel which has been operating since its launch on 21st April 1964. In February 1991, a major rebranding of the channel commenced, featuring numerous idents involving a sans-serif '2' logo. Lasting from 1991 to 2001, most BBC Two idents from this time period are readily publicly available from sources like YouTube and Ravensbourne University London. However, a few remain as lost media, particularly those which exclusively presented special programming.
Prior to 1991, BBC Two relied upon a single ident to introduce its programming. Some of these early idents showcased the technological advances the BBC had adopted. For example, the 1967-1972 ident was colourised, to represent the fact BBC Two had become the first European channel to continually air colour programming. Later, the 1979-1986 ident was the first to be done via computer-generated imagery.
From 1986 to 1991, a red, green, and blue ident was harnessed, apparently to boost the channel's reputation of providing "high brow" programming. A year following its introduction, Alan Yentob was promoted as the channel's controller. Unlike others at the BBC, Yentob was critical of the new BBC Two ident, deeming it to be unmemorable and consequently harming the channel's branding. Surveys completed by viewers backed up Yentob's belief that the 1986-1991 ident was ultimately too dull in showcasing the channel's personality. Therefore, Yentob commissioned branding agency Lambie-Nairn, who was already conducting a rebranding of BBC One, to also give BBC Two a worthy makeover.
Headed by Martin Lambie-Nairn, the company realised that the sans-serif '2' logo given to them was viable, as its distinctive size and thickness enabled them to produce colourful scenarios involving it. Primarily using the colour viridian to produce unified branding, several production tricks were used to create memorable idents. For example, the first new ident titled "Paint" was introduced to television screens on 16th February 1991. It consisted of a white 2 being enveloped by viridian paint splashing onto it from the right. To achieve this effect, both the 2 and camera were inverted to allow paint to drop down onto the 2. Editing then showed the paint splash from the "right" angle. The idents were accompanied by holistic music created by Anthony and Gaynor Sadler, based around imaginative themes. For example, the music for "Silk" was centred around a sunken ship (the 2) and the ocean (the silk moving on top of it).
The Lambie-Nairn BBC Two idents were universally acclaimed both from a corporate and viewership perspective. Hence, when a logo rebranding of BBC commenced in 1997, many of these early idents were kept on as new ones were created. After a decade, the BBC decided to move away from these logos, replacing them with the "Personality 2s" also created by Lambie-Nairn. However, when BBC Two celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014, the BBC opted to bring back many of the 1991-2001 idents to reflect rising nostalgia for them. Four years later, they were again replaced, this time by "Curve" idents that also marked the end of the sans-serif '2' logo.
Missing and Recovered BBC Two Idents
Over 40 idents were created for BBC Two from 1991 to 2001. The idents' volume and diversity gave Lambie-Nairn the idea of creating themed logos to be used for special programming. Some of these later became regularly used idents; one such example was the "Dalek" ident, which saw 2 versions of Doctor Who's most iconic villains presenting reruns of the science-fiction show. Other themed idents remained as one-offs, thus making them among the rarest broadcast on the channel, some ultimately becoming lost to the public. For the sake of brevity, as well as the fact many BBC Two idents from 1991 to 2001 were never considered lost to begin with, this article shall list only those that remain lost or were declared missing before ultimately being recovered.
Edinburgh Nights (FOUND)
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is an annual arts and culture festival, first held in 1947. The largest of its kind worldwide, it showcases numerous performing arts acts, including dance, comedy, and perhaps most notably, theatre productions. In 1992, BBC Two was seeking to televise some of the more prominent acts; on 3rd September 1992, it provided coverage of dancer Pina Basuch, and acts from the Els Joglars. The following day, it showcased the first ever rendition of Tubular Bells II, the sequel to Mike Oldfield's 1973 debut album Tubular Bells, at the Edinburgh Castle's Esplanade.
The coverage would air on tape-delay for an evening timeslot. Thus, Lambie-Nairn opted to create an "Edinburgh Nights" ident. It begins with two red curtains being opened up to welcome a viridian 2 on-stage, as the spotlight rains down on it. It is believed the ident was not used for subsequent Edinburgh Festival Fringe broadcasts, resulting in it disappearing from screens following September 1992. Hence, it became one of the rarest BBC Two idents, and was subsequently declared lost media. However, on 17th April 2020, YouTuber Archive TV uploaded a collection of BBC Two idents that aired between 1991 to 1997. Among them was the Edinburgh Nights ident.
Evolution Weekend (FOUND)
In late-March 1998, BBC Two broadcast a series of programmes centred around the concept of evolution. Dubbed "Evolution Weekend", two programmes were aired on 27th March. The first, titled "The Fossil Roadshow", saw Peter Snow and Michaela Strachan chat fossil-hunters about their finds, at a roadshow housed within London's Natural History Museum. Meanwhile, "The Origin of Species: an Illustrated Guide" had David Attenborough explain and assess the influential and controversial history surrounding Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, which introduced the theory of natural selection.
The following day, Attenborough visited the Natural History Museum to produce a trilogy of Life on Earth specials. The first looked at the evolution from mere single-celled organisations to the rise of plants and insects. The second focused on the evolution of reptiles, while the last detailed evolution of mammals. The second of three Fossil Roadshow episodes was followed by a biography on Darwin. Finally, Melvyn Bragg hosted a debate on Darwin and whether evolution has a clear impact on humanity and its societies. On 29th March, the final Fossil Roadshow episode aired. Dan Cruickshank then explored the study of natural history during the Victorian era, including the infrastructure required to test theories. A film about Darwin's overall legacy concluded Evolution Weekend.
To promote the programming, Ahmet Ahmet was tasked to create a special ident. Ahmet's Evolution Weekend ident begins with water dropping onto a 2, reflecting how water created life on the planet. Amidst the ripple effect, an ape can be briefly seen as it evolves into the modern human. Like with Edinburgh Nights, this ident was not utilised following Evolution Weekend's end, resulting it in being declared lost by 2015. It was eventually recovered on 16th February 2020 by VenLab. A clean version can also be viewed on Ravensbourne University London's website.
Halloween Night Idents (FOUND)
On 31st October 1992, starting from 23:05 pm, BBC Two broadcast a series of films and segments for the "Vault Of Horror" block. Aside from featuring works like The Curse of the Werewolf and The Bride of Frankenstein, a few Horror Bites segments aired. Presented by Dr Walpurgis, it featured interviews from famous figures, including Sam Raimi and Stephen King, regarding the behind-the-scenes of producing horror works. The segments included:
- "What's behind the Door, Mummy?", which discussed the factors needed to frighten viewers.
- "Tales from EC", focusing on comics that influenced the creation of King and George Romero's 1982 horror comedy Creepshow.
- "The Art of Illusion", featuring an interview with American makeup artist Tom Savini.
- "The Unholy Trinity", covering the works made by Clive Barker, Sean Cunningham, and Wes Craven.
- "Prime Evil", where Raimi and Bruce Campbell discussed the Evil Dead franchise.
- "Terror on the Page", where King and other authors discussed their horror books.
- "The Horror of Sex", which detailed sexual horror and representation of women in horror films.
- "Dario's Friends", where Dario Argento discussed his work on the then-upcoming film Trauma.
To celebrate the occasion, Lambie-Nairn created three special Halloween Nights idents. The first opened up the Vault of Horror; it initially follows the "Silk" ident concept, but with a shocking surprise as the 2 is instead splashed with blood. A revving chainsaw can be heard, before it comes into shot and "decapitates" the 2, in a clear reference to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. The second ident begins with a jump lead attached to the 2. Suddenly, an individual callously attaches a second jump lead, which completes the circuit needed to electrocute the 2, most likely paying homage to horror films centred around torture. Finally, the third ident sees the 2 in a shower, only for a maniac to appear and stab the 2 as the Psycho theme plays, an obvious tribute to the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film.
The Halloween Night idents were exclusively used for the 1992 "Vault Of Horror" block. Many of the Horror Bites segments themselves became lost media for decades, resulting in two of the three idents becoming missing as well. The Psycho ident was somehow recovered by 2015, but it would not be until 28th April 2018 when VHiStory uploaded the majority of the Horror Bites segments that the other idents were recovered.
Moon Landing (FOUND)
20th July 1994 marked the 25th anniversary of Apollo 11 successfully landing on the Moon, resulting in Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin becoming the first humans to step onto its surface. As the BBC geared up to commemorate the occasion, another famous piece of space history occurred. In July 1994, Shoemaker–Levy 9, a comet which had already been broken apart two years prior by Jupiter, was on a direct collision course with the gas giant. Astronomers soon captured the collision, deemed to be the first clear observation of a such a cosmic incident between Solar System entities. This also allowed new theories and observations surrounding Jupiter to be formed, particularly on how it may well limit space debris from clogging the inner Solar System. A series of programmes on Apollo and the Jupiter Collision were broadcast during this time period, including one focusing on what scientists could learn from the collision.
A Moon Landing ident was created to celebrate the 25th anniversary. In the ident, the shadow of the Apollo spacecraft, appropriately shaped as a 2, can be seen as it successfully lands on the Moon. It was based on 11's window shot, and filmed on a rostrum camera, with the Moon's surface established via pollyfiller. Two versions of this ident were shown, one featuring audio from the Apollo mission. Like with many special BBC Two idents, the Moon Landing ident became lost once the anniversary soon passed. On 25th December 2016, Benriggers uploaded the ident without the Apollo audio. Meanwhile, a clean version featuring the Apollo dialogue is now accessible courtesy of Ravensbourne University London.
Nightschool TV (FOUND)
Nightschool TV refers to a block of programmes intended for secondary schools to harness as part of their curriculum. Eventually becoming part of BBC Two's The Learning Zone block, episodes aired as early as 19th January 1993. The interesting aspect was that its episodes primarily aired from 2-4am on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The reason behind broadcasting the episodes late at night was because the BBC realised most secondary schools and other educators were simply recording its educational programming rather than showing them live during lessons. Thus, the move allowed individuals to record shows to view at their discretion, and theoretically free up time for other programming.
To signify Nightschool programming, a special ident was created, featuring the flipping pages of a textbook filled with viridian 2s. Unlike the above idents, the Nightschool ident was regularly aired for several years. However, because it was broadcast late at night, hardly any viewers actually got to witness it. This led to the ident becoming lost media until it was eventually uploaded to YouTube by Benriggers. A clean version was uploaded by Owen_ploc - MoreWithLess on 7th February 2020.
Unlike the other idents detailed in this article, very little is actually known regarding the Pop Art ident. Naturally reflecting the art movement's popularity in Britain and America during the 1960s, it ends with a viridian 2 zooming into frame. It is unclear when the Pop Art ident was used, though it may have been used to open "The Pop Show", a two-hour special broadcast on 14th September 1991, which featured Patrick Hughes and Matthew Collins touring the Royal Academy in London as it hosted more than 250 Pop Art exhibitions. The Pop Art ident has been declared lost media, with only a few images of it being currently publicly available.
Starting from late-March 1992, a series of special programming on the life and career of the revolutionary 17th-century Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn were aired on BBC Two. The first show was broadcast on 22nd March 1992, with Simon Schama documenting the rise of Rembrandt and his work prior to experiencing tragedy and withdrawing from public society. "Rembrandt Times Three" saw three separate programmes on Rembrandt and his works. The first saw Ken McMullen analyse Rembrandt's fascination of blindness by recreating some of his famous works, including The Blinding of Samson. The second featured Oscar Grillo animate Rembrandt's personal life and tragedies to the tone of blues music. Finally, John Berger evaluated the artist's focus on the human body for many of his works.
Broadcast on 25th March, "The Vanishing Rembrandts" explores the controversial history surrounding the authenticity of supposed Rembrandt works. At the turn of the 1900s, there were estimated to have been just under 1,000 Rembrandt works. However, under 300 were reported by 1992, not because of the artworks being stolen, destroyed, or misplaced, but because numerous scientists and scholars have determined many of these creations were actually from Rembrandt's students. Debate over which works were actually forged by Rembrandt continues as of the present day, with the 1638 painting Landscape with Arched Bridge, originally credited to student Govert Flinck, now conclusively determined to have been painted by Rembrandt himself. On 29th March, Shama detailed Rembrandt's growing detachment from society. Finally, from April to July 1992, Lord Clark's 1976 five-part Rembrandt documentary was re-broadcast.
A Rembrandt ident was subsequently produced. It features the creation of a 2-themed Rembrandt painting, as Rembrandt begins with a pencil sketch before adding extensive detail, eventually completing the portrait. Two uploads showing the end of the ident were uploaded by Benriggers and The TV Room. However, the full ident remains missing, with only an additional few images currently being publicly available.
Shakespeare "Bard on the Box"
Between October to November 1994, BBC Two aired a series of programmes focusing on the playwright William Shakespeare, in what was appropriately titled "Bard on the Box". The episodes aimed to explore the history, works, reputation, and myths of Shakespeare, with one programme, "Bardbrain of Britain", quizzing Shakespeare enthusiasts on their knowledge regarding the bard in order to be declared the "King or Queen of Shakespeariana". A Bard on the Box ident was established, showcasing a black cauldron from which materialises a potato-shaped 2. Only two images of the ident are known to be publicly available.
The X-Files Night (FOUND)
BBC Two had been airing episodes of the Fox science-fiction drama The X-Files since at least September 1994. On 12th November 2000, in preparation for a new series, BBC Two promoted "X Files Night". It began with a television interview with The X-Files creator Chris Charter, before airing The Simpsons episode "The Springfield Files", which parodied the show. The block concluded with an airing of the show's pilot.
Three special idents were created for the occasion. The first begins with a camera capturing footage of a city at night, before zooming in on a anomalous viridian 2 entity in the sky. The second was essentially the same as the first, albeit shown in black and white. The final ident was a negative filter of the previous city backdrop, only this time a computer zooms in on the 2, which is now flickering. As they only aired on a single night, the idents became lost media before eventually being unearthed by Benriggers.
- Ravensbourne University London providing a clean Evolution Weekend ident.
- Ravensbourne University London providing a clean Moon Landing ident.
- The TV Room providing the end of the Rembrandt ident.
- TV Live summarising the idents used over the years. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- TV Live summarising the 1967-1972 ident. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- BBC detailing the 1967 Wimbledon Championships being aired in colour, kickstarting regular colour programming in the UK. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- TV Live summarising the 1979-1986 ident. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- TV Live summarising the 1986-1991 ident. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- TV Live summarising the 1991-1997 idents and detailing the motivation behind creating them. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- BBC detailing the creation of the 1991-2001 idents, and noting they were brought back from 2014-2018. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Ravensbourne University London summarising the "Paint" ident and noting it was the first showcased on television. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Independent detailing the career of Yentob. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- The TV Room summarising the career of Lambie-Nairn. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- TV Whirl summarising the 1991-2001 idents and their return in 2014. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Ravensbourne University London summarising the Silk ident. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- TV Live summarising the 1997-2001 idents. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- The Guardian reporting on the BBC moving towards the "Personality 2s". Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- TV Live summarising the "Personality 2s". Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- TV Whirl summarising the 2014-2018 return of the idents. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Daily Mail reporting on the introduction of the 'Curve' idents. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Ravensbourne University London summarising the "Dalek" ident. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Encyclopaedia Britannica summarising the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Time Out detailing the history of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Issue 3,583 of Radio Times detailing the Edinburgh Festival Fringe coverage on 3rd September 1992. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Issue 3,583 of Radio Times detailing the Edinburgh Festival Fringe coverage on 4th September 1992. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Issue 3,867 of Radio Times detailing the first day of Evolution Weekend. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Issue 3,868 of Radio Times detailing the second day of Evolution Weekend. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Issue 3,868 of Radio Times detailing the final day of Evolution Weekend. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- History summarising Charles Darwin's Origin of Species and its legacy. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- BBC summarising Life on Earth. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Issue 3,592 of Radio Times detailing the "Vault of Horror" programming. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- VHiStory detailing the "Vault of Horror" programming and the three idents. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- History detailing the Apollo 11 mission. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Lunar and Planetary Institute detailing the Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 collision and how Jupiter was affected by it. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Sky at Night Magazine summarising the Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Issue 3,679 of Radio Times detailing BBC Two's programming on the Jupiter Collision. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Archived BBC Language Catalogue (1996/1997) summarising Nightschool TV as part of The Learning Zone block. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- BBC Genome archive of Radio Times issues listing episodes of Nightschool TV. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Tes reporting on the BBC Learning Zone and the motivation for being an overnight learning service. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- The Art Story detailing pop art and its rise in popularity during the 1950s and 1960s. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Issue 3,534 of Radio Times detailing "The Pop Show". Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- National Gallery biography on Rembrandt. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- BBC Genome archive of Radio Times issues detailing Rembrandt programming in 1992. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- The Guardian reporting on Landscape with Arched Bridge being confirmed to have been painted by Rembrandt. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Shakespeare Birthplace Trust biography on Shakespeare. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- BBC Genome archive of Radio Times issues listing Bard on the Box programming. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- TV Forum discussing the Bard on the Box ident. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- BBC Genome archive of Radio Times issues listing episodes of The X-Files broadcast on BBC Two. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23
- Issue 4,003 of Radio Times detailing "The X-Files Night" programming. Retrieved 2nd Jul '23