So there was no intention of the Black Hole ever being "well-themed" at all, just a few props would have sufficed. I imagine it was all very humble and nice really, no pressure to satisfy enthusiasts with mountains of theming or tremendous G forces, just a nice exciting day out.
The Black Hole themeing was pretty impressive for its time. The asteroids and spacemen in the spiral lift filled the space nicely and the rest of the ride was absolutely pitch black bar a few red strip lights that seemed to be attached to the track to give you a 'very' vague clue to where you were heading next. The idea was that it was a Black Hole, so after the spacemen and asteroids (presumably being sucked into the Black Hole as you were about to be), it was right that you had nothing but pitch black. There were a few flashing lights too, but they never detracted from the feeling of pitch black infinity.
The station was pretty 'futuristic', very dark and dark blue as I recall.
The first retheme in '88 added a longer queueing area before the station which improved on the themeing even more; it was akin to walking down a corridor on the US Enterprise or whatever SciFi space station you could think of.
The second retheme of '96 was even more impressive. Unfortunately, the inside of the ride seemed to be made to compliment the fog that filled the dome and while it was awesome initially. Once the fog went, the lights inside lit up too much of the ride and spoilt the whole idea of why it was called The Black Hole. It was like riding a coaster in a warehouse. I always missed the original concept of it being pitch black during the fast part of the ride.
I imagine it was all very humble and nice really, no pressure to satisfy enthusiasts with mountains of theming or tremendous G forces, just a nice exciting day out.
You're kidding me!
80s AT seemed absolutely intent on pushing each ride as the 'Longest (Log Flume), 'Steepest drop' (The Beast, according to their hype at the time), and 'Excess of 3G' (Corkscrew and Black Hole) type of spiel.
And as CoasterCrazyChris has pointed out, the 80s investments were huge! I wonder how much it would all amount to in today's money. Certainly the first 8 years of operation had more investment than any other period since.
In terms of themeing, the rides were built to compliment the landscape, so there was no pressure to theme them any more than necessary because it was money that didn't need to be spent. Unless of course you look at Talbot Street, in particular Doom & Sons and Around The World In 80 Days. The Black Hole, as mentioned, had reasonably impressive themeing, and look at the architecture behind Towers Street and the Monorail/Skyride stations. All pretty strong, solid, well designed buildings.
If you'd visited in the 80s, you'd know that the park was regarded much more highly than it is even now, and most certainly wasn't 'little more than a countryside amusement park at the time'.
And they had competition. Blackpool Pleasure Beach was their main competitor and there was a lot of rivalry there. They also had Drayton Manor Park in the same county, and in the mid-80s, even West Midland Safari Park began to up its game on the ride front. Also, don't forget that in 87, The American Adventure opened too and for it's first three years of operation, looked like it could possibly overtake AT as the UK's number one park (seriously, it did, then went downhill very fast).
So AT had to make more effort than you're maybe assuming.
And the thing is, no generation of AT's management has felt any pressure to satisfy enthusiasts. Their number one priority is appealing to the 2.5million-ish casual visitors that make up 99% of their custom.
But back to the subject in hand The Black Hole circa 1985 would be my choice to bring back. As if you hadn't guessed that already
For the third time that day, his flaps fell off.