Kim Buckley (Judy Liebert) is a new mother driven to distraction by the demands of her constantly crying baby boy. With no assistance forthcoming from her husband Jeremy (Christian Rodska) she quickly becomes a danger to her son ….
Rage opens with a visit to two very different households (although both homes are fairly spacious middle-class dwellings, not typical of Hartley). In the first, Jean and Tom are having a relaxed and playful early morning bicker. Tom is mock annoyed by the fact that the newspaper boy is slow in delivering his Guardian (he likes to park up at the end of the street and read it). Clearly he must be a well-read lad if he prefers it to the charms of the Sun.
Playing in the background is Terry Wogan’s breakfast show with Marmalade’s (an appropriate group for the time of day) version of Ob-La-Di-La-Da. The same song continues when the focus switches over to Kim and Jeremy, but the mood there is completely different.
They don’t exchange a word, although their non-verbal actions speak just as clearly as any dialogue would. Jeremy’s face expresses disgust at various small things (the way the teaspoon has been left in the sugar bag, toys scattered about the room) whilst the constantly crying baby is like a knife through Kim’s heart. When he leaves for work (slamming the door) still without having spoken to her, it might have been the trigger for the first of her breakdowns – she smashes up the living room – although this violence doesn’t appear to give her any respite.
Clutching a bottle of whisky, she eventually staggers up to her son. Up to this point we haven’t actually seen him (he’s been represented purely by sound alone). This works on several levels. Not only practically (strict rules would have governed the length of time a baby could be present in the studio) but also story-wise (there’s something slightly more disturbing about a crying baby when we can only hear it).
The sheer misery and desperation of Kim’s life is contrasted by the merry atmosphere at Hartley nick. When Jean enters, Joe is doing his best Long John Silver impression – all because they’ve received a report from a Mrs Edith Bridewell, who’s told them that her son has stolen her wooden leg ….
Moving onto film, as Kim takes her baby out, we get our first sight of the child. But not for long – once Kim enters the police station (as usual, recorded in the studio) the baby has disappeared from the pram. After Kim claims to have killed her son (the empty pram suggests this might be so) she runs off, necessitating a switch back to film as the green young PC Ian Shelton (Martyn Hesford) sets off in hot pursuit.
After this filmic moment we again switch back to the station on videotape (this constant jump from videotape to film and then back to videotape isn’t ideal but it was the way drama of this era tended to be made). A strange videotape/film mix occurs later in the episode when we see Roland checking out the Buckley’s house. The living room is on videotape, but the hallway is shot on film ….
Across the course of the episode, Judy Liebert is called upon to produce several violent mood swings – it’s certainly the sort of role that you have to through yourself into. After being pulled into the station is a deeply hysterical mood, she switches back to being quiet and composed.
She doesn’t have a particularly long list of credits, which is a slight surprise as Liebert’s very compelling as the deeply disturbed Kim. The battle of wills between Jean and Kim is well-written, giving both actors a chance to shine. Kim’s comment that Hartley “sits like concrete on my neck” sums up in a few words the sort of prison she believes she’s found herself in.
Kim’s wildly fluctuating moods continues to drive the story onwards. The moment when she punches Jean in the face (Jean responds by slapping her) is one such example. Presumably Jean intended the slap to bring her to her senses (which it did) although it’s still a jarring sight.
Writer John Foster had cut his teeth on Softly Softly (his first television writing credit was an episode of the series back in 1966) before moving onto a range of seventies dramas including Sutherland’s Law and Z Cars. He would contribute eight scripts in total to Juliet Bravo, including the memorable episodes Aunt Sally and Chasing The Dragon. It’s fair to say that downbeat often tended to be his JB style.
Offering little in the way of light relief, we do at least have a fairly happy ending after the baby is found safe and well. Jean tells Jeremy that he has to do his job better in the future (listen and respond to his wife) with Jean inclined to write this matter off. The right decision? Only time will tell.