Redcap – A Town Called Love

After assaulting a German girl called Gerda, Private Pendlebury (Michael Robbins) crosses over into East Germany. He may not be prime defector material, but he’s still made welcome. Back in the West, Mann is confronted by Pendlebury’s distraught wife.  She pleads with Mann to retrieve her husband ….

There’s one really clever thing about A Town Called Love, although I have to confess that until the credits rolled I’d completely forgotten about it. Gwendolyn Watts plays two roles – Gerda (Pendlebury’s German girlfriend) and Vera (Pendlebury’s wife).

Gerda is blonde whilst Vera is a brunette. This simple act of changing hairstyles obviously helped to create the illusion that they were two different people. Or maybe I was just distracted by Gerda’s transparent negligee …..

There’s no particular reason why the two parts should have been played by the same actress, but it offered Watts a more than decent showcase for her talents. Gerda – who possibly is seeking to entrap the unwary Pendlebury into criminal activity – is the less well defined of the two, but Vera is gifted several strong scenes.  Alternating between vulnerability and calculation, she’s able to appeal to the kind-hearted Mann, who then risks his own safety by crossing over the wall in an attempt to bring Pendlebury back.

Once again, there’s so much quality in the cast.  Michael Robbins, best known for playing the long-suffering Arthur in On The Buses, is equally long-suffering here. Pendlebury is a straightforward sort of chap – after his altercation with Gerda (he says she slipped and hit her head) he hot-foots it over to the East. But he finds life to be no better there than it was in the West, so he’s easily persuaded by Mann to return and take his punishment. But there’s a nasty sting in the tale for him when he does come back.

Magda (Yootha Joyce) and Bob McGregor (Garfield Morgan) are both very welcoming to all new defectors, but only because it’s their job. Morgan’s plummy good-cheer and Joyce’s sultry seductiveness both have a very hollow feel, but then I doubt that either Pendlebury or Mann were taken in by them.

There’s a cold opening to this episode, as Mann’s now changed location and seems to have a permanent base, operating with Sergeant Coulter (Glynn Edwards) and Colonel Matherson (Peter Copley). Neither appear again though, so this posting presumably was only temporary. That’s a pity, as both characters had scope for future development – Coulter’s friendly opposition with Mann (they have very different opinions about Pendlebury) and Matherson’s avuncular but steely command style could easily have been examined in more depth across a series of episodes.

Not quite as gripping as the first episode, possibly because there’s the sense that Mann isn’t going to remain in the East for very long (it would have been a short series had he done so) there’s still enough character conflict to keep things ticking along nicely.

 

Redcap – It’s What Comes After

Sergeant Mann’s investigation into a soldier who went AWOL is an open and shut case. But it indirectly leads onto a more puzzling affair – why has a previously upstanding officer, Captain Lynne (Keith Barron), suddenly started to act in a very erratic manner? Maybe it’s connected to his wife’s recent breakdown ….

Airing between 1964 and 1966, Redcap offered John Thaw his first starring role. Sergeant Mann, a member of the army investigative unit, has free reign to travel the globe, unearthing crime, corruption and disorderly conduct wherever British soldiers might be stationed. This gives Mann the air of a permanent outsider who’s always faced with an uphill battle to bring any perpetrators to justice. In retrospect, this sort of character fits Thaw like a glove – it’s easy to see echoes of Jack Regan in Mann (both, at times, are no respecter of authority).

Although Mann visited a fair few countries, the series never left the UK (and indeed rarely ventured outside of the studio). Some might view this as a weakness but if you love 1960’s studio-based VT drama, then Redcap will be just your cup of tea.

There was plenty of quality on the technical side – it was produced by John Bryce (who helmed The Avengers during 1963/64) and script-edited by Ian Kennedy-Martin (later to write Reganthe Armchair Cinema pilot which spawned The Sweeney). Plenty of familiar names pop up on the writing front such as William Emms on this opening episode.

The mystery as to why Lynne has gone to pieces is eventually revealed – his wife (played by Miranda Connell) was raped after leaving a mess party. With the crime having taken place inside the army compound, this makes it more than likely that a soldier was responsible. But even after this revelation there’s still an air of mystery – why is Lynne so reluctant to admit what happened?

Barron plays Lynne as an upper-crust type and manages to nicely suggest the conflict and turmoil that lies behind his apparent passivity.  He eventually does come clean, and to Lynne’s credit he wasn’t acting purely out of self-interest (although he does admit that public knowledge about his wife’s rape would damage both his career and reputation).

Emms’ script briefly attempts to tease out the puzzle concerning the guilty party by offering us several possibilities. But since we only focus on one – Private Bolt (Kenneth Colley) – this mystery soon dissipates.  There are still several different ways the story might play out though – Bolt is guilty and confesses, Bolt is guilty but doesn’t confess, Bolt is innocent.

In the end, everything is wrapped up slightly too neatly. Mann has very little evidence, but contrives a situation where Bolt and Lynne are left alone. Lynne, having already been told by Mann that Bolt is the most likely suspect, snaps and viciously beats Bolt up. And having been pulped by Lynne, Bolt then helpfully confesses his crime to Mann.

Hmm, given this confession was extracted under duress it’s possible that it might not stand up in court. Mind you, it’s the kind of stroke you could imagine Jack Regan pulling.  Indeed, Thaw does glower throughout with the same sort of barely supressed fury that he’d later display in The Sweeney, so maybe even this early on Kennedy-Martin was taking notes ….

As with each episode, It’s What Comes After is immaculately cast. Keith Barron is good value as Lynne, whilst Colley slips in enough off-kilter gestures to suggest that Bolt is indeed the man we’re looking for.  Derek Newark, as the long-suffering Mess Sergeant (who has to deal with the insubordinate Bolt on a daily basis) also catches the eye.

It may not impress as a great example of detective work, but It’s What Comes After is certainly a strong opening episode.

Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode Six – Flashpoint

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Flashpoint is an episode of two halves – the Daleks are defeated and the Doctor bids farewell to Susan.

After five episodes (and countless unseen years prior to the events of World’s End) it’s undeniable that the Daleks are dealt with rather quickly.  But the major niggle I have is how the destruction of the mine is assumed to signify the end of the Daleks’ rule.  This was an invasion of Earth, remember, nor just Britain.  So are there no Daleks in any other country?

It’s hard to be too critical of Nation though, since this would be a problem the series would encounter again and again over the years.  Subsequent invaders, be they Cybermen, Autons, etc would (for all their meticulous planning and strength in numbers) always have to be vanquished totally just before the end of the final episode.

When done badly it can feel like the Doctor’s simply flicked a switch to turn the story off.  Perhaps DIOE would have felt more satisfying had the Doctor left Earth with the humans holding the upper hand but still facing a long struggle to completely irradiate the Dalek menace.  But due to the way that stories tended to be neatly wrapped up by the concluding episode it’s not a surprise this option wasn’t taken.

There are a few bright spots during the first half though.  I love Barbara’s attempt to bamboozle the Black Dalek with news of a non-existent rebellion led by numerous famous figures from history!  She’s been rather sidelined during the last few episodes, so this was a nice moment.

A realistic touch is how shabby Ian’s clothes have become.  We’ve seen this before, An Unearthly Child for example, but it’s not something that would happen very often – later Doctors and companions would tend to look spotless, irrespective of the traumas they’d been through.

The Doctor’s in a proactive mood which is best demonstrated when he penetrates Dalek control.  His stand-off with a Dalek – seen from the eye-stalk of the metal meanie – is an impressive directorial flourish.  Hartnell, clutching his lapels, strikes a typically iconic pose.

The Dalek voices are rather inconsistent throughout the serial – at times it sounds like there’s little ring modulation used at all.  Most bizarrely, several times in this episode we hear Dalek voices over the tannoy and they sound for all the world like Peter Hawkins and David Graham have simply clamped a hand over their mouths!

The destruction of the mine is shown via stock footage, which is as convincing as stock footage usually is.  But the shot of Jenny, Tyler and the Doctor looking down on the devastation does almost makes up for this.  Both Ann Davies and Bernard Kay are immobile and expressionless as Jenny and Tyler begin to process the news that the war is over.  The joy of victory can come later, for now there’s just a weariness as they reflect how many lives have been lost over the years.

This still leaves ten minutes, which is a generous chunk of time to devote to Susan’s departure.  It’s interesting that neither Susan or David featured in the attack on the Dalek mine (was this an intentional sidelining of Susan?).  Given Ford’s unhappiness with the way Susan had been underused since the start of the series it’s ironic she wasn’t given a chance to shine against the Daleks in her last episode.

But at least she’s given a decent send-off (something that several future companions will be denied).  Grubby and tear-stained, we come to see that Susan loves David but can’t bear the thought of leaving her grandfather.  So the Doctor makes the decision for her and locks her out of the TARDIS.  Hartnell’s close relationship with Ford was well known (he’d come to look on her almost as his real granddaughter) and it’s plain that Hartnell, just as much as the Doctor, feels the pain of their separation.  Fifty plus years later it’s still touching stuff.

One day I shall come back. Yes I shall come back. Until then there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties.  Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I’m not mistaken in mine.

Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode Five – The Waking Ally


We see a little more of the Slyther at the start of The Waking Ally, but not for long as Ian bashes it with a rock and sends it plummeting to its death down the mineshaft.  As it falls, it makes a rather pitiful cry.  Am I the only one to have a tinge of regret at the Slyther’s passing?

After spending the early episodes as exterminating baddies, the Daleks we see at the mines are slightly less exciting.  They come across as a group of middle-managers, worrying about work parties and the like.  It’s interesting that eight years later, in Day of the Daleks, they’re very similar.  Had Day been written by Nation it would have been an obvious retread, but that one was scripted by Louis Marks.  Possibly Marks had been influenced by these episodes or maybe he was just drawing on a similar theme.  After all, you can only exterminate so many people – if you kill them all then you’ll have no labour force left to carry out your nefarious plans.

Hartnell’s back and he’s in fine form – we see the Doctor give one of the Robomen a damn good thrashing.  For those who believe the Doctor is a pacifist it might be somewhat unexpected, but in reality he’s never been averse to using force.  It’s rarer that he actually gets physical (unless he’s being played by Jon Pertwee) but there’s countless occasions when the Doctor is shown to be quite happy to wipe out large numbers of whoever he considers to be the enemy that week.

Barbara and Jenny, whilst looking for shelter, find a tumbledown house in the middle of the woods.  The original plan had been for the house to contain three old women who would have resembled the witches from Macbeth (was it budget problems that ensured only two made it to screen?!)

One of the women reacts with polite pity to the news that London is no more.  “Destroyed? Well I never. Oh, when I went it was beautiful. There was the moving pavements and the shops and the astronaut fair.”  This sort of world-building via dialogue would later be a hallmark of Robert Holmes and although Nation’s brief effort is somewhat cruder it does give us a brief glimpse of 22nd Century life.  The women betray Barbara and Jenny to the Daleks.  In Nation’s first draft, one of them tells Barbara that “we’re old, child. Times are difficult. There’s only one law now – survive.”

Larry injures himself after he and Ian reach the bottom of the mine.  This is a sure sign that he won’t be around much longer, which is a shame as I’ve enjoyed Graham Rigby’s performance.  He manages to deliver lines like “who knows what the Daleks are up to? I told you what my brother Phil said – all they want is the magnetic core of Earth” with aplomb.  I like the contradiction inherent in this statement – who knows what they want? Oh, it’s the magnetic core of Earth that they want …

His death is so bleak.  He finds his brother, but discovers that he’s been turned into a Roboman.  Larry’s efforts to find some spark of humanity still remaining in his sibling (“Phil…it’s Larry, your brother Larry. Think Phil! Remember me! Angela…Your wife, Angela! I’ll take you to her”) comes to nothing and Robo Phil kills him.  As Larry dies, so does Robo Phil and the final (unscripted) recognition of Larry by Robo Phil just before he draws his final breath simply adds another level of tragedy to this scene.

How does the Doctor work out that the Daleks’ mine-works in Bedfordshire are the centre of their operations?  For all we know there could be similar Dalek mines dotted all around the globe.  The others ask the Doctor what the Daleks’ intention could be. He’s not sure, but the cat’s already been let out of the bag by Larry – his assertion that the Daleks are keen to extract the Earth’s core turns out to be 100% accurate. Perhaps it would have been better to snip this earlier line out, that way the mystery would have lasted a little longer.

Later on, the Black Dalek helpfully explains exactly what their ultimate plan is via the intercom. “This is the Supreme Controller. Our mission to Earth is nearly completed. We were sent here to remove the core of this planet. Once the core is removed, we can replace it with a power system that will enable us to pilot the planet anywhere in the universe.”  This is breathtakingly bonkers.

The scene with the Black Dalek is a good example of the chaos that can occur when you choose to pre-record Dalek dialogue. This didn’t happen that often – probably for the reasons you see here.  Mid-way through the scene, the cues begin to go hopelessly out of sync which gives us a bizarre moment when three Daleks are all taking at once and making very little sense!

Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode Four – The End Of Tomorrow

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As previously discussed, Hartnell wasn’t able to take part in the recording of this episode, so his handful of lines had to be farmed out.  This occurs when David steps up to dismantle the Daleks’ firebomb (this would have been the Doctor’s only contribution to the episode).  It’s presumably a sign of the times that no thought was given to the possibility of Susan becoming the bomb expert.  It would have been a good reminder that whilst she looked like a fifteen-year old girl she possessed experience which belied her appearance.  But no, it has to be the man who takes charge, while Susan hovers anxiously in the background.

There’s a first in The End of Tomorrow – it’s the first time that Doctor Who filmed in a quarry (and this was one of those rare times when the location was actually shown to be a quarry and not an alien planet!)  John’s Hole at Stone, Kent has this singular honour.  And how well do the Daleks work in the quarry?  Answer, not very well.  We see one trundle a short distance rather slowly, but otherwise they wisely stay immobile.

The unmistakable Nicholas Smith, sporting an unexpected Mummerset accent, pops up as Wells.  He racked up numerous credits during the 1960’s but he’ll always be best remembered as Mr Rumbold from Are You Being Served?

Terry Nation has often been accused of being little more than a hack writer, churning out formulaic scripts at great speed.  His very brief original description of the Daleks is used as an example of this, but it’s fair to say that there were other times when he took more of an interest in detailing how his creations should be visualised.  His description of the Robomen is a good case in point.

“They are dressed in black from head to foot, high-necked, very utilitarian garb made from rough cloth. There is no expression on the face. The eyes stare unblinking. Their movements are a a little stiff, but not over-emphasized. They seem to have a slight mechanical quality about them.  Their voices are very mechanical and slow, like a child deaf from birth learning to make sounds.”

Maybe one of the reasons why Nation didn’t spend too long on descriptive passages is that he knew his ideas might not be adopted.  With the Robomen, some of his concepts were taken on board, but it’s notable that Nation didn’t specify that they should wear what appears to be wastepaper baskets on their heads.  The movie managed something more sleeker, but the concept of miniaturisation doesn’t seem to have been considered here.

With the Doctor unconscious, Susan and David are exploring the sewers.  In Nation’s original draft, David mentions that people moved underground to avoid the plague.  Their descendants are still there, but they’re no longer quite human.  Having adapted to living in total darkness, their “hair is matted and shoulder length and, like the face, it is totally white. Only the eyes make black circles. They are larger than human eyes, bulging and dark like those of a night creature. Canine teeth project over the lower lip.”  Instead we see Susan tangle with a friendly alligator.  Oh well, it was cheaper I guess.

We catch a brief glimpse of the Slyther.  It’s the sort of thing that defies description and you have to be impressed at how seriously William Russell reacts to it.  Later on there would have been the temptation to send it up (goodness knows what would have happened had Tom Baker met it – something along the lines of The Creature from the Pit no doubt) but Russell is rock solid.  The bizarre sounds it makes are also memorable.

There can be few odder cliffhangers than the sight of the Slyther advancing on Ian and Larry whilst it slowly waves a portion of itself.  Richard Martin might not be Doctor Who’s most highly-rated director, but at least he wisely chose to keep this shot as a close-up.

Missing Believed Wiped – 25th Birthday Bonanza at the BFI Southbank – 15th December 2018

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Below is the press release for the forthcoming Missing Believed Wiped event at the BFI Southbank on the 15th of December.

The BFI celebrates Missing Believed Wiped (MBW)’s 25th birthday on 15 December at BFI Southbank with a treasure of television riches. Reflecting on the initiative’s successes from the last 25 years in tracking down and screening rediscovered ‘lost’ television classics. The 15 December event will present newly discovered material including top-quality music, comedy and variety titles as well as welcome repeats for much-requested items taking place across two sessions.

We’re thrilled to announce the premiere of the much anticipated Doctor Who animated mini-episode based on the now lost first part of the 1968 Doctor Who story, ‘The Wheel in Space’, starring Patrick Troughton. We are delighted to be joined by a number of special guests including the Indiana Jones of lost archival television Philip Morris, who will be presenting some of the rare television gems he’s recently unearthed, including missing episodes of Morecambe and Wise, Sid James’s sitcom Citizen James and children’s television favourite Basil Brush including the only surviving live performance of The Kinks performing their hit Days. Pop star and songwriter Vince Hill looks back over his distinguished 60+ year career in music plus we also feature a rare performances by Aretha Franklin on British television.

The BFI National Archive has grown to become one of the largest and most important collections of British television in the world. This special anniversary edition of Missing Believed Wiped offers a chance for reflection, looking back at some of the success stories and achievements from the last 25 years, which have deepened our understanding of British TV heritage.

Missing Believed Wiped has been spearheaded by Dick Fiddy, BFI Archive Television Programmer, commenting on this milestone he says, “Over the last 25 years our events have showcased some of the most important finds to have been located and returned to official archives. Tracking down these ‘lost’ treasures has been a joint effort between the BFI, many individuals and organisations. One of our most impressive discoveries in recent years consisted of 100 hours of very important missing single UK plays, including the 1965 version of Orwell’s 1984, and now held by the BFI National Archive. Such finds energise the quest and inspire us to continue the search to plug more gaps in the British television archives”

Session 1:

‘Music and More’ 15:15, NFT1, BFI Southbank

Celebrating his 60th year in showbiz, Vince Hill, the multi-million selling recording artist and star of BBC TV and radio, best known for his 1960s mega-hit ‘Edelweiss’, will introduce Vince Hill at The Talk of the Town (BBC 1969), the prime time BBC TV special filmed at the popular ‘Talk of the Town’ nightclub at London’s Hippodrome. Unseen for nearly 50 years since its original transmission, the 16mm film came from Vince’s personal collection. He made the discovery when searching through metal canisters in his lock up. This special affords a snapshot of Vince Hill’s live show of the time, when he was performing sell out shows up and down the UK, as well as starring in his own BBC Radio series, and appearing as a regular star at London’s Palladium. Vince had already made his name with several big UK chart hits and Vince Hill at The Talk of the Town features the only surviving performance of ‘Edelweiss’ on BBC TV. Vince Hill kindly donated the 16mm film to the BFI National Archive.

On rediscovering the film and presenting it at BFI Southbank Vince Hill said, “I’m thrilled that my 1969 BBC TV special at the legendary Talk of the Town is to be screened at the BFI’s Missing Believed Wiped, performing at such an iconic venue was a career highlight. I was surprised to rediscover the original film earlier this year in my lock up. I feel immensely proud that a new audience will have a chance to see the film after all this time and that the BFI have taken the film into their prestigious archive for safe keeping.”

Alongside this we are thrilled to announce the premiere of a brand new 10 minute animated Doctor Who mini-episode based on the now lost first part of the 1968 Doctor Who story, ‘The Wheel in Space’, starring Patrick Troughton as the Doctor and Frazer Hines as Jamie. This newly announced mini-episode, produced by Charles Norton and directed by Anne Marie Walsh who will introduce the BFI Southbank screening, will be included on a future BBC DVD release next year.

Back by popular demand, the infamous Stars and Garters segment that proved such a huge hit at our 2016 event. We also sneak in a very special – once missing – clip from It’s Lulu (BBC 1970), having previously screened the full episode at MBW in 2007, it is included here as a tribute to The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin singing ‘Spirit in the Dark’.

Session 2:

‘Philip Morris Presents’ 17:45, NFT1, BFI Southbank

Helping the BFI celebrate the Missing Believed Wiped’s special anniversary we’re delighted that the legendary CEO of Television International Enterprises Archives (TIEA), Philip Morris, is able to join us at BFI Southbank to introduce a specially selection of rediscovered classics drawn exclusively from the TIEA Archive holdings. An archive television archaeologist who has traveled the world to track down missing episodes, Philip’s never say die attitude has helped him over the years recover a wealth of ‘lost’ British Television, many found in small television stations in far flung places and return them to television archives in the UK. TIEA also assists television stations around the world to preserve their archives and digitise their back catalogue for future generations.

Among the clips and shows featured in this session are appearances from MBW favourites, Morecambe and Wise. In 2011 Morris discovered a badly deteriorated early missing episode from the first BBC series of The Morecambe and Wise show (1968) in Nigeria. Sadly unplayable, the BBC and researchers at Queen Mary University of London were able to recover some images through cutting edge lasers and X-Ray microtomography. There was existing evidence that two other shows from the first series had been sent to Sierra Leone as audition prints from London, however research found that all Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) holdings had been destroyed during the civil war in the 1980s and they were long thought lost. The ‘lost’ episode from the first BBC series of The Morecambe and Wise Show (Series 1, Episode 5, BBC TX 30/09/1968) which MBW are screening was recovered by Philip Morris, who found the two episodes in a derelict cinema in Sierra Leone.

The programme also features Basil Brush in the earliest surviving episode from the first series of The Basil Brush Show (Series 1, Episode 3, BBC TX28/06/ 1968). Located in Nigeria a few years ago, the last five minutes, featuring a barnstorming performance from The Kinks, was missing until recently. Now restored and complete, this episode contains the only surviving live performance of ‘Days’, as The Kinks Top of The Pops performance had been wiped by the BBC. Missing Believed Wiped are also excited to screen a rare episode, ‘The Day Out’, from the third and final series of Citizen James (Series 3, Episode 6, BBC TX 05/10/1962). Sid James’s hilarious BBC sitcom ran from 1960-1962, following the exploits of Sid’s scheming charmer, guest starring Liz Fraser, the late Carry On actor who recently died in September, as the object of Sid’s wandering eye. This ‘lost’ episode was recovered from Monaco Television, in an old store room during a clear out of their premises.

On the news of this recent discovery of Citizen James, Reina James, Sid James’s daughter said, “It’s wonderful that Missing Believed Wiped is giving audiences a chance to see Sid as Citizen James again in this ‘lost’ episode. And Liz Frazer too – they’re fantastic together. It’s a real treasure”

Tickets for both Missing Believed Wiped sessions on 15 December go on sale to BFI members on 6 November and the general public from 13 November, with joint ticket option available for both sessions.

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Tom’s Midnight Garden (1989) – Second Sight DVD Review

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After Tom Long’s brother, Peter, comes down with a bad case of measles, Tom (Jeremy Rampling), is forced to spend several weeks with his Uncle Alan and Aunt Gwen (Shaughan Seymour and Isabelle Amyes). Although they’re friendly enough, they live in a small flat where there’s nothing to do (and what’s worse, no garden to play in).

Tom becomes intrigued with a grandfather clock which sits in the downstairs lobby. It belongs to Mrs Bartholomew (Renee Asherson), their reclusive and elderly landlady. Unable to go out, due to fears that he may be infectious, Tom becomes more and more frustrated – until one midnight he hears the grandfather clock striking thirteen.  Creeping downstairs, he discovers that the back yard (which he was told only housed an old bike and a few dustbins) has now been transformed into a gorgeous sunlit garden ….

Originally published in 1958, Phillipa Pearce’s novel has been adapted for television three times (this was the most recent) and was also turned into a film in 1999 as well as a stage production in 2001. Long regarded as a classic of children’s literature, Julia Jones’ adaptation manages to capture a good deal of the magic of the original.

Broadcast in six episodes during January 1989, it’s an all-videotape production, as was common at the time. Film would have given the story a little extra gloss, but this is only a small quibble.

The first episode contents itself with setting up the story, meaning that we only briefly glimpse the garden right at the end of this opening instalment. This gives us plenty of opportunity to get to know Tom (he’s a remarkably whiny child to begin with and also very fond of burping). He may be hard to love in these early scenes, but this unsympathetic portrayal is necessary, otherwise the redemptive nature of the garden would carry less weight.

Once he ventures out into the garden in earnest he makes a new friend – Hatty (Caroline Waldron). She, like the garden and the transformed house during these midnight trips, is rooted in the Victorian era (which results in a pleasing combination of two different eras). But the question is, is she a ghost in the present or is Tom a ghost in the past?

With six episodes to play with, there’s a leisurely feel to proceedings – this isn’t a bad thing though, as it helps to create a relaxing atmosphere. Puzzling though the garden may be, it’s also a haven of peace and security (at most times, anyway). We do observe the occasional discordant moment – such as when a tree is felled by a lightning bolt. This is achieved via an impressive piece of modelwork which, unlike the rest of the serial, is shot on film.

If Tom feels somewhat invisib!e in the real wor!d, then he’s really invisib!e whenever he enters the garden. It seems nobody, apart from Hatty, can see him (although we later learn that Tom is visible to one other person). Hatty is in some ways a kindred spirit (she’s equally as lonely as Tom, although unlike him she indulges in games of make believe). Their first face to face meeting – in episode three – is where the story really begins to engage.

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Jeremy Rampling and Caroline Waldron pitch their scenes together very well, the developing relationship  between Tom and Hatty is teased out in a touching way (no mean feat for two young and inexperienced performers).  Like many juvenile leads from serials such as this one, Rampling didn’t subsequently pursue an acting career (apart from one later appearance in an episode of Casualty). Waldron racked up a few more credits, most notably the prestigious Summer’s Lease, also in 1989.

Producer Paul Stone’s cv reads like a list of some of the best children’s series and serials of the 1980’s – The Story of the Treasure Seekers  (a DVD release of this would be very welcome), The Machine Gunners, The Baker Street Boys, The Box of Delights, Moonfleet, The Children of Greene Knowe, Seaview, Running Scared, Jossy’s Giants, Moondial and the Narnia stories, to name a few.

Director Christine Secombe also had experience in this field (she directed all 28 episodes of Johnny Briggs and would later direct and produce Grange Hill). Not as effects intensive as the likes of The Box of Delights, Tom’s Midnight Garden has to rely instead on the drama of character interactions, mainly that of Tom and Hatty (these are handled with aplomb by Secombe).

The late twist is a pleasing one and concludes a quietly confident adaptation. Apart from a limited release via the Reader’s Digest some years back, this version of Tom’s Midnight Garden hasn’t been widely available on DVD, so it’s nice to see it out at last. If you’ve enjoyed some of the other BBC classic children’s adaptations from the 1980’s then this one should also hit the mark. Recommended.

Tom’s Midnight Garden is released by Second Sight on the 12th of November 2018. It has a running time of 151 minutes and an RRP of £19.99.

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