Timeslip was a childrens drama serial broadcast on ATV between September 1970 and March 1971.
Comprising 26 episodes of 25 minutes duration, it was split into four serials –
The Wrong End of Time (6 parts)
The Time of the Ice Box (6 parts)
The Year of the Burn Up (8 parts)
The Day of the Clone (6 parts)
Writer Bruce Stewart was approached by ATV who were looking for a series that could rival Doctor Who. Along with series creator Ruth Boswell they devised the series format of a boy and girl who are able to travel through time. Unlike Doctor Who though, they wouldn’t have access to a time machine. Instead, they would ‘timeslip’ into the past and the future via weak points in the fabric of time.
Although the series was fantasy, the programme makers attempted to inject some scientific accuracy. They approached Geoffrey Hoyle (son of the respected astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle) to act as a consultant, although Bruce Stewart is unsure how many, if any, of his suggestions were taken up.
Cast in the two main roles of Liz Skinner and Simon Randall were Cheryl Burfield and Spencer Banks.
Liz was written as a twelve-year-old, but the eighteen year old Burfield so impressed the producers that they revised the characters age up by three years.
Banks had little acting experience before Timeslip (his only previous television role was in the BBC classic serial Germinal) but he would continue to notch up a steady list of television credits during the 1970’s and 1980’s.
The Wrong End of Time
Liz and Simon, who are holidaying with Liz’s parents in St Oswold find themselves transported back in time some thirty years. To their amazement they are still in St Oswold, but the year is now 1940 and England is at war. Liz’s father was stationed at the local naval-base during the war and there’s no doubt that the young man she meets at the base called Skinner is her father – but at an age before she was born.
There’s no time to ponder this though as a small group of Germans attack the base – although their objectives are not clear to begin with. Are they after the radar research or is there something even more secret being worked on? And how does Traynor (in 1940 the base commander, in 1970 holidaying in St Oswold) fit in?
This is a solid opening story that sets up some of the plot threads that will develop during the remaining serials. Although Liz and Simon aren’t initially the most sympathetic of leading characters (particularly Liz who has a tendency to be annoyingly whiny) they do settle down as the adventure continues.
Traynor (Dennis Quilly) quickly becomes a character of interest. Present during 1940 and 1970, he seems to know much more than he’s letting on – and his plotline will be developed during the series’ run. It’s a shame though that the 1970 Traynor couldn’t have aged more, as the only concession to the passage of thirty years is that his hair is slightly grey.
The Germans are perfectly hissable villains and since the story was made at a time when most middle-aged people would have had direct experience of WW2 their involvement would have probably struck a chord with many on first broadcast. They are somewhat unobservant though, particularly in the scene at the end of episode 3 when Liz, attempting to cross back to 1970, gets her sleeve caught in the fence and struggles to free herself for a considerable time without them noticing!
At the end of episode 6 Liz and Simon pass through the time barrier again, but they don’t return to 1970. Instead they find themselves in an icy wasteland, where they are quickly overcome by the extreme cold ….