01/03/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
region 2 DVD: pub: Network B002ZJ1JOK. 4 DVDs 13 * 55minute episodes with a photo gallery. Price: £39.99 (UK)) stars: Cyril Luckham, Derek Smith, David Burke, Lynn Farley, Gwyneth Powell, John Colin and Edward Petherbidge
'It's not a nightmare. We shaln't wake up.'
When we first made the connection to Network for review copies and discovered they had access to the ITV back catalogue, I did suggest at the time that they should keep an eye out for a forgotten 1972 class series called 'The Guardians'. Now here is it. Before you wonder why you haven't heard of the series or wonder why it should be included in our remit, it is actually Science Fiction. Not on the space side of things but in alternative realities. In the early 1970s, strikes were becoming rife and morale low, not to mention communism inside the unions. As a consequence, 'The Guardians' came out in two series came out dealing with political unrest and its solutions in a rather frightening way.
This was exploited for this storyline with a military coup and turning Britain into a totalitarian or fascist state set a little in the future but at no specified time. The Government has no opposition party and the only party left, the communists, are stalked, captured and often killed. The Guardians of The State or simply The G's of the title is the name of the Gestapo-like organisation controlling everything with little power left to either the police or military. The decision to change was hardly unanimous and rebels calling themselves Quarmbys are out to under-mine the regime by bringing out the action of the G's to public notice to force the Prime Minister, Sir Timothy Hobson (actor Cyril Luckham), to order another change. Already this PM is wavering and wanting to disband the Guardians and builds up his nerve and uses his authority, much to the dismay occasionally of his permanent under-secretary and spin-doctor, Dennis Norman (actor Derek Smith). The series shows life from different perspectives so you get the variety of viewpoints. It's essentially '1984' brought to life. Democracy is dead in this reality. It was scary when I watched it then. It's still scary now forty years later. You settle down to watching the series thinking you've got everything and then it hits home with a nail that reminds you no one is safe and you don't know who's watching who.
'The Guardians' is an intensely subversive series. By today's standards, it might be seen as having too much dialogue scenes, shade of 'The Play Of The Day' series from the 60s, but when the action erupts, it will leave you stunned and was a first for several firsts on TV which would be spoilers in their own right. It certainly did that for me in the 70s and I missed the opening episodes. Seeing everything together with a modern eye, one can understand the budget limitations of the time which kept the cast small but it's also interesting to spot actors in small parts who went onto bigger things later. A lot of things are left unsaid or acknowledged as happening off-camera so you have to keep an eye on what is going on, but it's so riveting that isn't a problem. Besides, when was the last time you had a decent series on TV while characters discussed the philosophy of their actions?
As I said, the metaphor is scary and if re-worked today, the story would carry the same message. It is not a place you would want to live in. Prosperity is at a price you would not want. Certainly, Wilfred Greatorex' scripted '1990' TV series, eight years later, wouldn't have been made without 'The Guardians' coming out first. Hopefully, it might not be too long before that, too, also surfaces on DVD. The reason why there were no more such series was largely because Maggie Thatcher came to power and reality was much scarier. After all, she did carry out part of 'The Guardians' plan to smash the unions, but didn't go as far as paying the workers as a substitute.
'The Guardians' managed two seasons and the ending has a distinctively sour note but almost optimistic resolution typical of our British productions yet it remained in my head to this day. If you want a series that will cause you to have deep serious thoughts then this one will certainly bring out some truths and make you think. 'England soon?' is the slogan that beams out in the opening credits. Watch this series and understand why we need democracy.
Add SFcrowsnest.com daily news updates to your own web site or blog - just cut and paste the code below...
Post your comments
Stephen Hunt's novels - USA