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Unexploded series II

February 3rd, 2013 (01:17 pm)

If I were to write a longer post about Danger UXB, now watched, it would include:

- the knack some episodes have of telling a story around a location, such as 'Digging Out''s lengthy factory sequence, or 'The Pier'. The former is particularly effective for the lingering hand-held camera shots of Corporal Salt (Kenneth Cranham) as he follows a voice which may or may not be that of his wife through the ruined works in the afternoon light, his mind adrift in place and with hindsight time as well.

- John Hawkesworth's character arcs, comparable in structure to those in his earlier series Upstairs Downstairs. That concerning the brittle insecurity of Major/Captain 'Fanny' Francis (casting presumably against type an actor then best known to audiences for a long on-off stint in Coronation Street, and more recently a regular in Emmerdale) is memorable and perhaps the most successful

- the disappearance and reappearance of the supporting cast depending on production block. Particularly noticeable is variety artiste Sapper Baines, played by variety artiste Bryan Burdon in just two episodes, 'Butterfly Winter' and 'The Pier'. The former just happens to include a sequence filmed presumably in Chipping Norton Theatre (given where the relevant exteriors are shot) where Burdon/Baines can do his act.

- the timescale of the series is mapped out but left unstated directly, again following the precedent of (early) Upstairs Downstairs, so it can be adjusted retroactively should a second series have been commissioned

- though dismissed as a "potboiler" by one television historian, and "not... an important series" fixed on "nostalgia and noise" according to Nancy Banks-Smith in The Guardian (9 January 1979), the juxtapostion of lectures on bombs with melodramatic elements (largely the male protagonists' rollercoaster love lives) and the substantial special effects budget and extensive location filming make it interesting, and (as suggested above) there is some opportunity for real psychological insight.

- at least two unexploded World War Two bombs were discovered as a direct result of one episode, 'Butterfly Winter', so the series helped boost ITV's public service credentials.

- the question of the second series. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Anthony Andrews and Judy Geeson were looking forward to working on series two when the Imperial War Museum's related exhibit opened in spring 1979, and around the same time Jeremy Sinden and Judy Geeson did some charity fundraising connected to keeping the series' profile up after it aired. However, by autumn 1979 and the ITV strike, Anthony Andrews is photographed at Heathrow by the Daily Mirror moving to Los Angeles to look for work, thanks to the cancellation of filming on Brideshead Revisited, suggesting that any hope of a second series was gone by the summer.

- the series drew attention to a change in fashions in leading men. Anthony Andrews was hailed by Nancy Banks-Smith as "one of those golden lads with sensitive mouths", and the Daily Mirror contrasted him, Patrick Ryecart and later John Duttine with a more brutal machismo personified by actors such as Martin Shaw of The Professionals.

Hmm, that's rather a lot of text anyway...

ETA: Reminded of the chapter title 'Circulating stars and satellites' in Doctor Who - The Unfolding Text, the eclipsing of Norma as the principal female character (I don't think there is a female lead as such) by Susan could show how women are used by the series. Judy Geeson initially plays Susan as tough and unsmiling as if she hasn't seen any of the later scripts (probably the case). She is demure and self-sacrificing, and causes pain by being dutiful, where Norma is introduced as a sexual fantasy turned nightmare, ultimately tamed by marriage into the lower ranks. Susan also expresses Brian Ash's increasing confidence in his roles as bomb defuser and officer; Norma personifies the social and material chaos of the Blitz and has little development beyond the 1940 episodes until her wedding in 'With Love from Adolf'. Norma, and Deborah Watling, fulfil their roles in the drama well enough. Given the publicity boost Judy Geeson seems to have had in spring 1979, one suspects she and her agent were hoping for something more to arise for or from Susan.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/577519.html.