This piece was substantially revised and updated in 2014.
Studio 4 Adapted and translated by: Rudolph Cartier; From: Erwin Sylvanus (play); Director: Rudolph Cartier
Doctor Korczak and the Children is one of the most unusual and compelling television plays of the 1960s.1 Its subject is tragic and fascinating, while the production itself is interesting in its own right for a myriad of reasons. The extremity of its rejection of naturalistic television drama conventions is startling and it remains an almost unique surviving example of a period of such experimentation at the BBC at the beginning of 1960s. It also illustrates how the reach of a stage text can be expanded to whole new audiences with sympathetic translation into the new medium. This article aims to give an overview of this extraordinary production and its reception by its audience. Read more...(2896 words, 3 images)
This piece was substantially revised in December 2014.
Festival Writer: Rudolph Cartier; Adapted and translated from: Theodore Plievier (novel), Claus Hubalek (play from novel); Director: Rudolph Cartier
The early 1960s was a transitional period for BBC television drama. New techniques, notably a move away from live transmissions in favour of pre-recording, enabled more ambitious and polished productions. Subject matter was changing too, with specially written television plays and series overcoming the BBC’s previous reliance on material drawn from the theatre or popular novels. Of course, these changes didn’t happen overnight, and a number of programmes of the period provide a snapshot of television drama in transition, containing elements of both the old and the new, sometimes uneasily colliding in the one production. One such drama is Stalingrad, from late 1963, which has roots in both a novel and its stage adaptation, but also attempts to make the material ‘televisual’, achieving mixed results.1 Here, we’ll examine the play, to see how it came to be made in a mix of styles and how critics and audiences reacted to it. Read more...(3566 words, 1 image)
Writer: David Whitaker; Director: Douglas Camfield; Producer: Verity Lambert
A literary costume drama set around the courts of Richard I and Saladin, The Crusade (1965) is an example of how important non-science-fiction historical stories were in the early years of Doctor Who. This essay looks at how The Crusade approaches history, in particular the characterisation of Richard I (“the Lionheart”). There will be attention paid to the programme’s attempts at historical accuracy, although that shouldn’t be our only focus because the historical study of popular culture too often ignores the specific qualities of popular culture (and also history) by depending on the accuracy question. Depictions of Richard I change for various reasons including historians’ debates, school curricula, changes in media institutions, shifting dramatic styles and reactions to previous dramas. These explain why Richard the Lionheart (ITV, 1961-65) uses Richard differently from Richard Lester’s film Robin and Marian (1976), which is in turn different from the series Robin of Sherwood (ITV, 1984-86) and Robin Hood (BBC, 2006-2009). This essay will therefore take Doctor Who’s version of Richard I as a starting point to think about how history and screen fictions build narratives around figures like Richard I. I’m drawing from unused sections of the research I conducted for a forthcoming academic publication on neo-medievalism,1 but any references to academic theory will be rooted in discussion of the choices made by writer David Whitaker and director Douglas Camfield. Read more...(6290 words, 11 images)
Writers: Clive Exton, Leon Griffiths, Leo Lehman, Terry Nation, Julian Bond, Bruce Stewart, Richard Waring, Denis Butler; Adapted from: John Wyndham, Rog Philips, Isaac Asimov, Tom Godwin, Philip K Dick, Robert Moore Williams, Katherine Maclean, Raymond F. Jones, Frank Crisp, Clifford D Simak, Arthur Sellings; Directors: Charles Jarrott, Jonathan Alwyn, Douglas James, Paul Bernard, Peter Hammond, Guy Verney, Richmond Harding, John Knight, Don Leaver, John Knight, Alan Cooke
There are many reasons why a television series may languish in obscurity, perhaps primarily because it simply does not merit any interest. However, this is not the case with ABC’s 1962 series Out of this World – British television’s first science fiction anthology – which suffers due to two factors independent of the programme itself. Only one episode exists (plus another two as soundtrack-only recordings), leaving little scope for re-evaluation, and the series has long been overshadowed by its celebrated longer-running BBC cousin Out of the Unknown. However, Out of this World is not just worthy of attention as a curiosity, but as an original and successful series in its own right. Read more...(3297 words, 6 images)
The probability of total destruction increases with time and, in the course of the months and years throughout which we are told to expect the Cold War to continue, it becomes almost a certainty’1.
The War Game is one of television’s most notorious banned programmes. A harrowing dramatised documentary portraying the after-effects of nuclear holocaust and calling for public education in nuclear deterrent policy, it was made by the BBC for 1965 broadcast but was not transmitted for twenty years. Among the reasons given for the ban were its brutally graphic scenes, its apparent left-wing bias and its controversial fusion of journalistic fact and hugely alarmist fiction, although there is now evidence that it fell victim to the political suppression of nuclear discussion that was happening at the time across all media. Its director, Peter Watkins, quit the BBC and fought to get it a cinema release abroad, resulting in critical acclaim and a Best Documentary Oscar. After its eventual transmission in 1985, critics agreed that the BBC had suppressed one of the greatest dramas ever made. Read more...(3403 words, 8 images)