Review 1990 ( tv series with Edward Woodward a.k.a. 1984 plus 6) Episode Guide

michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
A terrifying vision of a future Britain controlled by a right wing fascist government. Woodward plays Jim Kyle an underground journalist and agitator. Available on dvd.



1. The Creed Of Slaves
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves" (William Pitt). Home Affairs correspondent Jim Kyle, a journalist for one of Britain's three remaining newspapers, provides secret assistance to people trying to escape the repressive regime. His activities continually bring him into contact with the Public Control Department, its tools of bureaucratic repression and its ruthless Controller Herbert Skardon. However, Kyle's current attempts to help a doctor struggling to help his asthmatic daughter leave the United Kingdom may be hampered by Kyle's ambiguous personal relationship with Deputy PCD Controller Delly Lomas.
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michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
2. When Did You Last See Your Father
"We don't make laws, we only carry them out". Despite the Home Secretary's abolition of all exit visa appeals, Kyle successfully helps Doctor Vickers leave the United Kingdom, but without his wife and daughter. Dr. Vickers invests his hopes in the international law which states that his family can join him one month later, provided he can attain residency status in another country. However, the Public Control Department are determined to seal up any possible legal loopholes to block Vickers' efforts and in so doing put an end to Kyle's interference - permanently.

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michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
3. Health Farm
"...no barbed-wire, no strait-jackets, no padded cells. After all, this is 1990". When the Public Control Department send union leader Charles Wainwright to the United States of America to promote their cause, the plan backfires disastrously when his speech is littered with dissident criticisms of the bureaucratic nightmare the United Kingdom has become under the stewardship. When he returns home, the PCD are quick to repay the compliment by sending him to an Adult Rehabilitation Centre, a place where offenders against the state (political activists, murderers, thieves, etc) are sent for "correction" under a combination of drug therapy and severe treatments which change their way of thinking. Kyle determines to interview Wainwright and infiltrates the centre, unaware the PCD are ranging their forces against him...

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michaellevenson

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4. Decoy
"This is an island prison. Getting us all together is one thing. Getting us out is something else". High-profile political adviser Doctor Sondeberg, a man responsible for the rising fortunes of a variety of presidents, pays a state visit to the United Kingdom on a fact-finding mission to understand the workings of the Public Control Department. However, his motives are far more covert than first appearances. Meanwhile, Dave Brett persuades Kyle to obtain permits to allow them to travel around the country to advance his deal with underworld figure Sammy Calhoun - a deal which involves a motorised caravan as a passport for top academics to flee the oppressive regime of the PCD.—

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michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
5. Voice From The Past
The age of the common man seems to be degenerating into the age of the common denominator". When the Public Control Department take steps to shut down an underground newspaper peddling dissident stories critical of the regime, Kyle provides assistance to its publisher, Avery, in a bid to prevent their interference.

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michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
6. Whatever Happened To Cardinal Wolsey
The Ombudsman's Court supposedly exists to hear and review appeals by citizens and consists of a tribunal of judges, but every appeal is rejected despite the legitimacy of the claim. However, one judge, Philip Carter, is determined to fight the corrupt legal system and continually votes to uphold legitimate claims despite always being outvoted by the Chairperson and a weak-willed third judge. Angered by Carter's defiance, the Attorney General demands that Skardon and the PCD find a way to silence Carter. The PCD's plan: a campaign of threats and intimidation against Carter's pregnant wife, who has already miscarried twice. With the help of an American news colleague, Kyle tries to find a way to help the Carters, but the PCD's sadistic Inspector Jones may have already struck too hard at Mrs. Carter.

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michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
7. Witness
Dr. Alan Vickers, whom Kyle and Brett helped escape, has been campaigning throughout the United States to get public and world opinion to force the PCD to let his wife and daughter emigrate. The problem is that in his speeches he may have let clues drop that may lead Skardon and the PCD to Kyle. When the PCD go after Kyle's family and a plot to frame Kyle blows up in the PCD's face, Delly Lomas goes to America to persuade Dr. Vickers to return to England to testify against Kyle in return for exit visas for his wife and daughter. Soon Kyle finds himself on trial with the man he helped as the main witness against him .
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michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
8. Non- Citizen
After the Kyle Trial fiasco, Skardon takes his revenge by turning Kyle into a Non-Citizen: stripping Kyle of his ID and Union cards, freezing his bank account and seizing all his assets. With no home, no car, no job, no money, only the clothes on his back and his family missing (and a bugged Non-Citizen ID card so the PCD can track him), Kyle is forced to wander the streets in what seems like a hopeless attempt to survive, especially when he is constantly and sadistically harassed by Skardon and Inspector Nichols. His only hope is that Dave Brett and black marketeer Sammy Calhoun can find him before his mind and will are permanently broken.—
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michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
Series 2 1. Pentagons
There's good news and bad news in Britain. The good news: Home Secretary Dan Mellor has been replaced by Kate Smith, and a "pentagon" - one of a growing army of dissident groups - is preparing to take on the hatred PCD. The bad news: the PCD's new Deputy Controller is Lynn Blake, Jim Kyle's former romantic interest, and her first job is the exposure of "Faceless", Kyle's source within the PCD.

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michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
2. The Market Price
"This mate of yours is a shark. With his jaws into whole cargoes. Petrol. Fags. Booze. Grub. It's up to us to nanny him?". When availability of food in the supermarkets steadily vanishes, Kate Smith's government turns its attention to black marketeers profiting from illicit supplies. Ministry of Food MP Peter Greville feeds Kyle information about the matter, but soon both he and his family become the focus of suspicion from the Public Control Department.

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michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
3. Trapline

"Who are we out to nail? Careguard, the Home Secretary or Skardon and the PCD?" Jim Kyle is in trouble - he has fallen into the hands of Police Commissioner Hallam. The question is, will Hallam hand Kyle over to the PCD or is Hallam working on his own?

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michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
4. Ordeal By Small Brown Envelope
"Authorised Systematic Harassment has enormous potential. The slow and noiseless steamroller of the State. The daily brown envelope dropping on the mat". The Public Control Department, in response to more dissident remarks printed in the underground press from Kyle and Tony Doran, devise a plan to turn the heat up on the pair by employing a systematic campaign of Authorised Systematic Harrassment (ASH). Using all the bureaucratic mechanisms at his disposal, Skardon launches a tirade of officialdom against both men, which succeeds in pushing Doran and his wife to breaking-point.—

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michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
5. Hire And Fire
"If Kyle can uncover those extortionists where an expert PCD man failed, he is obviously implicated with them." When workers fall prey to an extortionist network collecting money in exchange for their continued silence, Kyle's involvement attracts the attention of PCD controller Skardon, who recognizes an opportunity to eliminate the network and the thorn in his side in one stroke.

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michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
6. You'll Never Walk Alone
"The authorities have refused me an exit visa for the Chess Championship because they fear I might not come back." Having lost his job as the home affairs correspondent at The Star, Kyle is reduced to covering the European Chess Championship. While there, he meets the chess prodigy Philip Ross, an old friend from the early protests against the dictatorship who has turned into a PCD hack. His victories have resulted in him being hailed as a national hero, becoming known as one of Skardon's Lions. In the meantime, three dissidents plot to take Lynn hostage but Kyle informs her of the plan in advance. Kyle then convinces Ross' American opponent Cyrus Asher to challenge him to a game in New York City before warning Lynn that Ross may plan to remain in the United States as he always takes his family with him when he travels. The dissidents manage to take Lynn hostage, albeit briefly, as she promptly rescued. They question Kyle's loyalty. Kyle advises Ross to tell Asher that he wants to play him in the US but that the authorities refuse to grant him an exit visa since they fear that he won't return to Britain. Ross makes an announcement to that effect on television and the transmission is immediately cut off. Skardon threatens to send him to an Adult Rehabilitation Centre if it happens again. This shakes Ross to the core.
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michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
7. Young Sparks
"Kyle'll be back to normal in about an hour. Until then he'll probably show an amusing tendency to tell the truth." Groups of dissidents, once-divided in their opposition to the Public Control Department, are putting aside their differences in a bid to bring down the bureaucratic machine in a consolidated movement. Meanwhile, Skardon increases his pursuit of Kyle, whom he believes he can break and thereby shatter the plans of the opposition.

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michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
8. What Pleases The Prince
"We always said there'd be Peace Crimes Trials one day ... We're winning now. There'll have to be a purge of the PCD soon." The dissident assault on the Public Control Department has been successful, but the public suicide of a cell member has resulted in world condemnation of Britain's policies and the PCD being plunged into bitter in-fighting. Have Kyle and the dissidents finally won? Will Skardon and the PCD fall for good, and if they do will the cure prove worse than the disease?
THE END
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michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
Review by Archivetvmusings



1990, which ran for two seasons during 1977 and 1978, was set in a Britain tyrannised by the Public Control Department (PCD), a Home Office organisation dedicated to crushing free speech and any other signs of dissent. Given the parlous state of Britain during the 1970’s, it wasn’t surprising to find a series which posited what might happen if the economy finally and irrevocably disintegrated. And given the way things are today, many of 1990‘s themes seem eerily topical ….

Some background to the collapse is teased out as the series progresses. We learn that the country went bankrupt in 1983, which led to a series of swingeing restrictions from the newly-formed PCD. These included strict rationing – not only of food, but also of housing and other essential services. Virtually everything has been nationalised, meaning that the government has almost complete control. Dissidents are harshly dealt with – via Adult Rehabilitation Centres – where they are treated with electro-convulsive therapy.
 

michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
1990 is a grim place then, but there are still a few people attempting to resist the state. One is Jim Kyle (Edward Woodward), a journalist on The Star, one of the last independent newspapers. The PCD, in the form of Controller Herbert Skardon (Robert Lang) and his two deputies, Delly Lomas (Barbara Kellerman) and Henry Tasker (Clifton Jones), keep him under close surveillance, which leads to a tense battle of nerves.

Robert Lang, Barbara Kellerman and Clifton Jones
Series creator Wilfred Greatorex (1922–2002) started his career writing for Probation Officer (1962) and quickly moved onto The Plane Makers (1963 – 1965) and its sequel The Power Game (1966 – 1969) where he acted as the script-editor. Character conflict was key to both The Plane Makers and The Power Game and it’s plain to see that a similar format was carried over to 1990. The heart of the series is concerned with the way the main characters (especially Kyle, Skardon and Lomas) interact.

Edward Woodward (1930 – 2009) had been acting since the mid 1950’s but it was Callan (1967 – 1972) which really established him as a household name. His success as the world-weary state-sponsored killer allowed him to diversify (pursing his love of singing in The Edward Woodward Hour, for example) whilst cult films like The Wicker Man (1973) enhanced his profile even more. Woodward was a quality actor and his central performance is one of the reasons why 1990 works as well as it does.
The series opened with Greatorex’s Creed of Slaves (“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves” – William Pitt the Younger). Kyle is penning a piece for his newspaper on the Adult Rehabilitation Centres (ARCs) which causes Skardon considerable irritation. But that’s merely the tip of the iceberg as Kyle is also part of an organisation dedicated to smuggling people out of the country ….

There’s more than a little touch of 1984 about the series of course (Greatorex referred to it as 1984 plus six). This is particularly evident in the opening few minutes as we observe how the PCD are able to monitor everybody, both visually and aurally, although wise old hands like Kyle are able to give them the slip with embarrassing ease. The relationship between Kyle and the members of the PCD is already well established before the episode begins and it’s his interaction with Delly Lomas which particularly intrigues. Since Skardon mentions that Kyle likes her cooking, it’s plain that, despite the fact they’re on different sides, there appears to be some sort of spark between them. Or are both simply playing games? At one point Kyle directs this comment to her. “How do you look like you do and do the job that you do?”
The next episode, When Did You Last See Your Father?, continues one of the plotlines from episode one, concerning Dr Vickers (Donald Gee), a man who is keen to take his wife and family out of the UK. This proves to be impossible via official means, as exit visas are severely restricted.

The banality of evil runs throughout the series. On the one hand, Skardon, Lomas and Tasker are simply bureaucrats doing a job (in their minds they no doubt see themselves on the side of law and order). It’s this blurring between “good” and “evil” which is so compelling – the PCD may be oppressive, but their public face can appear to be reasonable. This is key – if you can keep the nastiness buried then maybe you stand a chance of fooling most of the people.

The first non-Greateorex script, Health Farm, stars the imposing Welsh actor Ray Smith as union leader Charles Wainwright. Following a disastrous trip to America in which he gave a speech littered with criticisms of the British government, Wainwright is sent to an ARC for “correction”. The shocking change in him (from the firebrand we first meet to an adjusted patient keen to toe the party line) brings home the true horror of the ARCs.

Strong guest stars continue to appear throughout the remainder of series one, such as Graham Crowden as Sondeberg in Decoy and Richard Hurndall as Avery in Voice from the Past.

The last two episodes – Witness and Non-Citizen ramp up the conflict between Kyle and the PCD. Dr Vickers, who escaped from the UK in episode two with Kyle’s help, is persuaded to return in order to testify in a show-trial against Kyle – if he does then his family will be granted exit visas. Prior to the trial (featuring John Bennett as the prosecutor) Kyle’s office and home are targeted by PCD thugs, which causes distress to his wife Maggie (Patricia Garwood) and children. Woodward gives a typically powerful performance, especially when Kyle finds his family are under threat.

Series one concluded with Non-Citizen. Considering how much of a thorn Kyle has been in the PCD’s side, it’s odd they’ve taken so long to decisively deal with him. But here at last they finally seem to have broken him. With his family missing, no money, no job, no home and no status, Kyle is pushed to the limit by a sadistic Skardon. It’s not surprising that Woodward once again excels here.

Although the themes of the first series of 1990 tapped into contemporary fears and neuroses, it’s fascinating how most of it still remains topical some forty years on. The official face presented in 1990 appears to be fair and reasonable – tribunals are held which claim to offer the public an unbiased hearing and the ARC we visit is located in a palatial country home with well-manicured lawns – but scratch a little beneath the surface and it’s plain there’s something very rotten in this state. You don’t need jackbooted guards on every street corner to create a true sense of fear, there are far more subtle ways than that ….
 
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michaellevenson

Member: Rank 8
The way that language, spin and bureaucracy are all utilised in order to obfuscate the truth is especially instructive. When you hear a politician complaining that the press, in the shape of Kyle, is spreading disinformation and therefore creating disharmony about the state of the economy (i.e. disseminating fake news) then the parallels to the modern world are perfectly clear. In many ways 1990 is something of a chess game with all the major players – especially Kyle and Lomas – engaged in a game of manoeuvre and counter-manoeuvre.
As I’ve said, Edward Woodward is a fine leading man whilst Barbara Kellerman and Robert Lang (who receive second and third billing) offer strong support. The gravelly-voiced Lang graced many a film and television programme with his presence and is perfect as the harassed mandarin Tasker whilst Kellerman (possibly best known for playing the White Witch in the 1980’s BBC production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) is intriguing as Della, the apparently acceptable face of the PCD. Kellerman didn’t return for series two, which was a shame, although this did allow the format to be shaken up a little.

Interviewed by the Radio Times prior to the broadcast of the first episode, Woodward said that the series was “either going to create a furore or pass without comment” (Radio Times, 17th September 1977). Although it didn’t quite go unnoticed, the fact it was tucked away on BBC2 was probably part of the reason why it never became a mainstream hit. But it clearly impressed enough to be renewed for a second series.

Although largely forgotten today, 1990 is a series which deserves to be much better known, especially since its power to disturb and unsettle remains undimmed after forty years. It’s pleasing to have the first series available on DVD, with the second to follow in May, and for those who appreciate well-crafted British character drama of the seventies it’s certain to please.
 
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