Donati Conspiracy, The (BBC-1 1973 with Anthony Valentine and Michael Aldridge)


UK / BBC One / 3×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 14-28 September 1973

Writer: John Gould / Script Editor: Simon Masters / Production Design: David Spode / Producer: Morris Barry / Director: Vere Lorrimer

Drama serial set in a 1970’s where Britain is ruled by a tough East German-ish regime; Where freedom of speech is non-existent and curfews, heavy handed policing and the revival of the death penalty are a fact of life.

When the three parter opens Robert Sadler is on trial for committing an act of terrorism on a reservoir that may have been pumping tranquillising drugs into the water supply of “ordinary, decent” citizens. With Sadler sentenced to death, high ranking government security official Paul Frederick uses the case to try and uncover the ringleaders of the terrorist organisation that Sadler belongs to.

The title refers to Michael Donati, professor and something of a figurehead for the anti-government movement. He is a former close friend and former tutor of Frederick’s and his disabled wife Jane as well as tutor to Sadler. Frederick himself is convinced that Donati is the key to unlocking the terrorist conspiracy.

Despite obviously being set in the slight future (there are a few sci-fi nods such as sliding doors and shiny intercoms) it is still very much clearly the 1970s. Almost like a parallel dimension Britain actually.

Two years later there was a sequel of sorts called State of Emergency. This featured Britain almost on the brink of civil war and some different players in the main roles with Patrick Mower taking the lead as Frederick and Michael Gwynn as Donati. Author John Gould who had a promising career ahead of him sadly died, of cancer, before the scripts for State of Emergency were finished. Hugh Whitemore added the finishing touches.

Anthony Valentine as Paul Frederick
Michael Aldridge as Donati
Janet Key as Jane
Richard Beckinsale as Robert Sadler
Windsor Davies as Mr Sadler
Mary Tamm as Sally
Anthony Woodruff as Minister
Ian Gelder as Dent
James Bree as Detective Chief Inspector Sandman
Jonathan Adams as Detective Sergeant Cole
James Copeland as Father Superior
Richard Simpson as Doctor Murphy
Donald Gray as Father Conrad