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First Born (BBC One 1988, Charles Dance, Julie Peasgood)



Made by the same production team that was behind The Lives and Loves of a She Devil, First Born was a story of of genetics gone awry. The always reliable Charles Dance plays geneticist Edward Forest who has devoted his life to the creation of a new species. A step up for mankind that would have increased our brain power and decreased the aggressive gene.

As part of his experiments Edward has been secretly using his own sperm to impregnate a female gorilla. When she gives birth to this human/gorilla hybrid it is human in appearance but initially covered in body hair. Edward names the baby Gordon aka For and ensures that he has a normal upbringing.

By the time Gordon has uncovered his true origins he has fallen for Gordon’s daughter Nell, at the same time he is desperate to uncover the facts of his true parentage.

Things definitely go south from there for all concerned. Look away now to avoid the spoiler… Gor discovers his mother is a Gorilla called Mary, when he meets her she is less than impressed and actually kills him in a rage. Meanwhile Gor has made Nell pregnant and when she gives birth the baby has a distinctly simian look….

First Born is a well remembered slice of science fiction that did veer off into melodrama in the final episode but was redeemed by the strong playing by the cast and excellent script from Ted Whitehead (adapting the novel Gorsaga by Maureen Duffy). The same production team would also go to adapt another Fay Weldon fantasy – The Cloning of Joanna May.

production details
UK / BBC One / 3×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 30 October – 13 November 1988

Writer: Ted Whitehead / Music: Hans Zimmer / Producer: Sally Head / Director: Philip Saville

Charles Dance as Edward Forester
Julie Peasgood as Ann Forester
Philip Madoc as Lansing
Peter Tilbury as.Chris Knott
Rosemary McHale as Nancy Knott
Rob Dixon as Priest
Gabrielle Anwar as Nell Forester
Sharon Duce as Emily Jessop
Roshan Seth as Dr Graham
Marc de Jonge as Marais
Niven Boyd as Jessop
Nina Zuckerman as Gerry
Jamie Foster as Gor
Peter Wiggins as Young Gor
Beth Pearce as Young Nell
Martyn Townsend as Priest
Ralph Michael as Old Priest
Francesca Brill as Lucy
Susan Beresford as Doctor