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TV

Secret Agent, The (BBC-1 2016, Toby Jones, Vicky McClure)

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The BBC give us a sumptuous and timely adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel of spying and terrorism The Secret Agent. Toby Jones, who it appears is becoming the go-to man for any drama made at all these days stars as Russian spy Verloc in this period piece set in London in 1886. Verloc appears to be the owner of a seedy sex shop in Soho but is also working for the Russians and is spying on an anarchist cell. Russia is deeply concerned at the wave of anarchism sweeping across Europe and dismayed at Britain’s attitude of not doing anything about it.

His Russian handler tells Verloc that he must organise a bomb attack in the heart of London in order to provoke a response and crack down from the British but must try and keep his actions secret not least from Chief Inspector Heat of Scotland Yard’s Special Crimes Division.

This is the fourth BBC adaptation of the Conrad novel, the first was in 1967 for a mostly studio bound production with Nigel Green as Verloc, then again in 1975 with Paul Rogers. The third was a big budget production in 1992 with David Suchet as Verloc. There was also a big screen, non period, version in 1936 directed by Alfred Hitchcock (this was called Sabotage) and another big screen outing in 1996 (directed by Christopher Hampton).

A preview piece in the Guardian remarked on just how timely this production (and each of the other versions) seems to be remarking that “Conrad’s book still seems to be the fiction that best expresses western society’s concerns about terrorism and popular revolution.” This was something echoed by star Toby Jones in an interview with the BBC in their press pack to promote the series. He remarked that the story”seemed incredibly relevant. It makes you think about behavioral cycles in society. How much and what kind of control the Government and the police can put on them. That’s dealt with by Conrad – how to infiltrate that group, how to have double-agents, triple agents, how everything gets besmirched, nothing is clear. You see it in TV and film at the moment with the spy genre return – people are aware that all is not what it seems and that is the way it has to be while we have an enemy within, apparently.”

The Secret Agent

Toby Jones as Verloc

Meanwhile Tony Marchant, who adapted The Secret Agent agreed, saying in the same press pack that what attracted him to the piece was “the contemporaneity… was its obvious appeal and Conrad’s almost prophetic view of a world in political ferment, assailed by terrorism and the geopolitical maneuvering of Governments. At its heart and what really convinced me to go ahead was the fact that it’s a domestic tragedy – the heartbreaking story of a family caught up in terrorism, in bigger events they do not understand. Winnie is a tragic, working class heroine whose only fault is that she’s so hopeful. So that made it irresistible.”

production details
UK / BBC One – World Productions / 3×60 minute episodes / Broadcast 2016

Writer: Tony Marchant / Novel: Joseph Conrad / Producer: Priscilla Parish / Director: Charles McDougall

cast
Toby Jones as Verloc
Vicky McClure as Winnie
Charlie Hamblett as Stevie
Marie Critchley as Jessie
Ian Hart as The Professor
Raphael Acloque as Tom Ossipon
Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Michaelis
Christopher Fairbank as Yundt
David Dawson as Vladimir
Philip Rosch as Councillor Wurmt
Stephen Graham as Chief Inspector Heat, Special Crimes Unit Scotland Yard
Tom Goodman-Hill as Assistant Commissioner Stone, Scotland Yard
Ash Hunter as Hedges, Special Crimes Unit Scotland Yard
George Costigan as Sir Ethelred, Home Secretary
Penny Downie as Lady Blackwood

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TV

Ape And Essence (The Wednesday Play BBC-1 1966, Alec McCowen)

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In Scifi drama Ape and Essence, based on the novel by Aldous Huxley, a group of New Zealand scientists conduct a survey on a Britain ravaged by atomic war 80 years previously.

Series: The Wednesday Play Season 2 Episode 29

cast
Alec McCowen as Alfred Poole
Robert Eddison as Arch Vicar
Derek Sydney as Chief
Jenny Lee as Flossie
Yvonne Antrobus as Young Girl
Sydney Bromley as Craigie
Martin Carroll as Director of Food
Hazel Douglas as Mies Hook
John Falconer as Patriarch
Petra Markham as Loola
Ken Parry as Science Praet
Amanda Reiss as Polly
Jonathan Scott as Int. Priest
Fiona Fraser as Part of Crowd
Ann Mitchell as Shaven-Head
Jacki Salt as Mulatto Girl
Carol Blake as Shaven-Head
Gordon Craig as Part of Crowd
Robert Cude as First Man

crew details
Writer: John Finch
Book: Aldous Huxley
Music: BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Producer: Peter Luke
Director: David Benedictus.

production details
Country: UK
Network and Production Companies: BBC One
Duration: 1×75 minute episode
Aired From: 18 May 1966

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TV

Plane Makers, The (ITV 1963-1965, Patrick Wymark, Barbara Murray)

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Plane Makers Patrick Wymark

Drama series The Plane Makers took us behind the scenes in the boardroom and shop floor of the Scott Furlong Aircraft Factory. After two seasons the lead character John Wilder took a place on the board of a merchant bank and the series was then renamed The Power Game.

cast
Patrick Wymark as John Wilder
Jack Watling as Don Henderson
Barbara Murray as Pamela Wilder (Seasons 1-2)
Ann Firbank as Pamela Wilder (Season 3)
Reginald Marsh as Arthur Sugden
Alan Dobie as David Corbett

crew details
Creator: Wilfred Greatorex
Producers: Rex Firkin (seasons 1-2), David Reid (season 3)

production details
Country: UK
Network: ITV – ATV
Duration: 57×50 minute episodes
Aired From: 4 February 1963 – 12 January 1965 black and white

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TV

Running Wild (ITV 1987, Ray Brooks, Janet Key)

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Sitcom Running Wild was about the ups and downs of separated couple, Max and Babs, trying to get on with their lives. In season two Max wants to return to his wife but Babs is not so keen.

cast
Ray Brooks as Max Wild
Janet Key as Babs Wild
Sharon Duce as Wanda
Michelle Collins as Stephanie Wild
Peter Amory as Rob
Berwick Kaler as Tom Coleman (Season 1)
Brigit Forsyth as Jenny (Season 2)

crew details
Writer: Philip Trewinnard
Producers: Marcus Plantin (Season 1), Derrick Goodwin (Season 2)
Directors: Vic Finch (Season 1), Derrick Goodwin (Season 2)

production details
Country: UK
Network and Production Companies: ITV – London Weekend Television
Duration: 13×25 minute episodes
Aired From: 6 March 1987 – 4 June 1989

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