SOLDIER AND ME - The Complete Series / DVD Review

Soldier And Me, Granada's 1974 BAFTA award-winning children's drama, comes to DVD this month courtesy of Network.

The nine half-hour episodes, broadcast in a Sunday tea-time slot between 15 September and 10 November 1974, were made by producer Brian Armstrong and directed by Carol Wilks, both formerly producer and researcher respectively on Granada's hard-hitting documentary strand World in Action.

Soldier and Me was an adaptation by writer David Line of his own best selling book 'Run For Your Life', originally published by Jonathan Cape in 1966. Line was the pseudonym of thriller writer Lionel Davidson.

As Jake Kerridge noted Davidson, born in Hull in 1922 and who died in 2009, was perhaps the last of the great adventure writers of the 1950s and 1960s, casting his unwitting heroes in the tradition of the ripping yarns spun by writers such as John Buchan. He was referred to as "today’s Rider Haggard" by Daphne du Maurier and his early novel 'The Rose of Tibet' was praised by Graham Greene as a "genuine adventure story." (1)

Davidson's career as a writer started with him as an office boy opening the post at The Spectator (it published his first story when he was 15 after he smuggled one of his own pieces into the submissions he forwarded to the literary editor), writing syndicated features for children and an agony column and, after the Second World War, working at Fleet Street's Keystone press agency. As a freelance writer he travelled to Czechoslovakia in 1947, smuggling himself aboard a lorry deporting Slovaks from Hungary back to Czechoslovakia as per Stalin's diktat for Eastern Europe. (2)

COMPETITION: Wolcott: The Complete Series Blu-Ray (Closed)

Released on Blu-Ray and DVD on Monday 17 August by Network Distributing, Wolcott hails from 1981, a groundbreaking drama made by the ITC subsidiary Black Lion Films for ATV. Broadcast from the 13 to 15 January 1981, it was the first example of a prime time mini-series stripped over three nights in the ITV schedule. The episodes have now been newly transferred into HD from the original film elements for this long overdue release.

Displaying the same rough, streetwise vibe as The Sweeney, Wolcott stars the charismatic George William Harris as a tough, loner detective with a gift for rubbing people up the wrong way. Winning massive viewing figures, its controversially unflinching depiction of racism and crime ensured that it has never been repeated or released in any format until now. With all four episodes now transferred in High Definition from the original film elements, Wolcott includes early roles for Christopher Ellison, Hugh Quarshie, Warren Clarke and Rik Mayall – cast against type as a racist policeman. - See more at:
Most importantly, it was the first British crime drama with a black actor playing the lead role and it did not shy away from depicting the corruption and villainy in both the black and white communities. Played with great power and charisma by George William Harris, Wolcott is a man in the middle, facing hostility both from the community he polices and his colleagues in the Force. His investigations into the fatal stabbing of an old woman and a journalist soon uncover a brutal drug war being fought between criminal gangs.

Co-writer Patrick Carroll notes: "At the inception of the project there were no black officers in the Met C.I.D.  By the time the programme aired we were told that there were three, all of whom were involved in undercover work relating to drug dealing." The series' unflinching and controversial approach to race and policing at the time captured something of the deprivation, distrust of the police and authority, and inequalities of the period that culminated in the inner city riots in Brixton, Birmingham and Liverpool.

Wolcott made for uncomfortable viewing judging by the mixed critical reaction at the time but it gained impressive viewing figures of 13 million. ATV lost its franchise to Central in the summer of 1981, and when producers Barry Hanson and Jacky Stoller approached Central "with a view to developing a follow-up series they were told that, despite the original serial’s impressive viewing figures, the project was simply too much of a political hot potato.  When Barry and Jacky brought their proposal to the BBC they were given much the same answer."

Viewing Figures

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