TIMESLIP - Behind The Barrier: The Documentary

A lovely treat courtesy of the P.A.S.T team (Paul Lacey, Andy Thompson, Steve Hardy take a bow) who run the official Timeslip website. This web exclusive DVD documentary has been percolating away for many years and it has finally been let loose on the world. You can purchase it exclusively from the official Timeslip website.

Now, if you are of a certain age, ahem, like myself then Timeslip is one of those children's dramas that's firmly lodged in the old brainbox from the days when you'd rush home from school, you'd settle down to watch this and then your mother would insist on watching Crossroads before frying up a batch of fish fingers.

Except that Timeslip really did push the boundaries of children's drama and wasn't just any old fluff dreamed up by the ITV networks. It handled quite complex scientific ideas and issues long before they were popular currency in mainstream science fiction television programmes. Over its twenty six episode run on the ITV network, from September 1970 to March 1971, it dealt with cloning, longevity drugs, global warming and the ways mankind used and abused the power of science and technology, abandoning moral principles and individuality along the way. It also was one of the first television series to delve into the complex notions of how the main characters could meet future versions of themselves as part of alternate realities. And all this was woven into intriguing stories about Nazis infiltrating the South Coast to steal a prototype radar; an Antarctic think tank in 1990; an alternate 1990 where England is a tropical forest and finally, a present day secret research establishment R1 which is the source of the dystopian futures the two main characters have experienced as they plunged through a time barrier.

This DVD covers the entire production of the series; from the initial idea outlined by Ruth Boswell and her husband Jim, how they gave the series a bit of kudos by bringing in Sir Fred Hoyle and his son Geoffrey to offer their views on time travel, to how New Zealander Bruce Stewart was hired to develop scripts from the initial concept. Backed up by interviews with Boswell and Stewart, the documentary explores the development of the scripts and characters and through extensive interviews with the two leads, Spencer Banks (playing Simon Randall) and Cheryl Burfield (as Liz Skinner), how the casting process evolved. This wonderfully intelligent programme also boasted some excellent performances from a brilliant supporting cast and very affectionate tributes are paid to actors Denis Quilley (an amazing central performance as Commander Traynor), John Barron (as megalomaniac Morgan Deveraux) and Derek Benfield (Liz's father, Frank) who are sadly no longer with us. Iris Russell, who played Liz's mum Jean Skinner, is also interviewed with David Graham (who played the future Simon) and Iain Fairbairn (Dr. Frazer).

From casting and scripting, the documentary then moves into looking at the production of the series, highlighting the location shooting and the later troubles with industrial action that forced the series to record and transmit a number of episodes in black and white. There are anecdotes a plenty from producer John Cooper, director Ron Francis, and writer Victor Pemberton who was drafted in to complete the last six episodes (Day Of The Clone) of the series. For an 'amateur' production this is cut together very well and the interviews are interspersed with clips from the series and script extracts. It does tend to run out of steam towards the end (this is 90 minutes in length) and there are rather too many longeurs where all the interviewees sum up why they believe the series is still appreciated to this day. The production team don't quite know where to end the documentary. However, a minor quibble and it's clearly a labour of love by the team and is a fitting, passionate tribute to a splendid television series. It's very sad that writer Bruce Stewart has also since passed away, as acknowledged by an end title card on the documentary.

There are also a number of special features. The P.A.S.T team include footage of Back To The Barrier and Day Of The Clone - conventions from 2003 and 2007 and a cast reunion at the Goff's Oak location for the series' time barrier. Most of these are for die-hards only as one has its soundtrack supplanted by Big Brother style birdsong all the way through and the location reunion is marred by windy weather. More interesting is the satisfying little featurette on artist Mike Noble and his work on the Timeslip comic strip for Look-In (the Junior TV Times!).

Overall, a very special DVD if you're a Timeslip fan and, like yours truly, have been waiting years for someone to do a definitive piece like this. Thanks to P.A.S.T for getting the job done in such a professional and entertaining way.

TIMESLIP - Behind The Barrier: The Documentary (P.A.S.T Projects/Smart Arts Released 1st June 2009 - Cert E) Limited quantity and only available from the official Timeslip website.

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One Response to “TIMESLIP - Behind The Barrier: The Documentary”
  1. It's a great DVD, received my copy a couple of weeks ago and devoured it all in practically one sitting. 'Timeslipo has always been a favourite of mine and it's a joy to see it receiving such fascianting and in-depthj treatment.

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