Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Slip's Sliding Away
Denis Quilley died over the weekend (via Welshcake). You probably won't know who I'm talking about, but he was one of those always-in-demand, but never quite front-page-famous, character actors, admired by their peers, who form the backbone of British theatre.
I caught him last year at the National in Humble Boy, where he nearly stole the show from luvvies' favourite, Simon Russell Beale, which is no mean feat. Such was his versatility that back in the eighties he was seen swishing magnificently as one of the queens in La Cage Aux Folles, before RSCing it with the best of them. Shakespeare and showtunes: what more could a Stranger want?
For me, though, he'll always be Commander Traynor, the scheming villain of seventies telly Timeslip. If you're old enough, you might just remember the series as "that one where the boy and girl went through a hole in the fence and into the future". Quilley's chilling performance, and the show's (for then) remarkably prescient exploration of themes such as the consequences of global warming and the ethics of cloning, still knock most of today's telly for six.
(For the two of you who have even half an idea what I'm talking about: I met Liz and Simon once, or rather the actors who played them. After all these years, they're still bessie mates in real life, and "Simon" remains as deliciously nerdy as he was on telly.)
I don't think it's just nostalgia for a simpler, more crackling, black-and-white era which makes me remember fondly the children's TV series of my childhood and teenage years, especially since I've loads of them on VHS anyway, and can watch them whenever I want. (However, if anyone out there has a copy of The Owl Service, let's talk.) I really do believe that kids' shows were far more intelligent and demanding of their audience then than they are today; well, apart from The Tomorrow People, that is.
I've recently been DVDing my way through Sapphire and Steel, and just one episode of that is far more provocative and original (and, OK, miles more pretentious) than any number of X Files repeats.
Tell me, because I really do not know: is there any kids' TV drama around these days which is worth watching? (If there is such a thing as kids' drama these days, that is.) The last thing I even bothered taping is Press Gang with Dexter Fletcher (whatever happened to him?) and Julia Sawalha (we all know what happened to her). And that was in the nineties, for heaven's sake!
And, apart from you know who, which TV series of your childhood do you remember fondly today?