ATV Today takes a look at Timeslip – The Complete Series which has been released on DVD today. (June 27th). The release of this classic ITV children’s drama has been issued as part of a limited edition set.
“Well remembered to this day as a benchmark of 1970s telefantasy, this set contains all episodes in their original, as-transmitted, full screen aspect ratios, alongside a wealth of special features.” – Network Releasing
Timeslip was devised by script editor Ruth Boswell for ATV Elstree – who produced the series for the ITV network. Launching in 1970 the production proved such a success two things happened; first the series was extended while in production and then ATV in 1972 created a new dedicated Children’s Drama Department. Headed by former Crossroads director Alan Coleman, Ruth continued the science fiction theme from Timeslip in Escape into the Night. This series, also released by Network, follows the adventures of a bedridden girl who can enter the world of her own drawings. Other early successes from the department included teenage-aimed thriller Tightrope which also starred Spencer Banks following his Timeslip appearances.
Moving over to London’s Thames Television Ruth would go on to produce both The Tomorrow People which followed people with superhuman abilities and supernatural anthology Shadows.
With Timeslip Ruth blended hard science fact with pure fantasy as viewers follow the tale of two teenagers who discover a hole in a fence which is actually a gateway into different time zones. The lead children in the show are Simon Randall, played by Spencer Banks, and Liz Skinner, played by Cheryl Burfield.
“Three children have vanished from the tiny Midlands village of St Oswald. First to disappear is local girl Sarah, then Simon Randall and Liz Skinner, who are on holiday with Liz’s parents. Only Commander Traynor, an apparent stranger to the area, can offer some idea of where they are – and that idea is so incredible and horrifying that the Skinners cannot believe it…” – Network Releasing
The DVD release brings a much loved science fiction series back to the current times and its running theme, as you follow the episodes, is quite relevant to our modern times today. The overall underlying statement which comes across from the production is how mankind uses science and technology and often abuses it, the quest for ever advancing scientific knowledge at the cost to individuals and principals.
The twenty six episodes are enjoyable, the fact the majority are from the monocrome ITC International Sales Film Archive rather than the original colour ATV Network vaults actually, I feel, adds something to the programme. It gives the whole production a more ‘classic movie’ feel, losing the cheaper look which 2″ quad tape recordings generally have of that era for studio based scenes. The one colour episode, the final edition in the story The Time of the Ice Box, has been included in colour on the DVD release, which lets you view and decide for yourself which format you prefer, however if you do lean more to the colour VT the bad news is of course, like so many ATV programmes of the era, the original colour tapes were long wiped.
There are also stellar performances from some well known actors of the day including John Barron who is best remembered as CJ ‘I didn’t get where I am today…’ from The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, who had also previously been a regular in ATV’s Emergency Ward 10, Denis Quilley whose television credits include Tales of the Unexpected and Dixon of Dock Green, Sandor Elés who later became a long serving member of the Crossroads cast as motel restaurant manager Paul Ross and in one episode soap legend Richard Thorp appears. Richard of course best known for playing Alan Turner in Emmerdale, but had starred in several other sagas including Emergency Ward 10 and The Cedar Tree.
If you’re like me, you’ll go hunt out any special features first. So I popped in disc five, and was greeted with some rather enjoyable highlights which will appeal to those long term fans of Timeslip and will be equally as entertaining for those venturing into the series for the very first time.
The main feature is the 90-minute documentary Behind the Barrier, containing recent interviews with older recordings which tell the story of the production from its early stages onwards.
Also on the disc is the seven and a half minute ‘The first Barrier Visit since 1970‘ which sees former actors from the show return to the outdoor location in 2003. At first you think the whole area has been lost to a new housing development, however the fence that started the whole thing off still survives… There is also footage from 2007 of a fan convention featuring many personalities from the series on a return visit to the fence-posts location.
There are also text-based features looking at all the major actors who appeared in the series, a look at the Look-In Magazine comic strip based on the TV show and a history of the filming locations used in the programme.
Disc Four contains a special Beyond the Barrier: mini-episode. This is a self-proclaimed fan-made low budget tribute to the original series. Disc One contains an extensive image gallery featuring episodic stills and promotional shots from the ITC and ATV photograph collections at ITV Studios.
The limited edition also comes with an exclusive book on the making of the series by noted archive television historian Andrew Pixley and there are PDF archive featuring scripts and production paperwork to view on a computer.
If you’re a regular to our reviews you’ll know we’re not one for divulging the plot lines of each episode in any great detail, so here is a quick overview of what each Story is briefly about as to not spoil the plots if you chose to get hold of the series for the first time.
The Wrong End of Time, the first and originally intended only story of the series survives entirely in monocrome film only. Simon and his pal Liz are on holiday in the village of St Oswald with her parents. Liz’s father, Frank (Derek Benfield), has history with the village concerning the now abandoned naval research base, which the first story follows as Simon and Liz, at the site of the former research centre, enter the time barrier for the first time. They leave 1970 for 1940 and they find themselves in a battle of their own.
The series was intended to end with the conclusion of The Wrong End of Time, however ATV’s Programme Controller Bill Ward felt the show was proving quite a success for the ITV network, and with slots still to fill in the schedules ordered more episodes. The next phase of the drama was entitled The Time of The Ice Box and in this run of stories we see the only surviving colour episode (the final edition in the story). Simon and Liz re-enter the time bubble and end up in the freezing cold icy bleakness of 1990 Antarctica. This series takes us through computers and cloning of humans with high drama as to be expected. Someone will end up frozen out of the action, that’s for sure.
The Year of the Burn Up is very much ahead of its time back then, but currently still very ‘now’ with the story featuring heavily the effects of climate change and its knock on problems it creates for Earth and its populations in these stories. Still set in 1990 Liz and Simon venture back through the time barrier to return to the year they’d previously experienced, only this time the cold chills of Antarctica have become a tropical England. The mis-use of technology also once more comes to the fore in this storyline.
The final serial in the series is The Day of the Clone, which brings many of the topics covered in the previous stories together into this last storyline. The time traveling children spend time in 1970, 1990 and 1965. The story covers human longevity and also cloning. A popular topic of the era as anyone who has recently purchased the Whicker’s World DVD’s from Network will know. In his second ITV series Alan Whicker presents a 1969 produced documentary entitled Immortality Inc which looks at the freezing of deceased humans for future ‘rebooting’.
Featuring exclusive packaging, all twenty six episodes and a brand new ‘making of’ book by TV historian Andrew Pixley are available to own from today (27th June 2016). RRP £39.99. This limited edition set is only available whilst stocks last. Thereafter, Timeslip – The Complete Series will be available to own on DVD only.