Review By Paul Mount, 5 out of 5
TIMESLIP: The Wrong End of Time/The Time of the Ice Box
A recurring theme in many of my scifind reviews is the dumbing-down of British television, of the parlous state of the imaginations of the so-called creative people in charge of what we watch on the idiot box in the corner of our sitting rooms. One look at a typical week? UK TV schedule in any listings magazine is enough to turn anyone with a brain into a gibbering wreck. But it wasn? always wall-to-wall soap opera, reality TV and cretinous empty-headed glossy dramas about footballers and ugly women in prison. Once upon a time intelligent drama flourished on our screens – and some of it was made for kids. Terrifyingly, kid? stuff like TIMESLIP, thirty-four years old, is better made and far more thought-provoking than any British adult drama series made in the last ten years or more. TIMESLIP, screened in 1969/70 when I was just a slip of a lad, is one of my favourite television series of all time and watching it again now, on nicely-restored DVDs courtesy of Carlton, I? delighted to report that its strengths are all the more apparent and it? stood the test of time as well as many of its contemporaries and a damn sight better than some of them. If you?e not old enough to remember TIMESLIP from the first time around (or its 1974 repeat) then you?e in for an astonishing television treat should you decide to pick up this impressive new collection – and you really should.
TIMESLIP deals with themes which were so ahead of this time it? almost frightening. Over the course of its twenty-six episode run TIMESLIP touched upon now-familiar topics like the dangers of unchecked technological advancement, cloning, global warming and it deals with them in a mature, reasoned manner. The issues are wrapped in a delicious time travel adventure confection so beautifully crafted (scriptwriters Bruce Stewart and Victor Pemberton excelled in writing a children? series which didn? even think of talking down to its young audience) and well-considered that it? virtually faultless. For those of you who aren? familiar with TIMESLIP, it chronicles the exploits of two young kids, Liz Skinner and Simon Randall, who, whilst holidaying with Liz? parents in a sleepy country village called St Oswald, discover they have the ability to travel through an invisible ?ime barrier?located in the field adjoining a long-abandoned wartime military installation. The first six episodes – ?he Wrong End of Time?- see Liz and Simon travel back to 1940 when the installation, engaged in top secret research into laser technology, is taken over by a marauding party of Germans who suspect that the station? seemingly-innocent radar experiments are the cover for something more revolutionary, a new weapons system which could turn the tide of the war. The story ends with Liz and Simon making their way back through the time barrier and, in an episode ending etched firmly into the minds of those who saw it at the time, we see them emerge into a freezing Antarctic icescape where they promptly pass out from the cold. In ?he Time of the Ice Box?Liz and Simon discover that they have slipped forward to the year 1990 and are in a remote scientific research establishment where experiments in longevity and cybernetics are at an advanced stage. Liz and Simon, mistaken for volunteers, discover that they?e in line for some rather unexpected surgery and matters are further complicated when Liz discovers that one of the scientists is a future version of herself and that her own mother is ensconced at the Ice Box.
I haven? seen TIMESLIP for over ten years. Previously issued on rather poor quality double-video sets the series has just sat on my shelf for the last decade and I was concerned, watching the new DVD, that time might not have treated it too well. Slap me for a fool! TIMESLIP is probably better than ever, its cause helped by the dire state of today? television. The gulf between TIMESLIP and what? around today – kid? TV or otherwise – is enormous. Modern viewers may find its pacing uncomfortable – there are long dialogue-driven sequences, not a lot of action, loads of exposition. But none of this matters because the story is so riveting, the science presented subtly and intriguingly (the series doesn? just present time-travel as something magical, it tries to offer rational explanations for why Liz and Simon are able to drift through time), the characters so well-drawn and nicely-acted. Spencer Banks and Cheryl Burfield are superb as the two youngsters (although it might be nice to be able to turn Cheryl? shrill control down a bit) and it? a shame neither were able to forge successful careers as adult performers. The real thespian firepower comes from Denis Quilley, magnetic as the morally-suspect but charming Commander Traynor and Iris Russell and Derek Benfield and compelling as Liz? puzzled parents. Story one sees Sandor Eles as Gottfried, leader of the invading Germans. Here again Bruce Stewart? scripts excel; it would have been so easy to portray Gottfried as a Nazi thug, determined to win at all cost in the name of the Third Reich. But Gottfriend is a man of science, a man who abhors violence and the war he finds himself in. He has his own agenda, hoping that the scientific research being undertaken at the Naval station might be used to depose Hitler himself. Quilley and Eles are electric in their brilliantly-written verbal sparring sequences. ?ce Box?features John Barron (who didn? get where he is today by appearing in kid? science-fiction series) as Deveraux, the Director of the Ice Box, a man who isn? quite as he seems and who clearly isn? quite in control?
There? so much more to TIMESLIP than I really need to reveal in a review. I?l just say that if, like me, the long summer of sport is stretching before you like a sea of mindlessness, you could do a lot worse than invest some of your hard-earned pennies in TIMESLIP, available as four discs or boxset of the whole series. It? just about as good as classic TV gets. Trust me on this one.
THE DISCS: The old VHS releases were messy, badly-edited and with a transfer covered with watermarks and appalling smearing. Carlton have scrubbed them up a treat. Still in black-and-white (the series was made largely in colour but the original masters went AWOL years ago) the picture is clean and sharp, although there? still some problem with the location sequences, particularly the night scenes in story one. The one remaining colour episode in Carlton? archive – episode twelve – is included here and it looks great making the lack of colour on the rest of the series even more frustrating. The absence of substantial extras is disappointing, especially as Banks and Burfield are still around on the fan circuit. A couple of commentaries would have been nice, or maybe some sort of interview feature. But no, all we get is some text stuff on the first disc and a Timeslip map (?) on the second. Disappointing but DVD is really about the main feature – and as I can? fault the show itself I? not inclined to give a lower rating. Just buy the damn thing!!