SERIES ONE OF the critically acclaimed 1970s’ BBC drama 1990 has just been released on DVD by Simply Media. This is the first time that the programme, which stars Edward Woodward and Barbara Kellerman, has been released for sale in any format.
A dystopian, rather than a post-apocalyptic drama, 1990 was part of the same wave of darker TV dramas that began to emerge in the late 1970s of which Survivors was a key part. These shows, and others, such as The Guardians (1971), The Changes (1975), Noah’s Castle (1980) and The Knights of God (1987), imagined how society might be overturned by disasters or calamities of different sorts, and how humanity might respond to the loss of civilisation.
Clearly taking inspiration from George Orwell’s seminal treatise on authoritarianism 1984, 1990 depicts life in a then-future Britain that has isolated itself from the world and slid into tyranny. In a country in which freedom of speech has been outlawed and surveillance of citizens’ lives has become all powerful, small groups of rebels and dissidents attempt to outwit the authorities and subvert the system; even if that means finding ways to escape the country’s closed borders in the hope of finding a freer life.
The central protagonist in 1990 is Jim Kyle (Woodward), a journalist who attempts to rebuff the attentions of the spies and snoopers of the Public Control Department whilst secretly working for the underground resistance movement. The pressures and contradictions of Kyle’s life are made more intense by his entanglement with the beguiling senior PCD official Delly Lomas (Kellerman). Can Kyle continue to resist the PCD, aid the fightback, and still retain his secure and relatively-privileged position in the new Britain? Series one sets off to find out…
My review of the DVD release of series one and series two of 1990 both appear in the online edition of Starburst magazine.
It is excellent news that, by the time series one was released, Simply Media had already committed to releasing the second (and final) series of 1990 on DVD on 1 May 2017.
1990 – series one
Britain, 1990. Edward Woodward (The Wicker Man) stars as Jim Kyle, renegade leader of a resistance movement, in the BBC’s cult dystopian drama set in a totalitarian Britain.
The country is run by the bureaucrats of the Home Office’s all-powerful Public Control Department (PCD). Hundreds of thousands of civil servants work hard at monitoring and exposing all possible and imaginary threats to the country.
They routinely command sophisticated surveillance of anyone suspected of opposing the status quo; ruthless suppression of independent thought in Special State brainwashing units cunningly disguised as caring rest-homes; and strict rationing of food, alcohol, and travel.
Free speech is forbidden. The rule of law no longer protects the vulnerable. Civil liberties are consigned to history as the Orwellian bureaucrats tyrannically impose their intimidating control.
Jim Kyle (Edward Woodward), journalist for The Star, resists the forces of the Establishment. He’s smart, witty and charming. But is subversive acts aren’t going unnoticed, and he risks prison or death at the hands of the PCD’s ruthless controller Herbert Skardon, (Robert Lang), and his provocatively alluring deputy, Delly Lomas (Barbara Kellerman).
Series One and Series Two were first broadcast on BBC 2 in 1977 and 1978 to critical acclaim. The series was never released on video or DVD until now.
By way of a personal aside…
Back in the early 2000s, when I was working with Andy Priestner on the special features accompanying the release of all three series of Survivors on DVD by DD Video/DDHE (the forerunners of Simply Media), I pitched to the company the idea of licensing 1990 for DVD release, and outlined the special features that I would like to have compiled as part of the DVD package. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the project did not proceed at that time, and this Simply Media release is ‘vanilla’ in format, and uses an untreated archival tape source. Despite this, this release comes very highly recommended to all enthusiasts of intelligent, high quality BBC genre TV drama from that classic period.
My original pitch to DDHE, for a 1990 DVD release, from more than a decade ago…