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Timeslip on Network DVD

Summer 2016 – June 27 – gave special reason for Timeslip fans to celebrate, with the second release of the series on DVD.

This box set from Network included a generous load of extras, as Sight & Sound magazine’s Robert Hanks pointed out in his review of the release in the September issue that year.

The new one, like the 2004 set from Carlton, included the surviving colour episode – episode 12 of the 26-part series overall and episode six of the story The Time Of The Ice Box. Taken from the 625-line PAL tape, this had been missing from the VHS release of the series in the early 1990s. The episode on that occasion was in monochrome like the others; transfers from 16mm film recordings which were used once more on the Carlton and Network DVD releases.

Now, however, in 2016 purchasers were presented with a lot more, the centrepiece of the extras from P.A.S.T. Projects being a 93-minute documentary on the making of the series, produced by Steve Hardy and directed and edited by Jeff Smart.

This captured the memories of key people involved in front of and behind the camera – Spencer Banks (Simon), Cheryl Burfield (Liz), Iris Russell (Liz’s mother Jean), Ian Fairbairn (Alpha 4/Dr Frazer), John Cooper (producer), Ron Francis (one of the directors), Ruth Boswell (creator/script editor), writers Bruce Stewart and Victor Pemberton, David Graham (Controller 2957), and Teresa Scoble (Miss Stebbins/Alpha 16).

The four stories – The Wrong End Of Time, The Time Of The Ice Box, The Year Of The Burn Up, and The Day Of The Clone – were spread across four discs.

Three of these discs included special features such as a mini-episode sequel to the series called Beyond The Barrier with Spencer, Cheryl, Ian and Teresa recreating their roles, and Ruth once more script-editing. This episode, though cheaply made by P.A.S.T. Projects/Smart Arts and running for just under 13 minutes, was made at Shepperton Film Studios, and on location at the original time barrier site, with other exteriors shot in the City of Westminster, central London – and in colour!

Steve Hardy again produced, and wrote the screenplay with Andrew-Mark Thompson, and Jeff Smart again edited and directed.

The discs also featured an image gallery and PDFs of production material.

A fifth disc was devoted entirely to extras, with the documentary Behind The Barrier at centre stage. But it also included footage of visits in 2003 and 2007 by cast, crew and fans to the site where the time barrier scenes were shot – the ruins of Second World War anti-aircraft base Burnt Farm Camp in Hertfordshire, just north of London. The visit in the 2007 footage was part of a Timeslip convention, Day of the Clone, based at The Plough pub in nearby Cuffley.

Disc five also offered 30 text mini-biographies of cast and crew and ITN science correspondent Peter Fairley who had introduced two of the episodes back in 1970, The Wrong End Of Time part one and The Time Of The Ice Box part one. Both introductions were included in the series on VHS and on the DVD sets. There were also pieces on the history of the time barrier site and on comic strip artist Mike Noble who drew Timeslip for Look-in magazine in the early 1970s.

The inside of the sleeve gave full details of the contents, including summaries of all episodes and their original transmission dates.

The first run of the 2016 set included Timeslip: Series Guide, TV historian Andrew Pixley’s detailed 127-page book of viewing notes on the background of the whole Timeslip saga up to 2015 when the series’ instigator Ruth Boswell died aged 86.

Colour stills from The Time Of The Ice Box graced the front and back covers of the book, and the story of the show’s production and afterlife including fans’ successful efforts to keep the flame burning was chronicled meticulously.

The book began its story in 1968 as the BBC and ITV re-assessed their approaches to their output of children’s drama. One result was Timeslip which ran on ITV throughout the UK from September 1970 to March 1971, with a repeat run from 1973-’74.

The release won strong praise including:

Starburst’s Paul Mount: “The writing is intelligent, measured and wonderfully prescient…

Decades ahead of its time with storylines involving cryogenics, cloning and global warming… One of the most memorable and downright important genre series ever screened on British TV.”

Sci-Fi Now: “Eerily prescient… (and the) “definitive release of the show.”

Sight & Sound’s Robert Hanks: “This was extraordinary stuff to be offering children at teatime. The stories seethe with technological and environmental anxieties, with questions about what it is to be human”.

Chris Gibbings

Buying the DVD

The Network DVD version of Timeslip is now available on Amazon to buy new.