Undermind comes to DVD

Thursday, 02 August 2012 00:00 Written by 

 

Undermind - an archive classic comes to DVDIt’s not often that a long-lost series can have an impact upon its first-ever DVD release.  So I hope is the case with crime drama come science fiction mystery Undermind, a chilling and intriguing series made by the long-defunct British ABC Television. First broadcast in 1965, it stars Jeremy Wilkin (second voice of Virgil Tracy in Thunderbirds and featured in various Gerry & Sylvia Anderson shows) as personnel manager come saviour of the world Drew Heriot, with Rosemary Nicols (Annabelle Hurst in Department S) as his avenging sister-in-law Anne.

Detective Sergeant Frank Heriot (Jeremy Kemp) is healthy, happily married, and has a secure job. What has made him cold and distant towards his family, in particular wife Anne? Why is he now plagued by searing headaches? Is he mentally ill, or is something far more sinister playing on his mind? Gradually, the answer becomes clear - Frank is the victim of an unknown force seeking to undermine public confidence in the people and institutions that form the backbone of the British establishment. Those familiar with the allegations surrounding charity of today “Common Purpose” may suddenly feel contemporary alarm bells ringing.

Doctors, teachers, scientists, clergymen and writers and are all amongst the targets to be undermined (hence the clever title of Undermind). The ultimate aim is anarchy (“Common Purpose”, in today’s world, has stated their aim is “Training Future Leaders for the Post Democratic Era” – whether that equates to anarchy is anyone’s guess, but they’ll probably say that’s the last thing on their minds). Where will the mysterious menace strike next? It could be the man who sits next to you on the Clapham omnibus. Or, heavens forbid, it could be you...

Network DVD has begun a systematic raid of the old ABC TV archives, now held by Canal Plus, and so Undermind, for the first time in any format, is now available as an all-inclusive three-disc set. The series was evolved and edited by Robert Banks Stewart, who went on to become writer and producer of the likes of Bergerac, The Darling Buds of May, Shoestring and Lovejoy. The final two episodes of this series come to us courtesy of writer Robert Holmes, who would go on to write 73 episodes of classic Doctor Who, including fan favourite “Pyramids of Mars” under the pseudonym Stephen Harris.

Monochrome, largely studio-bound, and no doubt recorded as-live as much as possible, the production makes its modest budget go a long way. Despite its SF leanings, it is the implied where the tension comes from, rather than any effects-strewn spectacle. There is a school of thought that says these days you have to put all the bangs and flashes on-screen to satisfy a modern audience – this series is an example of how such budgetary limitations can be got around.

That said, a modern audience will have to get used to the horizontal lines across the picture, which without expensive restoration work will have to remain part of the mesh through which we must view this gem from decades gone by. The performances of the lead cast, and their notable support, go some way to making you forget about such visual imperfections.

Every story brings us a host of guest stars who went on to small screen stardom, as you’ll see in the episode guide below, but special mentions must be made of the likes of Paul Maxwell (voice of Steve Zodiac in Fireball XL5), John Barron (CJ in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin), George Baker (Wexford in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries), Michael Gough (Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s Butler in a trio of “Batman” movies), Denis Quilley (Traynor in Timeslip), Barry Evans (teacher Jeremy Brown in Mind Your Language), Bill Treacher (Arthur Fowler in Eastenders),  Garfield Morgan (Haskins in The Sweeney), Judy Parfitt (Sister Monica Joan in Call The Midwife), David Kelly (Albert Riddle in Robin’s Nest), Philip Latham (Willy Izard in Mogul) and Barry Ingham (Alydon in “Dr Who and The Daleks”). Even Eamonn ‘This is Your Life’ Andrews gets involved, playing himself in a specially set-up episode of The Eamonn Andrews Show.

Rosemary Nicols gets to showcase her singing voice in the episode “Song of Death” – she would later put out her own single, “Jaby / Once Upon a Time” on the Gemini label in 1970, which in itself was tied in to a novel she released in 1967 called “The Loving Adventures of Jaby”.  

There are no DVD extras on this set, but just to be able to view these episodes is a reward in itself. Its resonances with the fears of contemporary audiences are there for all to see, the only side-step is that the enemy is far closer to home than those behind this series could have ever realised. The methods of brainwashing the intended targets are ingenious, and never repetitive. You genuinely fear for the characters portrayed by Wilkin and Nicols, which cranks up the tension, and the threat is all-too real.

The one galling thing is the Canal Plus ident video coming up before EVERY episode – yes, we know who owns the ABC TV library now, but just the one run-through of this sequence when the DVD is first inserted is quite enough, thank you.

Undermind – The Complete Series is a three-disc Network DVD release, with a running time of 550 minutes approx, a ‘PG’ certificate, and a RRP of £29.99 – or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

 

UNDERMIND – SERIES GUIDE

Jeremy Wilkin as Drew Heriot

Rosemary Nicols as Anne Heriot

 

Series evolved and Edited by Robert Banks Stewart

Theme music: Paul Lewis

Producer: Michael Chapman

 

01. “Instance One

Guest starring: Jeremy Kemp (Frank Heriot), Frank Mills (Inspector), Hugh Latimer (Paget), Paul Maxwell (Dr Polson), Tony Steedman (Hugh Bishop), Moya O’Sullivan (Edith Bishop), Ernest Hare (Landlord), John Edmunds (Newscaster), Jill Cary (Secretary), Georgine Anderson (Receptionist), Peter Willson Holmes (Executive), Helen Ford (Clerk), David Swift (Macridos)

Writer: Robert Banks Stewart

Director: Bill Bain

Original ABC TV Transmission: Saturday 8 May 1965

 

02. “Flowers of Havoc

Guest starring: Michael Gough (Prev A G Anderson), Denis Quilley (Prof Val Randolph), Pauline Jameson (Wilma Strickland), Glynn Edwards (Charles Ogilvie), Gil Sutherland (Dave), James Hunter (Phil), Barry Evans (Ted), Michael Graham Cox (Howard), Mairhi Russell (Mrs Brewer), Bill Treacher (Workman), Marjorie Keys (The Blonde), Edwin Finn (Verger), Michael Barker (Guitarist)

Writer: Robert Banks Stewart

Story: Jon Manchip White

Director: Peter Potter

Original ABC TV Transmission: Saturday 15 May 1965

 

03. “The New Dimension

Guest starring: Denis Quilley (Val Randolph), Patrick Allen (Fenway), Derek Francis (Beymer), Garfield Morgan (Smith), Judy Parfitt (Marion Gordon), Vivienne Martin (Dorothy), John Collin (Ellerway), Rosemary Dorken (Joan Cooper), Angela Lovell (Christine), Fred McNaughton (Commisionaire)

Writer: David Whitaker

Director: Bill Bain

Original ABC TV Transmission: Saturday 22 May 1965

 

04. “Death in England

Guest starring: Denis Quilley (Prof Val Randolph), Patrick Bedford (Pat Neary), Paul Curran (General Riordan), Robert James (Sir Geoffrey Savage), Mark Burns (Captain Morell), Terence Lodge (Rumbold), David Kelly (Kennefick), Tony Quinn (Brady), Dermot Tuohy (Smythe), Alex McDonald (Morahan), Daphne Heard (Miss Neary), Evelyn Lund (Miss Finn), James Caffrey (Newscaster)

Writer: Hugh Leonard

Director: Peter Potter

Original ABC TV Transmission: Saturday 29 May 1965

 

05. “Too Many Enemies

Guest starring: Denis Quilley (Val Randolph), Margaret Whiting (Alice), Aubrey Richards (Gill), Tenniel Evans (Hepworth), Lesley Nunnerkey (Dr Burath), David King (Tubby Chalmers), Rosalyn Hooker (Nurse), Gene Garvey (Computer Assistant)

Writer: Robert Banks Stewart

Director: Peter Dews

Original ABC TV Transmission: Saturday 5 June 1965

 

06. “Intent to Destroy

Guest starring: Eamonn Andrews (Guest Celebrity), Barkworth (Victor Liberton), Ewan Hooper (Stanley Shaw), Lally Bowers (Effie), Jan Holden (Ursula Smythe), Margaret Gordon (Mrs Banbridge), John Garvin (Mr Banbridge), David Conville (Laurence Chance), Bruce Montague (George Stacey), John Benson (Announcer), Michael Crockett (Boy), Fred Davies (Security Officer), Michael Pearce (Floor Manager)

Writer: John Kruse

Director: Bill Bain

Original ABC TV Transmission: Saturday 12 June 1965

 

07. “Song of Death

Guest starring: David Bauer (Dr Hugh Christian), Jeremy Burnham (John Rossleigh), Ralph Nossek (Sam Freed), Joan Heath (Jessie Spring), William Wilde (Donald Ames), John Wentworth (Dr Spring), Karen Clare (Evie Stroud), John Crocker (Mental Patient), Rick Jones (Harry), Sidone Bond (Nurse)

Writer: Bill Strutton

Director: Laurence Bourne

Original ABC TV Transmission: Saturday 19 June 1965

 

08. “Puppets of Evil

Guest starring: Katherine Blake (Kate Orkney), Philip Latham (Edmonds), Stanley Meadows (Morgan Fay), Delena Kidd (Nancy Long), Alex Scott (Tom Constable), Derek Nimmo (Homer Benton), Norman Tyrell (Cyrus Benton), Norman Chappell (Bookshop Assistant), Ann Godfrey (Mother), Catherine Howe (Constance)

Writer: Max Sterling

Director: Patrick Dromgoole

Original ABC TV Transmission: Saturday 26 June 1965

 

09. “Test for the Future

Guest starring: Barrie Ingham (Gerald Kennedy), Dudley Jones (Lodge), Godfrey Quigley (Jeffreys), Maurice Taylor (Davies), Charles Carson (Lt Col Matherson), Lennard Pearce (Gregson), John Rapley (Shop Assistant), Peter Hughes (Shepherd), Jacqueline Ryan (Miss Drayton)

Writer: David Whitaker

Director: Laurence Bourne

Original ABC TV Transmission: Saturday 3 July 1965

 

10. “Waves of Sound

Guest starring: John Barron (Sir Geoffrey Tillinger), Ruth Dunning (Dr Whitaker), George Moon (Ensign James), John Barcroft (Jenner), Jean Trend (Receptionist), David Phethean (Caper), George Betton (Jarvis), Susanna Carroll (Veronica), Charlotte Selwyn (Secretary)

Writer: Robert Holmes

Director: Raymond Menmuir

Original ABC TV Transmission: Saturday 10 July 1965

 

11. “End Signal

Guest starring: John Barron (Tillinger), George Baker (Thallon), David Phethean (Caper), Barry Warren (Killick), Michael Lees (Raison), Richard Owens (Reynolds), Alex McCrindle (Professor Emmett), Beryl Baxter (Veronica), Jessie Barclay (Mrs McLeod), Terence Taplin (Clearly), Vernon Joyner (Selwyn Pugh)

Writer: Robert Holmes

Director: Peter Potter

Original ABC TV Transmission: Saturday 17 July 1965

 

 

 

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