1990 Series 1 on DVD at last!

Monday, 20 March 2017 00:00 Written by 

1990 - Series 1 comes to DVD for the first time everIt was then a future Britain 13 years henceforward, and 1990 sharply pictured what happens when the Government is allowed to carry on its agenda, with the apathy of the people allowing anything to happen. The population is soon devoid of individual rights, a dystopian vision which now, in the 21st Century is presciently chilling as the pieces are coming into place for this to be acclaimed as a road map to what will become our future. Originally broadcast on BBC Two in 1977 as part of the ‘Drama 2’ strand, this is the very first time this series has been made available on any home video format, all thanks to Simply Media.  

1990 stars Golden Globe winner Edward Woodward (Callan, The Equalizer, CI5 – The New Professionals) in the lead role as the calm, witty and charming rebel journalist Jim Kyle, with an Austin Princess as his preferred mode of transport. He’s working for one of the last remaining so-called ‘independent’ newspapers, and a secret dissident fighting the corrupt establishment by covertly helping others escape from the UK. He risks prison or even death if identified and ‘collared’.

Woodward leads a strong supporting cast which includes Robert Lang (Dr Lewis Griffiths in Emergency Ward 10, Felix Kane in The New Avengers “The Last of the Cybernauts…?”) as the Department of Public Control’s (PCD) ruthless controller Herbert Skardon, Barbara Kellerman (Clare Kapp in Quatermass ’79, Monique Bouchere in Space: 1999 “Dragon’s Domain”) making the screen sizzle as the ‘Mata Hari’ deputy, Delly Lomas, and Clifton Jones (David Kano in Space:1999) as the other deputy who works to his own agenda.

In every episode of the first series we also have the mysterious ‘Faceless’ (Paul Hardwick), an insider whistleblower in a bright green Citroen 2CV6, who we never see the face of, but who gives Kyle plenty of inside tracks on what’s really going down. In all but one episode we have import/export agent Dave Brett (Tony Doyle), a good friend to Kyle, who helps try and keep him safe.

The series was created by Wilfred Greatorex, who also created Hine and Airline, and wrote for the likes of Man in a Suitcase, The Plane Makers and Danger Man. He was described by The Guardian as “one of the most prolific and assured television script-writers and editors from the 1960s into the 1980s”.

Greatorex described 1990 as "Nineteen Eighty-Four plus six" because of the parallel themes with Orwell’s prophetic novel. The opening credits, over a theme by John Cameron (musical director for The Protectors), see a couple, seen from above, gradually being sandwiched into an ever-enclosing box of white walls.

It’s not the world we knew in 1977 anymore, but certainly much of what we see has a shocking resonance with attitudes which are becoming the norm in our modern day. The long-term sick are described as ‘work shy’. In a tyrannical regime, people are being stopped from leaving the country, stemming the ‘brain drain’ which was a very prevalent topic back in the real 1977, and this was the suggested outcome to curtail such a thing continuing to happen. So, we get a different form of people-trafficking, where the game is to smuggle people out. If you are involved, you are looked on more favourably if you are take part in such for financial reward rather than on ideological grounds – twelve months imprisonment if you do it for dosh, two years if it was conscience thing.

A European Convention defines that people must be able to move freely across frontiers, something the UK has opted out of. There is a form, known as a ‘P17’, which you have to sign before getting trained, and it commits you to staying in the UK in that profession for a minimum of ten years. Unions are heavily controlled by the Government, and their leaders certainly don’t have the interests of their members at heart.

This certainly isn’t a United Kingdom which has changed for the better in any respects. There is passing talk of the crisis of 1983, where the Constitution (yes, we DO have one, despite what modern MPs tell you) and the Magna Carta were torn up. The country went bankrupt, and money lenders turned their back on the country, the UK effectively becoming “outlaws of civilisation.” A mandatory three-day working week was brought in for the entire population, and woe betide anyone who tries to use their extra free days to earn any extra income.

A ‘squeeze’ was put on the self-employed, with SET, VAT, a Class 4 Levy, paperwork up to your knees, and tax snoopers in twice a week. With the recent u-turn on increasing National Insurance for the self-employed, you get the feeling someone may have looked to 1990 and considered it an instruction manual rather than a warning!

The size of Parliament is now just 400, and at the last General Election only 20% of people bothered to vote – a fiction which belies the suggestion that politicians actually WANT people to be disengaged from the political process. The script refers to this being a “rubber stamp on a faceless Civil Service with the sort of power Genghis Khan would have envied”. The House of Lords has been turned into a ‘Leaders’ Club’, effectively now an exclusive food and drink emporium – with what is happening with Brexit and the Lords, this might come sooner than we think!

All types of card are required to be a fully functioning member of society. Each member of the population can expect to have an identity card, a union card (you cannot work without one), a cheque book card, a ration card, a householder permit (you cannot own a house without one – should it be withdrawn your home will be subject to a compulsory purchase order), a driving licence (without one your car will be impounded), a pass to use public transport, entitlement card for medical and dental treatment, and an entitlement to telephone discs, which allow you to make calls. Behave or all your access to the wheels of society are taken away, making you a ‘non-citizen’ - the drawback, just like the reality of today, is when you are without hope, with nowhere further to fall down to, you have no reason to do anything the State tells you to. The average life of such a ‘non-citizen’ on the streets is just 3.8 years.

The UK currency is now called ‘Anglodollars’ and is stated as being virtually worthless abroad. It’s noted that “Oxfam are raising funds for us in India”. The population are told that the high levels of inflation suffered by the UK are due to a conspiracy by international bankers. There have also been huge cutbacks in the military (just like it has been in real terms today) so that their role is just on our own shores.

There are ‘Inspectors of Culture’, which has the State as the ‘Patron of the Arts’ – something that to any other country would be called ‘Censors’. ‘D’ notices, just like today, are used regularly to ‘spike’ stories. Leaflets and pamphlets need a paper licence to allow access to national news print stocks, and just as is the case now, all publications must note the name and details of the printers on them.

Television is a major player in keeping people in line, courtesy of “British State TV – All the Truth in Words and Pictures” – a chilling subtitle given the emergence of ‘fake news’ pushed by the mainstream media in 2017.

In terms of newspapers, there are both ones run by the State and ones which are the last vestiges of independence, although all types receive 80% of their advertising revenue from the Government. The independents, including Kyle’s The Star, are merely controlled opposition – they can only publish what the State allows them to. Even amongst the staff, there are those keeping a lookout for anti-State activities – Wilkie being one rather obvious grass.

The Star is seen as a red-top tabloid in many episodes, although in one it suddenly becomes a broadsheet format (in the episode “Voice from the Past”). A rival State newspaper is called The British Gazette. The difference in editorial stance is evident in the first episode when they both talk of the new Adult Rehabilitation Centres being set up in country houses which have been compulsory-purchased. The Star runs a headline which says “Five Secret Centres for the PCD – Home Secretary Denies Sinister Motives” (by Jim Kyle), while The Gazette goes with “Concentration Camps? Tosh! Home Sec: New Centres Will Help Misfits”.

These centres are the homes for Nazi-style brainwashing by ‘mindbenders’ of the likes of Professor Ellis and Dr Boswell. The approach is to make their actions so commonplace across the country as to not be news any more.

Propaganda exists all over the landscape, including in schools. Children are treated to such delights as a book called “Mary Brave”, all about a British schoolgirl in a story set in the 1970s where Mary wants to save the polar bears. No money was forthcoming for such from ‘rich men’ so it was up to the Government to make the money available. Published by HMSO, the book was compulsory in all schools.

Parents are allowed two children rather than the statutory one if they are in positions of power, or earn special rights for having adhered to what the State wants.

Traditions such as the King’s Birthday Honours list is quashed in favour of ‘certain privileges’ – no titles now, just extra rations of things like petrol, and access to a greater range of ‘luxury goods’.

Cigarettes have now been deemed to be safe, mainly to protect the size of tobacco tax revenues which the Government secures from users.

In bars, we see how rationing of anything which could be called a luxury has been imposed. Signs read “It is an offence to use a beverage card for admission once the weekly amenity allocation has been consumed”, and “Citizens are warned that beverage cards are valid only for the work states marked”.

Video recorders have become commonplace, with the downside for the State being that people are able to check what was actually broadcast against what they are subsequently told was the case. In our real world, there are numerous examples from 9/11 where this was precisely the tactic used by the authorities – many clips were declared ‘lost’ only for private recorders to show what had actually been broadcast. Even the BBC was caught out on this, claiming for many years that footage of reporter Jane Standley standing in front of the Salomon Brothers building (aka ‘Building 7’), seen over her shoulder, declaring it had already collapsed (it actually did so 20 minutes later), was lost from their vaults. Surprisingly, eventually their log tapes of the broadcast eventually turned up many years down the line.

The first two episodes were originally broadcast on consecutive nights, Sunday and Monday, 18 and 19 September 1977.

There’s a few guest starring roles to look out for, including Ed Bishop (UFO) in “Whatever Happened to Cardinal Wolsey”, Joby Blanshard (Doomwatch) in “Voice from the Past” with Richard Hurndall (The First Doctor in Doctor Who "The Five Doctors") as a whistleblower in the same episode, Doctor Who stuntman Terry Walsh as a PCD Henchman and Michael Cashman (Colin Russell in Eastenders) as a Technician (“Witness”), Graham Crowden as a wheeler-dealer in people traffic (“Decoy”), Ray Smith as a union leader who says too much at a conference in the USA, and John Rhys-Davies as a deputy union official whose head is far too easily turned in the same episode (“Health Farm”).

Today, in our own society where the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ has been passed by the Government, justified as a means of combating terrorism, much of 1990 will make uncomfortable viewing for those who are well-informed about what is really going on.

There’s also resonance with Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner – the final episode of the season is called “Non-Citizen” which is exactly the same concept as being ‘unmutual’ as seen in that show’s episode “A Change of Mind”.

Perhaps the best thing is to leave the last word on 1990 to star Edward Woodward, who had the following to say in a publicity interview in 1977: “It's about how the majority of people have become non-productive administrators to the administration. Parliament is just a cipher – it’s irrelevant which party is in power. The great thing for all of us while we were doing it was to keep a political balance. That was vital for the feasibility of the message. It’s no good slamming the unions, inefficiency, or the corruption of big business. You've really got to say, turning Shakespearian for a second, “a plague o’ both your houses…”.”

A second series of eight episodes was produced in 1978, and this will be coming to DVD courtesy of Simply Media on 1 May 2017.

1990 – Series 1 is out now from Simply Media. The twin DVD set has a ‘15’ certificate, a running time of 440 minutes approx, and a RRP of £19.99 – or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com


1990 – Episode Guide

Edward Woodward (Jim Kyle)

Barbara Kellerman (Delly Lomas)

Robert Lang (Herbert Scardon)

Paul Hardwick (Faceless)

Tony Doyle (Dave Brett – 01-05, 07-08)

Clifton Jones (Henry Tasker – 01, 02, 04-07)

George Murcell (‘Tiny’ Greaves – 01-05, 07)

Michael Napier Brown (Jack Nichols – 01-03, 07, 08)

John Savident (Dan Mellor MP – 01-03, 06, 07)

Honor Shepherd (Marly – 01, 02, 05, 07)

Donald Gee (Dr Vickers – 01, 02, 07)

Mathias Kilroy (Tommy Pearce – 01-03)


Series devised by Wilfred Greatorex

Producer: Prudence FitzGerald

Theme Music: John Cameron




01. “Creed of Slaves

We see a stray dog put in the cross-hairs of a Government sniper. This isn’t the world we are used to. Dan Mellor MP is on the television, talking of ‘parasitism’ within the population, sponging off the state. Journalist Jim Kyle is watching in, and refuses to use an auto-dictation machine as suggested by his secretary Marly – it makes too many mistakes. A surveillance team is listening in, but he gives them an earful of electrical static from a device he has in his pocket. The talk is of ARCs – Adult Rehabilitation Centres. Country houses are being bought up and converted into social psychiatric hospitals in order to sort out ‘misfits’. Photographers are being imprisoned for trying to get pictures of these establishments.

We discover that Kyle helps get people out of the country, particularly to the USA, with the latest being Nolan, who might be “bait with bells on”. Dr Vickers, meanwhile, has been turned down for an exit visa, and State thugs come visiting his home as they believe he has been helping others to escape. Will Vickers be encouraged to take the chance to go Stateside without his family, in the hope that the Government will allow his wife and child to follow the European rules which say they must be allowed to follow within a month?

Guest starring: Eileen Davies (Mrs Vickers), Paul Chapman (Randall), Willie Jonah (Nolan), Desmond Jordan (Burnley), Sophie Coghill (Tina Vickers), Luke Hanson (Jack Grey), Lynn Dalby (Mrs Grey), Stacy Davies (PCD Inspector), Malcolm Rennie (Emigration Officer), Robert Swales (Wilkie), Bruce Lidington (Harper), Bill Rourke (Kendall), Colin Fay (Stevedore).

Writer: Wilfred Greatorex

Director: Alan Gibson

Original Transmission: 18 September 1977


02. “When Did You Last See Your Father?

Dr Vickers is still trying to do things officially to get his exit visa to live in Arizona in the USA.  There are 500 applications for visas every week, and that’s only the ones which reach the Ombudsman’s Court when their refusals are challenged. The system is so overwhelmed that the Home Secretary is going to abolish appeals, the people being labelled as “Silly Billies wanting to get out”. Vickers begins to get a handle on how corrupt the Courts really are.

Guest starring: Gillian Raine (Chairperson), Peter Attard (Ian Cursley), Paul Chapman (Randall), Reginald Jessup (Henry Duncan), Eileen Davies (Mrs Vickers), John Hamill (Norton), Alix Kirsta (Carol Harper), Stacy Davies (PCD Inspector), Mike Hall and David Rowley (Emigration Officers).

Writer: Wilfred Greatorex

Director: David Sullivan Proudfoot

Original Transmission: 19 September 1977


03. “Health Farm

Charles Wainwright is General Secretary of the Metal Turners Union. He makes a damning speech in the USA, supporting a resolution to throw all UK unions out of the international congress. Kyle is frustrated by the fact he cannot use any foreign media footage by law in any of his reportage. Wainwright has incurred the wrath of the establishment, and is stitched up on charges relating to alcohol and holding Swiss bank accounts, it now being an offence to bank abroad. The State decides the only option is to give him Electro Convulsive Therapy.

Guest starring: Ray Smith (Charles Wainwright), Donald Douglas (Dr Gelbert), Mitzi Rogers (Agnes Culmore), John Rhys-Davies (Ivor Griffith), Howard Bell (Halloran).

Writer: Edmund Ward

Director: Kenneth Ives

Original Transmission: 26 September 1977


04. “Decoy

There is an attempt to sell a team which has pioneered methods of population control in the UK on the open market internationally. Dr Robert Sondeberg, who is organising the 'sale', travels to the UK under a Guatemalan passport, one of many he is registered for. Samuel Joseph Calhoun is a high-powered people-smuggler from the North, happy to be called a ‘spiv’, who is only too happy to assist in getting the team members away from the UK. Deputy Tasker is given the job of trying to keep Sondeberg in check. Kyle is made aware of what might be happening, and thinks the country is probably well rid of their sort. Dave uses his influence to make the case for Kyle to be able to acquire a ‘people home wagon’ to keep tabs on the story – the mobile home is doing well in the export market, and the UK population are not allowed them, so Kyle entertains the ruse under the cover of doing a review of it. Matters are complicated when a mole is discovered in Calhoun’s group, but that might not be enough to halt a new way to get out of the country.

Guest starring: Victor Maddern (Calhoun), Graham Crowden (Dr Sondeberg), George Mallaby (Carr), Alan Tucker (Bowden), Antony Scott (Baz Kingston), Phyllida Nash (Reporter), Jonathan Adams (PCD Officer).

Writer: Edmund Ward

Director: Alan Gibson

Original Transmission: 3 October 1977


05. “Voice from the Past

In Holland Park, a package is left in a waste bin – we eventually discover the contents to be a run of a news-sheet called “Facts”. We then see a televised speech by Sir David Mitchell, considered by many as the “best statesman since Churchill”. The Star reports, in an edition dated 29 November 1990, that there is a “Conspiracy Against the Anglodollar. “I back Government” – Mitchell”. Kyle’s attention is drawn to the “Facts – The Independent News Sheet No. 3” – which is calling the broadcast a fake, having been carefully edited over several weeks – a misplaced handkerchief being a major clue. Checking the typesetting, Linotype rather than Phototype used by national papers has been used by those who created the publication. A student who is suspected of being involved has been placed in custody. In talking about education, we discover Delly went to a school where “other pupils didn’t want to learn” which powers her hatred of the world that was. The repeat of Mitchell’s speech is scrapped so people cannot see for themselves the appearing and disappearing handkerchief throughout the programme, with the original tape now having been wiped.

James Edgerton Avery has the inside track on where Mitchell is being kept, and tips off Kyle. It took two months to record the programme about which there is all the fuss - Mitchell is being subject to mindbending techniques. Kyle finds the hideaway, and despite being told Mitchell is not there, gets photographic evidence to the contrary, but the film is mysteriously blank after he and the photographer are detained. Kyle still thinks he has a scoop, but the unions step in to ensure the story is not published. After all, they cannot allow any columns which suggest the Government is tricking the public. Against this backdrop, the illegal supply of paper for the next issue of “Facts” is delivered…

Guest starring: Simon Chandler (Brian), Richard Hurndall (Avery), Esmond Knight (Mitchell), Simon Lack (Luff), Michael Graham Cox (Baker), Damian Thomas (Walters), Joby Blanshard (Williams), John Quarmby (Dr Bland), Raymond Mason (Sefton), Claire Davenport (Nurse Stevens), Terry Bale (Len), Robert Sansom (Old Man), Terence Ward (PCD Inspector), David Lyell (PC), David Rolfe (Peters).

Writer: Arden Winch

Director: David Sullivan Proudfoot

Original Transmission: 10 October 1977


06. “Whatever Happened to Cardinal Wolsey?

Another day at the Ombudsman Court. A man has been caught moonlighting, working as both a watchmen and a window cleaner. The Court defines that the three day week was not brought in to encourage greed. Kyle is interested in the machinations of the courts, especially as one judge, Carter, of three on his panel, is upholding 90% of the appeals which come before him, rather than the required 2%. Carter may be being outvoted two to one, but he is certainly standing up for what he believes in. Kyle does his research on him before asking to meet up, suggests he should consider leaving the country, and gives him a jamming device so he and his wife can talk freely without being snooped upon.

Susie Carter gets a visit from Inspector Jones of the PCD with a couple of his henchmen in tow. They are trying to frame her for shoplifting with staged photos, if she doesn’t get her husband to conform, even threatening the family dog Bimbo – they’ll allege the dog bit one of them, which is a death sentence for a pooch. In the court, reporter Ed Burbank of the Washington Post is taking an interest in what Kyle is up to, and how he might be able to best help Carter and his wife. Can they get Mrs Carter to emigrate along with Bimbo? Tragedy strikes when Inspector Jones revisits Mrs Carter following Carter’s continuing revolt against the system, especially when the Attorney General turns up to look in on his cases.

Guest Starring: John Castle (Philip Carter), Anna Cropper (Susie Carter), John Phillips (Attorney-General Graham), Frank Mills (PCD Inspector Jones), Martin C Thurley (Clayton), Ed Bishop (Ed Burbank), Pamela Sholto (Chairperson), Janie Booth (Lena Yates), Graeme Eton (Stan Aldwick), John York (Davies), James Lister (PCD Supervisor), Ian Liston (Talbot), Stephen Kane and Reg Turner (PCD Men), Bimbo (Bimbo).

Writer: Wilfred Greatorex

Director: David Sullivan Proudfoot

Original Transmission: 17 October 1977


07. “Witness

At an international trade celebration, Kyle learns that the UK Government is buying copper at more than the market price from a foreign power. Trade Minister Nigel Bingham is responsible, saying that “there is more to trade and aid than greed and profit”. Meanwhile, Dr Vickers is giving a conference speech in the USA, an expert on the NHS and therefore much in demand Stateside, and also talking of the ‘Pimpernel 1990’ who helped him escape, refusing money as he did so. Clues suggest he is talking about Kyle. The PCD will use the various speeches Vickers is giving as evidence of dishonest earnings, hence providing a reason for not allowing his wife and child to also emigrate.

Kyle’s office is ransacked, a ‘strip-off’, by Inspector Nichols and some henchmen, the reason for doing so cannot be revealed due to a ‘G’ notice – forbidding publication under the rule that protects people under suspicion (in this case, Kyle himself). They then move on to Kyle’s home, where his wife Maggie and 12 year-old son Bevan are terrorised. They want evidence Kyle is involved in getting people out of the country. Maggie delays them enough so that Kyle and friend Dave can get to the home, but not before Bevan has unsuccessfully pulled a shotgun on Nichols.

Delly travels to Arizona to offer Vickers a deal which will see him reunited with his family, in return for him returning to the UK to testify against Kyle. Fortunately, Dave has beaten Delly to it, smoothing the way for an alternative plan with Vickers. The foil is that despite not doing what is required of him, Vickers has engineered a ‘stay out of jail’ card which cannot be trumped.

Guest starring: Patricia Garwood (Maggie Kyle), Jonathan Scott-Taylor (Bevan), Peter Myers (Bingham), Mark Heath (Paul), John Bennett (Prosecutor), Yvonne Gillan (Defence Counsel), Clifford Morrison (Chairman), Michael Cashman (Technician), Terry Walsh and Alan Harris (PCD Men).

Writer: Wilfred Greatorex

Director: Alan Gibson

Original Transmission: 24 October 1977


08. “Non-Citizen

Following being made a fool of by Vickers, Scardon sees to it that Kyle has his privileges withdrawn as well as all types of cards to allow him to function in society. He will be held in detention for 48 hours to be released in to what he will find a very hostile world. Soon, he is amongst other ‘non-citizens’ on the street. It costs four Anglodollars to just sit by an open fire, and a woman offers herself to him for 15 Anglodollars. Scabies is rife, but soon a former fitter from Derby called Auckland shows him how to survive. His crime had been to get another job on the side. His cards were taken off him, kids taken into care, and his wife gassed herself. He points out you no longer have a name, just a number.

Plans are afoot to rationalise all the documentation and cards into one central database, linked to just a single ‘Privilege Entitlement Card’. The State will be able to compare all total buying to income received, and root out miscreants. To cope with potential forgeries, the cards will be reissued every three months, but only to the most privileged million people. With Kyle now out of the way, Dave Brett meets Faceless. Kyle’s card, a ‘Z classification’, carries a surveillance bug which follows him everywhere. Dave enlists Sammy Colhoun’s help, who puts the word out to find Kyle, ‘the number’. Colhoun had been a non-citizen himself for 18 months, until he stole someone else’s identity.

PCD picks Kyle up after five days on the street and is delivered to Delly’s flat, where Scardon tries to dictate to Kyle, but he’s far from broken. When being returned to the streets, Dave stops Kyle getting a full beating from Nichols, and takes Kyle to a haven where he can disappear from surveillance. He reveals that he’s got Kyle’s family away to an isolated Scottish village, where no questions are asked.

A plan is hatched to make hundreds and thousands of forged Privilege Entitlement Cards which will bring about chaos to the million elite. Kyle uses an old contact to lead on the forging of print plates, making use of embossing with metal ink rather than the allegedly unforgeable metallic strips on the cards. Auckland meanwhile convinces the PCD that Kyle is dead. In the meantime, Kyle puts himself first in one respect, by making sure he has a nest-egg for a rainy day, so that he’s never in such dire straits again as he has just been.

The chaos from the forgeries goes to plan. With no errors seen in the system, the State is powerless as no retailer or wholesaler can detect the forgeries. There’s panic buying, and shortages everywhere. Two months’ supplies are sold in a matter of hours. With that, Kyle makes his return and tells Scardon how things will be from now on in order to make the problem go away, or he’ll drop hundreds of thousands of additional forgeries on to the streets.

Guest starring: Edward Judd (Auckland), Victor Maddern (Sammy Calhoun), Colin Edwynn (Nutter Stonebridge), Mitzi Rogers (Agnes Culmore), Vernon Dobtcheff (Professor Cheever), Tony Sympson (Frank Woodcock), Stacy Davies (PCD Sergeant), Julia Sutton (Woman Non-Citizen).

Writer: Edmund Ward

Director: Bob Hird

Original Transmission: 31 October 1977


Last modified on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 04:04

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