Outlander Alternatives – Part 3: Danger UXB (1979)
Hey Baby… Outlander is back.
It’s a very good time to be a fan of historical romance – with two huge television series, Outlander and Poldark, capturing the imagination (and the hearts!) of viewers around the world.
The second season of Outlanderis about to start now screening for lucky people with access to pay television, while the second season of Poldark will be a second half of the year treat.
So I thought now would be a good time to take a look at other television historical romances – some of which have been long forgotten or miscategorised as adventure or children’s stories.
Some episodes of the series I’ll review are in the public domain and are available to legitimately and freely download from the likes of Archive.org, others will have an episode or two loaded onto YouTube.
This series is an example of the type of drama that the British used to do so well. It is very much a narrative driven story, relying on the underlying tension of the times for dramatic impetus, rather than being a star/personality driven story.
Based on the memoir of Major AB Hartley, the series was always intended to be a self-contained. This in itself raises tension because the viewer never knows which characters will make it through to the end – not even the hero himself, Lieutenant Brian Ash (Anthony Andrews) is guaranteed a happy ending.
The Plot Danger UXB tells the story of 97 Tunnelling Company in London, part of a squadron whose mission is to defuse the UneXploded Bombs (UXB) that the Germans have dropped in the Blitz. We see a city under seige and the good, the bad and the ugly of human nature as cilivians try to get on with their lives as well as they possibly can defended by men at home as well as abroad.
Lieutenant Brian Ash (Anthony Andrews) is a young officer assigned to the unit as an engineer but he’s been given no training as a bomb disposal officer – as you can imagine, the role is dangerous and HQ scrambles to come up with new procedures to safely defuse every new iteration of bomb that Germany develops. The series presents a series of vignettes of those men from all backgrounds gentry and working folk – career officers and draftees – rubbing along together.
We’ll fall in love with some and detest others. Over the course of the series we’ll mourn some and never forget their bravery. This may be a work of fiction but the human story is all too real.
In terms of period drama Anthony Andrews owned the late 1970s and 1980s – best known for playing Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited and arguably the best portrayal of the Scarlet Pimpernel – Andrews’ depiction of Ash is superb. He walks between two worlds, that of an upper class gentleman, debonair and educated but also mixes easily with the men under this command.
As a romantic hero, Brian Ash would be described as a beta hero – a Mr Nice Guy. He’s brave, dependable and thoughtful – just the type of guy you’d take home to mum. He also has a sense of honour and is severely conflicted when he falls in love with Susan a married woman emotionally and physically estranged from her husband.
Susan is played by Judy Geeson (who played Caroline Penvenen in the 1970s adaptation of Poldark). Susan is the daughter of Dr Gillespie, a somewhat eccentric character who is convinced that he has developed a safe way of diffusing a new type of bomb with a lethal anti-tampering device. She assists her father in his work. She is married but not happily so. Her husband is at Bletchley Park working on what we know now would have been top secret decoding work. Her affair with Brian Ash is inevitable, natural and tender, the circumstances of war suspending certain proprieties.
What makes it a romance This is an adult romance where the nature of Brian and Susan’s relationship is not straight forward and destined for heartbreak. They love each other, but they have greater responsibilities – he to the deadly nature of his work and the care of his men, and she to her estranged husband, who needs her even more as a result of his nervous breakdown.
Is there a HEA?
There is, but considering the complications of their relationship and the dangerous nature of Brian’s work, it was never going to be easy or inevitable. One thing is for certain, you will never know until you get right to the last minute – when things go with a bang.
As good fortune would have it Danger UXB – the entire series – appears to be available on YouTube. Here’s the first episode.
Romance: 3 Hearts
Adventure: 5 Hearts
Next week: North and South (1985-1994) – yes, I know I said that last week, but I got distracted. 🙂
By EE Carter|2016-04-23T11:02:11+10:00April 23rd, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Outlander Alternatives – Part 3: Danger UXB (1979)