The Wednesday Play: Season 1, Episode 33

Alice (13 Oct. 1965)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama
8.2
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Written for THE WEDNESDAY PLAY (1964-70), which the BBC retitled PLAY FOR TODAY in 1970, ALICE has the earliest airdate (10/13/65) of the Potter productions to survive on tape. After THE ... See full summary »

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Title: Alice (13 Oct 1965)

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
...
Deborah Watling ...
Rosalie Crutchley ...
Mrs. Liddell
David Langton ...
Dean Liddell
Tessa Wyatt ...
Maria Coyne ...
Edith Liddell
Maurice Hedley ...
Alexander MacMillan
John Moffatt ...
Mr. Stotman
Peter Bartlett ...
Dormouse
John Bailey ...
John Saunders ...
Norman Scace ...
Frank Shelley ...
Colin Rix ...
Workman
Suzanne Vasey ...
Ellen
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Storyline

Written for THE WEDNESDAY PLAY (1964-70), which the BBC retitled PLAY FOR TODAY in 1970, ALICE has the earliest airdate (10/13/65) of the Potter productions to survive on tape. After THE CONFIDENCE COURSE (1965), it's the second of the nine Potter plays seen on THE WEDNESDAY PLAY. In this look at Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), aka Lewis Carroll, Potter mixed biographical drama with a psychological profile to explore the roots of Dodgson's creativity. Dodgson tells stories to ten-year-old Alice Liddell, leading to recreations of scenes adapted from ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND (1865), designed to resemble the original Sir John Tenniel illustrations. Written by Bhob Stewart <bhob@genie.com>

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Drama

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13 October 1965 (UK)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Trivia

This play is also known as "The Life of Lewis Carroll". See more »

Connections

Referenced in Second Time Around: The Troughton Years (2012) See more »

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User Reviews

 
How He Got To Wonderland
17 November 2013 | by (Greenwich, CT United States) – See all my reviews

For a man who liked to play with meanings, Lewis Carroll (a. k. a. Rev. Charles Dodgson) might well have enjoyed the riddle he has become to posterity. "Alice" is an attempt at delving into that riddle that leaves you as befuddled as you began.

The teleplay focuses on Dodgson's difficult relationship with the world around him. We first meet him on a train ride, a brusque, unhappy figure known for writing "Alice In Wonderland." A young woman, newly married, spots the man who once told her stories and asked her to consider him "your very special friend," a memory which seems to gnaw at the good reverend. We then travel back to his days as a young teacher at Christ Church, Oxford, where he met the girl behind his most famous creation.

Written by Dennis Potter and first aired on the BBC in 1965, "Alice" presents Carroll as something of a walking conundrum. He's archly conservative in manner, a bit of a stick, yet given to whimsically loopy behavior. As played by George Baker, he's also rather keen on young girls, particularly the title character (Deborah Watling). Is the Reverend a closet perve, or just emotionally frustrated in his hyper- Englishness?

The best that can be said for "Alice" is that it leaves room to wonder. The worst that can be said is that it is rather dull and insular that way, focusing on Dodgson as victim and shortchanging the joy of his creation in favor of the oddity of the person. Here, more attention is given to the worried expressions of Alice's dour mother (Rosalie Crutchley) than what it was Alice and her sisters might have found charming in this clenched, morose, haplessly stammering man.

The teleplay is set around three July days set exactly three years apart from one another. The first, in 1862, involves a picnic when Dodgson told his Alice story to Alice Liddell and her two sisters. In 1865, we see Dodgson presenting a distracted Alice with a first edition of his published work. Finally, in 1868, there's an awkward picnic with mature Alice, now more interested in her boyfriend than those "Wonderland" stories.

While the surface story might seem the passage of time as reflected by Alice's jaded ingratitude, the pedophilia angle gets much play. It's hard not to cringe at Dodgson's attempts at endearment with Alice. "I do love to hear you laugh, Alice," Baker says, his strong stammer in overdrive, "it's the prettiest sound I know." He's so sheepish with her it's pretty uncomfortable watching.

Yet Potter doesn't go all the way with the notion of something indelicate underfoot; instead it's suggested more by Baker's sometimes heavy manner and how director Gareth Davies goes for a pregnant close-up of Alice's mother whenever the matter of Dodgson's activity around her daughter is raised.

"Alice" can also be read as Dodgson's problems with the rampage of time, both on girls who become women and on institutions like Oxford, which Alice's father is hard at work trying to modernize against Dodgson's hidebound wishes. Here Baker seems to play Dodgson more as the injured party, particularly after his attempt to dedicate his "Wonderland" book to Alice directly is rebuffed by her family.

Ultimately, the riddle of Lewis Carroll here gets a bit of teasing but no solution. "I get the impression he is harboring some great and secret disappointment," says Alice's father (David Langton, giving the best performance here), regarding Dodgson. That disappointment seems to permeate the entire teleplay, leaving one feeling a bit let down at the lack of closure.


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