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Brian Ash (Anthony Andrews) is a young lieutenant who is assigned to a UXB unit in the early days of World War II. UXB (UneXploded Bomb) is the signal that an aerial bomb has not exploded. Ash's job is to deactivate German bombs, some of which have fuses specifically designed to kill him. The series takes us through his maturation as an officer, a love story with Susan (Judy Geeson), and the stresses and strains of wartime on the civilians and military in England. Written by
I just saw it on video 20 years after first watching it on PBS. Great storytelling, great acting, great writing. John Hawkesworth made this well: he neither missed nor flubbed a detail, nor did he insert any improbable or cliched lines or angles. The actual stories themselves are simple enough: a few romances, comradery among the old boys, mateship among the men, a commanding idiot, the proverbial English eccentric ...
But hanging over all their heads - literally - is the Nazi Blitz and its delayed-fuse calling-cards in particular. The fuses kept changing, forcing the engineers to respond to them.
Hawkesworth didn't cop the "budget restraints" plea with "Danger UXB" like so many others would have done; he used what he could get to their fullest. He used the actual techniques used by EOD, RE, in exact detail, using real defused German bombs. I could almost feel the cold mud, a dull counter-part to the sheer terror.
Period pieces are 100% dependent on the details to give their full effect. A wrong uniform, a 50-star flag in the 1940s, an anachronistic hairstyle or remark or attitude gives it all away every time. Hawkesworth gives nothing away in "Danger UXB;" he neither exaggerates nor underplays anything, nor does he throw in a "portent of the future" or "meeting the historical figure."
As for the actors: superlatives won't do them justice. Talent abounds in well-written parts, great and small, with no room for star-tripping anywhere. Every role depends upon with whom they interact. About the only one I thought *may* have been short-shrifted was Maurice Röeves as Sgt. James; he seemed to be chomping on the bit to do more than bark orders, nurse the men or flip a coin through his fingers in a pub. Still, he was thoroughly believable as the backbone of Section 347.
So: I liked it.
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