I saw this thoughtful, moving BBC drama when I was at school in England in the mid-80s, but it still remains in the middle distance of my memory. I remember thoroughly enjoying this tale, set against a backdrop of the bleak years of the Cold War. That I can still write about this work almost twenty years later is testament more to the memorability of the drama than to my powers of recall. I wish I could see it again.
Warren Clarke, best known as Dalziel in the BBC's Dalziel and Pascoe, plays a simple farmer whose uncomplicated rural life is turned upside down when his cattle inexplicably become sick. An initially sinister official from "the Ministry", played by Patrick Malahide, leads a team desperately trying to identify the source of the infection.
The Russian Soldier is not about the science of the search, but is rather a fundamentally human drama. Throughout, there are references to our paranoia and fragility. I recall several incredibly poignant, yet simple exchanges between characters. In particular, between Clarke and his young son, Malahide and his chief scientist, and finally, Clarke and Malahide.
Although seemingly irrelevant, the mysterious Russian soldier of the title who appears in the mist in the opening scene is ultimately the reason behind it all. "Get away from 'ere," commands Clarke, wishing away the shadowy nemesis, in what proves to be a powerful metaphor.
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