Simon and Liz were teenage friends who fell into a time hole and found themselves trapped in various periods of the 20th century, where they encounter all sorts of adventures. Many of them ... See full summary »
Simon and Liz were teenage friends who fell into a time hole and found themselves trapped in various periods of the 20th century, where they encounter all sorts of adventures. Many of them involve the nefarious Commander Traynor, who is also traveling in time. Written by
Marty McKee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As specified in "The Year of The Burn Up", Simon Randall is aged 16; Liz Skinner is 15. Originally Liz was only to be 13, but the production team decided that Cheryl Burfield was too physically mature for this to remain viable. See more »
An absolutely marvellous show, and certainly not just for kids. It details the adventures of Liz and Simon, two teenage children who discover that they can pass through an invisible time barrier into past and future ages. Along the way they are involved in remarkable events, illustrating all sorts of scientific issues, and even meet past and future versions of themselves and their families.
On the surface, it had a lot of things going against it - low budget, primitive special effects and (as a result of technical problems) transmitted in black and white. These factors have probably killed its chances of being re-broadcast but its video release in 1993 allowed a new generation to appreciate it and see how it easily transcended the low production values.
Why is it so good? The biggest factor is utterly superb writing. Throughout stories were written with tremendous care, ensuring continuity. The viewer is always eager for more. The scientific themes covered such as time travel, global warming, the dangers of technology, cloning and unsafe drug experimentation are done with great accuracy - unlike a lot of science fiction - but never become dull or pontificating. The show also explores issues of authority, ambition, surveillance, elitism, betrayal and ethics - no sugar-coated kids' entertainment. Thirty years after the show was made these issues are even more relevant.
However the best quality of the writing is the dialogue, which is often tremendously funny but never risks tipping the show into comedy or making light of the drama involved. The humour is that of ordinary interaction and relationships. One reason why this is possible is the real depth of the characterisations.
Over 26 episodes there is a real opportunity to flesh out the characters. Simon is a rather geeky, bespectacled young man, obsessed with science but aware of its proper uses, and never quite sure how to deal with Liz. Liz is truly unpredictable, emotional, sometimes careless but quite feisty. She also doesn't quite know what she feels about Simon. A possible future is revealed in one story where they meet their future selves and it transpires that they were once engaged before being found to be "incompatible" by a computer test. Their future guises are tremendously entertaining - especially Liz who in one story is a cold-hearted authoritarian scientist and in another a remarkably warm, positive and charming leader of a group of outcast children.
The other characters are very well-drawn. Liz's father, Frank, is aggressive and impulsive. Her mother, Jean, is protective but much more astute. More significant is the enigmatic and often sinister figure of Commander Trainor, a government scientist who is all too eager to manipulate Liz and Simon and about whom we discover some disturbing secrets. Morgan C. Devereaux features in two stories as a brilliant but utterly unprincipled scientist who risks mayhem on those around him in his pursuit of "progress". Each story also has a range of fine ancillary characters - none better than the disturbing clones seen in "The Year Of the Burn-Up" who no have the edge on their human creators due to their devotion to "service" and "authority". Their intrigues against their supposed masters are marvellous viewing.
All the main cast give skilled acting displays - Cheryl Burfield as Liz, Spencer Banks (Simon), Derek Benfield (Frank)and Iris Russell (Jean). Particularly noteworthy are the displays of Denis Quilley as Trainor, John Barron as the odd Devereaux, Mary Preston as the future forms of Liz and David Graham as the future Simon. However it is hard to find fault with any of the guest cast as well.
The show is interesting in other ways. Liz dresses and sometimes acts well below her teenage years, even calling her parents "Mummy" and "Daddy" and wearing pig-tails. Characters regularly use the word "queer" when they mean "strange". The visions of the world in 1990 are rather more apocalyptic and much more scientifically advanced than actually happened, but the risks they point to are still present.
Anybody with an interest in thought-provoking, intelligent but witty entertainment would appreciate this show. A bit of hunting in the second-hand video stores may be the prelude to a lot of satisfied viewing...
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