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Two series, each of 6 episodes x 30 minutes, were made by Southern TV
for early-evening ITV.
After being evicted from the family car-repair business, the Carters get involved in the re-opening and running of the Flockton to Lane End railway, an old branch line that's been disused for years. The star of the show is a vintage ex-Great Western locomotive called, for the series, "The Flockton Flyer".
After the eviction, the Carters set up home in Flockton Station, meeting up with a tramp by the name of Bill Jelly, who's been living in a track-side hut. Before being allowed to move in to the station, Bob Carter makes an agreement with Commander Frost (Chairman of the railway re-opening society) that he'll get the engine and the track ready for re-opening. Some of the locals are not happy about the re-opening plans, and there's a falling-out with farmer Joe Pratt, and vandalism to be dealt with too. One adventure involves a train robbery, where "The Flyer" is used to trap the crooks until the local police can be summoned. In the final episode of series 1, all's ready for the opening day, complete with band, bunting and cakes, but "The Flyer" goes missing!
The second series (by when the Carters have moved out to Crowcombe, because Flockton station is now in use) involves an argument with local landowner, The Duke of Flockton, resolved by a memorable race between "The Flockton Flyer" and the Duke's locomotive. Later episodes concern the visit of a film crew to the Flockton line, cattle rustling, a dispute with the local fox hunters, the running away of Jessica, the younger Carter daughter, and finally a story about the Carters helping a group of travelling families to find a home after they'd been made unwelcome elsewhere.
Much of the filming was done on the West Somerset Railway, set in the glorious countryside between the Quantock Hills and Exmoor. The resulting images are memorable for their high visual quality. The locomotive, otherwise known, prosaically, as No 6412, really looks the part. This would be a real treat for railway preservation fans and lovers of the English countryside. Filmed, location sequences are more prominent in the second series than the first.
The stories are gentle adventures, not without dramatic moments and there's always plenty of pace. The characters are well-drawn and acted. David Neal's Bob Carter is calm and resolute in the face of adversity. Actors who would later become far more widely known appeared - Peter Duncan (Blue Peter) and Gwyneth Strong (Only Fools And Horses) play Jimmy and Jan Carter. Phil Daniels (EastEnders) makes an appearance. Other well known names who show-up include Sheila (Likely Lads) Fearn as Kathy Carter, Anthony (To The Manor Born) Sharp as Commander "Jack" Frost, John Barrett, Michael Ripper, Patrick Mower, Harry Fowler, Colin Douglas and Gerald Harper.
The programmes got a re-run in the early 1990's in the UK on "The Children's Channel" on cable, and also were shown in a number of European countries. At the time of writing, (September 2006) there has been no VHS or DVD release. Southern TV ceased to exist after TV re-franchising in the early 1980's. The company had made many memorable and acclaimed children's TV, including Freewheelers, Noah's Castle and The Famous Five, together with Worzel Gummidge. Regrettably, only the last of these has been marketed, so far.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an absolutely delightful 2 season series about the carters....a family whose lives, thanks to dad, revolve around an old train station and a steam locomotive...the Flockton Flyer....or just Flockton Flyer later on. A fairly young Gwyneth Strong and her much younger real life sister Catrin both show their early promise. Despite being billed and marketed as a children's show, I think it holds up well as light adult entertainment as many of the show themes are very adult in nature. The final episode concerns Gypsies and their lack of public acceptance in GB. Overall, for me at any rate, it has the photographic look and feel of Survivors...the original 70's series and even the music seems similar in ways. All in all I think this is a very entertaining series and it's a shame that it didn't continue to a third season and in fact several episodes of that proposed 3rd season WERE written. What happened.....I don't know but please don't let the 'children's show designation put you off. If you love a good healthy but not sugar-sweet story....pull up a bowl of popcorn and have at this series...you will not be sorry.
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