Edge of Darkness

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This article is about the television drama. For the remake, see Edge of Darkness (2010 film). For other uses, see Edge of Darkness (disambiguation).
Edge of Darkness
Edge of Darkness.png
Genre
Written by Troy Kennedy Martin
Directed by Martin Campbell
Starring
Composer(s)
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 6
Production
Producer(s) Michael Wearing
Cinematography Andrew Dunn
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time c. 50 minute episodes
Broadcast
Original channel BBC2
Picture format Film
Audio format Monaural
Original run 4 November 1985 (1985-11-04) – 9 December 1985 (1985-12-09)
External links
Website

Edge of Darkness is a British television drama serial, produced by BBC Television in association with Lionheart Television International and originally broadcast in six fifty-five minute episodes in late 1985. A mixture of crime drama and political thriller, it revolves around the efforts of policeman Ronald Craven (played by Bob Peck) to unravel the truth behind the murder of his daughter Emma (played by Joanne Whalley). Craven's investigations soon lead him into a murky world of government and corporate cover-ups and nuclear espionage, pitting him against dark forces that threaten the future of life on Earth.

Writer Troy Kennedy Martin was greatly influenced by the political climate of the time, dominated by the Thatcher government, and the aura of secrecy surrounding the nuclear industry – and by the implications of the Gaia hypothesis of environmentalist James Lovelock; these combined to his crafting a thriller that mingled real world concerns with mythic and mystical elements. Kennedy Martin's original ending was more fantastic than that eventually used in the finished serial: he had proposed that Craven would turn into a tree but this was vetoed by members of the cast and crew.

First broadcast on BBC2, Edge of Darkness was met with such widespread critical acclaim that within days it had earned a repeat on BBC1. Winner of several prestigious awards, it remains highly regarded to this day, often cited as one of the best and most influential pieces of British television drama ever made. The series' director, Martin Campbell, filmed a remake, released in January 2010, starring Mel Gibson.

Plot[edit]

"Compassionate Leave"[edit]

The story begins on a rainy night when a Yorkshire police detective, Ronald Craven (Bob Peck), meets with the leader of a mining union, Godbolt (Jack Watson), and agrees to delay his investigation of the allegedly-rigged election that had reconfirmed Godbolt as the long-time head of his organisation. Godbolt and Craven evidently have been long and amicably acquainted, and Craven had been assigned the investigation at Godbolt's request. Later, Craven and his daughter Emma (Joanne Whalley), a scientist and environmental activist, are confronted by a man with a shotgun just outside Craven's home. The gunman fatally shoots Emma with both barrels, then escapes. Because Craven is a detective involved in many ongoing criminal investigations and has conducted many other investigations in the past, his colleagues immediately conclude that he had been the target, and that the shooter was one of the men whom Craven had put away years earlier. Emma is deemed to have been an innocent bystander. Soon, Craven discovers clues suggesting that Emma was the intended target. Going through Emma's belongings, Craven discovers a Geiger counter and a pistol - the gun clearly registering on the Geiger counter, as does a lock of Emma's hair that he'd clipped in the mortuary. He also finds a radiation badge marked 'IIF' - 'International Irradiated Fuels Ltd' - a British company contracted to store radioactive waste at a low level radioactive waste facility known as 'Northmoor'. Emma's body and her possessions are found to be radioactive. Craven begins experiencing visions of his daughter, but it is unclear whether she is a ghost or a figment of his imagination. Convincing his boss that the killer will end up in London, Craven heads for the city. In London, Craven is contacted by Pendleton (Charles Kay) a polished official attached to the Prime Minister's office, who informs him that Emma was known to be a terrorist. Pendleton later receives a visit from CIA agent Darius Jedburgh (Joe Don Baker), an associate who is aware of Emma's previous activities. In contrast to Pendleton, Jedburgh is played as a hard-hitting professional with a wry sense of humour and an incongruous passion for golf, music and watching ballroom dancing on television.

"Into the Shadows"[edit]

Staying in London, Craven has more intense visions of Emma to which he voices his frustration. The police find the killer's getaway car. Fingerprints on the car belong to Lowe, a man Craven had arrested ten years earlier. Meanwhile, Pendleton introduces Craven to his colleague, Harcourt (Ian McNeice), who informs him that Emma was a member of a subversive anti-nuclear group called 'GAIA'. A team of six GAIA members led by Emma broke into Northmoor on 8 May 1985; all of whom are now either dead or missing. Craven meets Emma's boyfriend, Terry 'Tel' Shields (Tim McInnerny), a political agitator who is under surveillance. Shields - more a socialist than environmentalist - tells Craven that Emma was investigating a "hot cell" in Northmoor. When Craven looks up his file on computer he finds it is restricted, leading him to speculate that Shields is an informer who passed information about the GAIA raid to the authorities. After Craven makes a televised appeal for information about Emma's killer, Jedburgh contacts him at the request of Pendleton and Harcourt to show him the CIA's file on Emma's activities. The file describes how GAIA and the CIA became suspicious of Northmoor when a nearby reservoir became contaminated with radioactive material, leading them to believe Northmoor was illegally storing plutonium. Along with Harcourt and Pendleton, Jedburgh is keen to find the source and purpose of the plutonium, but there are signs that he has his own plans for Northmoor.

"Burden of Proof"[edit]

The police close in on their suspect, Lowe (Roy Heather). Although successfully apprehended, Lowe manages to break free and jumps from the window of his building. Lowe later dies in his hospital bed after telling Craven he was working with McCroon, an IRA informer Craven had managed while in Northern Ireland, who had subsequently been betrayed by the British Government, for which he held Craven responsible. Ironically, this only strengthens the official theory that Craven had been the target. Meanwhile, Jedburgh and Pendleton go to Shields's home and find a murdered man inside the van monitoring Shields and then Shields dead of an apparent suicide. Craven meets Harcourt and Pendleton at the British House of Commons where an inquiry is occurring about the sale of IIF to 'The Fusion Corporation of Kansas', owned by Jerry Grogan (Kenneth Nelson). Pendleton tells Craven that he believes Grogan was behind Emma's death. Craven refuses to testify in the IIF inquiry, but his presence there clearly unsettles Robert Bennet (Hugh Fraser), IIF's managing director. Outside the hearings, Craven is introduced to Clementine (Zoë Wanamaker), with whom Jedburgh worked in the past. It is 'Clemmy' who informs an incredulous Craven that Jedburgh created GAIA. Jedburgh confronts Grogan, warning him to stay out of Northmoor. It is clear both men know and are hostile toward each other. Returning to Yorkshire for Emma's funeral, Craven is denied permission to seek a warrant to enter Northmoor; his superiors stubbornly adhere to the theory that Emma was killed by Lowe and McCroon, and suspect Craven of cracking. Returning home, Craven is observed by McCroon (Sean Caffrey).

"Breakthrough"[edit]

As Craven had predicted, once the officers guarding his home had been withdrawn upon his insistence, McCroon breaks into Craven's house, intent on killing him. Pointing a shotgun at Craven, McCroon insists Craven and not Emma had been targeted in retaliation for Craven's work exploiting and then abandoning informers in Northern Ireland. Craven appears unafraid, presumably because he believes he can get McCroon to tell him who he is working for. Cryptically, McCroon says they were both "marked" for death but is then shot by a police marksman, sending Craven into a breakdown. Briefly hospitalized, Craven returns home and resumes his investigation. He finds a list apparently of London Underground stations written by Emma, possibly the names of tunnels providing a 'back door' into Northmoor. Meanwhile, Harcourt and Pendleton investigate the recovery of a woman's body from a reservoir near Northmoor. Though the cause of death was drowning, the body is irradiated. A pathologist later testifies that the body showed signs of having been in proximity to concentrated fissile material, of the kind found in a reprocessing plant, and that this coincided with an exposure to a "criticality accident". With the help of a ex-colleague from his Northern-Ireland days, Craven uses a terminal connected to the MI5 computer to find information on GAIA, Northmoor, and Emma. Computer records show that McCroon was acting on the orders of Northmoor Security to kill Emma. He also prints a general map of Northmoor from the computer and narrowly avoids arrest with Clemmy's help, when police arrive to investigate the security breach.

Craven is also sought out by Godbolt, as both prepare to testify to Parliament (Harcourt and Pendleton decide not to use Craven as a witness after learning that the Northmoor lawyers have obtained the psychiatric reports of his brief hospitalisation, and would use them to discredit his testimony). Jedburgh had watched a televised interview given by Godbolt in which, he had advised Craven, the union leader had seemed to give a veiled message, presumably meant for Craven, that Emma had been killed "by mistake". Craven questions Godbolt as to what he had meant. It has already been revealed in flashback sequences that Emma had expressed some of GAIA's concerns about Northmoor to her father (the author of the CIA report that Jedburgh had allowed Craven to read had surmised that Craven must have known what his daughter planned, and had posed the question of why he had not stopped her), and asked him to assist her team by guiding them into Northmoor. He had refused, telling her that such a facility would be guarded with deadly force, and not to think about trying to break in. Knowing that disclosure of Northmoor will ruin him, Godbolt tells Craven that he had become involved in Northmoor when it was run by the Ministry of Defence, which had needed the involvement of mine workers in order to utilize the abandoned mine. Godbolt, who had signed the Official Secrets Act, had been transferred in this role, along with the mine, to IIF. The union election had been rigged by the company purely to ensure that they could keep working with the now heavily compromised Godbolt instead of a successor who might be less pliable.

But Godbolt did not consider himself to have sold-out completely. When Craven had refused to lead the GAIA team into the mines, they had sought Godbolt's help. It had been he who had led them into Northmoor, but IIF had failed to deduce this. Instead, Godbolt's advice had been sought by the company as to likely candidates to have led the GAIA team into the mines, and he was aware that Craven's name was on their list of suspects. IIF, he tells Craven, wanted both Emma and her father dead as it was assumed that both had been involved in the break-in at Northmoor.

Craven reunites with Jedburgh (who is just returning from a mission in El Salvador) and learns that the American spy's role in creating GAIA resulted from his country's policy in limiting the worldwide production of plutonium, a policy which was reversed (according to Jedburgh) during the Carter Administration. The episode ends with Craven telling Jedburgh he plans to break into Northmoor.

"Northmoor"[edit]

Over breakfast, Grogan informs Bennet of Jedburgh's plan to break into Northmoor. With the help of Godbolt, Craven and Jedburgh penetrate Northmoor through ten miles of disused mineshafts and tunnels. Tipped off, IIF security try to flood the tunnels, apparently as they had with GAIA. This requires tons of water already needed to cool their reactor rods. Surviving the floods, Jedburgh and Craven proceed to Northmoor - on the way, they stumble on the irradiated bodies of the missing members of the GAIA team. Reaching the "hot cell", which sends Craven's geiger counter into a frenzy, the two find the signs of a horrific radiation accident. The bodies of fatally irradiated personnel still lie where they died. Jedburgh, under orders from the CIA, enters the hot cell and steals the plutonium. Meanwhile, at the House of Commons inquiry, Bennett is forced to admit the presence of plutonium at Northmoor and the deaths of the GAIA team. He had informed neither the police nor the civilian nuclear regulatory authorities of this - in violation of regulations and IIF's charter - because, he says, the plutonium belonged to the Ministry of Defence. Back at Northmoor, as the two intruders escape the hot cell and flee from IIF security forces, Jedburgh gives Craven some of the plutonium as evidence, then orders Craven to split from him. Craven - having been warned by Godbolt to stay on his guard about Jedburgh - wants to know what the CIA man intends to do with the rest of the material. Jedburgh, telling Craven that he plans to go to Scotland, reiterates his order at gun point and the two part ways. Craven flees for a bunker - a disused nuclear weapons fire control site. Now feeling the effects of the radiation, and with the IIF forces flooding the bunker with gas, Craven desperately seeks out a working telephone - the only one he can find dials directly to a disused basement at 10 Downing Street. A bemused security guard answers the call as Craven screams "Get me Pendleton!"

"Fusion"[edit]

Craven wakes up in a hospital on an American Air Force base, showing signs of massive radiation poisoning. Jedburgh has not been found, and Craven cannot tell them where to look. Harcourt reports to the Minister, but finds his boss already knows the truth about Northmoor. The IIF plutonium was created by a secret laser process for the Ministry of Defence: the investigation was simply to divert American suspicions. Pendleton and Harcourt, held responsible for the theft of the plutonium, are now under pressure by the minister to retrieve it. They, in turn, rely on the detective, Craven, to find Jedburgh and the plutonium. The Americans are also searching for Jedburgh. The agents to whom he had been intended to hand over the plutonium were also meant to kill him. They had failed in the attempt, and Jedburgh had killed at least four of them before making his escape, with the plutonium.

In Scotland, Jedburgh is also suffering from radiation poisoning, and may be becoming delusional. After a diversion to play golf, Jedburgh keeps a long-standing engagement as a guest-speaker at a NATO conference on directed energy weapons held at the Gleneagles Hotel. Also present at the conference is Grogan who arrives with the news that the British government has approved the purchase of IIF. Before a roused audience, Grogan delivers a coldly passionate address on the power of fusion, invoking the spirit of historic explorers and boldly proclaiming man's destiny to become a "celestial warrior" and establish a "solar empire". The audience of military and civilian officials applauds but Jedburgh, in U.S. Army uniform, takes the podium to denounce Grogan's vision for a vainglorious crusade amongst the stars. Finishing his speech, he gleefully reveals two bars of the plutonium stolen from Northmoor, yelling "Get it while it's hot". The audience, bemused at first, breaks into a panic and flees the room. With only Grogan left, Jedburgh brings together the two bars, causing a criticality incident and irradiating Grogan.

With Clemmy's car, Craven drives to Scotland. His sickness worsening, Craven stops near a stream, where Emma appears. She tells Craven of a time in Earth's distant and frigid past when black flowers grew, warming the Earth and preventing life from becoming extinct. These same black flowers have returned, she says, to save Earth from its latest enemy, mankind. Once the flowers have spread, decreasing the Earth's albedo, the sunlight they have absorbed and re-radiated into the atmosphere as heat will melt the polar icecaps, washing mankind away. Tracking Jedburgh down to a remote country house, Craven learns that the American has weaponised the remaining plutonium by wrapping it around a plastic explosive core, it can be detonated even at the bottom of a loch by shooting it with a plutonium bullet. Craven tells Jedburgh that Grogan had expected the inquiry to block his acquisition of Northmooor; his mission to steal the plutonium was set up by the CIA to ensure the industrialist kept control of the material. Unbeknownst to both men, a hit squad is nearing the house. Among other things, they carry a coffin shaped box carrying radiation warning labels. Inside the house, the pair have a final rambling conversation - touching the appearance of the black flower, the song "Time of the Preacher" and the likely victor in the battles of good and evil, and between Earth and mankind; The black flower is real, Jedburgh tells Craven - he's seen it in Afghanistan. The American is convinced that mankind will find a way to survive, but Craven doubts this, and declares that if it comes to war between mankind and the planet he's on the side of the planet. Jedburgh, expecting the assassins, leaves Craven when they break into the house, determined to get as many as he can. Ultimately killing Jedburgh, the team spares Craven, the squad leader pointing out to the others that Craven's "on our side". Outraged, Craven bellows "I am not on your side!" as they leave.[1]

In the final scene, Pendleton and Harcourt observe IIF's retrieval of the plutonium from a nearby loch, where Jedburgh had hidden it. A voiceover by Harcourt, in the form of a letter to Clemmy concerning the events, reveals that Grogan, while directing the operation, is probably also dying from the radiation exposure he received at the hotel. Pendleton and Harcourt spot Craven watching the retrieval operation from a nearby hill. Harcourt laments his inability to comfort Craven, wanting to reassure the detective that Gaia will be safe and that good will triumph over evil - knowing that Craven simply would not believe it. As he watches the recovery team leave the area, and knowing his life is at an end, Craven calls out Emma's name one last time.

Time passes. The waves lap against a nameless shore over nights and days. The camera pans against the side of a snow covered hill where black flowers bloom, harbingers of Gaia's coming war against mankind.

Principal credits[edit]

Cast[edit]

Ronald Craven was played by Bob Peck, an actor who was well known in theatre but, at the time he was cast as Craven, had appeared in only minor roles on television. In creating the role of Craven, Peck drew upon his experience gained from the two years he played the title role in Macbeth for the Royal Shakespeare Company.[2] Notable roles after Edge of Darkness included On the Black Hill (1987), Slipstream (1989), Natural Lies (1992) and Jurassic Park (1993). He died in 1999.[3]

Joanne Whalley, who played Emma Craven, began acting during childhood, appearing in the long-running soap opera Coronation Street (1960–present) in 1976 at the age of 10. She had also appeared in supporting roles in several series including Juliet Bravo (1980–1985), Bergerac (1981–1991) and Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983). Following Edge of Darkness, Whalley was cast in the equally well regarded BBC television serial The Singing Detective (1986), written by Dennis Potter. Moving to Hollywood, she appeared in such films as Willow (1988), Scandal (1989) and Shattered (1991) as well as television mini-series such as Scarlett (1994) and Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (2000). During her eight-year marriage to the actor Val Kilmer, between 1988 and 1996, she was often credited as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer.[4]

Cast as Darius Jedburgh was Joe Don Baker, who had been acting since the 1960s and was known for his roles in Westerns such as Gunsmoke (1955–1975) and as the lead in the detective series Eischied (1979–1980). He also starred as Sherriff Buford Pusser in the original 1972 film Walking Tall. The script of Edge of Darkness so impressed him that he agreed to take the part at lower than his usual fee.[5] He was later cast, by Edge of Darkness director Martin Campbell, as CIA agent Jack Wade in the James Bond film GoldenEye (1995), a role he reprised in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).[6]

Charles Kay, who played Pendleton, was a well established character actor who had appeared in Fall of Eagles (1974), I, Claudius (1976) and The Devil's Crown (1978). He has since acted in many television productions such as Fortunes of War (1989), The Darling Buds of May (1991–1993), Jonathan Creek (1997–2004) and Midsomer Murders (1997–present).[7]

Edge of Darkness was an early role for Ian McNeice, who played Harcourt. He went on to act in a wide variety of film and television parts including The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (1995), Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995) and Frank Herbert's Dune (2000) as well as regular roles in Doc Martin (2004–present) and Rome (2005–2007).[8]

Several other familiar faces to British viewers appeared during the course of the episodes, including John Woodvine (as Craven's superior DCS Ross), Tim McInnerny (as Emma's boyfriend Terry Shields), Hugh Fraser (as IIF chief executive Robert Bennett), Zoë Wanamaker (as intelligence agent Clementine) and Blake's 7 cast members David Jackson (as Colonel Lawson) and Brian Croucher (as Northmoor security chief Connors). Playing themselves were television reporters Sue Cook and Kenneth Kendall, weatherman Bill Giles and Labour MP Michael Meacher. Long-standing BBC visual effects designer Mat Irvine, who contributed visual effects to the series, received a brief cameo as a police diver in "Breakthrough".

Crew[edit]

Writer Troy Kennedy Martin was the creator of the long-running BBC police drama Z-Cars (1962–1978). He also wrote the screenplay for the films The Italian Job (1969) and Kelly's Heroes (1970) and scripts for television series such as Colditz (1972–1974), The Sweeney (1975–1978) (which was created by his brother Ian Kennedy Martin) and Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983). Following Edge of Darkness, he wrote the screenplays for the films Red Heat (with Walter Hill) (1988) and Bravo Two Zero (1999).[9] He died in September 2009.[10]

Director Martin Campbell had developed a reputation for handling action thrillers with credits including The Professionals (1977–1983), Minder (1979–1994) and Shoestring (1979–1980). A few years after Edge of Darkness, Campbell moved into feature films, directing the James Bond films GoldenEye (1995) and Casino Royale (2006) as well as The Mask of Zorro (1998), Vertical Limit (2000) and The Legend of Zorro (2005).[11]

Producer Michael Wearing had worked on Play for Today for which he had produced Alan Bleasdale's The Black Stuff (1978) and which he and Bleasdale subsequently spun off into the highly acclaimed Boys from the Blackstuff (1982). He also produced the conspiracy thriller Bird of Prey (1982). Following Edge of Darkness he continued to be one of British television's most high profile and successful producers, appointed Head of Serials at the BBC between 1989 and 1998 where he was responsible for such programmes as Pride and Prejudice (1995), Our Friends in the North (1996) and Dennis Potter's final two plays Karaoke (1996) and Cold Lazarus (1996).[12]

Walt Patterson, who acted as series adviser, was a leading commentator on nuclear affairs, best known for his book Nuclear Power (Penguin, 1976–1986). Following Edge of Darkness, he acted as specialist adviser to the British House of Commons Select Committee on Environment for their 1986 study, Radioactive Waste. He continues to contribute to the policy debate about energy and environmental issues.[13] Advice on the policing aspects of the serial was provided by the West Yorkshire Police and former Scotland Yard detective Jack Slipper, famous for his pursuit of the train robber Ronnie Biggs.[14]

Music[edit]

The musical score was provided by Eric Clapton and Michael Kamen. Clapton was approached to provide the score by producer Michael Wearing.[15] Shortly afterwards, when Michael Kamen brought Clapton to a screening of Brazil (1985), which he, Kamen, had scored, Eric suggested a collaboration between the two on Edge of Darkness.[16] Kamen became one of Hollywood's most successful film composers, writing the scores for many blockbuster films including the Lethal Weapon series (1987–1998) (with Eric Clapton), the first three Die Hard films (1988, 1990, 1995), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) and X-Men (2000). He died in 2003.[17]

Aside from the Clapton/Kamen soundtrack, Willie Nelson's "The Time of the Preacher", New Model Army's "Christian Militia", and Tom Waits' "16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought-Six" are featured in the series. "Christian Militia" is on the record player when Terry's body is found. Craven listens to "The Time of the Preacher" when he is in Emma's room in the first episode. It later emerges Jedburgh is familiar with the song and both he and Craven sing it on two occasions, the lyrics being significant.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation used the music to illustrate stories on the Chernobyl disaster the following year. Eric Clapton and Michael Kamen performed the movie's main theme with the National Philharmonic Orchestra during the 24 Nights period in 1990 and 1991.[18]

Background[edit]

Origins[edit]

“I am writing this story about a detective who turns into a tree” was what writer Troy Kennedy Martin told his colleagues when asked what he was working on during the early nineteen-eighties.[19] Kennedy Martin had become frustrated that “at the BBC there was no political dimension to their drama whatsoever” but had chosen to write a political story anyway, not really believing it would ever get made.[15] The election of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Ronald Reagan as President of the United States had brought about a major shift in the global political landscape and Kennedy Martin was motivated to write out of concern arising from such issues as the Greenham Common protests, the Falklands War, unrest among the miners and, arising out of the escalation of the Cold War, the fear that “born-again Christians and Cold War warriors appeared to be running the United States”.[19]

By 1983, Kennedy Martin had written the first draft of what would eventually become Edge of Darkness – at this stage it was called Magnox (a reference to the Magnox type of nuclear reactor) and was about trade union problems in the nuclear industry.[20] The script was given to BBC Head of Drama Series & Serials, Jonathan Powell, who encouraged Kennedy Martin to continue its development.[21] The script would go though many changes and revisions before reaching its final form.

A particular influence was the speech made by President Ronald Reagan on 23 March 1983 announcing the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) which, using ground-based and space-based systems, proposed protecting the United States from attack by nuclear missiles.[15] One of the supporters of SDI was one-time US presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche, on whom Kennedy Martin based the character of Jerry Grogan, owner of the Fusion Corporation of Kansas.[19] Kennedy Martin was also influenced by the culture of secrecy surrounding the UK's policy regarding nuclear power in light of the inquiry into the construction of the Sizewell B nuclear power station and the concerns about the safety record of the Sellafield nuclear power plant; this led him to conceive International Irradiated Fuels and its chief executive Robert Bennett.[19]

The other major influence was the Gaia hypothesis, that the Earth is a single living system that self-regulates to maintain the optimum conditions for life, formulated by climate scientist James Lovelock and popularised in his 1979 book Gaia: A new look at life on Earth. Kennedy Martin used the name GAIA for the environmental organisation Emma Craven was involved in and drew the notion for the black flowers seen at the serial's conclusion from a passage in Lovelock's book that describes a dark marsh grass that grew on the surface of the Earth trapping heat during a time when the planet was too cold to sustain life.[15]

Although Kennedy Martin's notion for the serial was influenced by real political events, he had for a long time railed against naturalism in television drama – most notably in a 1964 article for the theatre magazine Encore, titled “Nats Go Home. First Statement of a New Drama for Television”, in which he sought “to free the camera from photographing dialogue, to free the structure from natural time and to exploit the total and absolute objectivity of the television camera”.[22] Edge of Darkness producer Michael Wearing has noted that “there is a mystical dimension to Troy's imagination. His instincts are visual and non-naturalistic”.[23] Kennedy Martin, therefore, crafted a serial that on the one hand placed its events squarely within the real, present day world but on the other also placed itself within the realm of the mystical and the mythic.[24] Realism and authenticity was provided by the appearances of real life television presenter Sue Cook and Labour MP Michael Meacher. There was also use of contemporary stock footage, such as Robin Day's interview with Margaret Thatcher and references to real persons like Michael Heseltine and places such as Sellafield, alongside the references to fictitious characters and places contained in the plot. The mystical dimension is provided by Emma's ghost while the mythic is provided by Craven himself and by Jedburgh and Grogan. Kennedy Martin, influenced by John Darragh's The Real Camelot (Thames and Hudson, 1981) which examined the pagan origins of the Arthurian legend, saw Craven as a modern day Green Man who would confront the threats to the Earth on behalf of Gaia.[19] Jedburgh was conceived by Kennedy Martin as a Knight of the Marches, one of the Teutonic Knights who defended the borders of Eastern Europe, opposed to Grogan, who Kennedy Martin saw as a descendant of the Knights Templar who, according to legend, had guarded a special wisdom in the Temple of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.[19] These aspects would reach their apotheosis in the serial's conclusion in which Kennedy Martin envisaged that Craven, having found the plutonium stolen by Jedburgh, would be shot by a sniper and would be transformed into a tree.[14]

Production[edit]

By 1983, Jonathan Powell was keen to put the serial into production and offered the scripts to producer Michael Wearing who was immediately impressed by the scenes in the first episode, “Compassionate Leave”, depicting Craven's reaction to Emma's death, describing them as “the most sustained evocation of individual grief in bereavement that I can remember”.[25] The budget was set at £2 million, of which £400,000 came from an American co-producer, Lionheart Television International.[23] Director Martin Campbell came on board shortly afterwards and soon clashed with Troy Kennedy Martin, demanding rewrites, in particular to the notion that Craven had known about Emma's involvement with GAIA right from the start; this was removed at Campbell's behest.[26] Further clashes over the script occurred between Kennedy Martin and star Bob Peck over the conclusion in which his character would turn into a tree; Peck recalled that “it didn't seem to be working in script terms, it seemed as though we wouldn't be able to make it work for the audience”,[15] a view echoed by Michael Wearing who felt that it was “likely not to come off as an effect”.[15] Kennedy Martin capitulated, introducing instead the concept of the black flowers seen in the finished production. However, some elements of Kennedy Martin's original vision persist in the final script: for example, in episode three, “Burden of Proof”, the ghost of Emma urges Craven, as he undergoes a breakdown, to be strong, like a tree.[27]

Shooting on Edge of Darkness began on 9 July 1984[5] and ran for five months until 5 December 1984.[28] Location filming took place in London (including the Barbican Arts Centre, BBC Television Centre and the Hilton International Kensington), Yorkshire (including the headquarters of the West Yorkshire Police in Bradford, the Middleton Railway where the nuclear flask train is hauled by a wooden mock up of a class 31 covering a pair of john fowler diesels, the headquarters of Systime Computers {now the O2 building} in Leeds where Craven hacks into the MI5 computer and at Westwood Cottage, Ilkley for Craven's home), Scotland (including the Gleneagles Hotel, where Jedburgh addresses the NATO conference and also where President Reagan's Reykjavík policy was formulated[29]) and Wales (including Clogau Gold Mine and Manod, Blaenau Ffestiniog doubling as Northmoor with the hot cell a set constructed at a factory in Penygroes).[30] Throughout the entire shoot, the production continued to be known as Magnox; the title Dark Forces was briefly considered before the serial was renamed Edge of Darkness in April 1985.[28] As the shoot progressed it became apparent to the cast and crew that they had a potential hit on their hands; Bob Peck recalled, “I think we knew when we were making it that it was a good piece of work”[31] while Kennedy Martin told reporters “I haven't had this feeling about something for 20 years. It's wonderful, after all this time, to get something that actually works”.[28]

Broadcast and critical reception[edit]

Edge of Darkness was promoted on the cover of the listings magazine Radio Times and was broadcast on Monday nights on BBC2 at 9:30pm, beginning 4 November 1985.[32] The serial averaged an audience of 4 million viewers over its run.[33] The critical response was generally positive with most commentators concentrating their praise on Peck's performance as Craven and the scale of the programme's political themes.[23] “A good television thriller is very hard to find but Edge of Darkness promises to be one of the best”, wrote Celia Brayfield in The Times, “The central character is played by Bob Peck, who has the gift of looking tragic and intelligent simultaneously. [...] There was humour to lift the gloom and superb characterisation to flesh out the stock situation”.[34] Ruth Baumgarten, in The Listener, praised the serial as “a grandiosely ambitious and compelling piece of fiction”.[32] Speaking on the BBC's review programme Did You See...?, the writer Sarah Dunant said, “this is a very classy piece of television drama, on all levels, I think on the plot level, I think on the level of emotion and I think stylistically [...] it looks absolutely wonderful, it's shot like a feature film”.[35] Not so impressed was Byron Rogers, television critic of The Sunday Times, who initially hailed the series as one that “stayed in the mind and will stay there long [...] because of its portrayal of human grief”[36] but later felt he was “beginning to find Edge of Darkness slightly irritating”[37] and decried the final episode as “an insult to its considerable following”.[38]

Aware of the critical buzz surrounding the show, BBC1 Controller, Michael Grade, quickly announced that the series would be repeated on BBC1, stating, “I think it will reach a wider audience and it deserves it”, and so Edge of Darkness was duly shown, in double episodes, over three consecutive nights between 19 December and 21 December 1985, the fastest time between original broadcast and repeat in the BBC's history.[39] These repeats were accompanied by a disclaimer that the GAIA organisation depicted in the programme was not connected with the Gaia publishing company supported by Prince Philip.[39] It was a move that paid off – Edge of Darkness doubled its audience on BBC1 to 8 million viewers.[33]

Cultural significance[edit]

Edge of Darkness tapped into a cultural zeitgeist of concern about nuclear power and nuclear warfare in the early to mid nineteen-eighties. In 1980, current affairs programme Panorama broadcast “If The Bomb Drops”, a documentary that examined how well prepared Britain was for a nuclear attack; in 1983, The Day After an American TV movie about a nuclear war aired, as well as seeing the release of the feature film WarGames, showing the 'no winner' outcome of nuclear war; in 1984, the BBC broadcast On the Eighth Day, a documentary about the effects of a nuclear winter and Threads, a drama about a nuclear attack on Sheffield while 1985 saw the first screening of Peter Watkins' nuclear war television film The War Game, banned on television since 1965.[40] Edge of Darkness also rode on a wave of preoccupation with the secretive nature of the State in both fact (e.g. This Week’s “Death on the Rock” (1988) about the deaths of three Provisional IRA members in Gibraltar and Secret Society (1987) about undisclosed matters of public interest which led to the sacking of BBC Director General Alasdair Milne) and fiction (e.g. the films Defence of the Realm (1985) and The Whistle Blower (1987) and the television serials A Very British Coup (1988) and Traffik (1989)).[41]

Edge of Darkness continues to be well regarded to this day. When it was repeated on BBC2 in 1992, Sean Day-Lewis wrote in The Daily Telegraph, “Edge of Darkness is a masterpiece. It is one of those very rare television creations so rich in form and content that the spectator wishes there was some way of prolonging it indefinitely”.[42] Andrew Lavender, writing in British Television Drama in the 1980s, has said that Edge of Darkness “captured the spirit of its age but went far beyond the drama of its time. [...] It pushed against expectations attaching to the thriller form, often transcending the limits of the genre”.[43] Fred Inglis, in his analysis of the serial in Formations: 20th Century Media Studies, takes it “as one of the most remarkable works of art made for British television”.[29] According to Lez Cooke, in British Television Drama: A History, “In a reactionary climate, when the possibilities for the production of 'social issue' drama were limited, Edge of Darkness proved that, by adapting to changed circumstances and adopting a serialised thriller format, it was still possible to produce ambitious and progressive television drama in Britain in the mid-1980s”,[44] a view echoed by Sean Cubit in EcoMedia who notes that “the series neatly echoed the chill that descended on radical politics in the Thatcher years in the United Kingdom”.[45] The television historian Andrew Pixley has described the series as “possibly the finest BBC drama ever made”[20] and “one of the few television programmes where every element can be said to have worked to complete effect”.[46]

Edge of Darkness was placed fifteenth (fourth position out of the dramas featured on the list) on the British Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes in 2000,[47] the BFI describing it as “a gripping, innovative six-part drama which fully deserves its cult status and many awards.”.[48] Radio Times television editor Alison Graham, in 2003, listed it as one of the forty greatest television programmes ever made.[49] It was one of only seven dramas listed in Broadcast magazine's list of the fifty most influential television programmes, published in July 2004.[50] In March 2007, Edge of Darkness was placed third in Channel 4's list of the Greatest TV Dramas.[51] Also on Channel 4, Darius Jedburgh was listed eighty-fourth in their list of the One Hundred Greatest TV Characters in 2001.[52]

Awards[edit]

Edge of Darkness received eleven nominations and won six awards at the 1986 BAFTA Awards:[53]

  • Won: Best Drama Series/Serial (Martin Campbell & Michael Wearing)
  • Won: Best Actor (Bob Peck).
  • Nominated: Best Actor (Joe Don Baker).
  • Nominated: Best Actress (Joanne Whalley).
  • Won: Best Original Television Music (Eric Clapton & Michael Kamen).
  • Won: Best Film Cameraman (Andrew Dunn).
  • Won: Best Film Editor (Ardan Fisher, Dan Rae).
  • Won: Best Film Sound (Dickie Bird, Rob James, Christopher Swanton, Tony Quinn).
  • Nominated: Best Makeup (Daphne Croker).
  • Nominated: Best Graphics (Andy Coward, Linda Sherwood-Page).
  • Nominated: Best Design (Graeme Thompson).

At the 1986 Broadcasting Press Guild television critics' awards, Edge of Darkness won two awards:[2]

  • Won: Best Actor (Bob Peck) (joint winner with Ben Kingsley for Silas Marner).
  • Nominated: Best Actor (Joe Don Baker).
  • Won: Best Drama Series.

Hollywood adaptation[edit]

In 2010, a Hollywood remake of the show was released in cinemas. It was released on 28 January in the UK, 29 January in the US and 4 February in Australia. Mel Gibson plays Detective Craven. The film is directed by Martin Campbell, who also directed the original.

Other media[edit]

Edge of Darkness was released on VHS videotape by the BBC in 1987.[54] There was also a release from CBS/Fox Video in North America at the same time. The soundtrack was also released as an album entitled Edge of Darkness.

Troy Kennedy Martin's original script for episode one and the final scripts for episodes two to six of the serial were published by Faber and Faber in 1990; the script book also included an introduction by Kennedy Martin and two appendices – the first giving background to the story and the main characters and the second giving comments on the script by experts on nuclear power and police procedures.[55]

The serial was re-issued on VHS in 1998 by Revelation Films who also issued the serial on DVD in 1999.[54] In 2003, BBC Worldwide re-issued Edge of Darkness on DVD (encoded for both regions 2 and 4) with several extra features including Magnox: The Secrets of Edge of Darkness, a specially made “making-of” documentary; an isolated soundtrack of Eric Clapton and Michael Kamen's score; a Bob Peck interview from BBC Breakfast Time; a contemporary report on the programme's BAFTA wins and coverage of the programme's wins at the Broadcasting Press Guild awards.[56] A Region 1 DVD set was released on 3 November 2009.

See also[edit]

  • Edge of Darkness, the soundtrack album for the series, by Eric Clapton and Michael Kamen.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ BBC, 1983 :the death of Jedburgh
  2. ^ a b Broadcasting Press Guild Awards 1986 (Edge of Darkness DVD Special Feature). London: BBC Worldwide. 
  3. ^ Bob Peck at the Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ Joanne Whalley at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ a b Pixley, Get It While It's Hot, p. 56.
  6. ^ Joe Don Baker at the Internet Movie Database
  7. ^ Charles Kay at the Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ Ian McNiece at the Internet Movie Database
  9. ^ Troy Kennedy Martin at the Internet Movie Database
  10. ^ Sale, Jonathan (16 September 2009). "Troy Kennedy Martin obituary". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 17 September 2009. 
  11. ^ Martin Campbell at the Internet Movie Database
  12. ^ Michael Wearing at the Internet Movie Database
  13. ^ Patterson, Walt (2006). "More about Walt Patterson" (PDF). Walt Patterson on Energy. Retrieved 5 April 2007. 
  14. ^ a b Pixley, Get It While It's Hot, p. 55.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Vanezis, Magnox: The Secrets of Edge of Darkness.
  16. ^ "Interview: Michael Kamen". Northmoor. Retrieved 7 April 2007. 
  17. ^ Michael Kamen at the Internet Movie Database
  18. ^ "24 Nights: Music". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2014-05-28. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f Kennedy Martin, Introduction.
  20. ^ a b Pixley, Get It While It's Hot, p. 52.
  21. ^ Pixley, Get It While It's Hot, p. 53.
  22. ^ Cooke, British Television Drama: A History, p. 64
  23. ^ a b c Lavender, Edge of Darkness (Troy Kennedy Martin), p. 104.
  24. ^ Lavender, Edge of Darkness (Troy Kennedy Martin), p. 112.
  25. ^ Pixley, Get It While It's Hot, p. 54.
  26. ^ Pixley, Get It While It's Hot, p. 54 - 55.
  27. ^ Lavender, Edge of Darkness (Troy Kennedy Martin), p. 113.
  28. ^ a b c Pixley, Into The Shadows, p. 50.
  29. ^ a b Inglis, Citizenship and the Media, p. 55.
  30. ^ Pixley, Into The Shadows, passim
  31. ^ Bob Peck interviewed on Breakfast Time (Edge of Darkness DVD Special Feature). London: BBC Worldwide. 
  32. ^ a b Pixley, Into The Shadows, p. 51.
  33. ^ a b Cooke, British Television Drama: A History, p. 147.
  34. ^ Brayfield, Celia (5 November 1985). "Television: Thrilling promising pedigree". The Times (News Corp.). 
  35. ^ Did You See..? (Edge of Darkness DVD Special Feature). London: BBC Worldwide. 
  36. ^ Rogers, Byron (10 November 1985). "TV Review: They've got you surrounded". The Sunday Times (News Corp.). 
  37. ^ Rogers, Byron (1 December 1985). "TV Review: The camera digs it's claws in". The Sunday Times (News Corp.). 
  38. ^ Rogers, Byron (15 December 1985). "TV Review: Beasts at the last supper". The Sunday Times (News Corp.). 
  39. ^ a b Pixley, Into The Shadows, p. 52.
  40. ^ Kibble-White, Let's All Hide In The Linen Cupboard.
  41. ^ Lavender, Edge of Darkness (Troy Kennedy Martin), p. 107.
  42. ^ Lavender, Edge of Darkness (Troy Kennedy Martin), p. 103 - 104.
  43. ^ Lavender, Edge of Darkness (Troy Kennedy Martin), p. 103.
  44. ^ Cooke, British Television Drama: A History, p. 148.
  45. ^ Cubitt, Edge of Darkness: eco-terrorism and the public sphere, p. 79.
  46. ^ Pixley, Into The Shadows, p. 53.
  47. ^ "The BFI TV 100: 1-100". British Film Institute. 2000. Retrieved 6 April 2007. 
  48. ^ Taylor, Veronica. "15: Edge of Darkness". British Film Institute. Retrieved 6 April 2007. 
  49. ^ "Soaps join TV classics list". BBC News. 27 August 2003. Retrieved 6 April 2007. 
  50. ^ "TV shows make 'influential' list". BBC News. 23 July 2004. Retrieved 6 April 2007. 
  51. ^ Mathewman, Scott (7 March 2007). "The 50 greatest TV dramas". The Stage. Archived from the original on 29 May 2007. Retrieved 1 May 2007. 
  52. ^ "The One Hundred... Greatest TV Characters". Channel 4. Retrieved 6 April 2007. 
  53. ^ "Awards Database - The BAFTA site". BAFTA. British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 14 October 2009. 
  54. ^ a b Pixley, Into the Shadows, p. 53.
  55. ^ Kennedy Martin, Troy (1990). Edge of Darkness. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-14194-3. 
  56. ^ Edge of Darkness (DVD), BBC Worldwide, 2003.

References[edit]

  • Cooke, Lez (2003). British Television Drama: A History. London: British Film Institute. ISBN 0-85170-884-6. 
  • Cubitt, Sean (2005). "Edge of Darkness: eco-terrorism and the public sphere". EcoMedia. Amsterdam: Rodopi. pp. 79–98. ISBN 90-420-1885-2. 
  • Fulton, Roger (1997). The Encyclopedia of TV Science Fiction (3rd ed.). London: Boxtree. ISBN 0-7522-1150-1. 
  • Kennedy Martin, Troy (1989). "Introduction". Edge of Darkness. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-14194-3. Retrieved 3 April 2007. 
  • Kibble-White, Jack (September 2001). "Let's All Hide In The Linen Cupboard". Off The Telly. Archived from the original on 19 February 2007. Retrieved 3 April 2007. 
  • Lavender, Andrew (1993). "Edge of Darkness (Troy Kennedy Martin)". In Brandt, George W. British Television Drama in the 1980s. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 103–118. ISBN 0-521-42723-1. 
  • Inglis, Fred (2000). "Citizenship and the Media". In Fleming et al. Formations: 20th Century Media Studies. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press. pp. 45–57. ISBN 0-7190-5846-5. 
  • Pixley, Andrew (June 2003). "Get It While It's Hot: Flashback – Edge of Darkness (Part One)". TV Zone (163): p. 52–57. ISSN 0957-3844. 
  • Pixley, Andrew (July 2003). "Into The Shadows: Flashback – Edge of Darkness (Part Two)". TV Zone (164): p. 48–53. ISSN 0957-3844. 
  • Vanezis, Paul (Producer & Director) (2003). Magnox: The Secrets of Edge of Darkness (Edge of Darkness DVD Special Feature). London: BBC Worldwide. 
  • Wearing, Michael (Producer); Campbell, Martin (Director) & Kennedy Martin, Troy (Writer) (1985). Edge of Darkness (Television programme). London: BBC. 

External links[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
The Jewel in the Crown
British Academy Television Awards
Best Drama Series or Serial

1986
Succeeded by
The Life and Loves of a She-Devil