Tenko (TV series)
This is the main title caption that was seen throughout the series.
|Created by||Lavinia Warner|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||31|
|Running time||50 minutes|
22nd October 1981 – 12th November 1984,26th December 1985
Tenko is a television drama, co-produced by the BBC and the ABC. A total of thirty episodes were produced between 1981 and 1984, followed by a one-off special (which was twice the length of the other episodes), Tenko Reunion, in 1985.
The series dealt with the experiences of British, Australian and Dutch women who were captured after the fall of Singapore in February 1942, after the Japanese invasion, and held in a Japanese internment camp on a Japanese-occupied island between Singapore and Australia. Having been separated from their husbands, herded into makeshift holding camps and largely forgotten by the British War Office, the women have to learn to cope with appalling living conditions, malnutrition, disease, violence and death.
Tenko was created by Lavinia Warner after she had conducted research into the internment of nursing corps officer Margot Turner (1910–1993) for an edition of This Is Your Life and was convinced of the dramatic potential of the stories of women prisoners of the Japanese. Aside from the first two episodes, set in Singapore, which were written by Paul Wheeler, the series was written by Jill Hyem and Anne Valery.
Owing to high production costs, only the first two episodes of the first series were filmed on location in Singapore. For the majority of series 1 and 2, set in the camp, the programme was filmed in a specially constructed set in Dorset. Hankley Common was also used.
The series takes its name from the Japanese word "tenko" (点呼/てんこ) which means "roll-call". POWs and internees in Japanese-run camps had regular roll-calls, where they had to line up and number off or were counted in Japanese.
Major characters 
The major characters who featured in all three series and the reunion telemovie were:
- Marion Jefferson (Ann Bell)—the wife of an army colonel.
- Beatrice Mason (Stephanie Cole)—a stern, officious doctor.
- Kate Norris (Claire Oberman)—a brash Australian nurse.
- Domenica Van Meyer (Elizabeth Chambers)—a vain, selfish Dutch woman.
- Christina Campbell (Emily Bolton)—a mixed-race (Chinese/Scottish) young woman.
- Dorothy Bennett (Veronica Roberts)—a young working-class housewife.
- Sister Ulrica (Patricia Lawrence)—a formidable Dutch nun.
Only Ann Bell, Stephanie Cole and Claire Oberman appeared in all thirty regular episodes plus the reunion. Episodes were missed by Elizabeth Chambers in Series 1, Emily Bolton in Series 2, Veronica Roberts in Series 1 and 3 and Patricia Lawrence in Series 2 and 3.
First series 
The first series establishes the pre-war lives of many of the characters before chronicling the fall of Singapore and the evacuation of British nationals from the city. The first two episodes set in Singapore focus on the characters Marion Jefferson, Vicky Armstrong, Rose Millar, Doctor Beatrice Mason, nurse Kate Norris, nurse Nellie Keane, Christina Campbell and Sister Ulrica.
On New Year's Eve, there is a big party at Raffles, where many of the civilians remain wilfully ignorant of the Japanese advance. Colonel Jefferson urges his wife, Marion, to leave the city as he knows the Japanese are just a few days out. Marion reluctantly agrees. Christina Campbell, half-Scots and half-Chinese, attempts to join the evacuation, but is denied passage because she looks partially Chinese and the passage officer demands to see her father's birth certificate before he'll issue her a ticket. Simon Treves, an officer who has been spending more and more time with Christina, 'reasons' with the passage officer by pointing a revolver at him until he issues her a ticket, and Christina is given a ticket. Dr Mason dismisses the nurses and tells them to evacuate, but stays herself to tend to the wounded.
The evacuation ship arrives and is loaded: Marion, Vicky, Christina, Kate, Nellie, Rose, Tom (Kate's Fiance)and Bernard (Rose's Boyfriend) all board the ship for the several-day voyage to Australia. During the voyage, the ship is torpedoed and sinks in the Java sea. Vicky Armstrong, Marion's best friend, drowns after the ship sinks; however, all the other major characters survive and gather on a beach of Kampong Getah and take shelter in an abandoned house. Here they are discovered by a group of Japanese soldiers and are subsequently captured. The women are separated from the men, who are marched elsewhere.
The women are marched through the jungle to a makeshift camp which has appalling living conditions where they meet other women who have also been captured by the Japanese. These include Beatrice Mason who was captured after dismissing her nurses, tarty Cockney Blanche Simmons (Louise Jameson), newlywed Sally Markham (Joanna Hole), mother and daughter Judith (Ann Queensberry) and Debbie Bowen (Karin Foley), and Sylvia Ashburton (Renée Asherson), a haughty general's wife and friend of Marion.
All the women are interned under Commandant Yamauchi (Burt Kwouk), a deeply traditional Japanese soldier, who regards the prisoners as "fourth-class women". His sadistic deputy, Lieutenant Sato (Eiji Kusuhara), is dubbed "Satan" by the inmates. Conditions in the camp are harsh: no clean water, rats, no mosquito nets and little more than rice and water for the inmates to eat and drink. A group of Dutch prisoners are also interned in the camp shortly, notably their leader, Sister Ulrica, and the rich, selfish Mrs. Van Meyer, the Dutch having brought many of their possessions with them.
The first series chronicles the women's first year in captivity, focusing on their efforts to adjust to being interned and to their new Dutch companions, learning to work together as a community while the hope of Allied rescue lingers long in their minds. The degradation and privation of internment is counterpointed by the camaraderie that grows through the enforced intimacy of their situation and the self-esteem achieved through small victories such as the rebuilding of a burnt-out hut to use as a sick bay.
From the onset of being interned in the camp, the women agree they need a spokesperson to represent them all, and Marion Jefferson is nominated as the leader for the British. Initially, several of the women and Marion herself have doubts regarding her ability to lead them due to her only experience being as a wife and a mother. However, over time she proves herself more than capable.
Close bonds of friendship are formed in the camp, namely between Blanche and Rose, and between Sally Markham and Nurse Nellie Keane. Upon arrival at the camp, Sally learns she is pregnant and finds herself increasingly reliant on the support of Nellie as her pregnancy reaches full term. Sally goes into premature labour and gives birth to a still-born baby, which she calls Eleanor. She and Nellie become closer as Nellie tries to console her for the loss of her baby. Nellie subsequently moves into Sally's hut to help her get over her loss. As the two spend more and more time together, Dorothy starts rumours about Nellie and Sally, and the prisoners' opinion run high over whether the friendship is 'unnatural'. Nellie finds herself falling in love with Sally, but this is not reciprocated by Sally who sees Nellie as just a friend. Eventually, Sally learns of the gossip when she discovers graffiti on the latrine wall. Sally and Nellie distance their relationship, Nellie moves back to her own hut and throws herself into the sick bay, eventually forging a close friendship with Beatrice Mason during the end of the series.
Dorothy Bennett is interned in the camp with her newborn baby Violet, after seeing her husband Dennis shot by the Japanese on the beach. As a result she has become despondent and distant from Violet but, when she does turn her attention to her baby, it is clear that she needs milk, as her breast milk has dried up, and she begins to undertake chores for Mrs. Van Meyer,who resents being forced to work by the Japanese, in exchange for money in order to buy food for Violet from the trader coming to the camp selling food. Additionally, she turns to smuggling milk from the trader's wife who also comes to the camp. Sneaking out of camp to get the milk, Dorothy is deeply scratched by barbed wire; Violet develops diarrhoea. When Dorothy's untreated wound becomes infected and then discovered, Dorothy's smuggling becomes known to the other internees. Sister Ulrica wants to tell the commandant so that Dorothy's trespass won't cause punishment for all the prisoners.
The smuggling is discovered by the Japanese and all traders are forbidden to come to the camp any more; night roll calls are started, and meals are available only twice a day. (This causes a schism between the British and Dutch internees, but Marion and Ulrica manage to bring the groups together.) In the blistering heat, the trader's wife is tied to a pole in the compound for punishment; Dorothy does smuggle water to her at night, but she dies. As Dorothy can no longer feed Violet, the baby dies, becoming the first of many deaths in the camp. Subsequently, Dorothy turns away from her fellow internees to prostitution, selling herself to the guards for food and cigarettes.
Early on in the camp, all medicines are collected when Beatrice Mason realises they have very little in the way of medical supplies in relation to the increasing amount of sickness. An increasing number of women become sick and malaria becomes prevalent in the camp with requests for quinine denied. Marion arranges for the women to rebuild one of the burned-down huts into a sickbay in order to separate the sick from the other prisoners.
The other prisoners notice Blanche is smoking a lot of cigarettes; she also supplies a round of tea to the prisoners in her hut. The internees speculate that she may have become too friendly with the guards. Blanche fills in as Debbie's mother while Judith remains sick with Malaria. When one of the malaria patients die, Bea asks Blanche if there is any possibility of her obtaining any quinine, but Blanche has already tried and can't. Blanche sees Dorothy going off with a guard, and asks Dorothy if there's any chance of quinine from the quarter, but Dorothy refuses to ask.
The sick hut is completed, and the internees hold a party to celebrate; the British dress up in their best clothes. One of the guards tells Blanche that Red Cross parcels have arrived. Still in their party clothes, Blanche, Rose and Dorothy slip over to the supply hut to count them. The trio are caught by three guards, who take them into the hut to 'view the parcels'. Blanche and Dorothy are willing to trade themselves for quinine, but Rose balks. The guards attempt to rape them but are stopped by other guards who hear Rose's screams, and all six are caught by Lieutenant Sato. During the ensuing confusion, Blanche palms some quinine .
Captain Yamauchi strongly wants the rape story to be a lie, saying that the women tried to seduce the men. Dorothy agrees; Rose and Blanche deny the story, and are tied to the punishment poles in the compound. Sylvia overhears Dorothy with one of the guards, and Marion reports her to Yamauchi, who warns her to keep the women away from the guards. Rose and Blanche are released from the poles and Dorothy is assigned to extra work details. Blanche is determined to be revenged on Dorothy, but Yamauchi forbids reprisals. The quinine works on the malaria patients, and Judith thanks Blanche.
Judith Bowen, having survived the first bout of malaria, later dies when it returns for a second time and Marion promises Judith she will take care of Debbie. After this, Blanche becomes determined to escape from the camp. Blanche, Rose, and Kate propose the formation of an escape committee, but the idea is rejected as the jungle is too dangerous to live in, and the island and the surrounding area are all Japanese-held. Everyone agrees except for Blanche, who tells Rose she is determined to escape. Rose considers joining her, but decides to remain in camp in case Bernard is still alive.
Blanche forges an escape plan, telling only Rose. Debbie's friendship with Blanche increases, and she tells Blanche that her family name is actually Cohen, and they're Jewish. Blanche advises her to keep it secret. Van Meyer accuses the British children of theft, but Debbie discovers that it's actually Blanche preparing for her escape and tries to blackmail her into allowing her to join in. Blanche refuses, but Debbie gatecrashes the night of the escape. Dorothy finds them making preparations, but promises not to turn them in. When Rose finds out from Dorothy that Blanche is taking Debbie, she tells Marion, who tells Yamauchi in hopes that he will be lenient with Debbie, as Rose fears Blanche will never make it with Debbie and Marion had been asked by Judith to look after her. Blanche and Debbie are re-captured and staked for a period of time.
Blanche blames Rose for her betrayal, whereas Rose was only trying to protect Blanche, knowing she would not survive with Debbie.
Christina Campbell is initially very scared when brought to the camp, having just buried her mother in Singapore, and at the beginning of the series faces racism from Sylvia Ashburton, who displays her prejudices and refuses to sleep next to her. She forges a close friendship with Rose Millar, who sticks up for Christina against Sylvia and contracts malaria early on, but survives. She takes on the role of school teacher and begins to teach the children within the camp, before eventually working for commandant Yamauchi as an interpreter and personal assistant.
At the end of the series the internees are informed they must move to another camp, Mrs. Van Meyer has contracted beri beri, Beatrice Mason is finding it hard to cope with no medical supplies and a list of all male prisoners alive on the island is given to the women. Sally's husband, Peter, is not on the list, indicating that he is dead. The series ends with the women on yet another long march into the jungle.
Second series 
As the second series opens, the prisoners have been split into two groups and are on the long trek to a new camp. The first episode deals with the long march through the jungle, the realisation that after being split into two groups, the other group (including Blanche, Nellie & Sylvia) have been sent to a different camp. Sally Markham is seriously depressed after learning that her husband, Peter, may be dead, Mrs. Van Meyer has recovered from beri-beri and Debbie Bowen dies from a spider bite along the journey. A new prisoner, tough-as-boots aristocrat Jocelyn "Joss" Holbrook (Jean Anderson), is introduced to the group when they meet on the way to the new camp. Beatrice Mason is distraught that Nellie Keane is no longer to be sent to the same camp; so is Rose, knowing that Blanche will no longer join them, though she will not admit it.
Once at the new camp the prisoners find the way the camp is run very different from that of the first. It is effectively run by Miss Hasan (Josephine Welcome), a corrupt, mean-spirited interpreter who runs the camp for the non-English speaking commandant, who has installed her own leader, Verna Johnson (Rosemary Martin). Verna is a "collaborator", who ensures she is excused manual labour and is in control of the camp's food supplies. The young orphaned Daisy Robertson (Anna Lindup) serves as Verna's maid, who Verna also uses to spread gossip around the camp.
Upon arrival, Marion is reunited with an old schoolfriend, Lillian Cartland (Philippa Urquhart), who is a prisoner at the new camp with her son, Bobby. Beatrice Mason, suffering from fatigue, is initially hospitalized for a brief time. However, she then finds herself working for Dr. Natalie Trier (Carolle Rousseau), who was already interned at the camp and finds it difficult to fit into her routine. Additionally, throughout the series, Beatrice Mason's eyesight worsens with malnutrition, which leads certain women to question her ability as a doctor.
The new camp turns out to have much better facilities than the women's previous huts, with mattresses, running water and gardens - and yet these comparatively more desirable quarters hide an unpalatable, repressive interior. Upon arrival, the women's clothes are taken away for boiling and disintegrate while being disinfected; they are charged for replacement garments. The rich and privileged internees rule the roost by paying the others to do their work, forming a disciplineary committee to enforce their will; there is a swearbox for women caught swearing. All of this seems utterly at odds with the women's achievements in the first camp, breaking down the boundaries between them. The harsh, clipped regime of the speciously refined Verna is almost diametrically opposed to the warmth and moral integrity of Marion's leadership in the first series. Having been stripped of her previous duties of being leader, Verna attempts to bridge the gap by giving her a position on the discipline committee, which Marion finds is literally run by Verna.
The overall tone of the second series is noticeably much darker; while the first series depicted the women coping with an appalling ordeal with humour, teamwork and optimism, series two sees that hope and companionship largely eradicated. Personal values and priorities have changed dramatically, displaced by an all-encompassing pragmatism and the need to survive at all costs.
Christina Campbell is removed from the camp early on to work as an official interpreter at the factory, which sends Sally Markham further into depression, as Christina had been tending to her during her depression. Furthermore, Daisy Robertson invites Sally to a meeting run by several of the prisoners with an Ouija Board to see if Peter is now dead; the glass begins to spell Peter's name, giving Sally further belief that he is now dead.
All of the prisoners are then ordered to make themselves pretty for a propaganda photo for a visit by the Japanese General who is coming to inspect the camp, and are loaned new clothes and a touch of makeup for the occasion. Sally, still out of sorts and angry at the Japanese, uses this opportunity to sabotage the visit, fakes illness, slips into the wash-hut and commits suicide by slashing her wrists with a mirror she has purchased from Verna Johnson. She is found in the wash-hut by the General during the tour of the camp covered in blood. The women are blamed for Sally's suicide and are given less rations and more work as a result.
Upon arriving in the new camp, Ulrica was delighted about the visits of a priest from the neighbouring men's camp. During a visit after Sally's suicide, Ulrica confesses that she helped with Sally's burial service because her love for Sally was greater than her horror at Sally's sin. Her penance is to not speak to the others (other than items related to work), and to restrict her contact with them, as they have led her away from God.
Early on in arriving at the new camp, Dorothy Bennett finds herself pregnant by one of the guards, and confides this to some of the women, who are more concerned over possible reprisals against them for Dorothy's indiscretions with the guards rather than comforting her. Ulrica is the only one who tries to comfort Dorothy. Dorothy is convinced of the hopelessness of trying to bring the child to term, even if she wanted to, especially considering Violet's fate. She tells Ulrica that she wants to terminate the pregnancy, causing Ulrica to break her silence.
Ulrica, convinced that Dorothy and her potential sin are more important than her penance, tries to convince her that abortion is wrong. Dorothy says that it's either abortion or suicide. Dr Trier notices the concern over Dorothy, and mentions it to Verna, who pries it out of Mrs. Van Meyer, who is currently acting as her maid while Daisy is ill. Verna offers Dorothy an abortion and Dorothy accepts. Verna gets the money from Miss Hasan (who wants it repaid), and makes the arrangements. The decisions made, Ulrica tells the other women to support Dorothy, whatever their personal opinions. The abortion is started the next day, but the announcement of a visit by the new district commander causes Miss Hasan to send the women from Marion's hut to the factory, and hide the abortion proceedings in a storeroom.
The new district commander turns out to be Major Yamauchi, promoted from his position as their previous commandant. Miss Hasan comments that the women from the old camp are undisciplined, but realises her error when one of the children recognise him. Yamauchi is unhappy with the command structure of the camp, and replaces Lieutenant Nakamura with Captain Sato, also promoted from their last camp. Captain Sato conducts a surprise roll call when the group from the factory returns. Bea plans to cover for Dorothy's absence and take her chance with punishment for 'forgetting to include her on the sick rolls'. Dorothy, not wanting Bea to run the risk, insists on attending the roll call, but collapses part way through. After her abortion, she becomes depressed, but eventually recovers.
The priest visits again, and Ulrica confesses that she broke her previous penance and also that there was an abortion. The priest, concerned that Ulrica is making decisions without the guidance of the church, arranges for Ulrica to continue her internment at a convent and she leaves the camp.
Throughout the series Lillian Cartland becomes more and more concerned regarding Bobby's health and sells everything she owns to Verna in order to buy food for him, in the end becoming obsessive regarding his health. She ends up giving him most of her rations, and works extra hours for food for him. Lillian hopes that she and Bobby will be included for repatriation for which they applied months before; however, when the repatriation list comes through, Lillian and Bobby aren't on it,though Dr Trier is.
Additionally Dorothy forges a close "friendship" with one of the guards, Shinya, to whom she gives English lessons in return for cigarettes.
Blanche Simmons is shifted to the new camp after Marion requests more information on their old friends from Yamauchi and brings news of their old friends, advising Sylvia has died from cholera during the first month in the new camp, but Nellie is alive and well and running the sick bay, though Beatrice believes this to be a kind lie. Blanche learns of Debbie's death and takes her hurt out on Rose, blaming Rose for telling about their escape attempt. Christina Campbell is also reunited with her friends, bringing with her news of the men's camp and that both Rose's Bernard and Kate's Tom are alive, news which she has gained from one of the natives.
By acting as a "go-between", Christina passes notes between Rose and Bernard via the native and eventually they arrange to meet. Rose tries to make herself up for her rendezvous. Blanche slips in, gives her some lipstick she stole from Van Meyer, and offers to escort her through the jungle to the rendezvous. Rose and Blanche slip out of the camp. When Bernard meets them at the hut, Blanche slips back to camp. Bernard gives Rose a bottle of Vitamin B, and tells her to tell Kate that Tom sends his love; he's been unable to reply to her notes because he's been in solitary. He's also seen a newspaper clipping - the Allies are gaining ground. He also reports that Sally Markham's husband Peter died a while back from diphtheria. Bernard and Rose agree to get married.
However, Lillian Cartland has learned of the meeting and, desperate for food for her young son, with rations being cut even further and her application for repatriation refused, she informs Miss Hasan, in exchange for food. The guards are alerted and find Rose and Bernard, shooting them both. Bernard is killed instantly but Rose survives, and is brought back to camp with a bullet lodged in her back.
The entire camp chips in items for the surgery needed for Rose, and Verna miraculously produces a bottle of disinfectant. Bea and Kate operate on Rose (Dr. Trier having already left for her repatriation by this point); when Bea realises she can't focus enough to operate, she turns the operation over to Kate and assists her in removing the bullet. Afterwards, Bea feels old and used up. Rose recovers consciousness, but is paralysed and without feeling from the waist down. Yamauchi arrives and questions Rose. When she refuses to answer, Miss Hasan tries to hurt her, but chooses points where Rose has no feeling. Rose confesses that she passed notes back and forth through the latrine walls at the factory. Satisfied, Yamauchi leaves. Rose tells Kate that Tom is alive, and rations are restored to normal, thanks to Rose's confession.
Rose's condition begins to worsen later on in the series and her urine becomes infected. Blanche asks Beatrice to suffocate her in order to end her suffering, which Beatrice refuses to do. Rose, wanting to die quickly, refuses food. When Miss Hasan finds out, she gets very mad and says that no one will eat if Rose doesn't: they don't want another suicide. Rose capitulates and eats. Later, the evening of her birthday, Rose asks Bea to kill her. Bea still resists it. However, the next day Beatrice announces that Rose died peacefully in her sleep; viewers never know whether Beatrice did end Rose's life or not.
Initially everyone blames Christina, after Verna informs Daisy that Christina betrayed Rose, stating that she informed Miss Hasan of the meeting between Rose and Bernard, and knowing that Daisy will spread this information among the prisoners.
Shinya tells Dorothy that guards at headquarters said that Rose and Bernard were informed on. Blanche, who blames herself for not staying on lookout, suspects that Christina is getting extra food from the Japanese as she has no skin sores and works at headquarters; she is sure that Christina is the informant. Joss and Marion prevent physical retaliation against Christina, but she is to be brought before the discipline committee.
Daisy falls ill, so Lillian acts as Verna's maid. Verna visits Daisy in hospital and advises her about Christina's supposed guilt, knowing Daisy will spread this information around the camp. Christina is worried about the hearing before the disciplinary committee. Yamauchi is still having stomach problems and continues to give Christina his rations. He notices that she is worried about something, but thinks it is about Rose and tries to offer her comfort, speaking of honour. Honour becomes Christina's defence at the hearing, which delivers a verdict of Not Proven.
Marion later discovers Lillian giving Bobby yeast and a banana, and has it out with her; Lillian initially lies, stating the food came from Verna for her work for her. Marion realises that she got the food in return for betraying Rose and Bernard, and is unable to keep this secret. News of the deception spreads around the camp, and for what it has caused for Rose this creates friction with the internees, especially Blanche and Dorothy. They attack Lillian and hack off her hair. Not being able to stand the sight of his mother in this situation, Lillian's son Bobby attacks Dorothy and Blanche. Fearful of other repercussions, Yamauchi and Miss Hasan send Lillian and Bobby to another camp where they are not known. Blanche attempts to make amends with Christina, but she is unforgiving.
Dorothy also learns that it was Shinya who shot both Rose and Bernard, and although she initially refuses to speak with him any more, he tells her he is leaving the camp to fight in the war and asks her forgiveness for shooting Rose. Unbeknown to the other women, Dorothy forgives him. Shinya then tells Dorothy that Verna is the one who arranges for the guards to search the camp and confiscate all of their possessions. Angry, Blanche and Dorothy bring Verna to the hut for questioning, where Marion charges Verna with charging the internees for the contents of Red Cross parcels that belong to them by right; Daisy confirms that she's seen Red Cross parcels in a locked storeroom. The women nearly riot, but order is restored when Verna agrees to tell Marion the truth: she says she did it, but under Miss Hasan's orders.
The next day, Christina heads to work with Marion's request to ask for Yamauchi to intervene and to come to the camp. But before the prisoners can expose Miss Hasan to Yamauchi, an Allied plane, attempting to bomb Yamauchi's headquarters, also bombs the camp. Many are seriously injured, including Captain Sato, and Daisy, whose arm is in threads. A bomb kills Shinya, who was leaving the camp, Miss Hasan, and Verna's cat. Some of the women break into the storeroom and the Red Cross parcels are found. Yamauchi arrives in the middle of the chaos and forcibly stops it.
Third series 
Between the second and third series, a year passed. The controller of BBC1 decided to axe Tenko at the height of its popularity at the end of the second series (it was the BBC's then-highest rated drama programme). This was believed to be due to the fact that women were engines of the story with no aspect of men represented. Michael Grade then assumed the role of controller and immediately re-instated the programme which led to there being a third series.
The third series opens with the liberation of the prisoners-of-war, amidst the end of the war and the return of Singapore to British control. All of the returning POWs make a difficult adjustment to civilian life, showing the mostly ill, emaciated women receiving comparatively little counselling, returning and essentially being expected to carry on with life as normal, while their deceased comrades largely remain buried in the camps deep in the Sumatran jungle.
The first episode starts with a shot of the graveyard in the new camp, displaying the grave markers for Verna Johnson, Daisy Robertson and Blanche Simmons, who has just died of beri-beri (in real life Louise Jameson was appearing in Bergerac and could not appear in the show and the character Maggie Thorpe was created as a carbon copy of Blanche Simmons). No details were provided as to the deaths of Verna Johnson or Daisy Robertson. Maggie Thorpe (Elizabeth Mickery) and Alice Courtenay (Cindy Shelley) are prisoners who had already been imprisoned in the new camp and befriended the existing prisoners.
The women have been in their new camp, a former prison, for close to two years. Christina Campbell still works for Major Yamauchi and Captain Sato is in charge of the camp. Beatrice Mason's eyesight is now much worse and Kate Norris is, in effect, performing nearly all of the hospital duties. The camp is buzzed by Allied planes. Christina sees an order ordering the execution of all prisoners when the Allies' final push comes and the women plan resistance, stating they have nothing left to lose. Fighting teams are armed with stones, and the women are nervous about their future. When Tenko is called, the women are lined up, with all the soldiers in front of them instead of scattered about as normal. The women are ready to fight. The initial part of Yamauchi's announcement makes them think they are about to be shot, but he announces Japan's surrender instead.
Upon liberation the store cupboard is opened by Major Yamauchi to the women, revealing food, clothing, blankets, sheets, butter, vitamins and most importantly medicines that had been held back and had cost many women their lives. Yamauchi explains that they weren't sure how long things would need to last, which is why the contents of the storeroom were withheld. While the vitamins and medicines help some of the sick, some still remain ill or die.
When the British soldiers arrive in the women's camp, they find the women's history appalling. The Japanese records are somewhat confusing, due to the moves and number of deaths. Women come back from the men's camp that they have been allowed to visit with news that twice as many have died. Before the women leave for Singapore, Maggie and Joss witness Sato commit seppuku.
By episode three the women have returned to Singapore and later are joined by Sister Ulrica.
Dorothy and Maggie befriend local businessman Jake Haulter (Damien Thomas), Joss is re-acquainted with an old friend, Stephen Wentworth (Preston Lockwood,) and Marion's marriage to Clifford (Jonathan Newth) — now a brigadier — suffers because of his expectation that she would return to the life of a docile army wife.
The viewers also learn that Lillian Cartland and Bobby survived and were sent to England immediately to avoid any trouble with the other women, and that Nellie Keane died three months before liberation.
The third series follows Clifford's work in bringing war crimes charges against the Japanese, including a personal vendetta to indict Yamauchi for his role in imprisoning Marion and the others. Because of her unique relationship with Yamauchi, Marion and the commandant came to a grudging respect for one another through the turbulent events of the first two series; Marion (as well as Christina and Ulrica) refuses to testify against him, further estranging Clifford. The women also suffer one final loss, as Joss Holbrook dies after being attacked. The series ends with the leave-taking of the friends who have been through so much together, with a promise that 'no matter where they are in the world' they will meet up again in five years' time.
Tenko Reunion 
In 1985, a two-hour special, Tenko Reunion, was produced. It picked up a story thread from the final episode of the series, in which the surviving prisoners of war, on the eve of their repatriation from Singapore, had made a promise to reunite five years later, at Raffles Hotel—a fixture in their pre-war lives, which also served as a repatriation centre during the liberation of Singapore.
Tenko Reunion featured Marion Jefferson (Ann Bell) now divorced from Clifford; Dr Beatrice Mason (Stephanie Cole) and Christina Campbell (Emily Bolton) now working in a community centre in Singapore, Sister Ulrica (Patricia Lawrence) doing missionary work in Asia, Domenica Forster-Brown (Elizabeth Chambers), the now happily re-married Mrs Van Meyer, nurse and now doctor-in-training Kate Norris (Clare Oberman), Alice Courtenay (Cindy Shelley) and working class girls Dorothy Bennett (Veronica Roberts) and Maggie Carter (Elizabeth Mickery), now a successful businesswoman and married mother of two, respectively.
Dorothy now owns her own antiques shop. Maggie is married and has had another baby. Alice is living with her overprotective father. Bea and Stephen are running the Centre. Christina is teaching Chinese children, and helping at the Centre. Dominica Van Meyer is living at her husband's estate in Malaya, not far from Singapore. Kate is in Australia, studying to become a doctor. Sister Ulrica has left the leper colony.
Marion, Maggie, Dorothy and Alice arrive in Singapore, and their seaplane is met by Kate, Bea, Stephen and Jake, while Christina and her boyfriend Lau Peng are taking care of things at the Centre. When the group arrives at Raffles, they are reconciled with Mrs Forster-Brown who is in fact Dominica Van Meyer, remarried after the death of her first husband shortly after the war.
The group visit Joss' grave, wishing everyone they knew could have had a proper burial and grave. Stopping by Tom's grave, Kate meets Dr Duncan Fraser, a friend of Tom's from the men's camp.
At Raffles, the group dress for the reunion party, where Ulrica joins them, informing them she is working at a native hospital and has survived three Communist raids to date. At the party Dominica convinces the group to come out to her plantation for the weekend. There are concerns about the Communists, but Dominica assures everyone that the plantation has more than enough weapons and ammunition in case of a raid.
Bea's eyesight is much worse, and she feels somewhat useless. Kate confesses to Duncan that she's not very satisfied with medical school as she resents the distancing of the doctor/patient relationship being promoted in the school and finds the other students young and inexperienced, and she's being taught medicine by people with half her experience.
Alice, Marion, Maggie, Christina, Bea, and Kate head out to Dominica's; Ulrica plans to follow them later in her truck and Dorothy skips the trip to spend more time in Singapore with Jake. The group arrives at Dominica's plantation, where the gates remind them of the camps. Dominica introduces them to her new husband, Teddy Forster-Brown. It is clear that the couple are devoted to each other. During a tour of the house, Christina notes rifles in the hallway; Teddy assures her that they have plenty of rifles and ammunition in case of attack, and that everyone is perfectly safe.
Teddy asks Dominica to return to England, but she refuses: she loves him too much. Marion asks Bea to return to England with her: with Bea's eyesight, she can't continue much longer, and Marion has a huge empty house to share. Bea refuses: Stephen is deteriorating, and will die within the year, his time in the men's camp having taken its toll. As he loves Singapore so much, it seems only right to let him stay, and Bea will keep looking after him.
At the plantation, life is sheer bliss for the women, the life they all dreamed of having when they lived in the camps. Teddy goes off to see to the plantation's needs. En route to the plantation, Ulrica stops for a spot check at a road block. Her truck is searched, and she is let go on her way. After she leaves, it becomes apparent that the roadblock was a fake. When she arrives at the plantation, she is let through the gates, and everyone comes to greet her, excluding Bea who has dropped her glasses.
The back of the truck bursts open and insurgents emerge. Servants outside and inside the house are killed, and the women are lined up. The rebels are loud and demanding, and Marion gets Christina to interpret. The insurgents want to know where the guns and ammunition are. Dominica refuses to answer, even when she is hit. The insurgents grab and threaten Alice, who goes into hysterics. Ulrica tries to go to Alice's side, and is shot. Dominica then tells the rebels where the guns and ammunition are hidden.
The insurgents bring Dominica and Christina inside, and interrupt Bea in the hallway where she is trying to make a phone call. Bea is almost shot, but Christina intercedes, and Bea is spared. The insurgents retrieve the guns and ammunition, tell the women to leave the country to the natives, and leave.
The group runs to help Ulrica, while Alice remains in hysterics. The women load the wounded into Ulrica's truck, and Marion, Dominica, Kate, and Bea take the wounded to the hospital. The doctors say that Ulrica will be fine by Christmas.
That evening, the women try to determine how the Communists knew to get into Ulrica's truck and that the plantation had weapons. When Christina isn't around, Dorothy offers up her and Jake's suspicions of Lau Peng being a communist. Marion, Bea, and some of the women take their suspicions to the police, who ransack the Centre, smashing the picture of Joss in the process. In the wreckage, Marion finds the evidence the police are looking for.
Christina walks in to fetch some books and asks what's going on. Bea replies that Christina has been found out. Christina tries to bluff her way out, but Bea has put it all together: Christina heard about the guns before they left, told Lau Peng details of the plantation and Ulrica's travel plans over the phone - she had ordered the insurgents not to shoot Bea. Christina looks to the others for their support and belief, but their suspicions have been raised. Faced with their disbelief, Christina confesses: she is actually the leader of the Communist cell.
Bea and Stephen are devastated by Christina's revelation. Stephen tells Bea that he wants to go home to England to die. Bea wonders who will take over the Centre when they're gone, but Kate is happy to take over. Kate has to take care of some things in Australia, but Alice is happy to take over while Kate's away, even though she knows her father will disapprove.
Marion visits Christina in prison, despite her protests that she doesn't want any visitors. Christina explains that there is no equality under the British, and she doesn't believe that there will be equality after the British graciously grant independence. She feels that democracy is wooly idealism, and that it's better to earn their independence than wait for it to be handed to them. Marion has tried to intercede on Christina's behalf with the authorities, who are willing to be lenient if Christina co-operates. Christina refuses, and asks Marion why she cares. Marion replies that Christina cared enough to stop the insurgents from shooting all of them.
Later, Bea visits Ulrica. Bea is still uncertain about imposing on Marion, but Ulrica points out that Marion needs people to look after, and that this includes Bea and Stephen: that if Bea and Stephen stay with Marion, they will be doing Marion a favour. Bea tells Ulrica that, even with her eyesight so poor, she's not giving up on life or living; she'll be teaching about tropical diseases in England. They both recall how they were before their internment, and how far they've come together, and how close they are; none of them will ever be entirely independent of the others.
When it's discovered that almost everyone will be in London for Christmas, Marion insists that they all celebrate the holidays at her house. As Kate, Dominica, Alice, Jake, Stephen, and Bea wave off Marion, Maggie, and Dorothy, Bea muses, "Like we said in camp, 'We'll be home for Christmas' — and now we will." At Christmas time, in Singapore, Kate, Ulrica, and Duncan Fraser serve dinner to the poor. Alone in her cell, Christina sits silently. And in London, everyone gathers in Marion's house, where they drink a toast to absent friends.
The reunion examined how each of their lives had changed, and how life in Singapore was also changing. Featuring Dominica's new husband Teddy Forster-Brown (Robert Lang, Ann Bell's real life husband until his death), Christina Campbell's boyfriend, Lau Peng (Swee Hoe Lim) and a young doctor who catches Kate Norris's eye, Duncan Fraser (Christian Rodska).
The major twist of the Tenko Reunion was the revelation that it was one of the women who had betrayed them to the communist rebels, the spy being revealed as Christina Campbell, whose difficulty adjusting after life in the camps had been developed in detail in the third series.
DVD release & Book 
The complete series of Tenko was re-released on DVD during 2011 through Acorn Media UK.
A comprehensive new book about the making of Tenko called 'Remembering Tenko' by Andy Priestner was published in October 2012.
- Warner and Sandilands Women Beyond the Wire: A Story of Prisoners of the Japanese 1942-45 1982 dustjacket
- Bomb alert hits 'Tenko' beauty spot
- The official Tenko website authorised by creator Lavinia Warner
- Complete cast list and episode guide
- Lavinia Warner's page on Tenko
- RealPlayer version of the opening titles, at the BBC Cult homepage
- A brief essay on the series, and an episode guide
- Tenko at the BFI's Screenonline
- Tenko at BBC Programmes
- Tenko at the Internet Movie Database