Island at War
|Island at War|
|Written by||Stephen Mallatratt|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||6 (UK) (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Sita Williams
|Running time||approx. 398 min|
|Original release||11 July 2004|
Island at War is a British television series that tells the story of the German occupation of the Channel Islands. It primarily focuses on three local families: the upper class Dorrs, the middle class Mahys and the working class Jonases, and four German officers. The fictional island of St. Gregory serves as a stand-in for the real-life islands Jersey and Guernsey, and the story is compiled from the events on both islands.
Produced by Granada Television in Manchester, Island at War had an estimated budget of £9,000,000 and was filmed on location in the Isle of Man from August 2003 to October 2003. When the series was shown in the UK, it appeared in six 70-minute episodes.
- 1 Cast of characters
- 1.1 The islanders
- 1.2 The Germans
- 1.3 Minor characters
- 2 Episode synopses
- 3 Response
- 4 DVD
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Cast of characters
James Dorr is a member of the St. Gregory Senate, and is deputy bailiff of the island’s government. His family is well-known and respected; both his father and grandfather have served as Bailiff. He loves his wife Felicity, but cannot be sure she loves him and often finds that she gets in his way. He sent his son Phillip to England to go to boarding school, something that Felicity never quite forgave him for.
James takes his job in the Senate very seriously, and works hard to ensure that the transition into occupation is as painless as possible for his fellow islanders. He knows full well that the Germans are capable of killing every person on St. Gregory, and encourages his friends and family to avoid stirring up the waters for fear of German retaliation. He is suspicious of his wife’s relationship with Baron Von Rheingarten, and doesn’t trust either of them completely. When Phillip and La Salle arrive on St. Gregory to gather information, James worries that their presence may invite resistance; his sense of duty to St. Gregory tends to cloud his judgment.
James Dorr was played by James Wilby.
Felicity is James Dorr’s wife. Not a native of St. Gregory, she was born and educated in England, where she met James. She and James conceived a child the night they met, and were married very quickly afterward. Felicity does not terribly enjoy living on St. Gregory, finding island life boring and stuffy. She is, however, very devoted to her husband James, especially after the occupation begins. Felicity does not quite share her husband’s loyalty to St. Gregory itself, but rather to her friends and family on the island.
Felicity is good friends with Urban Mahy; the two perform in a theatre troupe on St. Gregory (known as AmDrams, a commonly used portmanteau of amateur dramatics).
Felicity misses her son Phillip terribly, and is delighted when he returns to St. Gregory to gather information for the war effort. She forms a rather uneasy friendship with Baron Von Rheingarten, and the two often sit outside at night and talk. This makes James suspicious of both of them, despite Felicity’s refusal of the Baron’s advances. When the Baron discovers that 'Mr Brotherson' is in fact Felicity's son, she offers herself to him in return for him sparing her son's life. The Baron rejects her 'proposal' but does see to it that Philip is not killed.
Felicity Dorr was played by Clare Holman.
Phillip Dorr (aka Mr. Brotherson)
Philip Dorr is the only son of James and Felicity. He was educated, like his father before him, at Stowe. He went directly into the army, where he's in training at Sandhurst. Philip loves his parents but sometimes finds himself caught between them.
When Philip is sent back to the island as a spy on a reconnaissance mission, he adopts the persona of "Mr. Brotherson" and becomes an odd-job man at his parents’ house, 'Sous Les Chenes.' His belief in the power of the Allies comes into conflict with James' determination to protect the people of St. Gregory.
In the final episode he is caught trying to escape back to Britain with information and photos of the German military installations on the island. His life is spared by the Baron but he is sent to France as a prisoner of war.
Phillip Dorr was played by Sam Heughan.
Wilf is the local policeman who feels a genuine sense of duty, bringing him into conflict with some of his colleagues. He's a bit of a gambler and risk taker, and enjoys the adventure and uncertainty of his job. He loathes paperwork, loves his wife and despises his brother-in-law. Wilf also likes to fish the local waters around the island of St. Gregory.
He is eventually forced to be driver for Oberst Heinrich Baron Von Rheingarten; something which he detests even more than the paperwork associated with being a policeman.
He assists the escape attempt of Philip Dorr and Zelda Kay, but is caught and sent to prison in France for 6–9 months.
Wilf Jonas was played by Owen Teale.
Wilf's wife is high energy. She loves to run the farm, and to clean and cook for her family. She shares Wilf's sense of what's right and wrong up to a point, but is more willing to bend the rules, especially when her brother, Sheldon Leveque is involved. She's adventurous and always ready for fun. She puts her husband and two children before herself and will keep secrets from Wilf if she feels it necessary.
When the island authorities recommend evacuating children from the island, Kathleen make the heart-wrenching decision to send her 2 children, Colin and Mary, to England to be safe.
Kathleen assists Philip Dorr and Eugene La Salle when they return to the island as spies, despite the danger it puts herself and her family in.
Kathleen was born on 22 January 1904 and used to be a Sunday School Teacher.
Kathleen Jonas was played by Julia Ford.
Sheldon is Kathleen's brother and a handsome charmer who can talk himself out of any situation. It's never quite clear how he makes his living. He appears to be a crafty wheeler-dealer who manages to work both for and against the Germans. He's also one of the few islanders allowed to keep a vehicle, although no one is quite sure why.
He spends a lot of time in the Jonas household and is genuinely fond of his sister, but less so of Wilf. In fact, as soon as Wilf arrives home, Sheldon finds an excuse to leave. He makes it his business to know everyone, believing they may be useful to him one day.
Sheldon Leveque was played by Sean Gallagher.
Cassie runs a successful grocery store which she inherited from her parents. This makes her the main breadwinner in the family. She adores her husband Urban who acknowledges that she has the business brain of the partnership. She's a bit older than he is but she'll defer to him in matters of their children's upbringing.
After her husband was killed during the German invasion, she detests the Germans and everything they stand for, but that doesn't stop her working with them when it suits her. She begins a business partnership (and later a sexual relationship) with German Oberwachtmeister Wimmel.
Cassie Mahy was played by Saskia Reeves.
Urban Mahy is the near-polar opposite of his wife Cassie. Urban is a genial chap with an easy-going attitude who's content to go along with whatever comes his way. He feels lucky to have his wife Cassie, and is delighted by his children. His wife inherited the grocery store from her parents and Every so often he has a twinge of conscience because Cassie is the family breadwinner. This leads him to a crisis of conscience. He is delighted, therefore, when Mr. Isaaks offers to give his camera shop to Urban when the former evacuates St. Gregory. He is several years younger than Cassie, but she acknowledges him as the head of the household. Urban loves Cassie deeply, but they often disagree on issues such as business and child-rearing.
He is good friends with Felicity Dorr, and the two are members of the local thespian club, "AmDrams".
Urban was killed when the Germans bombed the harbour during their invasion, and was buried in an unmarked grave.
Urban Mahy was played by Julian Wadham.
Angelique is the elder of Urban and Cassie Mahy's two daughters. She works at the Government house as an assistant to James Dorr and the Bailiff La Palotte. Compared to her sister June, Angelique is much more aggressive toward the Germans. She is absolutely against their presence on St. Gregory, and refuses to cooperate with them when she can. When she and June take over Mr. Isaaks' camera shop, Angelique is against removing the former owner's name from the store window, as it would mean having to cater to the German soldiers.
She has a strong sense of morality and will be the first to challenge her sister or mother if she thinks they are out of line. This makes life very complicated for her when she finds herself in a dubious moral situation: she falls for German airman Bernhardt Tellemann. Because Angelique cares so much about what others - especially her mother and sister - think of her, she initially refuses to admit her feelings to herself, but eventually gives into them and embarks on a relationship with him.
Angelique Mahy was played by Joanne Froggatt.
June, the younger of Urban and Cassie Mahy's two daughters, is seventeen. She is impressionable, a bit of a daddy's girl, and younger than her years. She's in the amateur dramatic society, and sings at the 50/50 Club, which is taken over by Germans. When the Germans arrive, June truly does not know how to act. Her mother and sister believe that the Germans are evil and to be avoided, June cannot help but treat them like ordinary people. Being friendly with the Germans eventually gets June into trouble, and she becomes branded a "Jerrybag" by some of her fellow islanders.
June Mahy was played by Samantha Robinson.
Zelda Kay (real name: "Hannah Kosminska") is a German Jew who escaped the country with her mother in 1933. They settled in England, where Zelda found work as a nanny. The family she worked for often spent their summers in St. Gregory, and that's where Zelda found herself when war broke out in September 1939. Since she was a German national, she was not allowed back into Britain. Stranded on St. Gregory, Mr. Isaaks befriended her, gave her a job in his shop and found a flat for her to rent.
As a German invasion becomes more of a certainty, Zelda makes arrangements to evacuate St. Gregory, but ultimately misses the last boat. Stranded again, she continues to work in the camera shop, though now for Angelique and June Mahy. As a Jewish woman living among Nazi soldiers, Zelda tries very hard to keep her secret. Unfortunately, she catches the eye of Oberleutnant Walker, and must continually reject his advances. As the occupation continues, Zelda must go into hiding to avoid her secret being made known.
Once her identity is discovered by Walker, he forces her into a sexual relationship in exchange for keeping her secret. She decides she must escape the island and tries to do so by boat, alongside Philip Dorr. Their boat is discovered by the Germans, but Zelda jumps overboard, returns to the island and goes back into hiding.
Zelda Kay was played by Louisa Clein.
Baron Heinrich Von Rheingarten
Oberst (Colonel) Baron Heinrich Von Rheingharten is a married man with two sons in the Luftwaffe. He first appears in the last scenes of the first episode, and quickly establishes that he is a man of aristocracy. He is the commandant of the island of St. Gregory, in charge of everything that happens there, along with Captain Muller and Leutnant Walker.
Von Rheingarten is not a Nazi in the true sense of the word; he is just loyal to his army and his country. He's also no pushover. He will not be made to look a fool and isn't afraid of making tough decisions, but he understands the frailties of human nature.
He takes an interest in Mrs. Dorr, making conversation with her a few times, after shunning the attempts of her husband, and also shows almost paternal affections for Mr. Brotherson (Phillip Dorr) and spends a bit of episode 2 rebuilding a stone wall with him. When Eugene La Salle is found to be a spy, he is the one to order his execution, as retaliation for the killing of one of his soldiers. He also claims that the island needs a death to remind them who is in charge, and that it will prevent further spying.
In the final episode he finds that his youngest son, Manfred, was shot down over the Channel, and says to Mrs. Dorr "Maybe she (his wife) does not know and is picking out a star for him now." When she brings up La Salle's mother, he remarks, "One only does what one thinks is right," and that whoever shot down his son was right and would be congratulated.
When Phillip Dorr (a.k.a. Mr. Brotherson) is caught with photos of the German facilities, Mrs. Dorr reveals to him that Mr. Brotherson is actually her son, Phillip, and offers herself to him in order to save her son. He spares her son from execution, instead sending him to France as a prisoner of war, along with his driver Wilf Jonas and James Dorr, who will attend a prison for at least 9 months for assisting him. When Mrs. Dorr thanks him he replies, "I have grown sickened by young men dying".
Baron Von Rheingarten was played by Philip Glenister.
Captain Muller was played by Daniel Flynn.
Lieutenant Walker is a complex character. He agrees with Hitler's most extreme views. He detests the Jews and enjoys the power he has as a superior officer in an occupying army. However, he is also terribly lonely and desperate to find friendship and love.
He takes a liking to Zelda Kay, not realising she is in fact a German Jew. When he discovers her true identity he tells her he will keep her secret and coerces her into sleeping with him as a thank you.
Oberleutnant Walker was played by Conor Mullen.
Oberleutnant Flach was played by Andrew Havill.
Airman Bernhardt Tellemann
Bernhardt was studying for a law degree when war broke out and he was called into the army. He is a navigator in the Luftwaffe; he is responsible for pressing the button that drops the bombs. He is on the deadly harbor raid that announces the Germans' arrival. Despite his youth, Bernhardt has a clear understanding of the horrific situation. He despises Hitler's views, but he is trapped in his army.
He is immediately attracted to Angelique Mahy and the two of them begin a relationship.
Bernhardt Tellemann was played by Laurence Fox.
Eugene La Salle
Eugene La Salle (b. 16 April 1919) and Phillip Dorr were in England at the time St. Gregory was invaded. They were sent back to St. Gregory via submarine to gather intelligence for the British. After the submarine failed to pick them up Eugene was caught and executed by the Germans.
Eugene La Salle was played by Richard Dempsey.
Ada Jonas was played by Ann Rye.
Colin Jonas was played by Sean Ward.
This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (March 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Episode One: Eve of the War
In the opening scene a St. Gregory fisherman, Wilf Jonas, is lobstering off the coast of Normandy. He encounters a British patrol fleeing the Battle of Dunkirk and agrees to rescue them. As the soldiers swim to his boat they are cut down by German machine-gun fire.
Back at the St. Gregory Parliament, the Bailiff is reassuring the senate that France's surrender to Nazi Germany and the German occupation of the Cotentin Peninsula, just eight miles across the channel, will not affect life on agrarian St. Gregory when it is announced that the British, rather than reinforcing their garrison, are withdrawing completely to leave the island defenceless. This sparks public and private debate as to whether to remain as patriots or evacuate by boat to safety in England.
As the German invasion looms the aging Bailiff and Senator Dorr urge calm but neither endorse nor discourage an official evacuation. The news strains relations among the Dorr, Mahy and Jonas families, and erodes social order; looting and profiteering take hold and there is a run on the bank.
Tragedy strikes when the Luftwaffe, having mistaken tomato lorries parked by the pier for troop carriers, strafes and bombs the port, killing several dozen people, including Urban Mahy. A German plane then drops leaflets announcing the protocol for surrender. The Dorrs, now reconciled, the Mahys, led by the widow Cassie, and the Jonases, having discovered that their son Colin is still on the island, await the German occupation with the resolve to carry on.
In the final sequence we meet Baron Heinrich Von Rheingarten, the German Commandant who arrives with a battalion of soldiers to take possession of St. Gregory. He quickly establishes his credentials as a cultured member of the aristocracy, through his courteous treatment of his presumptive peers, the Dorrs, and an appreciation for the local architecture. An efficient officer, he quickly commandeers the Bailiff's car and a hotel for his staff.
In the final scene he addresses the assembled German troops from the balcony of the Parliament building, now draped in swastikas. His Nazi salute and accompanying "Heil Hitler" strike an ominous note and close the episode.
Episode Two: Living with the Enemy
The episode introduces the German-islander interpersonal relationships to be developed. The opening shots comprise a montage of island life under occupation: Urban Mahy's funeral procession behind a handcart, the Dorrs getting around on bicycles, soldiers smoking in the main square. A marching band, playing "Beer Barrel Polka", passes below the church just as Urban Mahy is being interred. As the music cannot be ignored, June Mahy, his daughter, begins to sing along hesitantly, then with growing conviction as first her mother, followed by the other mourners, join in. The moment is transformed from maudlin to poignant.
The first meeting of Baron Heinrich Von Rheingarten and Senator James Dorr follows, setting up their ideological and personal conflict as one of the series' major themes. Their respective agenda: redressing grievances (Dorr) and acknowledgment of Germans' superiority (Von Rheingarten), find them initially talking at cross-purposes.
Urban Mahy's wake provides the opportunity for dialogue framing secondary plot-lines: Sheldon Leveque attempts to ingratiate himself with Cassie Mahy, whose cooperation will abet his war profiteering. Cassie accuses Felicity Dorr of pursuing an affair with her late husband; the handsome Captain Muller arrives with two soldiers and impresses June Mahy by having them apologise to the family for accosting them in the street. Meanwhile, on the cliff overlooking a secluded beach, Baron Von Rheingarten impresses upon Senator Dorr the rigour of German military discipline. At the Dorr residence where Felicity Dorr snubs the Baron's social advances. He retaliates by requisitioning the unused wing of their home for himself and senior staff. This begins the Baron Von Rheingarten/James Dorr rivalry for Felicity's attentions.
The clandestine arrival of the Dorr son, Phillip, and compatriot Eugene La Salle, now both recruited as British reconnaissance agents, brings the war home to the island. Masquerading as "Mr. Brotherson", a day-labourer on his parents' estate, Phillip quickly finds himself repairing a garden wall alongside the Baron who displays an almost paternal affection for the young man.
After Cassie Mahy refuses to sell groceries to German soldiers, she must face Leutnant Walker who purports to teach her a lesson in the economics of occupation, intimating that food is scarce throughout Europe. He is also responsible for promulgating Nazi anti-semitic agenda on the island. Not all the Germans are evil, however, and we soon meet Airman Bernhardt Telleman, who urges the Mahy daughters, now running a camera shop they inherited when its Jewish owner evacuated, to serve German soldiers because "we are people too". After convincing the girls to accept his business, he is visibly pleased to formally introduce himself merely as "Bernhardt" and crosses the street with a bounce in his step.
The Baron and Felicity share a frank, almost intimate, moment in the Dorr garden. With faces bathed in moon and lamplight, he offers her chocolates but warns her that his soldiers are "an invading army - men without women".
The episode closes on a note of violence: Eugene and Phillip, having completed their reconnaissance mission, are awaiting extraction by submarine on the beach, when they encounter, and kill, a landser on patrol. The machine-gun fire raises the alarm and the pair must conceal the body and evade capture in a house-to-house search mounted by the Germans. Phillip guides Eugene, suffering from hypothermia, to refuge in the Jonases' barn. Again the Baron has the last word to the Dorrs, "I cannot tell you how serious this is - I should hope this doesn't mean .. resistance".
Episode Three: To Catch a Spy
With most of the garrison mobilised to find the missing landser, Wilf Jonas takes the body out on his fishing boat the 'Little Mary' dumping it in deep water. Upon his return to port we meet Oberleutnant Flach, the presumptive political officer whose suspicions are aroused by such a long voyage, ostensibly to set lobster pots. Phillip and the now-feverish Eugene remain in hiding in the Jonas barn; a perilous situation, Wilf explains to Felicity, "it is only a matter of time" before they are found, consigning the family to death for harbouring an enemy agent.
Invited to a special session of the Senate, the Baron snubs the Bailiff's attempt to appease him and forestall a reprisal, "ten islanders killed for every German life", and promises to "shoot on sight anyone found on the beaches (at night)". Back at the Dorr residence, now serving as his HQ, he cautions them privately, "We (are not) playing at war".
After stealing German uniforms from the beach, young Colin Jonas runs into an alley where his uncle Sheldon is attempting to sell a car of dubious provenance to Oberwachtmeister Wimmel, the German quartermaster sergeant. Back at the camera shop, Leutnant Walker meets, and is instantly enamoured with, Zelda Kay. Unaware of her Jewish heritage he insists that she accompany him to the officers' party at the 50/50 Club. Under the guise of patronising the camera shop Bernhardt pursues a courtship with Angelique.
When Felicity Dorr visits her son Phillip and Eugene La Salle at the Jonas' barn, it affords an opportunity to share a moment of maternal sympathy with Kathleen, Wilf's wife. Bernhardt Telleman again visits the camera shop but Zelda is there instead and tells him that the German air-raid on the port killed Angelique's father. He buys flowers to lay at the grave and, as luck would have it, finds her also at the cemetery. When she ignores him he chastises her: "...you won't see past the uniform..I studied law, I am not a...fighting man..do you think I want to kill your people?"
That evening at the 50/50 Club, Leutnant Walker, having forced Zelda to accompany him, tries in vain to create the mood of a double date when he is joined by Captain Dieter Muller and June, who sings regularly at the club. Meanwhile, James and Felicity Dorr try to persuade Eugene La Salle to "hand himself in to the German military" as prisoner of war having escaped from occupied France.
The next morning Wilf is conscripted to serve as the Baron's chauffeur while Sheldon traffics in black market produce. Oberwachtmeister Wimmel wants in on the profits and blackmails Cassie into a partnership.
That afternoon Felicity finds the Baron in her garden, when she accuses him of having "no respect for our privacy". "There's a corner of my vineyard," he replies, "which has a wall that was once part of an abbey. I sit there late at night, always alone." The arrival of Senator Dorr breaks the mood and the Baron confronts him with his suspicions about Eugene La Salle's true identity, obtained by Captain Muller from Ada, Wilf Jonas' mother. Again the Baron has the last word, indirectly implicating Phillip in an espionage plot.
Episode Four: Strange Mercies
At the barracks prison Oberleutnant Flach interrogates and tortures Eugene La Salle, based on an inadvertent tip from Wilf Jonas' mother who saw the "spitting image of Eugene and another boy" in her tomato fields. Eugene doesn't break and the Baron will not let Flach use force on Senator Dorr, Kathleen Jonas, or any islander to uncover the plot. "You are to be careful with them - use your imagination, Flach." James, though horrified by Eugene's fate, "to be shot as a spy", will not give in to the Baron's demand that islanders work to extend the runway at the German airbase.
Back at Parliament, Angelique Mahy, who works as the Senator's aide, hints at her knowledge of Phillip's complicity. James' perfunctory denial is interrupted by Flach who needs the Senator's signature on work passes for newly arrived French prostitutes waiting on the docks. Looking pointedly at Angelique, he implies he is doing the local women a favour by relieving them of the job. When Angelique brings their papers to the dock the guards mistake her for one and Bernhardt, coincidentally on scene, surreptitiously bribes the sergeant to release her.
Felicity engineers a moment alone with the Baron by puncturing her bicycle tyre, and attempts to use his attraction to her as leverage to dissuade him from "murdering" Eugene La Salle. The "death is needed", counters the Baron, to dispel the "cosiness" of the occupation and remind the populace "who has the power and that landsers matter".
His usual methods prohibited by the Baron, and threats having proved ineffective, Flach tries to break Kathleen Jonas' spirit by quarantining her in hospital, under the pretext of transmitting syphilis to German soldiers. Meanwhile, Senator Dorr pleads with Rheingarten, confessing to masterminding the ruse of Eugene's "surrender" and offering his own life in exchange for La Salle's. The Baron refuses and warns him "Don't ever tell Flach what you have just told me".
Over tea Bernhardt opens up to Angelique and makes the argument, both on his own behalf as her suitor, and for millions of young Germans, and English alike:
"We have no choice [in the war], either of us, any of us." (cf "superior orders") "There shouldn't be a war... Hitler has been the worst possible thing for our country". Yet "I [must fight] until it is my turn to die".
She is visibly moved and allows his accidental touch to linger on her hand. By contrast Captain Muller takes a "strictly business" approach to obtaining the companionship of June Mahy: "I pay for my laundry, car repairs, haircuts etc. - I would merely like to pay you for singing at my party"
At La Salle's execution by firing squad, Constable Jonas witnesses Leutnant Walker administer the coup de grâce and Mr. Brotherson/Phillip, on the grounds to work, hears and is sickened by the shots. The Baron offers his regrets to Felicity, and almost fatherly words of advice to Phillip.
Back at the Mahy shop, war profiteering is in full swing with Cassie, now not above price gouging, is officially the retail side of the operation while Oberwachtmeister Wimmel and Sheldon Leveque handle the supply and distribution. Meanwhile, Leutnant Walker continues to force himself on Zelda, "ordering" her to accompany him to the officers' party at 'Sous la Chenes', (the Dorrs' ancestral home, also doubling as the Baron's HQ) that evening.
That evening at the officers' party, next door to the Dorrs, Von Rheingarten ignores the provocative glances from a young woman and orders Leutnant Walker not to let any of "that sort go upstairs and mix with the officers". Undeterred, Walker drags a girl into the Dorrs' garden shed and is assaulting her when Felicity makes her presence known, thwarting the rape. Drunk and frustrated he goes to Zelda's flat and sings outside the door until she lets him in. He blames his misbehaviour at the party on her refusal to accompany him, "I am so bloody lonely - I just want a girl that I can respect". She most emphatically tells him that "she is not that sort of girl, and if you respect me you'll leave now". After kissing her hand, "I am so glad we are going to get to each other better", he does leave.
Wilf, tasked to drive June home from the party, is sarcastic to the point of cruelty, calling her a trollop, "Party, drinks, singing, dance the night away and paid into the bargain". Inside the house, Zelda is hiding from Walker and June tells them both she doesn't care anymore if anyone, including their mother, thinks she is fraternizing with the enemy. "Say [to her] I spent the evening with a bunch of murderers who just come from shooting Eugene. And tell her how much I enjoyed it."
When the Baron attempts to be cordial towards Mrs. Dorr, and she responds with indignation at his shooting Eugene, he explicitly states another of the series' themes: "That weight of righteousness is very heavy, Mrs. Dorr. Keep up this moral indignation, and come the war's end you'll have drowned in it." The argument escalates and the Baron raises his voice, bringing the Senator who, this time, is ready to fight for his wife.
Wilf, wracked with guilt at being helpless to save, or even comfort Eugene in his last moments of life, is consoled by Kathleen. The next morning Angelique meets Bernhardt at the beach. Resigned to continuing the argument he protests, "I'm not your enemy". This time she takes his hand, "Of course you are, Bernhardt, of course you are". The pair share a kiss.
Episode Five: Unexpected Revelations
In a break from the more comfortable drama of the first four episodes, Director Peter Lydon and writer Stephen Mallatratt show us glimpses of war's extremes: Germany's darkest years, and "Britain's finest hour". Juxtaposing acts of personal heroism and self-sacrifice with despicable institutional cowardice, characters jettison firmly-held principles in the face of economic necessity, and draw upon unimaginable strength to endure the unendurable.
Quick scenes advance the plot lines: Leutnant Walker, obsessed with Zelda, corners her on the beach and continues to interpret her blunt, even insulting, refusals to see him as playing hard to get. Angelique is unable to face her mother, Cassie, and confess her love for Bernhardt. Senator Dorr must face the grieving parents of Eugene La Salle, but is wracked with guilt and cannot disclose his full role in their son's death. Yet he risks open confrontation with the Baron, who would order the La Salles arrested just for visiting the execution site in the Dorr garden. Mrs. Dorr pleads on the La Salles' behalf. When the Baron's response, "There is no compassion [in war]" visibly, and deeply, hurts her, he offers to "record in which place of unmarked wasteland he's being buried and let [the La Salles] know after the war". Phillip Dorr now feels compelled to complete his mission so that Eugene would not have "died in vain". Angelique receives a note from Bernhardt who, about to go on a raid, promises to drop his bombs "into the sea or on fields".
The tolling of the church bell sets up the reference to Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 masterpiece, The Battleship Potemkin and it's Odessa Steps sequence: the islanders mount an act of nonviolent resistance and convene at the square in front of the German HQ to keep silent vigil and mourn La Salle. It is the second (of three) moments of decision for the Baron, who must look down from the balcony into the eyes of those he is about to have shot: Wilf, Felicity and Mr. Brotherson/Phillip. In a brilliant double entendre the vicar, played by Malatratt himself, and James Dorr, simultaneously admire the Baron's "handling of the situation", and step through the "fourth wall" to praise the homage to great Russian director by David Higgs, cinematographer, and Peter Lydon, director.
Sheldon Leveque agrees to help Phillip spy. Cassie has misgivings about taking Oberwachtmeister Wimmel (who doesn't know "whether he is married or not") as her business partner. Constable Jonas turns a blind eye to Kathleen and Sheldon's circumventing German meat-rationing regulations, and states "There's no law anymore - there's just their rules, and that's no law".
Leutnant Walker forces Zelda to come the cinema with him and watch the infamous Nazi anti-semitic propaganda film, Jud Süß. On screen we see the rape of a Christian woman by the Jew, "Seuss", and his ceremonious lynching. Ironically the "fate-knocking-at-the-door" opening motif of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony has come to represent the European resistance movement, and the islanders voice their disapproval by tapping this rhythm. Walker threatens to have the cinema closed and a last "tap, tap, tap, tap," amuses the film-goers, in stark contrast to the horrors on-screen.
More quick scenes: The Baron plays at being Phillip's father, proudly commenting to Felicity about "Mr. Brotherson's" improvement in wall-building under his tutelage. He admonishes both against further participation in acts of (even) passive resistance. Angelique is distressed by a radio broadcast announcing the RAF's routing of a flight of Heinkels crossing, approaching the coast and shooting down thirty of them over the Channel. June is conflicted: "150 fewer Germans in the islands" yet they're "people too ... young men ... who are not just numbers once you've met them", which, ironically, she urges her sister to do. Over dinner the Jonas' extended family receive word from their daughter, Mary, that she is safe in England, and Wilf and comes to blows with his father-in-law Harry for implying he is "collaborating with the enemy".
Mallatratt re-characterizes Bailiff Francis La Palotte, heretofore portrayed as a well-meaning old man poised to enter dotage, as the poster boy for European complacency at the beginning of the Holocaust. In meeting of the island senate he urges acquiescence to the "German High Command in Paris" who have ordered registration of all Jews on the island, and confiscation of their property. His placating words deeply offend James Dorr, who alone speaks out against the new rules. Director Lydon drives home the point with inter-cuts of the "debate" and Leutnant Walker arresting the few Jews that remain on the island.
The other shoe falls when Leutnant Walker discovers Zelda Kay's true identity as Hannah Kozminsky. After playing cat and mouse with her, he uses the threat of sending her to die in a labour camp as leverage to force her sexual compliance. Cutting from the grotesques of lust, to the tragedy/glory of star-crossed lovers, Angelique discovers that Bernhardt Telleman has survived the ill-fated mission that claimed the lives of his compatriots.
Meanwhile, Walker is searching for Hannah/Zelda who has gone into hiding above Cassie's grocery store. When he suspects Cassie and June of aiding her disappearance the daughter bluffs convincingly, earning her mother's respect for the first time since the occupation. Felicity pleads with Angelique to stop risking her life, and Phillip's, by assisting his espionage and Angelique seizes the moment to profess her love for Bernhardt.
"To favours returned" toasts Oberwachtmeister Wimmel over wine and truffles, a simultaneously clever and tasteless pun: Cassie trades her sexual favours for the economic benefits her association with the German quartermaster supply sergeant brings.
The episode closes with a reference to Anne Frank as Cassie, bringing food to Hannah/Zelda hiding in a secret room above the shop, interrupts her writing in a journal.
Episode Six: Unusual Successes
June is singing for a mixed crowd at the "50/50 Club" which turns ugly when Captain Muller switches places with her regular piano accompanist. Jerrybag! taunts one, throwing a glass that cuts her cheek. The soldiers drag him into the alley where Leutnant Walker pistol-whips him unconscious. With blood still on his hands, he sits with June imploring her to disclose Hannah/Zelda's location so he can help her assume a new identity.
Meanwhile, Angelique's feelings have won over her nervousness about sleeping with the enemy and she and Bernhardt rendezvous in Hanna/Zelda's flat. June finds them together, after she ducks in to avoid the derision of islanders who recognised her in the street. Angelique confesses to her sister, "I'm a Jerrybag".
Sheldon accidentally discovers Hannah/Zelda in Cassie's attic hideaway and offers to smuggle her to England with Phillip. Wilf Jonas, having agreed to assist the plot, must find a way to get his fishing boat out of the harbour "without an escort".
Cassie disabuses Oberwachtmeister Wimmel of any romantic delusions regarding their liaison, "It will always be sex, never love...It's the same with any hunger - one might even eat a rat if one were starved."
Senator Dorr's attitude undergoes a sea-change: he expresses a profound hatred of the Germans to Felicity, goes to the La Salles and admits authorship of the plan that got their son shot as a spy, and gives Phillip intelligence about the strength and composition of German forces on the island and their plans to fortify it. Meanwhile, Colin Jonas and his friend Ronald encounter an officer, who drunk and disillusioned, sells his P08 Parabellum for the £5 note Colin got from his uncle, Sheldon Leveque.
The game is afoot as all principals are converging on Nailing Bay where Wilf and Wimmel, aboard the 'Little Mary' have lain at anchor all afternoon but caught only one garfish between them. Sheldon, en route with Hannah/Zelda in his truck improvises cleverly to pass her through a checkpoint without identification papers. When Felicity discovers that Phillip has in fact left for England she is "far more than upset" at James for keeping her in the dark.
Sheldon drops Hannah/Zelda off with Philip but things go wrong with the carefully orchestrated plan when Colin and Ronald, having hiked overland, arrive at Nailing Bay, and see Wimmel and Jonas, who have given up on fishing and are paddling ashore after the motor fails to start. The boys misinterpret Wimmel's posture and gestures with the rifle as an impending execution and shoot at him from the rocks with the pistol. Wimmel, thinking it was a trap to kill him, makes it to the road and commandeers Sheldon's truck to take Wilf to the barracks prison.
That evening the Baron finds Felicity alone with her thoughts on the porch at 'Sous Les Chenes'. Rheingarten has just learned that his youngest son, 'Manfred' in the Luftwaffe, was shot down over the Channel When Felicity reminds him that of Eugene La Salle, he explains, "One only does what one believes is right. In war one has only the moment of decision. If I believed it to be right, then it was right. Whoever shot done my son was right." Their shared grief and mutual sympathies linger, complementing the Baron's literate imagery.
Aboard the 'Little Mary' Phillip and Hannah are trying to start the motor but are intercepted by a German cutter before the ignition catches. Hannah jumps overboard seconds before she can spotted by the searchlights but Phillip is taken with the photographs. The Baron visits him in his cell:
"There was a day, you might remember, at the garden wall, when the Senator's wife and you and I, shared a time together. I had the sense that both she and I thought of you as our son, the son both she and I were missing. Oh, Mr. Brotherson, we have talked a lot, I have genuinely enjoyed your company, we have built walls together ... and now we have to shoot you."
Realising that Felicity Dorr is somehow involved, he visits her to personally deliver the news of 'Mr. Brotherson's' capture. Her reaction gives her away; The Baron realises that Mr Brotherson is, in fact, her son. Felicity sheds the last tattered remnants of her dignity and desperately offers her body to him, anything to spare her son.
Hannah, having survived the plunge into the icy channel waters and swim ashore, goes back into hiding above Cassie Mahy's shop.
The Baron is repelled by Flach's suggestion that they just "shoot [Phillip] and have done with it" and orders him instead sent to France as a prisoner of war. He also orders James and Wilf be sent to prison for 6–9 months for assisting him. On the docks Kathleen Jonas says goodbye to her husband. Senator Dorr realising that the Baron's change of heart is due to his wife's efforts, forgives Felicity for "whatever it took" to spare Phillip's life. When Phillip arrives Felicity can only address him as 'Mr. Brotherson' and the ferry departs for Normandy.
Back at 'Sous Les Chenes' the Baron accepts Felicity's thanks with "I've grown sickened, Mrs. Dorr, by the deaths of young men". Angelique comes to Bernhardt and they watch the sunset together.
Overall, the miniseries earned more favourable reviews in the United States than in the United Kingdom. This is possibly due to the near-saturation of British television and film with World War II dramas, and the continuing popularity of the ITV series Enemy at the Door (1978–80), which had a similar plot, and Foyle's War.
In the Channel Islands themselves, the series faced widespread criticism in the local press due to inaccuracy, mispronunciation of names (for example, 'Mahy' was pronounced 'Mah-hee' rather than the correct 'Ma'yee') and the fact that the series was filmed not on the islands themselves, but the Isle of Man.
The DVD for this series are available, distributed by Acorn Media UK.
- "Company credits for "Island at War"". IMDB.
- Island at War episode 5 - Unexpected Revelations. Acorn Media. 2004. Event occurs at 0:14:19.