1 9 6 6 – 1 9 6 7 (UK)
5 x 25 minute episodes
Premiering on New Year’s Eve 1966, this five-part BBC2 thriller series – originally aired as a radio series called The Same River Twice on the BBC Light Programme – was written by Eddie Boyd, directed by Michael Ferguson and produced by Alan Bromly.
Johnny Maxen (Patrick Allen) leaves a good job in Paris and returns to Glasgow after five years to look for his estranged wife Julia, who has been missing for three months.
The couple had separated following the drowning death of their daughter, Sarah.
Johnny doesn’t want to come back but does so at the behest of his mother-in-law. Nor is he made especially welcome. His one-time friends tell him to go away.
But Johnny is obstinate – obstinate enough to remember Julia, who he once loved; so obstinate that the mystery which surrounds her disappearance begins to ensnare him, pushing him to the edge of sanity.
At her supposedly empty flat, he finds a dead girl called Sandra Bailey. The police believe it was suicide, but Johnny learns she was in the boat the night his daughter drowned, along with Tom Armstrong (James Cairncross) and Louise Blake.
Meanwhile, Dorothy Havergal (Anne Kristen) tells him that his wife had deteriorating mental health, and Inspector Wardlaw (Roddy McMillan) contacts him, claiming that Julia is dead.
Johnny is shown the body to identify, but it has been in the water for some time (though she was strangled, not drowned).
Poacher Bunty Nichol claims he heard Julia shout “Johnny” on the night of her death. Johnny also discovers that Julia had been the victim of subtle persecution – obscene letters, phone calls and so on – which point to him being the persecutor.
Johnny eventually discovers that Tom Armstrong killed Julia when he thought she was going to marry someone else.
To make everyone think she was alive, he used a young woman with severe mental health issues to play the part of Julia when needed.
Location filming took place around the Glasgow area and in the picturesque countryside of Loch Ard, Perthshire.
When the series was repeated on BBC1 in 1968, the first episode became the fourth most-watched drama series that week, with a UK audience of 7,650,000.
Legal action to halt any further repeat showings was initiated by writer Edward Boyd’s wife, Kathleen, who claimed that the character of Julia was intended to be identified with her and was portrayed as “a bad mother, a tart, a lesbian, a drunkard, and a drug addict” and was therefore defamatory to her.
She also alleged that the storyline contained scenes and characters similar to her home and members of her family.
The courts ultimately concluded that she had failed to prove that the elements of the storyline of which she complained related to her.
The order preventing further broadcasting of the series was cancelled, and costs were awarded to the BBC.
In October 1968, she was granted a divorce from Eddie Boyd.