1 9 7 1 (UK)
13 x 60 minute episodes
This London Weekend Television production presented a not too distant future where British society is falling apart after having been seriously troubled by years of mass unemployment, hyperinflation, social disorder and industrial unrest.
To prevent what seems to be an unavoidable disintegration of the institutions, the government of the nation has imposed a totalitarian regime.
The figurehead of this repressive Britain is Prime Minister Sir Timothy Hobson (Cyril Luckham), but real power is exercised by a uniformed paramilitary force known as The Guardians, a Gestapo-style force presided over by the shadowy General and his ruthless representative, Norman (Derek Smith).
Hobson’s dictatorship is a paternalistic fascism, based on the premise that “democracy is a form of group suicide”. Behind the slogan “Make Britain Great”, the outwardly benign regime suppresses all opposition with the Guardians.
Prison inmates are kept in a state of happy passivity via the use of cannabis and by the government’s ‘humane’ method of capital punishment, in which the condemned are unknowingly sedated then executed by lethal injection – while a bogus ritual – including an actor as hangman – is presented to satisfy public bloodlust.
There are voices of dissent, however. Opposing this apparatus is an array of competing factions, chief among them the Communists and a non-ideological, deliberately fragmented structure whose members adopt the name Quarmby.
Quarmby’s strategy is a classical terrorist one: to drive the state to greater and greater repression, forcing it to reveal ‘the nature of the beast’ – which brings with it the inescapable moral dilemmas faced by all those who must use force to achieve their ends.
Created by Rex Firkin and Vincent Tilsley, whose combined credits include The Prisoner, Manhunt, and The Forsyte Saga, the series anticipated many more recent dramatisations featuring similarly dystopian landscapes and has been praised for the insightful, intelligent handling of its subject.
Captain Tom Weston
Sir Timothy Hobson
The State of England | Pursuit | Head of State | The Logical Approach | Quarmby | Appearances | This Is Quarmby | The Dirtiest Man in the World | I Want You to Understand Me | The Nature of the Beast | The Roman Empire | The Killing Trade | End in Dust