1 9 8 7 (UK)
3 x 60 minute episodes
This Thames Television miniseries presented a star-studded cast in a tongue-in-cheek satirical drama based on a best-selling novel by Alison Lurie.
Bullying sociologist and charismatic TV guru Professor Tom McMann (John Stride) infiltrates a bizarre spiritualist sect – The Truth Seekers – with the assistance of his MGB-driving academic sidekick Dr Roger Zimmern (John Duttine).
Based in the sleepy Norfolk resort of ‘Seacliff’ (in reality, Cromer), the Seekers are led by the psychically gifted and flame-haired Verena Roberts (Patricia Kerrigan) and her aunt Elsie Novar (Billie Whitelaw).
The group believes Verena can communicate with the Varnians – beings from the planet Varna, who are led by Ro – who will come to Earth to redeem human beings.
Verena goes into trances, gasps in ecstasy and writes psychically on a notepad, wailing “Ro! Ro! Ro!” like the Eton Boating Song. The action becomes almost farcical when Ro – through Verena – orders the spiritualists to strip off and dispose of any organic clothing.
The two academics find that their would-be scientific detachment dissolves under the pressures of sex until finally, cynical sociology professor Tom is (predictably) declared to be the incarnation of Ro and the new Messiah.
He goes round the twist and is arrested and dragged away, Christlike, to a mental hospital.
At the end of the miniseries, Roger concludes; “What’s the difference between a delusion and a religion? It’s only that more people believe in it.”
Imaginary Friends aired on consecutive evenings of Monday 22 June, Tuesday 23 June and Wednesday 24 June at 9.00 pm.
Professor Tom McMann
Dr Roger Zimmern
Professor Steve Mayonne