Saturday, 28 May 2016
401 The Legend of King Arthur
First viewed : 7 October 1979
One of the rare things to prise me away from the Top 40 rundown on Radio One around this time was this eight-part dramatisation of the Arthurian legend in the Sunday teatime slot. I had read Roger Lancelyn Green's children's version so I wanted to see this despite there being plenty of goodies in the charts at the time ( in fact they've rarely been stronger than in the autumn of 1979 ).
The main aim of this serial was to strip away the medieval anachronisms of Thomas Mallory and take the story back to its Dark Age roots and was mainly successful in this. Budget restrictions meant that the battle scenes had to be realised through quick cutting between individual actors and sound effects rather than hiring extras. It did conjure up something of the feel of an age groping for a new sense of order after the departure of the Romans with Arthur holding the line against a descent into anarchy. Nor did it flinch from depicting the sad end to the story as Lancelot's passion for Guinevere brought down the whole court with a little help from Arthur's evil half-sister Morgan le Fay.
Arthur was played by Andrew Burt , best known as the original Jack Sugden in Emmerdale Farm , Guinevere by Felicity Dean , Merlin by Robert Eddison and blonde Scot David Robb as Lancelot. The series is also notable as the first serial penned by period drama king Andrew Davies. It was repeated in the same slot in 1981.