Saturday, 5 November 2016

531 Artemis '81

First  viewed  : 29  December  1981

This  three  hour  long  television  play  by  David  Rudkin  must  still  stand  as  the  most  arty, pretentious  and  incomprehensible  drama  ever  broadcast  on  BBC1.  I  suspect  it  was  only  on  BBC1  because  the  cast  featured  Police  singer  Sting  in  his  first  TV  acting  role  thus  guaranteeing  a  fair  amount  of  pre-publicity.

Paradoxically,  it  was  almost  instantly  forgotten. Perhaps  other  viewers  shared  my  feeling  that it  hadn't  been  worth  the  time  invested  in  watching  it. It's  never  been  repeated. I  have  to confess  that  if  I  hadn't  just  re-watched  it  on  You  Tube - it  slipped  out  on  DVD  in  2007 - I would   have  only  been   able  to  give  a  fragmentary  account  of  it. Rudkin  throws in  the kitchen sink - mythology, sexual  confusion, religion, film  references, the  occult, you  name  it,  it's  in  there -  but  the  more  it  strives  for  intellectual  heft  the  more  insubstantial  and  boring  it   becomes.

The  opening  scene  has  some   sort  of   female  deity  named  Magog  awakening  from  sleep  to  the  delight  of  evil  son  Asrael  ( Roland  Currum )  and  dismay  of  good  son  Haleth  ( Sting ). Then  a  statue  of  her  is  stolen  from  a  museum  in  Denmark  by  a  Byronic  organist  Drachenfels  ( Dan  O  Herlihy ) , broken  up   and  hidden  in  the  cars  of  fellow  passsengers  on  a  North  Sea  ferry ( perhaps  filming  on  Triangle  had  finished  ahead  of  schedule ) . The  recipients  then  commit  suicide,  apart  from  Gwen  ( Dinah  Stabb )  sort-of-girlfriend  of  bisexual  Gideon  ( Hywel  Bennett ),  an  occult  writer  who  sets  about  joining  the  dots  and  finds  himself  having  to  save  the  world  or  something  like  that. There's  material  for  a  decent  Dr  Who  story  there   but  nothing  to  justify  its  extravagant  length  and  having  the  stone-faced, unsympathetic  Bennett  in  the  lead  role  doesn't  help.

Daniel  Day-Lewis  has  a  very  early  TV  role  here  as  a  student  in  a  library.    

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