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.