Sunday, 24 September 2017

Dark Towers

In the 1970s there was relatively little actual television available to watch in the UK.  Only 3 channels that all shut down over night and which occasionally went off air throughout the day displaying only a test card accompanied by some stock music of varying degrees of grooviness.  In the spirit of television (and the BBC in particular) as a medium required to “inform, educate and entertain” it also dedicated a proportion of each days broadcasting to showing programmes intended for use in schools and colleges.  In the case of my school watching these shows involved trooping into the hall where the television was kept inside a padlocked wooden box on top of a metal stand and sitting cross legged on the hardwood floor craning our necks to watch the shows while the teachers took turns to nip into the staff room at the far end for a opportunistic cigarette break.  Whether or not we ever actually did any of the work you were meant to do in conjunction with the shows I don't remember - probably not - but I do remember the shows themselves and in particular 'Look and Read'.

'Look and Read' as you can probably guess (or remember even) was a show intended to improve children's literacy skills through tasks, songs (created by Paddy Kingsland, Roger Limb and Peter Howell of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and mostly sung by Derek Griffiths) and tuition based around a serial drama occasionally interrupted by a squeaky voiced flying...thing.  They produced quite a few of these dramas, most of which have disappeared into well deserved obscurity but a couple have found their way into Wyrd Britain folklore, sci fi adventure 'The Boy from Space' being one of them (not currently available for streaming but you can buy it here - The Boy From Space [2 - Disc DVD Set]) and the ghost story 'Dark Towers' being another.

Written by Andrew Davies, 'Dark Towers' tells the story of Tracy Brown (Juliet Waley) and her new friend Lord Edward Dark (Gary Russell - now more known as the author of several Doctor Who novels) and their race to find the hidden treasure of Dark Towers before it's stolen by the nefarious trio of Miss Hawk, Benger and Bunce (Juliet Hammond-Hills, Christopher Biggins and Harry Jones).  In this they are aided by Edward's father and The Friendly Ghost (dual roles for David Collings - beloved by us here at Wyrd Britain as Silver in Sapphire and Steel), Tracy's dog Towser and The Tall Knight (Peter Mayhew - who had previously achieved worldwide fame playing Chewbacca in a heart wrenching family drama called 'Star Wars Holiday Special' - watch it here if you dare).

I'm not sure when I first saw this show, in 1981 when it first aired I had moved on to secondary school so the days of TV in the school hall were over, but nevertheless it's a show that I have very fond memories of, the music (by Roger Limb) in particular.

With the exception of episode 1 all the mid show breaks - where Wordy the floating thingamabob would try to teach you something - have been edited out so you can sit back and enjoy without worrying about having to learn about apostrophes.


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