Barrier to success
released OUT NOW! 1970 | U | dvd Creator ruth Boswell Cast Cheryl Burfield, spencer Banks, denis Quilley, Iris russell
Conceived, in the words of creator Ruth Boswell, as Associated Television’s more “down to earth” rival to Doctor Who, this fondly remembered children’s sci-fi saga arrived just as the Time Lord himself swapped space and time for exile in the Home Counties.
Though the central conceit of two teenagers disappearing through a time portal is pure Narnia fantasy – with the wardrobe replaced by a hole in some MOD fencing – efforts were made to give the show a covering of scientific legitimacy: Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle lent his son Geoffrey as series consultant, while the first two stories were introduced by ITV science correspondent Peter Fairley.
Cheryl Burfield and Spencer Banks are engaging leads, while stage and screen veteran Denis Quilley injects welcome gravitas as chief antagonist Traynor.
Running to 26 episodes (only one of which still exists in colour) across four time-hopping serials, it proves better at recreating 1940 than it does anticipating 1990, where everyone wears silver jumpsuits instead of flares and beanie hats.
Dramatically engaging – if a little over-earnest – it’s a series that resists talking down to its young audience, introducing big ideas like cloning and climate change years ahead of their time. Today’s kids would no doubt balk at the glacial pace of such stagey, largely studio-bound fare, but this handsome box set isn’t aimed at them – it’s aimed at cult telly fans of a certain vintage, who’ll find much to treasure in this slip back to a less sophisticated, but not less intelligent age.
Extras Highlights include Behind The Barrier, an excellent feature-length documentary, a fan-made mini-episode, and a featurette which returns the cast to the location. You also get footage from a 2007 convention, PDFs of scripts and production paperwork, text features, and a gallery. The set also comes with a limited edition 128-page series guide by TV historian Andrew Pixley.
In 2015, Spencer Banks and Cheryl Burfield resumed their Timeslip roles for a cameo in the film Amityville Playhouse.
Negotiations continued in the playroom takeover bid.