Edge of Darkness

From Academic Kids

Edge of Darkness is a British television drama serial, produced by BBC Television in association with Lionheart Television International and originally broadcast in six 55-minute episodes on BBC Two in late 1985. A mixture of political thriller, science-fiction and murder-mystery, it was extremely popular, won several awards and is still remembered by many as one of the best British television drama productions of the 1980s.

The serial was re-edited into two two-and-a-half hour episodes for broadcast on BBC One the week after the first run of the programme finished. This was the format initially available on VHS and DVD, before the full episodic version was given a release in the BBC's Classic Drama DVD strand in 2002.

This miniseries is unrelated to the 1943 World War II film Edge of Darkness (movie), starring Errol Flynn and set in Norway.

Contents

Background

Edge of Darkness was written by the highly experienced Troy Kennedy Martin, previously responsible for creating the famous and long-running BBC police drama Z-Cars and for writing the screenplays for feature films such as The Italian Job and Kelly's Heroes. Kennedy Martin originally wrote the script then titled Magnox in 1978, the story was inspired by the Gaia concept but it was not until 1982 that it took the interest of Jonathan Powell, then the BBC's head of drama eeries and serials, who assigned producer Michael Wearing to the project.

Wearing brought on board director Martin Campbell, whose disagreements with Kennedy Martin over the scripts would lead to much creative tension during the course of production. Campbell played down the ecological focus of the original script. The shooting of the six episodes took 20 weeks, and the production had a generous budget of 4 million, a quarter of which was contributed by the American television distribution company Lionheart, who handled the BBC's US sales. Their only stipulation was that the American character Jedburgh be introduced in the first episode, as he originally arrived only in the second.

The finished serial was screened on BBC Two on Mondays at 9.30pm from November 4 to December 9 1985. Such was the public and critical acclaim upon transmission that early in the New Year it was repeated on the higher-profile BBC One, a rare occurrence and especially so soon after its original broadcast.

At the 1986 BAFTA Awards, Edge of Darkness won the Best Drama, Best Director, Best Actor (for Bob Peck as the leading character, Ronald Craven) and Best Original TV Music categories. It was quickly made available on VHS, and has twice been released on DVD: in 1999 in a three-part compilation form, and in 2003 in an unedited, digitally remastered episodic format with various bonus features. In a 2000 poll of industry professionals to find the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes conducted by the British Film Institute, Edge of Darkness was voted into 15th place. It was also included in an alphabetical list of the Forty Greatest TV Shows published in Radio Times magazine in August 2003.

In 2002, it was reported by Variety that Martin Campbell was planning a feature film version of the serial, with the action being switched to the USA.

Plot

The story of Edge of Darkness revolves around police officer Ronald Craven, whose daughter Emma is murdered in the first episode, seemingly as retaliation against Craven by a man he was responsible for convicting.

However, as Craven travels to London to investigate, he begins to discover that there was far more to his daughter's murder than was at first suspected. She was involved with various anti-nuclear activities, and as Craven traces those she was involved with he uncovers a global web of government conspiracy, encompassing British involvement in Northern Ireland, CIA involvement in underwriting/undermining environmental campaign organisations, the privatisation of the nuclear industries, and then-President Reagan's Star Wars missile defence plans. All this is centred on the mysterious nuclear facility at Northmoor, and potentially involving the fate of the entire human race.

Throughout his investigations, he is accompanied by visions of Emma, and it is never clear whether she is actually appearing to him as a ghost or whether she is a product of his imagination. He is also aided by the more earthly form of CIA agent, Darius Jedburgh, who at first appears to be an adversary and then seems to be working on the same side. Craven also comes to realise that Emma's death was part of a wider attempt to cover up the illicit manufacture of weapons grade plutonium within a privately-managed UK nuclear reprocessing plant.

Cast & Crew

Craven was played by Bob Peck, who although an immensely experienced theatre actor, had made very little television before Campbell cast him in the starring role Kennedy Martin had originally written the part with the more experienced John Thaw in mind. Peck, however, put in an acclaimed performance and won several accolades for his role, including the BAFTA Best Actor award.

Emma was played by Joanne Whalley, in one of her first leading roles. The next year she would feature heavily in Dennis Potter's famous serial The Singing Detective, and later went on to become a high-profile film actress.

Jedburgh was played by American character actor Joe Don Baker, who would go on to play a very similar part another CIA agent called Jack Wade in the James Bond films GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies, a role in which he was also cast by Martin Campbell.

Several other familiar faces to British viewers appeared during the course of the episodes, including Brian Croucher, Hugh Fraser, Tim McInnerny, Zoe Wanamaker and John Woodvine, and as themselves television reporter Sue Cook, weatherman Bill Giles and MP Michael Meacher.

Martin Campbell went on to have a successful directing career, and worked on feature films such as the James Bond movie GoldenEye in 1995. Producer Michael Wearing was already well-known for producing high-quality BBC drama serials such as Boys from the Blackstuff (1982) and would later become the head of Serials in the drama department, overseeing such projects as Our Friends in the North (1996).

The haunting musical score for Edge of Darkness was composed by Michael Kamen and rock guitarist Eric Clapton. Much of the material was initially improvised while watching a playback of first edits of the episodes. The pair won a BAFTA Award for their work, and before his death in 2003 Kamen was planning to revisit the score for Campbell's planned film version. Kamen and Clapton's collaboration led directly to the pair composing similar scores for the 1986 Mel Gibson movie Lethal Weapon and its sequels.

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