In our complete avoidance of what is being offered in the way of American-produced broadcast and cable TV series, the Daughter Unit and I are ransacking the various streaming services for serial diversion of an evening: series old and new, new to us, or perhaps something old, something that we vaguely recall watching a good while ago and thought that it was worth another round. Last week our choice hit on the 1979 series Danger UXB – which came out the year before my daughter was born and featured a practically teen-aged-appearing Anthony Andrews. (Although he was nearly thirty at the time and seemed to be almost ubiquitous in those British TV series which appeared on Masterpiece Theater in that era. The Daughter Unit loved the 1982 version of the Scarlet Pimpernel, where he co-starred with Jane Seymour. She practically wore my copy of that series on videotape to bits.)
On the whole, the Danger UXB series holds up very well. The ‘look’ of the sets, the costumes and hairstyles (which almost always give away the era in which a series or movie is produced) are impeccable, as we came to expect of those programs exported from Britain to the US at that time. There is no racial ret-conning, wherein members of officially-recognized minority groups are shoe-horned into a historical setting regardless of the likelihood of such persons having been present at that time and place. There is a British Navy officer from Australia in one episode to do with defusing an errant shallow-water mine dropped mistakenly into suburbia – that’s about as far as that kind of character-casting situation goes.
We were startled anew at how the bomb disposal experts of that day went about that uber-risky job in basically their ordinary uniforms. Not a shred of body armor, shielding no more than a row of sandbags – and nothing more sophisticated tech-wise than a stethoscope, and numerous lengths of string … we were a bit relieved in one of the later episodes where they had a jury-rigged a cord-and-frame device to extract the bomb fuse from a relatively safe distance. This instead of pulling it out with a pair of pliers or something – this tactic alone disposed of half a dozen guest stars in the series’ early episodes. I got a bit weepy about the death of Corporal Salt, though – he with the weakness regarding women in distress. Yes, the toxic masculinity was strong in that one.
And we both agreed – that Sgt. James was at least as much as a hero as the ostensible Lieutenant Ash. He alone held the section together, through thick (flying chunks of building and human body parts) and thin (rations and consideration from the higher echelons.) Sgt. James managed to be unsinged/uninjured by inconsiderate German bombs until quite late in the series. There is a long, elaborate service joke to this effect, wherein other services have their officers (usually from a safe distance, but not always) exhort their enlisted members to greater glory, but the Air Force NCO/enlisted ground crew member wishes his officer pilot the best of luck in his endeavors in air combat. There was another nod to the efficient utility of the NCO – an episode wherein the NCO corps manages to scrounge a length of special cable to rotate the aforementioned naval mine without setting off the darned thing and taking out a considerable urban neighborhood. One of the corporals has a friend – a friend in a balloon barrage unit – who can provide the required cable, no questions asked, or at least, none which really matter. Yes; that is the way that the NCO underground economy operates. The NCO network is one wherein the members of that tight little group have considerable discretion and physical control over essential elements of the military machine. A military unit – no matter what the official organizational charts indicate – has these spider-web fragile personal NCO to NCO webs all over it.
A good series, well-worth the revisit. And that was my week – yours?