The Guardians (TV, 2010)

This  review from SFX 193 prompted a furious response from a reader, who  shot me down for backing the then Labour government, and being naive in my views by bashing the ’80s brand of monetarist Toryism I vaguely wave a hand here. The letter, which concluded “the review should never have been published” was, I think, never published, but I always wanted a chance to respond.

To my mind I was only drawing parallels between what the story suggested might happen, and what did actually happen 10 years later (there are a few, but not many), a prime part of our job as SF critics when looking at the past’s predictive fiction. I admit that my strap line was a cheap, right-on 1980s alternative comedy shot at Maggie, but at no point do I mention anything to do with the Labour party, and I was certainly not supporting Blair et al with my review. I am not a big fan of Thatcher’s creed, and like all politicians I think she was alarmingly short termist. But neither was I enamoured of New Labour; their infighting, spin, and monstrous, bloated nanny state all horrified me. None of the parties extant today do it for me, to be honest.

It all just goes to show what people can read into a few sentences!

1971 / 12 / 650 mins / £39.99 / 1 February

Creators: Rex Firkin, Vincent Tilsey

Cast: Gwyneth Powell, Cyril Luckham, David Burke, Derek Smith, Edward Petherbridge, Lynn Farleigh, John Collin


Bet Thatcher wished she had these…

It is the dark future of the 1980s! Democracy is over, the new dictatorship guaranteed by the neo-fascist Guardians of the Realm…

Made in 1971, this ancient London Weekend Television curio (so old, in fact, that LWT had yet to get the ‘Television’ part of its name) offers a fascinating look back into the mores of yesteryear. The SF element of the show is not strong, rather The Guardians is something of a psychodrama, examining power, relationships and revolutionary tendency. One of the main characters is, indeed, a psychiatrist, manipulating the mysterious ‘Quarmby’ terrorist campaign for who knows what real ends.

The series is a little prescient, foreseeing the demolishment of the unions and posits a reactionary return to the class system, with cut-glass accented toffs patronising the nation and folks with regional accents trapped at the bottom. Almost what happened, only without Thatcher’s creed of diffuse selfishness.

There’s little action in the Guardians, in common with much TV of its time, the greater portion of the running time is taken up by multiple scenes featuring dialogue between two characters. Although occasionally repetitive, it is highly effective, and allows such actors as Graham Crowden and Gwyneth Powell (Mrs. McClusky from Grange Hill!) to get their teeth into some serious character work.

The Guardians contains many frankly implausible twists, but they keep you coming back for more. Sometimes 13 hours of old-school near-SF can be terribly tedious. This isn’t, and will hold your attention to the end.

On a final note, the quality of the footage is high for such an old show, but amusingly one can hear the transfer team crashing about, typing and chatting in some of the ad breaks.

DVD Extras A solitary image gallery.

Did you know…?

The prolific Samuel Youd, writing as John Christopher, penned a dystopian novel also named The Guardians in 1970. No relation.


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