A Very British Coup Returns!


Now this is something I'm looking forward to.

Apparently the first ever British production on Masterpiece Theatre that wasn't set in England's past, A Very British Coup is set in the near future (well, near future of the late 1980s) when hard-left Labour leader Harry Perkins topples the Thatcher government and takes power in the United Kingdom. Sweeping in on a wave of popular sentiment, he sets about shaking up the establishment, disarming Britain and pulling out of NATO. Of course, the establishment responds, backed by their American allies, and the question soon becomes just what will Britain's own civil service do (including its secret service) against its own elected government in order to restore the old ways.

I remember it as a gripping political thriller -- one of the first I'd ever enjoyed. I remember it as being deftly made, with fantastic music and visuals, and the acting and characterization were typical Masterpiece Theatre. Unfortunately, memories are all that I have of this production. I had a copy on tape, but then my parents' VCR broke down, and I tried to use my tape to test the refurbished VCR they'd bought, only to have that break down and completely destroy my tape. And, for whatever reason, the production has been hard to come by. A VHS release occurred sometime in the eighties but faded away and, throughout the nineties, nothing.

Until now. Amazon.ca lists A Very British Coup among their DVD releases in late August, selling it for just $20.99. Interestingly enough, the DVD marketers, AcornMedia, appear to be selling copies right here, right now, so I don't know what's up with that. Whatever the case, I'll probably wait until August and see how my finances are... unless this DVD turns up as a gift. :-)

I am looking forward to seeing this production again. It will be interesting to see how the story has dated. It was very much a product of the Thatcher era, but time might not have quite passed it by.

The Young City is going well. After some initial trepedation as Rosemary and Peter began their investigation, some of the scenes just took off -- especially the ones where Peter and Rosemary find themselves in trouble (I guess I'm a sucker for the action). I barrelled through chapter eight, and am now onto chapter nine. I have a selection below.

In this scene, Peter has been captured by Aldous Birge, and the situation is rapidly unravelling. Aldous thinks that Edmund has betrayed him to the police, and has ordered his henchmen to kidnap Faith in retribution. Rosemary, meanwhile, was locked in the basement by Edmund after discovering his links to Aldous. Faith has released her, and has just discovered the depth of her brother's involvement with the criminal group. Just then, they hear a noise, and realize that their store is under attack...

The store was full of shadows. The streetlight glared across the empty sidewalk and through the shop window. Two figures hunched outside the doorway. The handle twisted and the door shook.

"We're being robbed!" gasped Faith.

"No," said Rosemary, her face grim. "We're being kidnapped!" She clasped Faith's wrist. "Come on! Out the back door!"

They walked quickly but quietly down the hallway and were halfway to the kitchen when they heard the door jam jangle and hard soles hit the storeroom floor.

"She's not here," said a gruff voice.

"Course not," said another. "Check the kitchen. Check the bedroom." He gave a throaty chuckle. "Perhaps we'll surprise her in bed."

Rosemary pulled on Faith, who had frozen in fear, and dragged her into the kitchen. She reached for the back door, but stopped when she saw the handle jiggle and turn. She turned to Faith and mouthed, "Did you lock the door?"

Wide-eyed, Faith shook her head.

Rosemary pointed at the stairs. Together they dashed, Rosemary heading for the basement, Faith heading for the sanctuary of her bedroom. Rosemary just managed to grab Faith's wrist and pull her to the basement landing when the back door opened.

A burly man strode towards Faith, who was framed in the landing doorway. "Faith Watson? A friend of Edmund wants to see you."

Hidden in the shadows, Rosemary gave Faith one last pull. The woman stumbled down the basement steps.

The henchman strode onto the landing and halted, staring into the sea of darkness. He sucked his teeth. "Damn. Of all the places to hide."

"What's wrong?" said one of the voices from the front of the store. "That's where we were going to take her."

The first henchman stood as a silhouette. He reached out and pulled the voice into view. "Look down there. Did you remember to bring the lanterns?"

"I didn't," the voice protested. "Smith did."

The silhouette flinched. "Smith? On the boat? You idiot!"

"What?" said the head shadow.

The silhouette's voice took on the tone one used to lecture a child. "Smith's on the boat. Lanterns are on the boat. We're up here. That--" He thrust a finger at the dark basement "-- is between us. You see the problem?"

The head shadow stared. "Oh. Right. Damn!"

"Maybe they have lanterns," said another voice from the kitchen.

"Or candles," said the silhouette. "Find some. Get me some light."

There was a shuffle of feet and canisters. Something dropped and shattered. In the darkness, Faith let out a squeak.

Then someone let out a triumphant shout. "Candles! Found them!"

A match was struck, then yellow light flickered, and a candle was passed into the silhouette's hand. He took two steps, stopped, and stared at Rosemary, who had pressed herself against the stairs, looking up at him. Before he could shout, she lunged for his ankles.

The man fell back, knocking the other henchmen sprawling into the kitchen. The candle slipped from his fingers, through the slats of the stairs and onto the top of a crate. Faith snatched it up. Rosemary scrambled over the henchman, her knee smashing his chin, and slammed the basement door closed before the other three henchmen could rush. She leaned on it as they shook the handle and thumped.

She saw Faith standing at the foot of the stairs, holding the candle and staring. The first henchman lay sprawled between them, unconscious.

"Faith," she whispered. "Come on! Pull him up!"

Faith clambered up the stairs, passed the candle to Rosemary, and dragged the unconscious man the remaining feet to the landing. With Rosemary's help, they propped him against the door. The door hammered and shook.

Faith stepped back. "Tis a very temporary solution."

"Tis indeed," muttered Rosemary. "Well, we have to get out of here. Are there any other stairs out of this basement?"

"No," gasped Faith.

Rosemary stared. "Then how did they deliver all of those crates?" She slapped her forehead. "Of course! The boat!" She grabbed Faith's hand. "Come on!"

"Where are we going?" Faith stumbled down the stairs after her.

"The other way out." Rosemary raised her candle and peered through the gloom until she spotted the boom and tackle in the corner.

Faith stared at the row upon row of crates. Her shoulders sagged. "Oh, Edmund!"

They stumbled through the aisles to the corner. Suddenly, their boots met hollow wood instead of foundation stone. Rosemary stepped back and shone the candlelight on a huge trap door lying beneath the boom and tackle. There was a smaller trap door within it, big enough for a person to fit through. Rosemary pulled the latch. Cool, moist air struck her face with the sound of running water. Stairs descended into the dark.

Suddenly a voice called out. "Hey! Did you get her?" A light shone up and swept over Rosemary's knees.

Rosemary didn't drop the hatch. Instead, she blew out her candle and dropped her voice an octave. "Yeah. Come up here. We need some help."

The man below chuckled. "Didn't come quietly, did she? Had to tie her up, did you?"

"Yeah," said Rosemary. "She's heavy."

"I'm coming up." There was a splash, then the sound of boots on wood. The lantern light shook as the boatman mounted the steps. He pushed the hatch aside and stared at Faith and Rosemary staring back at him. "You're not tied up. Where are the others --oop!"

Rosemary kicked him hard between the legs, doubling him over. Her next kick cracked his nose and he clutched at it, blood seeping through his fingers. Her third kick struck his shoulder, sending him sprawling. There was a clatter of man on wood, followed by a splash.

"Rosemary!" gasped Faith, shocked.

The basement door burst open. The henchmen piled down the steps, candles high.

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