Posts Tagged ‘this’

Foyle’s War, final episode review: Is this really goodbye?

January 19th, 2015

We all like to see a great series go out with a bang, and Sunday night’s episode of Foyle’s War (ITV) certainly finished on a big one. But I’m not at all sure that – if I hadn’t been forewarned by last week’s sudden announcement by ITV – I would even have realised this was supposed to the swansong of one of British television’s best loved characters.

Far from it. With a plot packing in an audacious assassination attempt, postwar black-marketeering, Soviet spymasters, a scandal within the Security Service and a conspiracy to falsely incriminate a member of parliament – this felt more like a series at the height of its powers rather than an invitation to bid farewell to dear old Christopher Foyle, that most decent and understated wartime copper who latterly morphed so successfully into MI5’s only reliable chap in the Cold War’s early days.

As such, for ITV to let the axe fall on the series at this particular point seems remarkably bone-headed. Foyle’s War has, since its debut in 2002, been a firm audience favourite (recent episodes pulled in around five million viewers, or a 20 per cent audience share).

Famously, viewer protest pulled the show back from the brink of cancellation twice before. Such fanaticism can be attributed largely to a unique charm of character and performance – not only in Foyle himself, brought brilliantly to life by Michael Kitchen’s muted, charismatic acting style. Honeysuckle Weeks, too, as his impeccably mannered sidekick and driver, Sam Stewart, is another unobtrusive yet magnetic presence; her home life (Foyle doesn’t really have one) offering a window onto the times. Even her departure last night, forced by pregnancy, felt more like a momentary obstacle than a conclusive end.

For viewers inclined to hark back to a Britain united against a common foe, the series’ wartime setting had been a huge attraction. Yet Foyle’s seamless transition to the tensions of the burgeoning Cold War era cleverly maintained the hunkered down attitude while introducing us to an intriguing new era when enemies were still all around, yet no one (not even MI5) knew precisely who or where they were.

Not everything about Foyle’s War was great. The two-hour format that invited some to curl up for an absorbing night in, was for others off-puttingly slow and old hat. And if the reward was a feature-filmish sense of involvement and high production values that lavished attention on costume and period detail (not always accurately, as evidenced by many an incensed reader post on the Telegraph website), Foyle’s unhurried investigative style meant the pace rarely picked up above the stately.

Still the series had a renewed vigour of late. For many – myself included – Foyle’s bleak Cold War escapades rekindled a flagging interest. Creator Anthony Horowitz’s decision to root the postwar stories in real life cases brought new grit and relevance, exploring the early nuclear arms race and resurgent anti-semitism in recent episodes. This episode juggled wartime and postwar eras, echoing a scandal in which young British agents were sent to certain death in occupied Europe by a Special Operations Executive unwilling to admit its network had been compromised, while a subplot involving spivs and police corruption kept bringing us back to 1946. Around this was spun the mystery of an attempt on the life of former SOE bigwig Hilda Pierce (Ellie Haddington), who survived – thanks to Foyle – long enough to inflict her own brand of explosive summary justice upon her weaselly former SOE boss.

As an episode ending it certainly had a grim satisfaction. But for Foyle himself, the closing scenes had nothing of the finale about them. Quite the opposite. The determined set of his jaw, his lingering final glance towards enigmatic Elizabeth Addis (Hermione Gulliford) spoke, if anything, of many adventures to come.

Given this series’ history of resurrections, it doesn’t seem too great a stretch to hope that some day we’ll enjoy more of them.

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Could this be Britain’s most patriotic man?

May 21st, 2014

“We will be a part of the Federal State of Europe ruled by Brussels, and we may retain Parliament but it will only be a token body of people, the laws they form are already depleting and Brussels is taking over.”

Mr Abbott started out as a Butcher’s boy before joining the RAF on his 17th birthday, the day before the Second World War was declared.

He fought the Nazi’s, surviving a torpedo attack in the Indian Ocean and typhus he caught in Egypt to carry on and battle the Soviets in East Germany during the Cold War.

Deciding upon his retirement in 1974 at the rank of Warrant Officer that 35 years’ service was not enough, Mr Abbott joined the Beefeaters, leading to his face appearing on postcards and the 1986 London Marathon runner’s medal.

He also doubled as the Queen’s bodyguard in his role as a Yeoman Guard Extraordinary serving Her Majesty at other events and palaces around London.

In his spare time he found the time to serve as a special constable for the Metropolitan Police, become an expert on historical execution techniques, and even earn a Blue Peter badge.

Mr Abbott, who has been decorated for his military service seven times, now lives in Kendal, in the Lake District where he was Mace Bearer for the Mayor of Kendal for 20 years, and says he is proud to be British.

“I’ve served the King and the Queen for 35 years and I’ve been sworn in at St James’s Palace as the Queen’s bodyguard so yes I’m patriotic,” he said.

“I’ve done so much in my life I’m not sure how I’ve fitted it all in.”

But life has also changed beyond recognition in the last 90 years, he said.

“I am not on the internet, I am not joining the Lemmings,” he said.

“Life has changed unbelievably since my days on the milk crate which had two lamps with a candle in each. Since then I have met a man who has walked on the moon. Thinking about how much it has changed terrifies me.”

But he said that there had been advances for the better, especially in the fields of medicine and transport.

His book about his life From Butcher’s Boy to Beefeater – with a foreword from General the Lord Dannatt – was released on Tuesday.

Mr Abbott, who has written 24 books, said that although he has experienced more than most he continues to live by his motto “never allow yourself to be dictated to by your birth certificate”.

“I learnt to fly a helicopter when I was 77. I walked into a place in Morecambe where they train pilots for carrying people out to oil rigs,” he said.

“They asked if I had ever flown a helicopter before and I said ‘no, but I’d been in the RAF for 35 years’ so they said ‘ok then’.

“Planes only go in one direction, they’re bloody boring. My motto is if you don’t go on accepting challenges, you’re old.”

His book also chronicles his time living in the Tower of London with his wife Shelagh, who passed away 20 years ago.

He said: “It was a good address, my wife used to go shopping to Selfridges or Harrods or whatever and they would say ‘where did you want it delivered?’

“You should have seen the shop assistant’s face when she gave them the address.

“Our apartment was against the inner wall of the tower and the walls were eight-feet thick except for an arrow slit where I used to keep my beer cold.”

He continues to be invited by Her Majesty to attend occasions in her honour attending Buckingham Palace garden parties.

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