"To eat the fruit of the lotus is to lose the desire to return home. But everyone who does has a reason." So Radio Times introduced viewers to The Lotus Eaters, one of the seventies most unusual drama series.
It debuted on BBC2 on Sunday 23 April 1972 and was the first of a series of escapist dramas from, then, little known writer Michael J. Bird. Lotus Eaters concerned a group of British expatriates living on Crete and ran for two series. The first comprised nine powerful, often tragic, dramas each telling the story of a different member of the cast. Most characters appeared in more than one episode, and the tales were skilfully woven into a continuing sub-plot about the faltering marriage of principals Erik and Ann Shepherd. As one character put it, "You are running away from something... all of you. A cosy little foreign community huddled together in the sanctuary of a Mediterranean island. Why else would you all be living here 1,000 miles from home?" As the series unfolded it became apparent that no one was what they seemed. It was unheard of in those days for a single writer to script an entire series and several writers were engaged. Bird told them the overall concept, they contributed story lines and Bird acted as story editor, making sure the whole thing hung together: which it did beautifully.
The second series consisted of a single six-part story developing and extending the Shepherds' espionage sub-plot. Bird packed in twists at every point, keeping viewers guessing, and the ending was charged with emotion, as police chief Michael Krasakis is forced to banish his friends from Crete. The Lotus Eaters marked the start of a prolific and profitable partnership between Michael J. Bird and the BBC that was to last over ten years and take viewers on exotic adventures to Crete, Cyprus and Rhodes in Who Pays The Ferryman?, The Aphrodite Inheritance, and The Dark Side of the Sun. Following each series tourism soared at the location and Michael Bird became to Mediterranean islands what Delia Smith would become to obscure cookery ingredients.
Published on December 31st, 2018. Written by Dave Rice for Television Heaven.