"In area's where there has been a release of energy the past may still exist."
In 1970 Ruth Boswell suggested a mid-week teatime sci-fi series to ITV that could possibly rival the BBC's immensely popular Doctor Who. That series came in the form of 26 back to back episodes; Timeslip. Arguably the most ambitiously sophisticated science fiction series in terms of writing and performances ever produced for a children's audience.
The story centred around two children, Simon Randall and Liz Skinner, who, whilst on holiday in St. Oswald, investigate the disappearance of a young girl at the ruins of a nearby naval base. Also interested in the disappearance is a man called Traynor. Drawn to the outer barrier of the base by a screeching noise, the children find a gap between two concrete posts and on passing through it they discover that they have been transported back to 1940. Here they meet Liz's father as a young naval rating who in turn introduces them to his CO -Traynor. In this adventure Simon and Liz help Skinner to dismantle a secret laser before it falls into the hands of the Germans. On returning to the barrier they find themselves transported, not back to 1970 but to 1990 and to an Arctic research station where experiments are being carried out on human guinea pigs in order to develop a drug; HA57, that will prolong life. After a series of adventures and near misses the children return to their own time only to be persuaded by Traynor to return to the future. This time they arrive in a tropically hot Britain after a failed experiment in climate control. In their last adventure Simon and Liz travel back to 1965 where they discover that Traynor is not all he seems to be.
The first episode was introduced by ITN's science correspondent,
Peter Fairley, who was called upon to explain to the programme’s young audience
the concept of time travel, and how events in the past could influence events
in the future. The series tried and indeed memorably succeeded in tackling the
theories of cause and effect and the unavoidable interdependence of the past
and future, whilst at the same time maintaining a high sense of drama and
impressive production values.
Timeslip boasted a consistent uniformly high level of performance from the entire principal cast, with particularly engaging playing from both Cheryl Burfield and Spencer Banks in the pivotal lead roles of the time travelling children, and an absolutely spell-binding performance from seasoned veteran Denis Quilley, who was quite simply superb as five different incarnations of the ambiguously motivated Commander Traynor.
Intelligent, sophisticated and exciting, Timeslip was more than a supremely realised example of
children's dramatic television of the highest order. It was quite simply an
excellent series which effortlessly matched even the very best of adult science
fiction series that was being produced at that time.
Published on February 7th, 2019. Written by SRH (2000) for Television Heaven.