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Kamis, 12 Mei 2011

Michael Kerrigan - Knights of God (1987)

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Set in a civil war devastated Britain in the year 2020 this big budget and ambitious adventure epic was actually filmed in 1985, but was shelved for other a year due to its pessimistic and grim tone. ITV bosses felt that the scheduled Sunday tea time slot could potentially upset a family audience, but the critics took a different tone - the programme just wasn't very good.

Britain has been ravaged by a non-nuclear war, with in the poorer people of the North opposed to the rich in the South. After the war is finished out of the ashes arises a new regime known as the Knights of God who rule the country ruthlessly and with absolute control. London has been demolished and Winchester is now the capital of the country. But in Wales and Yorkshire a growing resistance movement is ready to take on the Knights of God.

The series began when Controller of Programmes at TVS, Anna Holme, challenged the writer Richard Cooper to come up with a tough story for children, but featuring primarily an adult cast. Cooper was concerned about the rise of groups who used their religion to attack others, often violently. Cooper was also aware of giving the series too much of a futuristic edge so did not include any of the usual sci-fi cliches such as robots and laser guns, sticking to recognisable technology and hardware instead. He also took inspiration from the legends of King Arthur, giving many of the characters names based upon them.

John Dale, who had previously worked on the Saturday morning children's show No.73, was appointed producer to oversee the mammoth 20 week production schedule. Five weeks were spent on location in Wales alone, with further work taking in Southampton and the New Forest. Experienced directors Andrew Morgan and Michael Kerrigan shared the directing duties between them with Morgan responsible for seven episodes and Kerrigan the remaining six. By all accounts the shooting schedule was especially hectic and exhausting on location. One particularly difficult and costly scene involved a stuntwork. Dale describes the situation: "One of the biggest stunts was turning a Landrover 360 degrees in the air before crashing down a cliff into a river...we couldn't turn the bloody thing over! We tried eight times and eventually we just blew the thing to smithereens which was very spectacular; they did a three-quarter turn and crashed it into the river. I was terrified because it was costing us about three grand per minute and we had oxy-actylene men under the water, ambulances on standby."

Some further editing was required just before transmission. Actor Nigel Stock had died in between filming and broadcast. On screen his character, Simon, is confronted by one of the Knights with the line "What use are you to me - old, sick, near to death?" It was decided by Dale that this line should be snipped out of respect to Stock. The music for the series was provided by musicians from both the BBC Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras.

Casting was a shared decision between the directors and producer, with a cast of over 50 characters - cramming in such thespian luminaries such as Gareth Thomas, Patrick Troughton, John Woodvine, Don Henderson, Nigel Stock, Tenniel Evans and Frank Middlemass.

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