‘"I belong to the future": Timeslip Drama as History Production in The Georgian House and A Traveler in Time’

Byard, Victoria (2015) ‘"I belong to the future": Timeslip Drama as History Production in The Georgian House and A Traveler in Time’. In: Time Travel in Popular Media: Essays on Film, Television, Literature and Video Games. McFarland & Company, Jefferson, N.C., pp. 149-164. ISBN 978-0-7864-7807-1

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Abstract / Summary

In British children’s television of the 1970s, time-travel was a prevalent theme, although often complicated generically through comedy, science fiction, or the supernatural. However it was framed, time-travel in children's television was, frequently, carefully sutured to pedagogical material drawn from history, science and philosophy as much as to contemporary stories of adventure. In this way, productions could negotiate tensions of education and entertainment, creating a specific public service broadcasting model for children. In the 1970s, particularly, such narratives were increasingly reacting to changing ideas of childhood and children's media as well as contemporary cultural anxieties and institutional imperatives. The de-restriction of broadcasting hours from 1972 meant that, despite its often marginalised departments, overlooked output, and industrial disputes, children's television flourished. Consequently, children's television drama became for the BBC and ITV both a signifier of public service broadcasting and, ironically, of the competition inherent in the "regulated duopoly". Both broadcasters significantly increased their production of children's drama, and children's fantasy drama, during this period and thus provide a useful comparative study of programming and policy for this chapter.

This chapter will examine two time-travel dramas produced for children’s television at this time: The Georgian House from ITV (HTV West, 1976) and A Traveller in Time (BBC, 1978). Using archival research, institutional histories, and textual analysis of aesthetics and genre in what Ann Gray calls a 'contingent mosaic' research methodology (i), the chapter will explore the particularised production strategies and institutional approaches of The Georgian House and A Traveller in Time and locate both programmes in the contemporary media landscape. It will suggest the particular treatments of time-travel in both programmes not only reflect the structures of a national, centralised BBC and the federal, regionally-organised Independent Television but also indicate the inflections of 'quality' television, public service broadcasting and children's television at work in the 1970s.

These inflections also shape the different formal and stylistic properties of both programmes. A Traveller in Time, in which Penelope travels back to the Elizabethan era to try and save Mary, Queen of Scots, is adapted from Alison Uttley's 1939 novel of the same name and was filmed largely on location. By contrast, The Georgian House is an original work for television, shot entirely in studio on videotape. However, this chapter argues that both are, in fact, adaptations, negotiating different ideas of 'quality' and institutional responsibility. HTV West’s The Georgian House is adapted from the regional history of the ITV franchise area, specifically the city of Bristol's involvement with the slave trade. The interaction of both programmes' contemporary protagonists with the past is articulated through actual historical personalities, landmarks, and literature, creating but also complicating received histories as well as negotiating issues of public service broadcasting. This chapter will argue that The Georgian House and A Traveller in Time subtly interrogate time-slip encounters in which epistemes and ethics clash, making these children's television dramas more complex and controversial than might be expected and allowing the time-travel narrative to expose contemporary issues as much as historical 'fact'.

(i) Wheatley, Helen (ed.), Re-Viewing Television History, p.8

Item Type: Book Section
ISBN: 978-0-7864-7807-1
Subjects: Film & TV > TV > British TV
Education
Writing & Journalism > Literature > English Literature
Film & TV
Writing & Journalism > Literature
History > UK
Courses by Department: The School of Film & Television > Television
Depositing User: Victoria Byard
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2019 14:50
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2019 14:50
URI: http://repository.falmouth.ac.uk/id/eprint/3354

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