The Thin Blue Line – Pride and Prejudice – from Page to Screen – Patriot Games – tape 2104

This tape opens with some Eastenders, with Pauline finding that Arthur has been up to no good from Selina Cadell.

There’s a trailer for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and for One Foot in the Grave Christmas Special.

Then, an episode of The Thin Blue Line, Ben Elton’s police-based sitcom that probably marked the point where I lost some interest in his stuff. Compared to his earlier stuff, this seemed to be a bit by the numbers, with a far lower hit rate for gags. Maybe the earlier timeslot meant that he had to cut down on the number of knob and fart gags that made Filthy, Rich and Catflap such a joy.

Alexander Armstrong turns up in this episode (Kids Today) as a posh bloke in for drunk driving.

Alexander Armstrong

At least it does try to address a little realism, as constable James Dreyfuss punches a young nazi for insulting constable Mina Anwar, and gets into trouble. But the shifts from extremely broad comedy to social realism aren’t very successful.

Stephen Fry makes an appearance as an outward bounds type.

Stephen Fry

BBC Genome: BBC One – 18th December 1995 – 20:30

Recording switches to the end of The Gurkhas. There’s a trailer for Sylvie Guillem.

This is the year of some fantastic Wallace and Gromit idents.

Wallace and Gromit BBC2 Ident

Then, Pride and Prejudice – From Page to Screen. It’s a look at the task of adapting such a well-loved novel for television. Writer Andrew Davies talks about his work.

Andrew Davies

PD James also talks about what an adaptation should and shouldn’t do.

PD James

Also contributing is producer Sue Birtwhistle.

Sue Birtwhistle

Director Simon Langton

Simon Langton

Production Designer Gerry Scott

Gerry Scott

Make-Up and hair designer Caroline Noble

Caroline Noble

Alison Steadman as Mrs Bennet

Alison Steadman

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet

Jennifer Ehle

Colin Firth as Mr Darcy

Colin Firth

Choreographer Jane Gibson talks about the importance of the English Country Dancing in the serial.

Jane Gibson

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 26th December 1995 – 19:05

After this, a trailer for Much Ado About Nothing.

Then, there’s the start of Sylvie Guillem, and after a few minutes, recording switches over to BBC1. Frankly, their Christmas idents are a little disappointing after BBC2.

BBC1 Christmas Ident 1995

Now it’s the Christmas episode of The Thin Blue LineYuletide Spirit. I’m slightly disappointed they didn’t have a special version of the theme tune with sleigh bells.

There’s competition between Rowan Atkinson and David Haigh over the lead role in the pantomime. And Ben Elton appears as a hippy from a far off land, whose wife is pregnant with a metaphor.

Ben Elton

To make up for the opening titles, the end titles do actually have a Christmas inflected arrangement of the theme.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 26th December 1995 – 20:50

After this there’s a trailer for The Lenny Henry Christmas Show. Then a trailer for The Peacock Spring.

Then, Patriot Games. I was disappointed when Alec Baldwin was replaced as Jack Ryan for this follow-up to The Hunt for Red October. It’s not that I thought Harrison Ford was a bad choice, just that I thought Baldwin had been good in the first film, and deserved a shot at the franchise. Parachuting Ford in there felt like cowardice on the studio’s part. According to Baldwin himself, it sounds like it might also have been financially motivated. This story on Collider gives some details from both sides. Here’s what Baldwin said:

“On the phone, John [McTiernan] told me that during the period of the previous few months, he had been negotiating to do a film with a very famous movie star who had dropped out of his film days before so that he could go star in the sequels to The Hunt For Red October. John further told me that Paramount owed the actor a large sum of money for a greenlit film that fell apart prior to this, and pushing me aside would help to alleviate that debt and put someone with much greater strength at the box office than mine in the role.”

Putting aside what might have been, the end result isn’t too bad. Director Phillip Noyce made a big splash with Dead Calm, although his next feature, Blind Fury, was a bit silly. But he’s a capable action director, and with Harrison Ford as the action hero, all the elements are there.

Jack Ryan and his family (Anne Archer and young Thora Birch) are in London, where Jack is delivering a lecture about Soviet Fleet Developments. But while doing a bit of sightseeing, they witness an attempted kidnapping of a member of the Royal Family by IRA terrorists Sean Miller (Sean Bean) and Kevin O’Donnell (Patrick Bergin). Ryan pitches in to stop the attempt, killing Miller’s little brother in the process, setting up a revenge story.

Sean Bean

In custody, he’s interrogated by David Threlfall (with questionable Irish accent)

David Threlfall

And Alun Armstrong, both playing almost stereotypes of angry cops.

Alun Armstrong

Speaking of stereotypes, Sean Miller’s accomplice O’Donnell (Bergin), who escaped from the scene and is at liberty, finds himself under suspicion from his IRA colleagues. They pay him a visit at his picturesque cottage miles from anywhere, where he appears to relax by watching the Music video to Clannad singing the Theme from Harry’s Game. Not that they’re over-egging the terrorist theme or anything.

Patrick Bergin

He finishes off the hit squad, then his compatriot, Annette (played by Polly Walker) kills the main man in that IRA cell.

Ryan testifies at the trial, and is put away, but O’Donnell springs him as he’s being transferred.

As a bit of continuity to the first film, James Earl Jones returns as Ryan’s mentor Admiral Greer.

James Earl Jones

Samuel L Jackson also appears as a friend of Ryan.

Samuel L Jackson

Safely back at home in Annapolis, Maryland, Miller still wants revenge, and targets Ryan, and his family, in separate attacks. His wife and child are both hurt in the attack, and at the hospital, Sinn Fein spokesman Richard Harris is expressing his sadness over this terrible event, and naturally the IRA had nothing to do with these rogues.

Richard Harris

I love the scene where he’s waiting in the hospital lobby to have a photo opportunity with Ryan, and Ford silently rebukes him. Harrison Ford sternly pointing is one of my favourite things.

Harrison Ford sternly pointing

There’s some trademark Tom Clancy CIA analyst scenes, with bulletins, briefings, spy satellites. Ted Raimi pops up as one of the analysts.

Another unexpected familiar face is Lofty from Eastenders, Tom Watt, as an electrician who finds a bugging device in a bookshop being used to pass information about the Royal Family to the terrorists.

Tom Watt

The fictional member of the Royals, Lord Holmes, is played by Edward Fox.

James Fox

His secretary is Hugh Fraser.

Hugh Fraser

I’ve never trusted Fraser ever since he was one of the bad guys in Edge of Darkness and sure enough, here he’s the traitor at the heart of the monarchy.

After a strike on the North African training camp where Miller and O’Donnell are training, Lord Holmes visits Ryan at his home to present him with a knighthood (or similar). But Miller escaped the hit, and stages an attack on Ryan’s home, leading to a climax that goes a bit Cape Fear on a boat in wild weather, and, of course, Sean Bean dies in the end.

I like this film. It’s got good action, plenty of tension, Harrison Ford pointing, and some trademark Clancy spy-porn. If that’s the kind of thing you like, you can’t really go wrong here. My only quibble would be some of the dodgy Oirish accents.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 26th December 1995 – 21:20

After this, there’s a trailer for Hot Shots! and one for Billy Connolly: A Scot in the Arctic.

Then, there’s a News bulletin, leading with weather chaos across Scotland, followed by the weather.

There’s a trailer for Sorry About Last Night with Alexei Sayle and Siobhan Redmond, and a trailer for Strictly Ballroom.

Then there’s the start of Clockwise, a great film, and the tape runs out after about 20 minutes.




  1. I remember reading how Jennifer Ehle was told she couldn’t play Jesus in her (all girl’s) school’s play because Jesus wasn’t American – pity she didn’t point out that Jesus wasn’t English either… ah well.

    Meanwhile, I like “Clear And Present Danger” better than “Patriot Games,” really, not least for the bit where Jack Ryan tears a strip off the President for using his office to settle grudges (“How dare YOU, sir!”) The Orange STD* seems a lot closer to him than the one in “Air Force One”…

    *As US comedian/writer/actress Rachel Bloom dubbed him, and now my favoured expression to describe him. Use it in good health.

  2. The Thin Blue Line felt dated even in the mid-1990s. I thought it was the Rowan Atkinson equivalent of The Brittas Empire for Chris Barrie, or Dad, which Kevin McNally starred in for a couple of years around the same time. It was an agreeable half-hour’s viewing, if not exactly unmissable. I’d be surprised if many episodes stood up today.

  3. Must admit I found Patriot Games a total farce because it appeared to be sincere in its portrayal of politics that were ludicrously simplistic in its version. Maybe I should give it another go as a straight action movie, but it’s difficult to block out my real world misgivings. C&PD I liked better, haven’t seen the later ones, but Red October is probably the best Clancy adaptation.

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