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Paranoid VisionsSpies, Conspiracies and the Secret State in British Television Drama$
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Joseph Oldham

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781784994150

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784994150.001.0001

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Conspiracy as a crisis of procedure in Bird of Prey (BBC 1, 1982) and Edge of Darkness (BBC 2, 1985)

Conspiracy as a crisis of procedure in Bird of Prey (BBC 1, 1982) and Edge of Darkness (BBC 2, 1985)

(p.102) 4 Conspiracy as a crisis of procedure in Bird of Prey (BBC 1, 1982) and Edge of Darkness (BBC 2, 1985)
Paranoid Visions

Joseph Oldham

Manchester University Press

This chapter examines a strand of topical BBC conspiracy dramas from the 1980s which utilised the serial form’s increasing popularity for original drama. Drawing upon 1970s Hollywood films, these presented a paranoid narrative showing the collapse of the procedural certainties that had characterised earlier spy series. Firstly, the chapter closely examines Ron Hutchinson’ Bird of Prey (BBC 1, 1982), which dramatised the rise of a gangster capitalism emerging from continental Europe and a growing surveillance state. It then analyses Troy Kennedy Martin’s Edge of Darkness (BBC 2, 1985), a more prestigious serial which provided a closer response to the ascendance of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government and its pursuit of free market economics. The resultant abandonment of the social-democratic consensus fundamentally challenged the very basis of the BBC’s ‘rejection of politics’, and these serials are read as allegorical expressions of a new collapse of certainty in the Corporation’s constitutional position.

Keywords:   Edge of Darkness, Bird of Prey, Conspiracy, Paranoid Narrative, Surveillance, Serial, Thatcher, Free Market

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