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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Edge of Darkness: The Complete BBC Series'
(Bob Peck, Joe Don Baker, Joanne Whalley, et al / DVD / NR / (1986) 2009 / BBC Home Video)

Overview: Groundbreaking environmental-espionage shocker 'Edge of Darkness' begins routinely enough but then ratchets the suspense to levels that would have turned Hitchcock himself green with envy. Emma Craven (Joanne Whalley in her first staring role) is a young environmental activist killed in mysterious circumstances.

DVD Verdict: Originally broadcast in the winter of 1985 at the height of the special relationship between Reagan and Thatcher, the Labour party's most militant incarnation, renewed violence in Northern Ireland, and at a time when the British public's dissatisfaction with the Conservative government's ruthless economic policies and relentless courting of multinational business interests had resulted in wide-spread suspicion and cynicism of the establishment, the series was a smash-hit ratings winner which was repeated almost immediately, swept the BAFTA awards (British Emmys) and made a house-hold name out of the late, lamented Bob Peck.

Veteran screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin's script, for my money, remains the most complex, nuanced, eloquent and haunting examination of a decent man caught up in the serpentine machinations of corporate power and closed government ever written. To label this series as merely a thriller alone is both erroneous and incorrect. It transcends the genre, incorporating elements of the political thriller, ghost story, vendetta movie, spy drama, western, film noir and magic realist literature, mythological fable, ecological treatise, and all points in-between. Performances are, frankly, stunning. Bob Peck's turn as the stoic, slowly unraveling Ronald Craven is, to this day, one the finest pieces of screen acting that I have ever seen. You will never see a finer or more subtle depiction of a man who has been eviscerated by grief. His uncomprehending, hollow, dead-eyed stare will haunt you forever and the primal scream of sorrow and frustration which he gives rise to during his second confrontation with the man who killed his daughter is still one of the most chilling moments in television history.

Matching Peck pound for pound is Texan actor Joe Don Baker, whose turn as the jovial, ambiguous CIA agent, Darius Jedburgh, provides some of the most memorable moments in the series: the revisionist "show-down and soliloquy" which occurs when Jedburgh confronts one of the series' principal antagonists at a conference in Gleneagles, Scotland, towards the close of the story, is still discussed in reverent tones in British drama and screen-writing circles to this day. Both actors are ably supported by a brilliant cast which features a smorgasbord of British acting talent including Ian McNeice, Zoe Wanamaker, Charles Kay, John Woodvine and Jack Watson.

Apparently a big-screen remake of this series, featuring Mel Gibson, is currently in the offing. I can say, with absolutely no doubt in my mind, that it will never match the peerless brilliance and depth of the original. It is impossible to do justice to the complexity, elegance and eloquence of "Edge Of Darkness" in words - all I can recommend is that you rent or buy it, find a night when you are free and able to give yourself to it entirely, and truly enjoy the best of British. [DLZ] This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Alternate ending to the final episode
Music-only audio option to isolate the Eric Clapton/Michael Kamen BAFTA-winning score
Magnox: The Secrets of Edge of Darkness featuring interviews with the cast and crew
"Did You See" featuring reviews of the original BBC broadcast
Interview with Bob Peck from the BBC's Breakfast Time morning program
Highlights from the BAFTA awards and Broadcasting Press Guild Awards including interviews with Bob Peck, Joe Don Baker, and producer Michael Wearing
Photo Gallery