Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The Gold of Troy

Years ago, when I worked in Bradford I was excited to realise that my workplace briefly featured in one of the greatest pieces of TV drama ever.

There it is, hiding behind John Woodvine. The drama is of course Edge of Darkness.

I was privileged to speak to its author once. I was trying to persuade him to do an event with us. At the time he was reluctant to talk about anything but the film project he was then working on and eventually decided he didn't want to come up and discuss his past work with us.
Troy Kennedy Martin was always interested in moving forward, I think.

In the 1960s he brought a filmic pace and a new dash of psychological and procedural reality to police drama with Z Cars, worked with John McGrath and Ken Loach on the series Diary of A Young Man which strove to push the form of TV drama, and wrote an influential article 'Nats Go Home' about employing techniques beyond naturalism in television.

He worked widely through the 1970s, notably on his brother Ian's creation The Sweeney, one of a revolutionary series of dramas from Thames Television's Euston Films that took mainstream British TV out of the studios and on to the streets.

In the 1980s came the piece I think of as his masterpiece- Edge of Darkness, which combined nuclear paranoia, ecological awareness and an ambiguous mysticism to astonishing effect. It is a cold war thriller where the real villain isn't one side or the other, it's the military industrial complex as a whole and it's the whole planet they're opposed to. The series is currently being remade as a movie by its original director, but I can't imagine it will have anything like the same impact reduced down for cinema.

I suspect many popular obituaries, if and when they arrive, will major on the cinema films Troy Kennedy Martin wrote, primarily The Italian Job and Kelly's Heroes, but for me his legacy isn't what he put on the big screen, it's how he stretched the box.