Climate change, cloning and the prevalence of technology: not only are these some of sci-fi’s most fruitful topics, they’re some of the most divisive issues of today. With that in mind, classic British children’s TV show Timeslip is eerily prescient, having confronted these subjects head on in its short but enduringly popular run.
Originally aired in 1970, the ATV production follows the adventures of two children who discover a time barrier – a portal through which they can travel to both the past and the future. Feisty Liz Skinner (Cheryl Burfield) and bookish Simon Randall (Spencer Banks) first travel back to World War II, before finding themselves in the distant, dystopian future of… 1990.
Past, present and alternate futures intertwine as the series progresses, and the result is an unexpectedly complex comment on identity and the misuse of technology. All this is dressed up in the homespun garb of a low-budget 70s TV production, but the ideas powering Timeslip are interesting enough for its technical deficiencies to be overlooked.
Unfortunately, these ideas take their time in coming to the fore. Though it serves its purpose as a more grounded introduction to the characters and concepts, Timeslip’s first serial is also its weakest. It’s only when Liz and Simon jump forward in time – first to a futuristic research base in Antarctica, and then to a tropical England afflicted by global warming – that the show really begins to shine.
Nostalgia, or lack thereof, will probably define just how much you’ll get out of Timeslip in 2016. But even for those unfamiliar with the show, it’s not hard to see why it remains a fondly remembered touchstone of British TV sci-fi. And for long-time fans, Network’s reissue is definitive, packing in a documentary, a 2005 mini-episode and almost everything else that could be hoped for, short of the show’s lost colour tapes.
More than a little antiquated, but also charming and ambitious, Timeslip manages to be both dated and refreshingly ahead of its time.