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Enemy at the Door (1978-80)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Enemy at the Door (1978-80)
LWT for ITV, 21/01/1978-29/03/1980
26 x 60 min episodes in two series, colour
Directors includeBill Bain
 Christopher Hodson
 Jonathan Alwyn
Writers includeMichael Chapman
 James Doran

Cast: Alfred Burke (Major/Oberst Richter); Bernard Horsfall (Dr Philip Martel); John Malcolm (Oberleutnant Kluge); Simon Cadell (Hauptmann/Hauptsturmfuhrer Reinicke); Simon Lack (Major Freidel); Emily Richard (Clare Martel); Richard Heffer (Peter Porteous)

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The Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands from June 1940 leads to tremendous hardship for the inhabitants of Guernsey, who are torn between the desire to fight and the need to collaborate just to maintain barely acceptable standards of living.

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Enemy at the Door was devised by Michael Chapman and chronicled, sometimes in exacting detail, the effects of the Nazi invasion of the Channel Islands between 1940 and 1943. It was hastily labelled by some as ITV's answer to Secret Army (BBC, 1977-79), as both looked at Nazi occupation from the twin perspective of the invaders and the civilian population and shared many of the same writers, including John Brason, N.J. Crisp, Robert Barr and even Chapman himself.

In fact, it probably has more in common with Chapman's melancholy Public Eye (ITV, 1965-75), recruits from which include lead actor Alfred Burke, writers John Kershaw and James Doran and directors Bill Bain and Jonathan Alwyn. Enemy at the Door's achievement, however, is entirely its own, presenting stories and characters that explore the complex issues of alienation and wartime collaboration in a multi-faceted and surprisingly subtle fashion.

Most of the episodes spring from minutiae and expand exponentially, usually ending tragically. 'After the Ball' (tx. 4/2/1978) strangely but effectively links the requisitioning of a father's Rolls Royce with the daughter's claim of rape against an amorous Nazi soldier who she followed to a dance. The Nazis return the car and execute the soldier, though clearly her claim is mainly about saving face. 'The Polish Affaire' (tx. 4/3/1978) starts with a request for 150 bicycles, before surprisingly twisting into an espionage story worthy of John le Carré, an inspiration signalled to alert viewers by naming a central figure after Jim Prideaux, a major character from le Carré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (later filmed by the BBC).

'The Jerrybag' (tx. 18/3/1978), by N.J. Crisp, probably represents the highpoint of series 1. A love affair blooms between a young German officer (David Beames) and a lonely Island woman (Norma Streader), both of whom are eventually cut off from their own respective societies when she becomes pregnant. This powerful storyline, unusually spread over a whole year, was continued into the darker second series, which also introduced a real-life character.

While striving for a sense of day-to-day reality, the series was shown well before the 9 o'clock watershed, consequently holding back from showing too much of the grim reality of the situation. Had a third series continued after 1943, it would have had to face up to the appalling privations that everyone on the islands endured when all supplies were cut off after the Normandy landings.

Sergio Angelini

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Video Clips
'The Jerrybag' Part 1 (18:58)
'The Jerrybag' Part 2 (14:48)
'The Jerrybag' Part 3 (16:24)
1. A new job (2:58)
2. After the dance (2:38)
3. Erich's interview (4:08)
4. Acceptance (2:44)
'Allo 'Allo (1984-92)
Barr, Robert (1909-1999)
London Weekend Television (LWT)
WWII Dramas