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Flipside of Dominick Hide, The (1980)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Flipside of Dominick Hide, The (1980)
For Play For Today, BBC1, tx. 9/12/1980, 91 mins, colour
Directed byAlan Gibson
Production CompanyBBC TV
ProducerChris Cherry
Written byJeremy Paul
 Alan Gibson

Cast: Peter Firth (Dominick Hide); Caroline Langrishe (Jane Winters); Pippa Guard (Ava); Patrick Magee (Caleb Line); Trevor Ray (Alaric); Sylvia Coleridge (Great Aunt Mavis)

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A 22nd-century time traveller finds love after visiting 1980 in search of his own ancestor.

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A rare science-fiction entry in the Play for Today (BBC, 1970-84) strand, 'The Flipside of Dominick Hide' transcends genre expectations with its engaging romance between Peter Firth's eponymous time traveller and Caroline Langrishe's 20th century Portobello Road clothes-shop owner.

The idea originally came to director Alan Gibson as a child after overhearing his relatives discussing a recent UFO report: "Since there had been sightings of flying saucers recorded throughout history, it occurred to me that they were man-made machines, time machines from the future." But although time travel is central to the plot, the underlying theme is Dominick's search for his roots; Jeremy Paul only agreed to co-script after Gibson explained that the project was as much love story as science-fiction.

Although the script's 'future-speak' has echoes of George Orwell's '1984' or Anthony Burgess's 'A Clockwork Orange' (the use of 'Hey' as a greeting now seems prescient) Paul and Gibson's vision is altogether less dystopian. Despite references to a holocaust in 1999 (as predicted by Nostradamus), life in 2130 London still consists of home and work, family and friends; household appliances still break down and require repair; Dominick travels to work on a hi-tech version of the tube, and his partner Ava works for travel agents Tom Cook (the real Thomas Cook agency were so pleased to be still operative in the 22nd century that they offered Gibson and Paul free tickets to the moon).

But this is also a sanitised society, where partners are matched by computer selection and habitually shower before sex. Central among the play's pleasures is the way Firth - who injected several of his own ideas into the script - depicts Dominick's innocent joy at every new sensory experience, whether tasting real ale or paddling in the sea. He is invigorated by his contact with the earthy, vibrant Jane, and little by little brings back some 20th century passion to his relationship with wife Ava in their comfortable yet sterile home of the future.

The futuristic representation of holographic musicians playing classical arrangements of Beatles hits was unfortunate given the play's transmission just hours after reports of John Lennon's assassination. However, the blend of quirky humour and bittersweet romance - and an avoidance of ambitious special effects (Dominick's flying saucer looks just that) - won acclaim from viewers and critics alike, and it was followed two years later by a sequel, 'Another Flip for Dominick' (BBC, tx.14/12/1982).

Richard Hewett

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Video Clips
1. Home life (3:48)
2. First flip (4:53)
3. First pint (3:45)
4. Revelations (2:03)
Firth, Peter (1953-)
Magee, Patrick (1922-1982)
Play for Today (1970-84)