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
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).