Timeslip

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Timeslip is a British children's science fiction television series made by ATV for the ITV network and broadcast between 1970 and 1971. The series centres around two children, Simon Randall (Spencer Banks) and Liz Skinner (Cheryl Burfield) who discover the existence of a strange anomaly, known as the “Time Barrier”, that enables them to travel in time to different historical periods in alternate pasts and futures. The two children have contrasting personalities; whereas Simon is studious, Liz is something of a tomboy, and this often leads to conflict between the two. However, as the series progresses, their antagonism matures into a deep bond of friendship.

The main theme of the series is concerned with the way mankind uses – and abuses – science and technology. It explores how the pursuit of scientific knowledge and advancement can lead to the depersonalisation of individuals and the abandonment of moral principles.[1] A secondary theme – explored in the instances where Liz and Simon encounter potential future versions of themselves – concerns the extent to which an individual can change according to the situations encountered in his or her life.[2]

Contents

Plot summary

—Introduction by Peter Fairley, Timeslip: “The Time of the Ice Box”, episode 1

The Wrong End of Time

In the first serial, “The Wrong End of Time”, Simon, whose mother has died recently, has been taken on holiday by the Skinner family – father Frank (Derek Benfield), mother Jean (Iris Russell) and daughter Liz – to the village of St Oswald. Frank had served at the (now abandoned) naval research base in St Oswald during World War II, where he had suffered a mental breakdown. This has left him with no recollection of what happened during his time there. Also staying at St Oswald is a man called Charles Traynor (Denis Quilley), who reveals that he was Skinner's commanding officer at the base during the war. Traynor had ordered Skinner to destroy the apparatus the scientists at the base were working on, and he is eager to learn from Skinner if he succeeded in the task. This is because a German expeditionary team attacked and took over the base for a short time in 1943. The German commander, Gottfried (Sandor Elès), is now a prominent scientist on the other side of the Iron Curtain, and Traynor is concerned that if the research work done at the base had fallen into his hands, it could be used against the West. While out playing near the ruins of the naval base, Liz and Simon encounter the Time Barrier for the first time. They are transported back to 1943, to the very day the Germans took over the base. There they encounter both Traynor, who is commander of the base, and Liz's father, a young naval recruit (played by John Alkin). A link is maintained to the present via Liz's mother, who is able to communicate telepathically with her daughter. When the Germans arrive, Liz and Simon are initially captured, but then escape and succeed in helping young Frank Skinner carry out Traynor's orders to destroy the secret apparatus – a prototype laser weapon – before the Germans can seize it. They escape back through the Time Barrier, but instead of returning to St Oswald in their time of 1970, they find themselves in an icy wilderness.

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