To Serve Them All My Days (30 plus years later) -SPOILERS
Can't hardly grasp that it was 30 plus years ago when I first saw this. Well - if we can believe IMDB then "To Serve Them All My Days" started its run in the US in October of 1982. I was just about ready to hit 21 years old and had become a fairly avid watcher of the British shows imported by PBS. I saw the first run of TSTAMD and (I think) saw it one other time when it was re-run in the mid-Eighties. It wasn't my favorite Brit show by any means --but it was in the top 5 or 6. I think back then that my interest in the series kind of flagged about 2/3 of the way through. Right at the time that Alcock died.
Recently I decided to view TSTAMD again and see how my interest would hold up all of these years later. I just finished today. I got through the whole series --- a wonderful production --quite pleased. The greatest compliment I can give is to say that it has encouraged me to go ahead and to order Delderfield's book. Remarkable feeling running these episodes ("casting" --as my kids call it- from my cell phone on to the TV). In effect bringing myself back to 1982 while at the same time the production is putting me into post WW1 Britain.
Just some middle-aged observations: My God -how Delderfield made PJ's life hard. This guy has it worse than Job. Loses his father and 2 brothers in a single day (mining accident) ---then gets thrown into 3 years of trench warfare--- then loses his first wife (the love of his life) in a single day along with two of his daughters (again in single day) in a road accident (actually I think he only loses one daughter in the book --- in the series both daughters died). Then he gets jilted by a floozy and then hooks up with a very complicated lady politician --- at Bamfylde he also has many challenges. In his life he had many ups and to my way of thinking anyway-- too many downs. Oh well --I guess the requirements of drama....
John Duttine carried the load in being the lead here ---and he did it well. Funny scene: PJ goes to a doctor for a check-up on the eve of his first marriage. Expresses concerns about his lack of libido. "A virgin at 23 ...now that's a bit unusual isn't it?" -- he says with wide-eyed glistening innocence. Duttine pulls the scene off in fine fashion.
Algy Herries - the head dean (F. Middlemass) -- He really rubs off on you. So decent and optimistic - so steady. I find myself starting to imitate him. One of my sons last week told me it was too hot outside to mow the lawn...instantly I responded...."My goodness me! I dare say you're right...hot as an iron it is ....but what to do...you wouldn't expect an old geezer like me to go in your place. That wouldn't do."
Howath -- (A. Mcnaughton) --I was ready to toss Howath out as just a sarcastic old cynic but in watching the series again now I think I can understand better ---he really is a fully realized human being--with his own load of loneliness to bear.
Alcock -(Charles Kay) --A special prize for him. I enjoyed the Alcock episodes especially. Great work by Charles Kay. He can speak volumes with just a look.
Carter -- (Neil Stacey) --- I don't remember exactly what I thought about the Carter character back in 1982 ====probably thought of him just as Howath describes him ---"a tame jingo". But in this watching that I just finished I had a bit more understanding of him. In fact in the dispute over the monument I thought he made considerably more sense in the matter than PJ did.
One of the links that run through the series is PJ's relationships with women. I wonder if the compulsuary bedroom scene's were all filmed on the same day -they are so alike. Just like one girl jumped in as the other jumped out. But all three are quite different personalities and in some respects they represent opposites of one another. All three actresses did marvelous work here. My favorite though was Beth (Belinda Lang) -- a very lovely and sweet girl. Sorry to lose the character in such a a horrible way so early in the story. Makes me wonder if Delderfield would have been better off keeping her in the picture to stay by David's side while he is tempted by the other two women as time goes on. It would have been interesting to see how their marriage would have held up under the pressure.
Sitting here 30 years later at age 52 some things about the show jarred me a bit. Yes = a couple of things kind of rattled me. One thing is that by the end of the series it is as if PJ has crossed an entire lifetime --a huge gulf. The thing of it is though that he came to Bamfylde in his early 20's in 1917 or 1918 and by the end of the series (which I take to be 1939 or 1940. He can't be much older than 45 years old ---hell that's 7 years younger than me. I'm starting to identify more with Howath at this point than with PJ! Now I'm the specter at the feast. God help me. But by the same token there are some more positive things that I can dwell on. For instance---the series was adapted by Andrew Davies who is now 77 years old and still ACTIVE-- working as a writer. In fact I was shocked to see the credits he has accumulated since 1980 ---An amazing career.