The Dust Diggers: Episode 1 Commentary

[posted 8:00 am, 4 November 2014]

At last, a Robert Holmes script, and even Katy likes it. Might have something to do with the miners’ strike.

(CONTENT WARNING: This story will deal with sexual violence and mental illness. See Help Links for more information about these issues.)

MANDY: Hello, I’m Amanda Cadewell, and I’m joined by,

KATY: Dame Peggy Ashcroft. Not really, of course. I’m just Katy Froade.

MANDY: And sadly this is the final Time Girls story.

KATY: At last, we got a Bob Holmes script. I loved this one.

MANDY: Yes, it was very good. I think it was really about the miners, wasn’t it?

KATY: Yes, but we couldn’t say that or it would have been banned.

MANDY: Bob was very subtle. He knew how to slip things in. And he always showed both sides.

KATY: Yes, he was a bit cynical and often made everyone out to be just as bad, but he didn’t shy away from criticising things that were wrong. I think he was very brave to write this. It was brave of anyone to stand up to-

MANDY: Bob Holmes, of course, sadly no longer with us.

KATY: It’s shocking to think that when he died, he was younger than we are now.

MANDY: This is a very good model shot.

KATY: Is this all we see of the outside? We didn’t go on location for this one, did we?

MANDY: No, it was all in the studio.

KATY: Even Bob couldn’t get away from exploring corridors.

MANDY: He set most of it in the mines because he knew it would be cheap to make.

KATY: Who directed this one?

MANDY: It was Pennant Roberts again. Of course, he directed our first one.

KATY: I thought Maloney directed us once. Have we had that one?

MANDY: No, they’ve lost all of it.

KATY: That’s such a shame. He was a joy to work with.

MANDY: Oh, absolutely. … My goodness me. They’ve put an awful lot of make-up on you.

KATY: I hadn’t been sleeping very well. I was exhausted by the time we did this.

MANDY: You poor thing. Oh, there’s Bob Grant!

KATY: Scarsdale. I wonder who he’s named after.

MANDY: Yes, some of it was a bit near the knuckle.

KATY: And Timothy Bateson’s in it again.

MANDY: Oh yes, it was lovely to have him back. He’s playing the reasonable one, and Bob Grant stands for the loony left.

KATY: I think it’ll turn out that the real loonies are on the other side. Which is often the way.

MANDY: I suppose it is sometimes. Who’s this giving him the money?

KATY: I’m not sure. He looks very young.

MANDY: I think he was famous for something else a bit later. Was it a sitcom?

KATY: There was one with two doctors, and people got them mixed up.

MANDY: I don’t think he was in that. It may have been one where he went back to live with his parents and they couldn’t get rid of him.

KATY: Oh yes, there were lots of those. Was it the one with John Thaw?

MANDY: No, that was someone else.

KATY: Now we are seeing the other side.

MANDY: I’m sure they’ll be every bit as bad.

KATY: Or worse.

MANDY: Here we can see Maggie Tyzack and Bill Dysart.

KATY: It’s a wonderful cast, isn’t it? No prizes for guessing who Maggie and Bill are supposed to be.

MANDY: I’m still amazed that we got away with this. I can imagine the uproar if Rory Bremner had done it.

KATY: The thing is, nobody paid attention to Time Girls. Except Mary Whitehouse, and she was too dim to understand allusions.

MANDY: Yes, the first series was much more controversial, but I’m sorry to say it was seen as a bit of a joke in the eighties.

KATY: And here’s Garfield Morgan.

MANDY: He was so lovely.

KATY: I was in The Sweeney with him. That was my first telly.

MANDY: He did a sitcom not long after this. I auditioned but I didn’t get it.

KATY: You can’t win them all. Plenty more sitcoms in the sea.

MANDY: This dialogue is very good, isn’t it?

KATY: Yes, you can tell it’s Bob Holmes. It was very topical too. The same debates were going on in real life. He would have been writing it when-

MANDY: Oh! That gave me a fright!

KATY: I’m not sure if this was in the script at first. Bob wasn’t very keen on rubber monsters.

MANDY: It was a very tricky scene. Whenever I tried to shoo them away, my arms got caught in the wires.

KATY: I know. I got very dizzy.

MANDY: Oh, the young chap is working for Garfield too.

KATY: I think he works for everyone. Or just for himself. Of course, he’s supposed to be a yuppie, isn’t he?

MANDY: Oh yes, I expect the fizzy water is to do with that too. Graham and I used to drink it sometimes. There was nothing wrong with it, really. I don’t know why certain people were so het up.

KATY: In those days it was very unusual to buy water in a bottle. It seemed obscenely extravagant when people were starving. “Let them drink fizzy water”.

MANDY: Maggie’s drinking it too.

KATY: Oh dear. She’s got a pet snake. At least she isn’t cackling.

MANDY: No, no, she was never one for overacting. At last, we’ve got away from those … things.

KATY: These tunnels are quite atmospheric. They got the lighting right for once. … Oh no! I fluffed my line!

MANDY: We were all under a lot of pressure. There wasn’t really enough studio time.

KATY: … That’s a very impressive piece of bafflegab.

MANDY: I’ve no idea what it means. We don’t have a geologist in the family.

KATY: This was a real pickaxe, not a prop. It was very heavy.

MANDY: A nice bit of business.

KATY: I think it’s a plot point. … You see, the miners don’t like it at all.

MANDY: They’re awfully rude to come in shouting that.

KATY: Bob’s writing was always authentic. Sometimes a bit too much and he got in trouble for it.

MANDY: Bob Grant is so good here. He can be funny and frightening at the same time.

KATY: Cliffhanger!

MANDY: Lots of other episodes ended like this, but Bob Holmes still managed to make it exciting.

KATY: How will he get us out of it? I’m sure it’ll be more imaginative than some of Derek’s ideas.

MANDY: Neil Brubby! He’s the yuppie.

KATY: Oh yes! He was in a sitcom.

MANDY: That was a very good episode, wasn’t it?

KATY: Yes, I’m impressed.

MANDY: (WHISPERING) There’s a first time for everything, viewers.

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