The Flipside of Dominick Hide / Another Flip for Dominick Review

The futuristic dialogue, special effects on a BBC budget, even Peter Firth’s slight resemblance to Colin Baker – it’s easy to get bogged down in the science-fiction elements during The Flipside of Dominick Hide’s opening scenes, but this would be to miss the point somewhat. It was, after all, a Play for Today and should be considered first and foremost as a love story. Certainly, you cannot avoid the sci-fi trappings – indeed, they are ultimately integral – but neither should they become a distraction.

The eponymous Dominick Hide (played by Firth) is a time traveller from the year 2130 who is surveying the London transport system of 1980. Such surveillances are undertaken from the air, high above the earth in flying saucer, yet our hero is compelled to land when he hears of an ancestor – also named Dominick Hide – who lived at the time. The course of science fictions and, especially, love stories never running smoothly, he soon meets Jane (Caroline Langrishe) and is risking his 2130 life for a burgeoning romance in the past.

Looking back at The Flipside… after 25 years it understandably comes with a great deal of charm. In part this is owing to its age, yet what surprises is just how much of this relates the story itself and goes beyond mere period charm. As Dominick gets acquainted with 20th century life there is of course much play on the culture clash, but the majority of it comes down to the love story itself. Indeed, everything about The Flipside… is geared towards this, so much so that even the suspense derived from the science-fiction elements, for example, is directed not so much at the characters themselves and whether they live, die or are forbidden from time travelling again, but the effects this may have on their relationship.

Furthermore, writers Jeremy Paul and Alan Gibson (who also directs) are confident enough in these futuristic elements that they never feel the need to overemphasise them. Rather, they rely a great deal on hints and allusions. We are never given any explanation, for example, as to how the time travel works, or various other technological concerns, and neither do we care to know. Instead, this is science-fiction in which the lead characters spend “a dirty weekend in a guesthouse” – hardly the kind of piece where we’d expect ourselves to ask such questions.

Indeed, there’s something terrifically clever about The Flipside…, whether it be the way in which it’s been carefully constructed or the manner in which it’s been cast. As the play progresses, and the logic of the piece becomes more apparent, it takes on some more unexpected edges. Gibson and Paul are able to mine a seemingly harmless practical joke for a great deal of cruelty (helped no less by Firth’s ability to play sheer innocence, as seen in the early stages of Aces High or the 1976 TV version of The Picture of Dorian Gray) or turn to most throwaway of actions into the most heart stopping of moments. What’s happening is that we are slowly beginning to truly care about these people, and this of course comes down to the performances of Firth and Langrishe. There’s a great chemistry there, and not only is it a believable one, but also a mature one. In fact, it’s this latter element which allows the tiny gags around the edges to become all the more enjoyable, especially the little dig at the BBC budget which sneaks in towards the end.

Two years later and Paul, Gibson and the majority of their cast and crew returned for a sequel, Another Side of Dominick, again screened as part of the Play for Today strand. Of course, it becomes a more difficult piece to discuss as spoilers relating to the first must be avoided, and as such the following paragraphs will present a less specific overview. That said, such an approach is actually strangely fitting as Another Flip… is far less focussed that its predecessor and, comparatively speaking, something of a letdown.

In narrative terms we likewise arrive two years later, in 2132 and 1982 respectively. Dominick has now been promoted to leader of a group of time travellers, but has to return to the past (and his own past) when one of charges goes missing near Fulham. With his return we of course revisit many of the situations, if not all the characters, from The Flipside… and in this respect it’s difficult not to detect a certain in-jokey quality. Indeed, the first play had picked up a sizeable cult following since its initial transmission, which may explain away much of this, but more important is the fact that Gibson and Paul don’t real have a central narrative to hold onto. (You could argue that the strong sense of completion to The Flipside… prevented a sequel from being worthwhile prospect, no matter how much we may wish to catch up with the characters again.)

Rather the briefer running time (82 minutes as opposed to a full hour and a half) is occupied by what would, in the first, mostly have been digressions or of minimal importance. As well as the expected rehashes of certain elements we also find room for time travel complications, a hostage drama, marital breakdown, ill children and more than a little indulgence. Perhaps the last can be forgiven owing to the strengths and popularity of the original, but it also takes the place of what had previously been a delicate vein of gentle humour. As such we’re left with a piece that is no doubt welcome on this disc, though it’s unlikely it will be revisited as often as the first. [Note that the eight out of ten rating awarded in the sidebar is made up from a nine of ten for The Flipside… and six out of ten for Another Flip…]

The Disc

For this Region 2 UK release, the BBC have partnered The Flipside… and Another Flip… on the same dual-layered DVD. Offering both plays in their original 4:3 ratios and with mono soundtracks, their presentations are easily the equal of their initial TV screenings. Indeed, they may not be to quite the standards of the BBC’s fine Doctor Who restorations, but then this needn’t be a major problem. In both cases, the plays are free from any conspicuous damage (even if the material shot on film does demonstrate the occasional scratch) and there are few technical flaws to speak of for both the sound and image, though Another Flip… is perhaps the grainier of the two and does prompt some artefacting. That said, fans will no doubt welcome the release of both onto DVD and easily overlook any misgivings.

As for extras, the disc also finds room for a brief excerpt from Did You See?, the Newsnight Review of its day. Of course, this piece likewise comes with a certain period charm and has more novelty value than anything else (though it does demonstrate The Flipside…’s popularity from the off), but it’s a welcome addition nonetheless. And alongside the disc we also have a lengthy booklet of viewing notes which contains enough nuggets of trivia (if very little analysis) to keep the fans happy. Moreover, the DVD itself represents great value for money inasmuch as it offers both plays at a reasonable price, irrespective of its special features.

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out of 10

Last updated: 04/06/2018 09:32:17

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