Dystopian ITV or BBC pilot from 1980s?
July 18, 2013 4:35 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to locate a MeFi link from perhaps a year ago to a cancelled or unaired ITV/BBC pilot from the 1980s, and none of my MeFi/google/youTube searches in the past hour has unearthed it. Please help!

There was a soldier guarding a lone woman living in the English countryside. He was also alone, but supervised via a TV monitor that would display various text instructions, some of which were spoken by the voice of John Hurt: things like "serve and protect," "stay vigilant," "do not leave the bunker," and "you are the only guard in this sector." Anyone recall this or have the magic search terms?
posted by dickyvibe to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Was the voice actually John Hurt's, or did it just sound like his voice?
posted by goo at 5:50 PM on July 18, 2013

Response by poster: Definitely him.
posted by dickyvibe at 6:05 PM on July 18, 2013

Hmm. I've just been googling this for the past few hours, both on MeFi and on the internet at large, and have come up with nothing. I've trawled Hurt's IMDB listing as well as his filmography on the BFI database. Mind if I ask a few questions, just in case there's any other info in your brain that might help?

- Did you actually see video of this show? Did you watch the whole thing, or just a clip? Do you remember if it was on YouTube, or another site?
- Do you remember if the pilot/show was the subject of a front page post on the blue, or in a comment on the blue/elsewhere on the site?
- Are you sure it was cancelled/unaired? Hurt appeared in a few 'lost' episodes of ITV's Play of the Week teleplays and suchlike—could it have been a 'lost' episode instead? (A number of 'missing, believed wiped' BBC and ITV shows were discovered in the US Library of Congress a few years ago, so perhaps there's a connection there?)
- Do you remember any other details of the show, no matter how insignificant?
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 8:12 PM on July 18, 2013

Response by poster: Yes, I've been through the same fruitless search! I do remember a good deal about it...

- I definitely watched the video of the whole episode: ~30 min long, I believe. I can't be sure it was YouTube, but it was not a download; i.e., it was hosted somewhere.

- I am not sure whether it was an FPP or a comment. I thought it might be related to one of the BBC "Black Mirror" posts, but couldn't find anything there, either. There is a small chance it was not from the MeFi universe, but I can't picture any other sites I read having such a detailed description.

- I recall the context describing it as being judged "too dark to air" at the time of its creation, and thus not pursued as a series. The post/comment also warned viewers that the themes were extremely grim.

Other details:

I am now certain the phrase repeated by the supervisor was "Watch and protect. Watch and protect."

I think the population was decimated by some sort of virus, and the soldiers were in place to kill any infected citizens.

The soldier eventually tries to turn off the video display, but it powers back on of its own accord.

The soldier, watching the woman through binoculars, sees she is on her own and without food. He eventually goes against orders and leaves the bunker to bring her some of his own supplies.


At one point, a dog makes its way into the soldier's bunker; there is a POV shot from the dog's perspective. The soldier only sees the dog when it is very close to him, and I think he kills it, fearing it is infected.

On a subsequent visit by the soldier, the woman appears to be infected with the virus, and asks the soldier to kill her. He either can't or won't at that point. Once he returns to his bunker, he sees her condition deteriorate, and eventually shoots her from the bunker, although he closes his eyes before the shot.

In the end, it turns out the entire situation is a training exercise to test the commitment of the soldier, and the woman turns out to be alive and drives off with an observer.
posted by dickyvibe at 9:07 PM on July 18, 2013

Best answer: Ah! Found it! It's called "The Snipist."

The Snipist at IMDB

It was indeed a BBC Playhouse Presents. It used to be available on Vimeo but the vid is now private. It looks like it was released just last year but I remember it had a distinctly 80s style.

EXISTENZ, thanks for making me recall more details! "Watch and Protect" got me the right result.
posted by dickyvibe at 9:16 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Here's the SkyArts link: The Snipist.

Not sure why I thought it was a cancelled series. Thanks again for the help!
posted by dickyvibe at 9:22 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ah! The Sniper came up in my search (for "john hurt"+"bunker", I think), but I dismissed it as it's from last year rather than the 80s. But I guess that makes sense, as it's by Matthew Holness, whose primary medium is 80s UK TV pastiche. His show Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, for example, was ' presented as a lost classic: a television series produced in the 1980s, though never broadcast at the time.'

You probably initially found The Sniper via this post on the blue from January about two short films by Matthew Holness. The other film mentioned, A Gun For George, is available to watch on the Film 4 website (if you're in the UK; not sure if the video will work outside).

Anyway, I'm glad you found it!
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 10:39 AM on July 19, 2013

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