Continued from part one
Danger UXB negotiates two production house styles. The early successes of Euston Films could be characterised as concentrating on the underbelly of society: criminals and the police who pursued them with dubious methods. In contrast John Hawkesworth, co-creator, producer and lead writer of Danger UXB, was conservative by reputation and just as interested in the upper echelons of stratified British society as the lower ones. This was seen in his previous series Upstairs Downstairs for LWT and The Duchess of Duke Street for the BBC. This formula didn't preclude social mobility, with dramatic tension being extracted from cross-class liaisons and the accumulation of wealth and status by outsiders.
Another more specific borrowing from Upstairs Downstairs is the presence of nightclub and music hall sequences in occasional episodes. There was little room for niche television in the three-channel era, when programmes had to build a broad audiences. Consequently there's singing and dancing from Micky and her colleagues in 'The Silver Lining' and 'Butterfly Winter'. A further indication is the appearance of variety artiste Sapper Binns, played by real-life variety artiste Bryan Burdon in 'Butterfly Winter' and 'The Pier', which seem to have been made as part of the same block. 'Butterfly Winter' just happens to include a sequence filmed presumably in Chipping Norton Theatre (given where the relevant exteriors are shot) where Burdon/Binns can do his act. Not only is the sequence nostalgic for an audience which could remember pre-television variety, it draws on Burdon's own pedigree, his father being Albert Burdon, a star of music hall most associated (I learn from Louis Barfe's Turned Out Nice Again) with the slosh-spreading wallpapering routine. Binns's stagecraft, specifically his knowledge of theatrical mechanics, is presented as an asset to the company and he becomes, perhaps, Hawkesworth's tribute to the multi-skilled theatrical turns of his early career.
Binns only appears in two episodes, both directed by Douglas Camfield and presumably made as one block. The disappearance and reintroduction of regular characters without explanation was part of the reality of television production at the time, but is used to give an impression of the realities of war service and wartime lives, as people are transferred in and out of the unit with little notice, or husbands are unexpectedly invalided back to otherwise-entangled wives. It also helps suggest the passage of time. As in Upstairs Downstairs, the series had an internal chronology mapped onto the historical chronology of the period covered, but was not presented so rigidly that it could not be retroactively revised should a second series have been commissioned.
Press reaction to Danger UXB seems to have been cautious. Nancy Banks-Smith in The Guardian (9 January 1979) thought it "not... an important series" fixed on "nostalgia and noise". Banks-Smith did however note the appeal of Anthony Andrews as a leading man, "one of those golden lads with sensitive mouths", and the Daily Mirror also remarked upon Andrews's emergence as part of a new trend in male lead towards "The new, gentle man", contrasting him with the "aggressive virility" of Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins in The Professionals and likening Andrews to Patrick Ryecart of My Son, My Son (21 May 1979). Andrews continued to be raised by Mirror writers as a point of comparison with later male leads that year, such as the "mean, powerful and ruthless" John Duttine in The Mallens (who was careful to emphasise that in real life he vacuumed the carpet and helped with the cooking) (31 July 1979). The Mirror's coverage also promoted Danger UXB's public service credentials, not only through a profile of John Hawkesworth as 'TV's Past Master' (5 February 1979) but reporting how the episode 'Butterfly Winter' had led a Brighton man to realise he had put a butterfly bomb in his daughter's toy cupboard. (15 March 1979). This followed the defusing of another butterfly bomb in a bedroom in Rainham in Kent (The Guardian, 14 March 1979).
Danger UXB is available on DVD from Network.