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Radio 4
1999 (six episodes)

Tony Bagley, whose earlier sitcom The Older Woman had featured extended fantasy and dream sequences, here created a series in which an element of unreality was integral to the plot.  Our hero is Robin Lightfoot, a rather tetchy and irritable architect and confirmed bachelor (played by Hugh Bonneville, who gave a superb display of the character’s initial self-assured rudeness).  One morning, Robin wakes up to find himself in a parallel universe, in which he appears to be married with two children.  Realising to his horror that this is not a practical joke, and that he seems irreversibly trapped in his new situation, Robin tries to make the best of it — at which point, fate begins to conspire against him in a whole new way...

Unusually for this kind of fantasy, the parallel-universe theme was not treated simply as a convenient peg on which to hang the story of Robin’s problems in dealing with his new marital circumstances: a great deal of mileage was extracted from the differences between the two worlds.  At one point, for example, having been disbelieved by just about everybody, he tries telling the truth to the young stranger who appears to be his son: “You see, I come from a parallel universe...”  “Oh,” replies the boy, with little apparent interest, “is that an inverse-gravimetric universe or a temporal neomorphic universe?”  Among the obvious comic inversions of the strange new world (Tony Blair as leader of the Conservative Party, environmentalists campaigning for the introduction of genetic modification etc) there were some very neat ideas, especially in the fourth episode, which revolved around Robin’s discovery of the comedian Arthur Smith (an uncannily accurate guest performance by Arthur Smith): alternative comedy had failed to flourish in this universe, perhaps due to the death of Margaret Thatcher in 1978, and the great man was here to be found working as a children’s entertainer, alongside a puppet pine marten.

The main theme, however, was Robin’s understandably shaky relationship with his ‘new’ wife Lesley, played by Josie Lawrence.  Quickly discovering that his own character faults pale into insignificance when compared with the infidelity and violence of the ‘other’ Robin, whom he has replaced and who is now presumably running amok in his own world, Robin surprises himself by developing increasingly strong feelings for his confused other half, who eventually comes to believe his story — until shocking events, resulting from the two Robins being jolted back into their proper dimensions for the space of a single day, leave her not knowing what to think.  The open-ended conclusion hinted at the possibility of further series.

© JB Sumner 1999.  Uploaded 16/5/99