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World on Fire/BBC 1

In best Rust traditions we review a series after – not before – the final episode.

The drama is set in 1941 and there are several independent plot lines.

(1) Robina (Lesley Manville) is a snobbish, bossy Englishwoman of a certain type who has billeted with her Kasia, the Polish lover of her son Harry, his child Vera by Lois, Jan the brothers of Kasia and, finally, MI5 agent Sir James (Mark Bonnar) who proposes marriage to her;

(2) soldiers fighting in the North Africa campaign including an Indian regiment;

(3) a young German girl who is so indoctrinated by the Nazis that she is prepared to be made pregnant not by, but for, the Führer;

and  (4) a Jewish RAF pilot who bails out over France and is rescued by a nurse working for the Resistance.

Of the cast Lesley Manville is the best in her portrayal of a silly upper class woman who in the end evinces our sympathy. She has those mannerisms of nervous adjustment of clothing and sighing which are so typical.

Much is in foreign dialogue with sub titles.

Whilst the location, plot development and acting are powerful, there is only one problem – imposed diversity.

The best friend and colleague of Lois, the ambulance driver, is black – so here is an internee in a French prison apparently paying lip service to the diversity department yet lacking dramatic credibility.

There is also the problem that there is no wrap-up in the end and everything is left lying in the air. The explanation for this may be the possibility of another series.

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About Bernadette Angell

After cutting her journalistic teeth in Boston USA, Bernadette met and married an Englishman, whom she followed back to London. Two decades and three children later, they divorced. She now occupies herself as a freelance writer (credits include television soaps and radio plays) and occasional amateur gardener. More Posts