blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

The Shadow of the Tower (1972) s01e10 – The Man Who Never Was

I was unprepared for The Man Who Never Was, even acknowledging the anthology nature of the show, which has had great successes, could also have great failures. And the episode is most definitely a failure. But because of casting. It’s a strange episode in general—lots of flashbacks, lots of seventies sly “oh, maybe he likes boys” hints, which then get more explicit and then what the show seems to think is obvious but it’s really sexual assault. Okay, maybe not all of it is casting this episode. Maybe director Darrol Blake just has the wrong take on how to present a lot of things. But even if he’s askew, he’s not responsible for lead Richard Warwick.

Warwick is a pretender to the throne, the most popular one, but as King James Maxwell’s reign has continued and hell hasn’t frozen over, he’s lost favor. He was in the last episode for so short a scene I didn’t remember it was Warwick, who looks so much like Dylan Walsh in am eighties blond surfer wig it’s distracting. So I was blank slate with Warwick here and, wow, is he terrible. He’s “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a bad performance on the BBC” bad. It’s like someone in casting owed a really, really, really big favor and Warwick was it.

So even though the script offers a lot of direct and indirect possibilities for the role, Warwick plays it like he’s an idiot. Sure, a victim of sorts, but because he’s an idiot. The show’s classism shows a little, as it tries to imagine his motivations dramatically and sympathetically while syncing with some historical realities. The stuff with his wife, Elizabeth MacLennan, for instance, seems like it’s there to be a control. Because otherwise it’s just Warwick trying to chew on scenery and slobbering on it instead. It’s uncomfortably bad to see. But then the show will have some bad reveal on Warwick’s past and you’ll get sympathetic—to the historical figure—again; a moment or two later, Warwick will ruin even that detached sympathy.

He’s real bad.

And I’m not sure anyone told him he was supposed to be bi. Like, the other guys in the scenes know they’re supposed to be gay, but Warwick never seems to get it. It’s very, very strange.

But it’s just one episode, right? And I said, no matter what happens, the comedies of “In the Shadow of the Tower” cement the series.

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