DAD’S ARMY: THE LOST EPISODES / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: BEN KELLETT / SCREENPLAY: JIMMY PERRY, DAVID CROFT / STARRING: KEVIN MCNALLY, ROBERT BATHURST, KEVIN ELDON, DAVID HAYMAN, TIMOTHY WEST, TOM ROSENTHAL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The sitcom is an undervalued art form. Its burden is to make it seem easy to create a set of characters that a wide audience can engage with and come back to time after time. Dad’s Army is one of the very best British examples of this. Since its first broadcast back in 1968, it has rarely been far from television screens and enjoys solid audiences in repeats to this day. Well, almost all of it. Back in the mists of time the BBC had the great cost cutting idea that to save on space, resources and to reuse tape they would just wipe what was already on it, the programme lost forever. Dad’s Army was not immune to this and three episodes were permanently lost.
To mark the show’s 50th anniversary, a project was devised to bring those episodes back using a new cast. These Lost Episodes are all from the second series and feature a cast headed up by Kevin McNally as Captain Mainwaring and Robert Bathurst as Sergeant Wilson. The mise-en-scène of the show is faithfully recreated and the cast mostly give careful, respectful performances that are approximations of the originals, more homage than pastiche. The episode scripts themselves are solid examples of what makes the show great. Well drawn characters, classic sitcom set-ups and some laugh out loud moments are all here. It’s actually really well done and serves as a compliment to the original series.
There’s nothing especially remarkable about the production in terms of direction or anything else, and as it’s a recent production everything is crystal clear with no complaints about picture or sound. Complementing the episodes are a decent set of extras, most in the form of cast interviews. Every one of them says the same thing about the opportunity to take part in the production that it was not one they could turn down and there’s a lot of affection and reverence for the original cast that comes through. Outtakes are not always worth their time but the ones included here show a cast at the top of their game having fun making mistakes and there’s plenty to enjoy in this decent round of extras.
Some of the cast make the point that there’s no reason they would have done the shows if it was a reboot or remake. Instead, this is an important part of entertainment history being recreated and, in that respect, it is as successful as could have been hoped. Fans of the series should appreciate this and enjoy the experiment and for them this is an easy one to recommend picking up.