I’d love to hunt down a copy of this one day. Check out that cast. It also included Ciaran Hinds. I remember Tim Roth’s performance being one of his most exuberantly evil. It was a tv play on BBC 1 in 1990, part of The Play On 1 strand that I think was a belated and brief replacement for Play For Today. Because, back then, we could do strands of hour-long standalone originals on tv.
Written by Malcolm McKay, whose Wikipedia entry surfaces this note about another play in the Play On 1 strand that he wrote, AIRBASE:
His writing has always dealt with extreme behaviour and includes the controversial BBC play Airbase which dealt metaphorically with drug abuse on a USAF base in England. The play achieved notoriety after it was mentioned in Parliament and the Lords after Prime Minister Thatcher demanded a copy, the Chairman of the BBC, Marmaduke Hussey publicly apologised for the content, and Mary Whitehouse, of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, issued a second apology to President Reagan on the behalf of the British people.
Anyway, this is what YELLOWBACKS was about:
Chilling drama set in the future when draconian powers have been given to the authorities under the new Secret Emergency Provisions of the Dangerous Disease Act. Dr Juliet Horwitz finds herself hooded, handcuffed and interrogated by a ruthless pair, as does a scientist Alex McPherson, both of whom are the key to finding Martin Pitt, a virus carrier who has disappeared.
I watched it on the night it was broadcast, and haven’t ever seen it since. The AIDS-inflected plot had faded from memory, and I just retain the sense of its British Dystopia atmosphere, its clever details, the recollection of its grim tension, and some immense acting. We have a vast amount of lost gems in the televisual history of this country. Imagine: The Play On 1 alone generated thirty plays – 60-90 minute films, is my memory – in two or three years.