The Evil of the BBC: The Flashing Blade

The festive season has made Mark Pickavance think back to his childhood, but not all his memories are good ones! One show stands out as an annual prank played by BBC schedulers: The Flashing Blade!

Flashing Blade

I’ve previously talked about The Singing Ringing Tree, which was one of those children’s programming choices the BBC made to inject European culture, as it saw it, into young minds. But it wasn’t the only one. Each summer as I was growing up they chose a couple of European serials which they cycled. There was The White Horses, Heidi, Belle and Sebastian, Robinson Crusoe (what haunting music!) and my personal favourite, The Flashing Blade.

Its proper title was Le Chevalier Tempete, and it was was a French TV production which, unusually for the period it was set in (the 1600s), had them fighting the Spanish and not the British. The two main characters, Francois de Chevalier and his comedy sidekick servant Guillot were on a dangerous mission to lift the siege on the Castle of Casal, and save the beautiful Isabelle de Sospel along the way. It was badly dubbed, but had an interesting mixture of action, humour and romance. Actually, when it was funny it was hilarious.

The amusing side of it was further explored in the 1980s when it was redubbed with a script written by Doctor Who mentor Russel T. Davies, utilising the many voices of Jon Culshaw.

So what do I remember the most about it? The end; or, to be accurate, the fact that I’ve never actually seen it. Each summer I’d watch it twice a week, until it got to the 11th episode, and then invariably I’d be forced to return to school before seeing the all important 12th. And then one year I was ill, and didn’t go back on time, so I was still at home for the final part of the story. I must have waited at least five years to see it, and so there was a degree of anticipation. And… it wasn’t on. Eh?

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I only discovered years later that the film stock the BBC had on the final episode had a fault, so they chose not to show it. In fact it was such a well-known fact that it wasn’t actually dubbed, and the only versions of it are in French with subtitles.

After I’d given up they actually showed this version, forgetting the fault – which scuppers the final minutes – and then got abuse from those children that caught it and got disappointed yet again. Apparently those that tuned into a particular Ask Aspel did actually get to see the missing ending. While it’s recently been proven, through Blue Peter, that the BBC Children’s department can be bastards, I think with The Flashing Blade they demonstrated their most unusual and cruel behaviour yet.

These days those damaged by a TV serial that never concluded can obtain the DVD, and get some closure. Although you might find yourself singing this theme song!

“You’ve got to fight for what you want, for all that you believe. It’s right to fight for what you want, to live the way we please. As long as we have done our best, and no man can do more. Then life and love and happiness, are well worth fighting for.”