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Backward BBC

The Thirty-Nine Step

On December 24th 2017, Vicky Allan wrote in the Sunday Herald about the dearth of Scottish literary works adapted for television by the BBC. She certainly has a point; try this - can you think of anything by a Scottish writer which has been adapted by BBC TV since 2000?

I came up with three; the ho-hum 2008 TV film of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, the New Zealand-shot version of Kidnapped screened in 2005 and Monarch of the Glen, the contemporary-set embarrassment that was claimed to be inspired by the work of Compton Mackenzie, who is probably still rotating at a considerable rate underground. Scottish writers do, of course, write drama within the system (Steven Moffatt, for example) while the odd Scottish setting does creep in, such as in Shetland. However, the BBC shies away from any meaningful depiction of Scottish life, past or present, and takes refuge behind unconvincing statistics about the level of Scottish-originated drama output. These figures are always misleading because, to give one example, the dire Waterloo Road schoolsoap was classed as Scottish output even before its narratively-improbable relocation to Greenock.

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issue 46 is now available to download. C’est la gemme !