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DVD Review

DVD cover

Oh Doctor Beeching!
The Complete First and Second Series


Starring: Paul Shane, Jeffrey Holland, Su Pollard, Julia Deakin and Stephen Lewis
Acorn Media UK
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: PG
Available 20 July 2009

Travel back in time to 1963, and please alight at the small branch railway station of Hatley, threatened with closure under the Beeching Axe. Paul Shane stars as porter Jack Skinner, married to the café-managing May, who was once in a close relationship with new station master Cecil Parkin. Also on the platform of this quaint and quirky railway station are booking clerk Ethel Schumann and signalman and jack-of-all-trades (all of them off the books) Harry Lambert...

I have to admit to not having overly fond memories of Oh Doctor Beeching! and was expecting this to be a bit of a chore to review. I was remembering the lowbrow humour of Hi-de-Hi and the even lower quality of comedy that was You Rang, M'Lord? Like the previous two comedies, Oh Doctor Beeching reunited Paul Shane, Jeffrey Holland and Su Pollard - all playing basically the same character that they had played in the previous shows.

I was, however, surprised to discover that the series wasn't actually as bad as I was expecting. And while it was no surprise to discover that Jeffrey Holland and Su Pollard's acting is at about the level of a pantomime production, it was interesting to see that Paul Shane isn't a bad actor. However Julia Deakin is clearly the best actor in the cast. Stephen Lewis is good too, but he's only playing a slightly different version of Blakey from On the Buses.

This collection contains all 19 episodes of the show's run, spread over four DVDs.

In the first episode porter Jack Skinner (Shane) is standing in as station manager until the new manager Cecil Parkin (Holland) arrives. Skinner is married to May the manager of the British Rail cafe and the two have a daughter, Gloria. However, once Cecil arrives, it soon becomes clear that Gloria's father is in fact Cecil - Cecil and May having had a relationship briefly before May met Jack.

Other characters include Ethel Schumann (Su Pollard) the dizzy booking clerk; Ethel's son, Wilfred; station signalman Harry Lambert (Stephen Lewis); and Vera Plumtree the station handy woman. There's an on-off romance between Ethel and a train guard and there's ongoing comedy from the train driver and the young recruit he's training up - which basically sees him over shooting or pulling up short of the platform.

Each week there is something new happening at the sleepy station which ends up getting out of control. And in most episodes Jack almost discovers that Gloria is not his daughter.

Extras are a little disappointing consisting of a picture gallery and the text based Cast Filmographies and David Croft Biography.

While it's nowhere near as well written and acted as Dad's Army, Oh Doctor Beeching! is still an above average show.


Darren Rea

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