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Freewheelers: Series One

The only series of this show currently commercially available is series 6, which I have written about here before. I see from IMDB that this show was not only very go-ahead at the time, apparently being the first time in the UK that a boat was set up as an Outside Broadcast Unit, but also suffered from the junking common at the time. Apparently the only reason it survives at all was because the material chanced to be kept by the series film editor.
The upshot is that apparently what I have is a reproduction of this single copy. You can buy it off the internet as I did myself. The only thing I would say is that I have decided I am not going to name (and thus advertise) the vendor for one reason. I was impressed with the speed at which they rushed the order round here, sending me emails all the way to let me know what was happening. So customer service is great.
The discs came to around £15 which I suppose would be a shop price for many box sets, and in this case I don't mind paying it for a rare series which has obviously taken work on somebody's part to bring out on DVD. The problem with the discs is that the box contains the phrase 'digitally remastered', and those words are the reason I won't be advertising the company because they give the wrong impression. I will grant you that technically making a digital master of an analogue recording means just that and doesn't necessarily mean altering the sound or picture at all, which is probably exactly what's happened. But in 2018 most people viewing a digitally remastered TV series from the 1960s will expect it to look more like one of the other remastered series - the Avengers for example- that we've become used to.
There are some very damning reviews of these discs on Amazon, which I disagree with. The writers have expected to get a radically cleaned-up series, but these shows definitely show their patchy pedigree. The picture tends to darkness, with lines across most of it. Other faults in the analogue tape are clearly visible and the episodes tend to abrupt jumps, with bits around the titles missing. I have no doubt that these tapes must have been in a state which required considerable work to get them to where they are, but cannot match up to commercial releases. The sound is mainly good, but rather quiet and tends to be rather inconsistent. In my opinion they are perfectly watchable and while the discs do include a disclaimer about the quality of the recorded material they would have been better to leave off the statement that they are digitally remastered.
That's enough about the discs, the programme itself was intended to be an adventure series in the vein of The Avengers, and without wanting to over-egg the cake, I really think it is worthy of this comparison. That's right, you just heard me say that.
When I wrote about series 6 I was thinking about young people's hero worship of slightly older people. The dynamic is a bit different in series 1 because the youngsters are terribly grown up and the adult characters quite a bit older. The theme of the youngsters being taken on by the professional secret service against a diabolical mastermind (which was the original point) emerges loud and clear. That this was intended for young people is shown in the fact that many of the adults are corrupt, insane, stupid, or otherwise hopeless!
I love the idea of the baddy, Von Gelb, who wants to 'reverse the effects of the last war'. He's just threatening enough to be frightening, and his ideas are ridiculous enough to maintain an aura of unreality. In this the series is a worthy inheritor of the unreality thing found in The Avengers. I realise that again this will sound like very high praise, and it is.
The world inhabited by the freewheelers is otherwise the real world, just with opportunities not afforded to everyone. Possibly in the 1960s it was possible to trespass on a naval base by climbing over the fence, but I'm sure few managed it. The unreality is therefore also in the nature of the youngsters' escapades.
The pace of the show is quite different from The Avengers. Story lines carry on through episodes so that it wouldn't really be possible to watch an episode in isolation.
I think my favourite thing is that, fitting with the baddies Nazi sympathies, much of the incidental music is by Wagner.
Oh - the illustration is an actual screen cap off my laptop.

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