Hearts of Darkness: The Thrilling Conclusion
This is a continuation from Part One of this article, about edits to the One Foot in the Grave episode “Hearts of Darkness”. Make sure you read that first – this won’t make any sense without it…
“On BBC 1 now, One Foot in the Grave. When a day in the country turns sour, and disturbing practices are brought to light, Victor Meldrew comes to the rescue.”
– Continuity announcement for the first broadcast of “Hearts of Darkness”
Finally, we have it. After many years of wondering, I’ve finally tracked down a copy of the original broadcast version of “Hearts of Darkness”. Many thanks to go Andy Walmsley for digging out his recording. I am eternally grateful.
And his effort is well rewarded. Because what we’ve found is even more interesting than we might have guessed. Because no, the DVD version isn’t the same as the original broadcast, as I suspected in my last article. But neither is it the expected edited version either.
So, first off, let’s take a look again at the DVD version of the key abuse scene:
And let’s finally take a look at the version from its original broadcast. The moment we’ve all been waiting for:
What’s this? The DVD version is five seconds longer than originally broadcast?!
Sure enough, despite Renwick’s comments that the DVD version has been cut compared to its first broadcast, the episode is actually longer. The DVD version contains an extra final kick from Arabella’s character, and her additional line “You must like limping. Do you?” (I suspect the old man told her he didn’t think much of her arse-enhanced Fast Show sketches.)
So, what of my theory in my last article, where I said that the DVD version was likely to be the original broadcast version? I believe the answer is: “I’m sorry, what language are you talking in now? It appears to be bollocks.” In my defence, however, I suspect I was onto something when I surmised that the version released on DVD was “one of the earliest versions of the programme available”.
Let’s go back to those end credits that I talked about last time. Specifically, the original broadcast version, unlike the DVD, contains Tip Tipping’s name:
The DVD version is the anomaly here: every single other version I’ve come across contains Tip Tipping’s name, even the 2008 repeat. I very much suspect the DVD edit is the earliest available version of the episode, earlier even than the version seen on first broadcast – and was simply the one chosen when 2entertain (as it was then) sourced the masters for release. Maybe on purpose – it’s common for DVDs to contain extended edits which never made it to air – or maybe purely by accident.
And as for Renwick’s commentary, where he seems to think he’s watching an edited version? Some have theorised that he was looking at the edited version when recording, and it was swapped for the longer version for some reason for release. Personally, I think it’s more likely that he simply remembered there was an edit and didn’t like it, but couldn’t quite remember the specifics – the commentary being recorded many years down the line. He may well have just thought things had been cut on the version he was looking at when they actually hadn’t. I guess we’re unlikely to ever know for sure.
But let’s not confuse things too much. The main point is: all these years, we’ve been thinking we’re watching an edited version on DVD due to complaints about the violence. It turns out that not only was the version on DVD not edited, but the scene in question is in fact longer than the original broadcast. Which is unexpected, to say the least.
It does, however, leave us with one final thought. Sometimes longer edits of programmes are released on VHS or DVD purely because they were originally edited down for broadcast because of timeslot; it’s safe to say that Smashie and Nicey: The End of an Era comes under this. Here, though, the difference between the two versions is minor: the largest edit being the abuse scene having an extra five seconds. This doesn’t feel like an edit made purely for time reasons. This feels like even before the show was broadcast, there were worries about this scene, and a decision was made to edit it down further for first transmission.
Worries from Susan Belbin? Worries from Renwick? Or worries from further up in the BBC? That’s an interesting topic all in itself. There’s perhaps a grim fascination with the fact that before the programme was even shown, the scene was edited down… and yet it still caused a stink when broadcast, and ended up being cut further.
So whilst we’ve solved the initial mystery, perhaps there’s more to learn…