It’s a familiar story and I should be able to get on with the boring stuff while it burbles in the background, but I always get seduced into watching properly.
These drama-documentaries are another series making the licence fee good value for money, and the ones about Brunel and Robert Stevenson (lighthouse builder) were particularly gripping. The use of letters and documents written by the principal characters gives an unusual period accuracy to the language and really gives the actors something to work with, and the stories themselves are intrinsically fascinating.
Brunel has been ‘done’ lots of times. My favourite version is Great, a short musical animation which won an Oscar in 1975. The animation is reminiscent of Monty Python but none the worse for that, and the cherishable songs include ‘Get a big top hat’, ‘It can’t be done’ and ‘There’s one or two things he didn’t invent’. I think what makes it live in affection is the combination of raucous humour and the honour it pays to Brunel.
The tape we recorded from tv in about 1987 is now very wobbly, and the soundtrack is practically worn off. Great has never been available on VCR or DVD; if I ever see a legal copy I am going to buy six.