Monday, 27 July 2009

Was Alan Turner A Groundbreaking Emmerdale Farm Character?

Groundbreaking Alan Turner.

Chris has been reading a soaps thread where controversy apparently reigns over whether or not Alan Turner was a "groundbreaking" Emmerdale Farm character. He asks:

What do you say?

Well, Chris, I've recently watched Turner's debut and I think he was groundbreaking. Trevor Thatcher, NY's first Beckindale manager, was not actually a "bad guy" - the "should Nellie Ratcliffe leave her cottage?" story-line was pure human interest - whose need was the greatest, hers or a current NY employee? Thatcher's successor, Maurice Westrop, was an old fashioned sweety (even at the time!), Richard Anstey, who took over in 1980, was every inch a businessman - but in no way "bad".

Alan Turner, however, was originally selfish, inefficient, glib-tongued and cold hearted. Watching him deal with Joe Sugden and the workers at NY Estates as redundancies were imposed in 1983, and the way he blackmailed John Tuplin, the shop steward, into going along with it, forcing John to betray his workmates... it was all pretty chilling.

Alan was the show's first long-running character who knowingly did wrong to others for his own ends. And although he mellowed, and although there was a great big lovable oaf trapped inside him, there was always that instinct for self preservation.

I can find nobody to compare to Alan Turner as a permanent Emmerdale Farm character before his debut.

I'm basing my thoughts about this on recent viewings of the episodes concerned.

I believe that the different facets revealed in Alan's character as he evolved also made him groundbreaking. No stereotype nasty businessman our Mr Turner, but a complex human being.

JR Ewing of the American soap Dallas was a brilliant, pantomime character. Alan Turner seemed real. When he hit rock bottom in late 1983, making a disastrous pass at his young secretary, and then being defeated by the computer newly installed at Home Farm, he had done nothing to endear himself to the Beckindale locals or us viewers. But there was something in Richard Thorp's performance, more than a hint of the hurt and the pathetic in Alan's character, that made me realise I actually cared about what happened to Mr Turner.

And I wanted him to be all right.

As for groundbreaking characters in soaps and TV drama in general... well... Emmerdale Farm began a long way in.

And true overall groundbreakers would probably be characters like rascally villager Walter Gabriel in radio soap The Archers, not Seth Armstrong in Emmerdale Farm, and so on.

There's "groundbreaking" within the confines of the show, and the broader picture.

But I think Richard Thorp was, and is, excellent.

And, as far as Emmerdale goes, groundbreaking to the max.

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