Researching old television drama is often an archaeological process. When programmes don’t survive, a trained historian and theorist can sometimes pick up (and hopefully convey) some idea of what they might have been like through secondary sources.
Edwardian drama on television Between 1967 and 1985 (the period when the BBC regularly transmitted adaptations of classic theatrical plays in mainstream slots) 120 television adaptations of stage plays were transmitted by the BBC as either Plays of the Month, other similar series, or as one-off productions broadcast in the Play of the Month slot.
Luther was the first programme to be shown in the BBC’s Play of the Month series, and was both a highly prestigious and atypical production for its time.
In a recent lecture, Huw Weldon, managing director of BBC television said: ‘We feel that, like the theatre at large, we should be wanting if we did not ceaselessly recreate the classics – Shakespeare, Sheridan, Shaw and so on.’ (Dunkley, Chris, ‘Review’, Radio Times, 27 March 1975, p.74)