Updated: Aug 24, 2019
It’s unlikely to have escaped any Dad’s Army fan’s attention that all three of the lost episodes are being remade for UK Gold. But then, Dad’s Army is no stranger to remakes and spin offs, so let’s have a look at them now…
It Sticks out Half a Mile
The Going Straight of Dad’s Army, It Sticks Out Half a Mile was the radio spin-off of Dad’s Army. It wasn’t created by Croft and Perry, and instead written by Harold Snoad and Michael Knowles.
The original story for the pilot picked up after the war in 1948, and initially followed captain Mainwaring’s attempt to renovate a dilapidated seaside pier of Frambourne-on-Sea. Unfortunately, when he tries to get a loan in order to do this, the bank manager just so happens to be Sergeant Wilson.
Only one episode was made in 1981. Arthur Lowe died in 1982, before any more work could be done on the show. Due to this, the episode was never aired and the master tape was wiped.
Fortunately, co-writer Harold Snoad had kept a copy, and the episode was finally broadcast in 2004 - a bittersweet listen, as Arthur Lowe’s ailing health and slightly slurred speech was evident in the recording, though, despite this, his comic timing was as sharp as ever.
Deciding there was still potential in the idea, the writers shifted focus to Warden Bert Hodges. In the series of 14 episodes that followed he enlisted the help of Pike, in order to get Uncle Arthur to help finance the renovation of the old pier.
Then later, there were two other attempts to bring the sitcom to TV, but this time without any of the Dad’s Army cast! The only thing that remained was the concept of doing up a pier. The first one, Walking the Planks, starring Michael Elphick, stalled at pilot stage, but the second, High and Dry starring Bernard Cribbins and Richard Wilson, ran for one series in 1987 on ITV.
Basically, it was boom time if you really liked sitcoms about renovating old piers.
The Dad’s Army Movie (2016)
While there was some cause to remake the lost episodes, or to try to tell the behind-the-scenes story of Dad’s Army with a different cast, there was absolutely no reason to make this film and a very slim chance that it would ever have worked.
Nevertheless, someone, somewhere, for some unfathomable reason, decided that we needed a Dad’s Army movie. Of course, Dad’s Army already had a movie back in 1971, but a new one in 2016? With a brand new cast? No disrespect to the actors, who all tried their best, and who are all big stars, but this was ‘doomed’ from the start.
It didn’t feel like Dad’s Army at all, and the inclusion of Mainwaring’s wife as a character was a serious faux par. Critically, it was badly received. The Guardian said simply ‘Do panic,’ and the final nail in the coffin for this ill-conceived attempt at a reboot was when ITV bought up the rights to show the movie on TV. We can only presume from this that the BBC passed it up.
While not strictly a spin off, watching Romany Jones does feel like we might be watching Private Walker’s home life if he’d happened to have lived in a caravan in the 1970s.
ITV had clearly seen the popularity of Walker, and of all the Dad’s Army characters he was probably correctly identified as having the most spin-off potential. While hardly one of the best sitcoms ever made, the first two series of Romany Jones gave us a look at what a great comedic lead James Beck was, and makes you reflect on just how tragic it was that he passed away so young.
The series saw James Beck cast as Bert Jones, as he and his wife made a life for themselves among a community living in a caravan site. It’s very traditional 1970s sitcom fare, but was popular in its day, so much so that, even after James Beck’s untimely death at just 44, the show continued with the neighbours (played by Arthur Mullard and Queenie Watts) now becoming the main characters.
These characters then had another spin-off show: Yus, My Dear’, named after Arthur Mullard’s original catchphrase from Romany Jones. However, this new show was quite badly received, to the point of its own Wikipedia page gracing it with the title "one of the worst sitcoms ever produced." Undeterred, they popped up again in the movie Holiday on the Buses.
We’re Doomed – The Dad’s Army Story
We’re Doomed – The Dad’s Army Story was a 2015 dramatisation of how Dad’s Army made it to our televisions. Paul Ritter plays Jimmy Perry, who shows his friend David Croft (Richard Dormer) the script for a sitcom that he’d devised about the home guard called ‘Fighting Tigers’. From there we follow the highs and lows of casting what later became ‘Dad’s Army’ before the show was finally brought to TV in 1968.
Impeccably cast and acted, the only problem I can see with this retelling was that it felt like it had further to go. It would honestly have been nice to have seen this cast continue with what happened next, how they dealt with the success, and how they dealt with the ups and downs of filming.
Despite the focus being off recasting the characters and comparing them to their original counterparts, the new cast were all fantastic! My favourite was Mark Heap’s turn as Jones ‘Don’t Panic!’ and in that ilk we can look forward to the UK Gold remakes of the lost episodes. Let’s hope for more of the same!
Written by Rhianna Evans