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1990 was a Britishmarker then-futuristic political drama television series produced by the BBC in the late 1970s.


The series is set in a dystopian future in which Britain is under the grip of the Home Office's Department of Public Control (PCD), a tyrannically oppressive bureaucracy riding roughshod over the population's civil liberties.

Edward Woodward plays Jim Kyle, a journalist on the last independent newspaper called The Star, who turns renegade and begins to fight the PCD covertly. The officials of the PCD, in turn, try to provide proof of Kyle's subversive activities.


Exposition in this series was mainly performed by facts occasionally dropped into dialogue requiring the viewer to piece together the basic scenario.

This state of affairs was precipitated by a critical financial collapse (possibly an irrecoverable national bankruptcy) in the early 1980s, triggering a de facto state of emergency, cancelling the General Election and causing the economy (and imports) to drastically contract forcing stringent rationing of housing, goods and services. These are distributed according to a person's status in society as determined (and constantly reviewed) by the PCD on behalf of the government, which is union-dominated and socialistic in nature. As a consequence, the higher-status individuals appear to be civil servants and union leaders. An exception to this is import/export agents, which appear to be immune to state control due to their importance to the remnants of the economy. The House of Lords has been abolished and turned into an exclusive dining club. State ownership of businesses appears to be near-total and taxation of wealth and income appears to be very high. The ruling monarch is male, but their identity is never made clear. The currency is the Anglodollar which appears to have little value overseas due to the poor quality of British exports. The armed forces have been run down to the extent that they are little more than an internal security force. This is made clear in one episode where the RAF is described as consisting of little more than a few dozen counter-insurgency helicopters.

Although running the bureaucratic dictatorship, the state appears to shy away from explicit political violence, preferring to set up psychiatric pseudo-hospitals called 'Adult Rehabilitation Centres' which employ electro-convulsive treatments to 'cure' dissidents. Ordinary criminals found guilty of traditional and new economic and social crimes are prevented from clogging up the prison system by having short sentences during which they are force-fed 'misery pills', which induce severe depression during their incarceration. Despite this, fatalities and injuries do occur due to the PCD's lack of democratic accountability but these are misreported or ignored by the state-controlled press and television or are suppressed by the print unions on the last independent newspaper in the UK. The state can also declare a person to be a 'non-citizen' which denies them any entitlement whatsoever to consumer goods, accommodation or food. Labour is controlled by a mandatory closed shop in every workplace. For at least part of the series, the country is on a three-day working week, presumably to conserve energy or to promote full employment through job sharing. Taking a second job is illegal as is 'parasitism', defined as claiming state benefits while fit for work.

Emigration is a key problem with a steady 'Brain Drain' countered by PCD Emigration officers who try to watch every port and airfield. Despite this, professional and skilled labour is fast disappearing from the country in a similar manner to East Germany before the Berlin Wall. This is a neat reversal of the immigration controversies of the mid-to late 1970s in the UK.

Dubbed "Nineteen Eighty-Four plus six" by its creator, Wilfred Greatorex, 1990 also stars Robert Lang, Barbara Kellerman, John Savident, Lisa Harrow, Tony Doyle and Clive Swift.

Two series, of eight episodes each, were produced and broadcast on BBC2 in 1977 and 1978. The series has never been repeated.

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