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




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1978   1977  


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Series cast summary:
Edward Woodward ...  Jim Kyle 16 episodes, 1977-1978
Robert Lang ...  Herbert Skardon 16 episodes, 1977-1978
Tony Doyle ...  Dave Brett 15 episodes, 1977-1978
Paul Hardwick ...  Faceless 11 episodes, 1977-1978
Barbara Kellerman ...  Delly Lomas 8 episodes, 1977
Lisa Harrow ...  Lynn Blake 8 episodes, 1978
Yvonne Mitchell ...  Kate Smith 7 episodes, 1978


Great Britain, 1990. The population is now governed by an increasingly corrupt bureaucracy headed by the Home Secretary and backed by the tyrannical Public Control Department (PCD), who have done away with the rights of the individual and maintain control through ID cards, rationing, censorship and electronic/audio/physical surveillance. Free speech is forbidden. The rule of law no longer protects the weak and defenseless. Emigration is impossible. But escape is not, thanks to rebels like Jim Kyle (Edward Woodward), a journalist and secret dissident who battles the forces of the Establishment, but constantly faces imprisonment or death (or worse) at the hands of the PCD and its ruthless controller Herbert Skardon. Written by

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Sci-Fi | Thriller







Release Date:

18 September 1977 (UK) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


(16 episodes)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Yvonne Mitchell (Kate Smith), Paul Hardwick (Faceless) and the series' most prolific director Alan Gibson did not live to see the actual 1990. Mitchell died on March 24, 1979 at the age of 63, Hardwick died on October 22, 1983 at the age of 64 and Gibson died on July 5, 1987 at the age of 49. See more »

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User Reviews

Intelligent and entertaining dystopian series
1 August 2018 | by Adrian SweeneySee all my reviews

I found this very watchable, in fact rather more-ish. Dystopian SF thriller series made in 1977 and set in 1990. In a run-down Britain a lot like the real late 70s extrapolated, journalist Edward Woodward tries to stop a nasty and repressive government becoming a flat-out totalitarian one and has a Pimpernel-style sideline in helping people escape abroad. Parts still strike a chord and raise a cynical smile today ('to safeguard freedom' MPs are exempt from the draconian laws inflicted on the rest of the nation, for example.) Connoisseurs of retro-futurism will enjoy things like a car-phone the size of a small fruit machine but the landscape is largely grey and 70s brutalist (and the phone is in an Austin Princess.) There are some good future-shock jokes - 'Oxfam are raising funds for us in India' and we've sold off the Crown Jewels (both only a matter of time.) One thing they got vastly wrong but which must have been a daring act of lese-majeste is that there is a King on the throne only 13 years in the future.

Woodward and friends are likeable and the situations are interesting. There's wiggle-room and a vestige of due process in the repression; things are just short of Orwellian, iron fist in velvet glove, in a way that also rings true: fascism (actually extreme socialism) with a saccharine smile in a polite British face. It's how it would happen or some might say did. The hero has a Deep Throat mole in the civil service, and his would-be squeeze is a woman high up in the security apparatus who may be trying to be human or may be using him for her own ends; this could have been schlocky or camp but their relationship is an entertaining mix of the cerebral and the playfully flirtatious. It's not just them who have charm and humour and appear to like each other, something missing from the dead-eyed robots on TV now. We care about even minor characters; as a result things get awfully tense at times. Modern TV drama commissioners, please take note. (Also that there's a whole universe of untapped possibilities outside child abuse, terminal disease and serial killing.)

That said, it gets darker as it goes; Woodward has some splendid victories but is sometimes powerless to help people, and ultimately it's less an adventure series than a shrewd and at times pretty grim study of the misuse of the levers of power - often 'soft' power - all the ways that freedom can die without people actually being shot (no need to imprison people when you can stop them from working; if you don't toe the line your wife and kids will suffer too) and how people variously knuckle under, go along to get along or courageously and self-sacrificingly resist. Anyone living in communist Eastern Europe would have recognised all of it; and similar pressures are to some degree still at work here, now. There are nice touches such as the surveillance room in the baddy HQ looking like a Benthamite panopticon, or a haunting moment dramatizing how poison in the political world seeps into our private ones when a dissident neglects his child because he's obsessively watching the news.

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