Review

  • Warning: Spoilers
    Can remember viewing this back in the day - I've just spent the last few months being thoroughly gripped by the realness of this family - it should be compulsory viewing for anyone interested in war history. This series makes other family sagas pale in comparison, sometimes the people at home suffer just as much psychological trauma as those who go off to fight and often if a person has deep character flaws, going through the war does not necessarily make everything rosy. They emerge at the end unscathed by what they experience.

    Towering above all is Colin Douglas as the father Edwin Ashton, a man who, as he describes himself, has spent most of his life working under a man whom he can't respect - that's his brother-in-law Sefton. Edwin, originally a miner, married out of his class - Jean, and as the series progresses he finds himself questioning whether marrying for love was the right decision. Their children - idealistic Phillip who is involved in a couple of episodes depicting the Spanish Civil War. By the time he comes home, he realises the hell of war but can't believe his effort was in vain. Margaret (Lesley Nunnerley) is brusque, opinionated and determined and marries John Porter (Ian Thompson) mainly because she feels it is her last chance - Porter's character goes through a complete change within the series - from a shy, mother dominated clerk to a complex man struggling to come to terms with his wife's affair.

    David is the black sheep but again so real - he is a man with whom failures are always someone else's fault and who sees the war as something where he will make his mark but once back in civvy street all his weaknesses return. When his job turns sour he runs, leaving gallant Sheila with the kids and a mortgage to pay. Last episode finds him bragging around the table - those people just don't change.

    Standing beside the standout Colin Douglas would have to be Margery Mason (who seemed to make a career out of sour faced personalities) - she is Mrs. Porter, a mother-in-law that even hell would quake before. Apart from Colin Douglas who was older and had another standout role as a stubborn factory owner in a few episodes of "Telford's Change", only John Nettles as Frieda's husband, the forward thinking doctor, found "The Family at War" a springboard to bigger things ("Bergerac", "Midsomer Murders") - that's the show's real mystery. Everyone had a role they were born to play but somehow it didn't propel anyone to stardom. Maybe the trouble was they were too good. Colin Campbell had had his moment in "The Leather Boys" - he was outstanding as the selfish David. Coral Atkins broke your heart as the long suffering Sheila. Barbara Flynn as the mercurial Frieda and Trevor Bowen as the very decent Tony who looks upon Edwin as more of a father figure than his own, Sefton.