20 May 2004 | Theo Robertson
A Good Series , But Ten Episodes ?
In the mid 1980s The Vietnam War was very much a part of pop culture . Movie like PLATOON , FULL METAL JACKET and HAMBURGER HILL were making money at the cinema while book stores were full of publications dealing with accounts of the conflict and there was even a top five hit in the British pop charts by a singer called Stan Ridgeway who sang about his life being saved in 'Nam by a marine called Camouflage . What a lot of people ( at least in Britain ) had forgotten if they even knew was that Australia had also fought in the conflict and this mini series tells the story of one family's war
Vietnam was shown on BBC1 in the summer of 1988 with not much fanfare , but what wasn't mentioned was that two episodes would be edited into one . This certainly a good idea on the part of the BBC down to the simple reason that the early episodes are very , very slow as they introduce us to the characters of the Goddard family . The father is a politician in the Aussie government while the son gets drafted into the army while the daughter becomes a teenage rebel , and somewhat embarrassing to say it now but I couldn't help thinking that despite being a fairly good actress the Goddard daughter was one of the plainest looking girls I'd ever seen in an Australian series . The name of this actress ? Nicole Kidman . I digress
As I said the first two episodes ( Or first episode if you saw it in Britain ) crawls along at a snails pace and the series doesn't come into its own until the action switches to Vietnam . This show doesn't sugar coat the face of war : Vietnamese women are tortured and raped by the American army , young Goddard is seconded to an American special forces team and watches as prisoners are tossed out of a helicopter AFTER they've told the Americans what they've wanted to know , a villager is executed in public by the VC after refusing to hand over all the food supplies , but the most memorable and distressing scene features an Aussie conscript who stands on a mine . It's a special sort of mine that doesn't explode until after the victim takes his foot off it so the soldier has to stay there under the blazing jungle sun till he can take it no more , panics and dies .
I notice some people who have voted at this page ( Most especially the regular voters ) haven't been too impressed by Vietnam . The structure is rather uneven with a very slow beginning and the final episode(s) does hit you over the head that the war split Australian society but I can't help thinking the rather lukewarm response by some voters here has more to do with the fact they were expecting large battle scenes as in PLATOON and APOCALYPSE NOW . This is a foolish attitude since the Australians fought the conflict in a different way way from the Americans . Australia being experienced in anti guerrilla campaigns in Malaya and Borneo recognised the fact that this wasn't a conventional war therefore fought the war by sending small patrols into the villiages and jungles and went out of their way not to antagonise the inhabitants , a stark contrast to how the Americans conducted the war
Thanks to the internet there's now a large database of information of the Australian experience during the Vietnam conflict . It makes interesting reading