There is probably no better moment to revisit this little-remembered British television show from almost 40 years ago, since no point in time has seemed more like the events portrayed in 1979’s Noah’s Castle (Amazon) than the present. Our 21st Century post-Bush, Obama years reality is one that sometimes seems to be disintegrating before our eyes, a situation similar to the one presented in this 1980 dystopian fiction production.
Based on the YA book by John Rowe Townsend, and taking place sometime in the vague future or alternate present, the series follows former soldier and current shoe store manager Norman Mortimer (David Neal) — an intense and grim father of four– who sees a world of food shortages, inflation, riots, looting and military intervention and opts for decisive action in the protection of his family.
They move into a huge house on the far side of town that provides more security and a lot more space in order to hoard goods to ride out the end of the world.
Stockpiling food isn’t that easy, though. The family has to keep it a secret, especially once the government makes hoarding illegal, but such things have a way of sifting out into the community, as well as putting more weight on a family bearing the brunt of the world falling apart.
And so Norman’s family begins to crumble, most notably in the form of his rebellious daughter Nessie (Annette Ekblom) and his wife (Jean Rimmer) who finds herself a virtual slave to a most unwanted guest — Norman’s former boss, the creepy Mr. Gerald (Jack May). Gerald has insinuated himself on the family through implied blackmail in order to make use of the ample stocks, and with a lecherous eye toward Nessie.
Meanwhile, the family is also thrown into the middle of the struggles between an official food distribution group, an anarchic and socialist Robin Hood-style group of food thieves and shifty black marketers attempting to make a profit from misery.
It’s a grim vision of life doled out in half-hour chunks — a perfect way to view it since the mood could easily pile up with concurrent viewings, especially in this day and age. But it’s a remarkable testament to how so little has changed in 40 years — and with each episode punctuated by a news broadcast compiling the fictional days’ gloomy world news, there’s plenty for anyone to identify with.
The feeling of helplessness against the march of governments and desperate ploys to control your own destiny are surely played out now in the real world and Noah’s Castle portrays exactly that situation.