Kevin Eldon, Mathew Horne, David Hayman and Tom Rosenthal are to join the 2019 incarnation of Dad’s Army on UKTV channel Gold, Radio Times can exclusively reveal.
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Eldon (Damned, It’s Kevin, Hunderby) will urge his comrades not to panic as Lance Corporal Jones, while Horne (Gavin & Stacey, Bad Education) ducks and dives as Private Walker. Hayman (Taboo, Trial & Retribution Paradise) casts a suspicious eye as Private Frazer and Rosenthal (Friday Night Dinner, Plebs) will try to prove he’s not a stupid boy as Pike.
And Gold confirms that the recruits will join Kevin McNally, Robert Bathurst and Bernard Cribbins, who were widely reported last month to be pulling on Home Guard armbands. Pirates of the Caribbean star McNally dons the officer’s cap as the pompous Captain Mainwaring, Cold Feet’s Bathurst is Sergeant Wilson and veteran comedy actor Cribbins, who turned 90 in December, plays Private Godfrey. In the classic incarnation of Dad’s Army those characters were played by Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier and Arnold Ridley respectively.
The stars will all appear in The Lost Episodes, a re-creation by Gold of three episodes of Dad’s Army that were wiped in the late 1960s. They will use the original scripts by Jimmy Perry and David Croft and be shown shown later in 2019 – the 50th anniversary of their first transmission.
McNally (pictured below) is no stranger to stepping into the shoes of comedy greats, having previously played Tony Hancock on both television and radio. McNally says he finds the prospect of doubling as Mainwaring “daunting”, but continues, “I accept the responsibility and look forward to leading the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard in three last pushes against the Jerries. I hope you’ll join us and enjoy the ride.”
Robert Bathurst (below) adds, “I’ve played soldiers before, but find I handle guns with all the bloodcurdling authority of Sergeant Wilson. I’m looking forward to playing him. I hope we can honour Croft and Perry’s lost episodes. It’s a celebration of their writing, with understudies.” Bathurst also played Dad’s Army’s original Wilson, John Le Mesurier, in a 2011 biopic of Carry On star Hattie Jacques, who was married to Le Mesurier until 1965.
And national treasure Bernard Cribbins is sure to be a hit as the endearingly doddery First Aider Charles Godfrey. “What a way to start the New Year,” says the actor. “Back in khaki again – just like I was in 1947.” Cribbins volunteered for the Parachute Regiment that year after being called up for his National Service, and was posted to Palestine and then Germany.
Among the younger members of the cast, Tom Rosenthal, the son of TV sports presenter Jim Rosenthal, is a well-known face in modern sitcoms, as Marcus Gallo in ITV2’s Plebs and Jonny Goodman in Channel 4’s Friday Night Dinner.
The three episodes to be remade were initially broadcast in black and white in 1969 as part of Dad’s Army’s second series. They all fell victim to the BBC’s policy of routinely reusing tapes after broadcast. The stories are The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker, A Stripe for Frazer and Under Fire.
Gerald Casey, Gold’s channel director, said: “As a Dad’s Army devotee, I’m utterly thrilled that we’re exclusively bringing these legendary lost masterpieces to life again after 50 years.”
Paul Carpenter of the Dad’s Army Appreciation Society is pleased with the line-up: “This is an experienced cast and if they all get on well together, should deliver a fine reproduction of the original episodes. Using very well known cast members always distracts from what the makers are trying to achieve, so a careful balance has to be made.”
All three episodes saw Dad’s Army improving on a firm but unspectacular first series in 1968 (an average of 12.2 million as opposed to 8.2 million), and fleshing out the characters including black marketeer Joe Walker, old campaigner Jack Jones and wily Scot James Frazer (the show went on to hit highs of over 18 million, numbers unthinkable in today’s fragmented TV marketplace).
It won’t be the first time that A Stripe for Frazer has been seen in an updated form. Animators remade the episode – using an authentic audio recording of the original – and released it in 2016.
Two other stories from the second series – Operation Kilt and The Battle of Godfrey’s Cottage – were also thought lost until 2001, when 16mm film recordings were returned to the BBC. Those episodes were copied to film to be shown to Columbia Pictures when talks were being held over the 1971 feature film. They had been thrown in a skip but rescued by a collector who kept them in a shed for 30 years.
There had initially been some speculation among fans that the casting for The Lost Episodes might mimic that of the 2016 Dad’s Army film, in which Toby Jones played Mainwaring, Bill Nighy was Wilson, Tom Courtenay took the role of Jones and Michael Gambon played Godfrey.
Dad’s Army: The Lost Episodes comes to Gold later this year