Fans of archive TV drama will be chuffed tonight (27th July) as The Roads to Freedom, the highly-regarded adaptation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophical trilogy, finally gets a rerun on BBC Four. Made in 1970, it ran across 13 episodes and was last televised in 1977. Despite many requests, it hasn’t been repeated since and has never been available on DVD or streaming services.


Billed in Radio Times as “a tangled morality play” featuring a set of bohemian Parisians, it embraced such racy topics (for the time) as abortion and homosexuality, and explored the pursuit of personal freedom while Europe was plunging towards the Second World War.

Colin Baker (who many years later became famous in Doctor Who) started his acting career in this prestigious drama. Now one of the few surviving cast members, he appeared in some of the serial’s middle episodes airing next week.

He tells about his early acting experience more than half a century ago: “Talk about starting at the top! Although I did not of course realise at the time quite how important this adaptation of Sartre’s novels would be. All I knew back then was that I was playing an arrogant, entitled rapist called Claude and that I was working with some of the greatest actors of the day.

Colin Baker in The Roads to Freedom
Colin Baker in The Roads to Freedom BBC

“I watched Michael Bryant, Daniel Massey, Rosemary Leach et al being brilliant in the rehearsal room and then they watched me – being vile and trying to block out that they were all watching me doing it! Alison Fiske as Ivich was wonderful to work with, which helped.

“It was an extraordinary experience to be in an adaptation of a great writer’s work in which all the characters – almost without exception – were flawed, damaged, depressed to the point of self-destruction or in my case just plain bad. The producer David Conroy (for whom I later worked on War and Peace) and James Cellan Jones were geniuses at the top of their game. I was very lucky to get such a start in my television career.”

Colin Baker is also introducing the series in a five-minute BBC Four programme at 10pm tonight.

The Roads to Freedom episodes 1 to 4 are being shown tonight. The next five episodes are scheduled for Wednesday 3rd August, with the concluding four on Wednesday 10th August. The whole 13-part serial will then be available as a boxset on BBC iPlayer.

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