Last Night’s TV – The 39 Steps

the 39 steps

This was first shown just after Christmas last year and I managed to miss it then, probably due to Advocaat induced amnesia or yet another game of Trivial Pursuit, so I was chuffed to see it was repeated last night.

I settled down ready to be romanced by this adaptation of the original book by John Buchan and, at first, I was annoyed that it was anything but a faithful adaptation, but as the film went on, I must admit I was gripped, despite my initial reservations due to the excessive tinkering with Buchan’s original work.

For a start, there was a woman in it, which, if memory serves correctly – I read the book for A Level English Lit many, many years ago – is an addition to the plot. I don’t recall there being any female characters in the book.

And as it wore on, it became evident that Buchan’s original piece was only a framework upon which a new-ish story was built for the main protagonist, Richard Hannay. But on the subject of the heroine in the film, Victoria, I couldn’t really begrudge her her role as it did indeed slot in nicely to the wider storyline, and the fact that Lydia Leonard played her so well only added to Victoria’s authenticity. Indeed, by the time the end credits rolled, I was thinking that Buchan could have made his work better by the addition of a few Victorias.

She and Rupert Penry-Jones, who played Hannay, had a great on-screen chemistry that made the storyline more convincing and as the two fought battle after double crossing battle, I was totally entranced.

And I was impressed with the attention to period detail too; the biplanes, the steam engines, the vintage cars – though of course then, they were just cars – all combined to make this a glossy production of which there was little to criticise. In addition, the excitement of chases, shoot outs and deciphering secret codes added to the thrill while the stunning Scottish scenery was the icing on the cake.

If you love a good period drama with some spying and intrigue thrown in, you’ll love The 39 Steps, so if you missed it at Christmas or last night, you can see it again on iPlayer here.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.