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DIRTY-FACED FEISTY POWS of the fairer sex see out the Second World War in an internment camp in Malaya. The key word there being ‘camp’. Banding together under the de facto leadership of ANN BELL were rape victim STEPHANIE BEACHAM, doctor STEPHANIE COLE, nurses CLAIRE OBERMAN and JEANANNE CROWLEY and tottering old academic JEAN ANDERSON. Legendary BURT KWOUK was a camp commandant, the key word there being… oh, you get the idea. Stirring stuff and, once Michael Grade had sniffed out some post-SONGS OF PRAISE potential, a weekend hit. Last series offered up a multitude of baked bean endings by virtue of concentrating on that old dramatic stalwart, Life After Wartime, i.e. reunions with lost loves, arguments with other people’s lost loves, fights over lost loves, and lost loves staying positively lost through the small matter of, well, death. Lousy “reunion” finale in 1985 was set in 1950 and took the form of – erk – a murder mystery. At least nobody saw it coming. Unlike the end of the war.



  1. Glenn Aylett

    September 15, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    Decent effort from the BBC, even if the sets look cheap these days, and series 2 was partly filmed in the Far East. I’ve always wondered why there wasn’t a series about male POWs of the Japanese, whose treatment was far worse, and how they would have coped.

  2. George White

    March 20, 2023 at 10:21 am

    Weirdly spawned an ITV rival a decade later – the NBC/Yorkshire copro Guests of the Emperor, with Gena Rowlands, Annabeth Gish, Cherie Lunghi, Phyllis Logan and Judy Parfitt sweltering in Louisiana doubling as Southeast Asia. Featuring ubiquitous Asian-American ‘that guy’ Clyde Kusatsu as Kwouk, and Nick Tate turning up as an ANZAC to rescue the women.

    As for the men, there were a few films in that mould – King Rat, the Hammer Blood Island films..

  3. Richardpd

    March 20, 2023 at 10:15 pm

    One of my Mum’s favourite shows when I was young, but was a bit hard for me to understand at the time.

    Lavinia Warner got the idea when working for Thames on This Is Your Life when it had camp survivor Margot Turner on. This led to a documentary about her, and then this as a dramatisation.

  4. Glenn Aylett

    March 22, 2023 at 7:20 pm

    Last series was a bit flat after the women were liberated and least said about the reuniuon episode, but the first two series of Tenko were first rate, and the BBC’s recreation of the prison camp in Dorset was very convincing( second series did feature some filming in Malaysia to make the show look more authentic). It probably helped Tenko had a stellar cast with Burt Kwouk taking an excellent serious role as the camp commandant and Stephanie Beacham, Louise Jameson and Stephanie Cole in the major female roles.

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