One of the most ambitious television dramas of the 1980s has found a new home on True Entertainment. It should also find a new audience there, as it has done continuously since its final Reunion special aired in 1985, bringing the four year run to a close. It began as something of a revelation to many, choosing to tell the stories of a group of women during the Second World War. With so many movies and television production telling and re-telling the stories centering around men during the war Tenko’s initial success proved that there were many more stories to tell.
The series starred Stephanie Beachem, Stephanie Cole and Doctor Who’s Louise Jameson, along with Jean Anderson, Patricia Lawrence and well known comedy actor Burt Kwowk as Major Yamauchi. It dramatised the stories of women prisoners of the Japanese, taken after the Fall of Singapore in 1942, and how their lives changed beyond all comprehension in the years that followed.
It was a brutal existence. Many of the storylines were inspired directly from real life events, with the sudden change in living conditions giving way to disease and appalling violence. It has themes and narrative elements (and at least one cast member) in common with the 1956 classic A Town Like Alice. The central drama of lives changing forever under an uncertain and ruthless regime provides some of the most poignant moments in both productions.
It was a regular feature on televisions screens for four years, and the thirty episodes followed the group of women as they formed a special bond in the harshest circumstance through the last years of the War and to a curious kind of freedom. The final episode was a one-off special in which the surviving characters reunited back in Singapore five years on, as the long-lasting effects of their survival become clear.
Tenko is well remembered, and its appeal seems immune to age. The horrors of war, and the hope it can bring, is a timeless foundation for compelling drama and from the 7th of May you can relive one of the finest series to bring this truth to light.
Tenko premieres on Monday 7th May and will air every weekday at 6.00pm.
True Entertainment is available on Freeview 61, Sky 182, Freesat 142 and Virgin 189