“Not exactly Raffles, is it?”: Watching Tenko

Mel O'Drama

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Reunion


Throughout the series, several characters at different points mentioned that life in internment felt like the only reality, and memories of life outside didn't feel real for them. Without explicitly saying so, Reunion reinforces that by simply demonstrating how strange it feels for us to see the women living their disparate normal lives. Even with easing out of camp in the Third Series, there's something incredibly novel about seeing the characters in everyday life.

I'm fairly certain this also marks the first time we've set foot on English soil (within the story at least). This adds to the dreamlike quality.

That's not to say it doesn't work. There's something very right about many of the women's current lives. It's where I'd have imagined them to be. There are still one or two surprises, but even those are nice surprises - mostly.

Perhaps the biggest surprise - the most instantly impactful - is Dorothy. Now every inch the Sloane Ranger - or at least she would be if the Sloane Ranger had existed in 1950. It’s excitingly fresh, but even this is a natural evolution of her character. Since the first series, Dorothy has been focussed on trade and commodities. With hard-headed pragmatism, she’s survived by using whatever commodity available to her is most valuable to acquire herself little luxuries. The Dorothy dealing in antiques, with an eye for ivory or rubies, very much has her roots in the Dorothy who spotted the Hepplewhites; or who earlier traded English lessons for cigarettes; her body for vital medicines; or right at the start of her journey, the Dorothy who grafted for Mrs Van Meyer to get the money to buy Violet an egg. Dorothy has always been a go-getter who sets her sights on something and works out the way to acquire it. And it’s taken her places.

In that first meeting between Marion and Dorothy, I found myself rooting for them to connect again, in spite of Dorothy’s insouciance. Partly because it was evident how much Marion needed it. But also because I couldn’t wait to find out how that familiar energy that comes from the women being together would work now that they’re living different lives. And thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long.

The gaps being filled in by catching up with each of the characters as Marion’s letter reached them worked well. I liked that they hadn’t lost touch completely. Some had stayed in touch, others hadn’t. And that feels very real.

The scene of the conversation going sour between the women over Marion’s toast in their first night at Raffles (beginning by remembering absent friends, but then expanding it to include their captors) was very nicely done. It felt very real. The kind of thing that might happen in a family when a sore subject comes up.

Seeing Domenica’s happy new home life was great fun. And after her unhappiness towards the end of Series Three, it feels like she deserves it as well. And she’s married to Mr Ann Bell, who was a very nice addition to the cast. The lovely scene in which Teddy asked Marion to be there for Domenica if anything should happen to him took on a whole new dimension in hindsight, with the knowledge that the two are husband and life in reality. I always find it enjoyably amusing when real-life couples play strangers like this.

Maggie was more enjoyable for me here. Perhaps because her life is now her own and she’s not walking in Blanche’s shadow so much. I felt like she was wisely not so much in the centre of things here. I knew things were better when I watched a scene with Maggie and Alice at the marketplace and simply enjoyed the scene without thinking of them as the newcomers.

Likewise, it was good to see Jake back. The pairing with Dorothy (and the resulting friction between her and Maggie) and his new role as a tracker all fitted the story well without feeling forced.

It was good to see the change in Alice, who has grown in confidence. Curiously, she reminded me at times of Christina at the beginning of the series. Someone with a good education who is at times unsure of herself. Even when she got upset while the women were held hostage, I was reminded of Christina crying when they first arrived at camp. Ironic, given Christina’s role during the hostage sequence.

Although high drama, the women being held at gunpoint felt tonally right for this series. Them all being lined up in front of the armed, uniformed men felt essentially like another tenko. And it’s far from improbable given the civil unrest in the area at the time. It would be interesting to watch the scene a second time following the reveal later in the instalment, but it was so memorable that it was easy to picture later when the moment of Christina’s “order” was talked about (many lesser series might have employed a flashback to the scene following the new knowledge. I love that Tenko hasn’t once resorted to this gimmick. Somehow it would have diluted things a little).

I knew something had happened when Ulrica was stopped at the roadside, and the what created a little suspense. Until the armed men piled out, I convinced myself that a bomb had been planted. Incidentally, the vision of Ulrica trucking along the lonely roads and singing Bye Bye Blackbird is one of my favourite images. It’s comical, but also very endearing. And of course it all leads into the drama that ends up with Ulrica being shot. Poor woman. She narrowly escapes a blast at the beginning only to end up with a bullet in the back. I love how resilient she is.

As suspenseful as Ulrica’s drive was Beatrice trying to find her way round a strange house while barely able to see without her glasses in order to hide and summon help while the others were held at gunpoint.

While Lau Peng’s role as a traitor was well telegraphed with the photo set up, Dorothy’s part in things came as more of a surprise, despite her increasing anti-British sentiments in Series Three. Even as clues to her role were given earlier in the episode, I assumed they were red herrings to create interest, and just assumed there’s no way a main original character would betray her friends. It’s a betrayal of the viewer’s investment as much as it is her friends. And I suppose that’s intentional. I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

The stories were wrapped up nicely, without being too primly neat. There were hopeful hints of future plans, but very few cast iron guarantees. And that’s all for the good.

Ending things with a Christmassy moment was a nice touch. It’s the kind of scene that would have been unimaginable for either the characters or the audience at any point in the first two series, and I applaud them for bringing us organically to this point. And so much the better that it ended on a happier toast to their absent friends.

There’s most definitely going to be a Tenko-shaped hole in my life for a while.
 

Barbara Fan

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Great review @Mel O'Drama - the highlight of the forum for me is your Tenko thread

I loved Reunion. I loved the fact that Dorothy turned her self round and became a successful business women who was no longer a victim, but strong and independent - has her own business, flat and car and has moved on from the poor, bewildered girl in camp. She had put the death of her husband, baby and troubles in the camp behind her. She is a survivor.

Marion - her life now seems to lack a purpose, Clifford has moved on and has a new wife and baby on the way, her son appears with his dirty washing from time to time but her comment of "he shook my hand" when she first met him after her years in camp, doesn't bode well.

Metro Goldwyn, - nice to see her too remarried to "Mr Ann Bell" _ I recognise his voice from a commercial and cant remember which one!!= Metro Goldwyn or Forster Brown had to wear a fat suit for filming and said she hated it!

Maggie was still Maggie to me, not sure why she was there - not a proper Tenko person and boring Jake to tears when he really wants to spend time with Dorothy ( The look he gives her reminds me of the scene when Marks Graison looks at Pam after she walks away from his meeting with Miss Ellie)
Alice - well dull as dishwater and some acting lessons wouldnt go amiss there either. I imagine Maggie scenes with Louise Jamieson and how much better it would be.

I did enjoy the scene at the dining table when toasting absent friends and Marion mentions their captors too. You just knew the camp would be split on that one and the atmosphere it created at the time, and her falling out with Beatrice.

Beatrice and Ulrica - always good to see them again - I do have a cap of Ulrica driving up to Raffles in the lorry and she looks a ringer for Eric Sykes! Yes him - I must see if i can find it for you!!

The biggest change was Christina - meek and mild in camp - but when the ladies arrived at the school, her telling them you dont need to stand up children - you just knew something was not quite right. Her becoming more Chinese and less British since her Uncle was arrested and people in S3 questioning her "Britishness"

I loved how Dorothy and Jake picked up where they left off and Dorothy can spot a good bargain a mile off.

Did you recognise Kates Dr friend at Toms grave site @Mel O'Drama - I remember him from Follyfoot (oh no the lightening tree .... theme tune)

more thoughts to be continued......................
 

Mel O'Drama

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Great review @Mel O'Drama - the highlight of the forum for me is your Tenko thread





I loved the fact that Dorothy turned her self round and became a successful business women who was no longer a victim, but strong and independent - has her own business, flat and car and has moved on from the poor, bewildered girl in camp. She had put the death of her husband, baby and troubles in the camp behind her. She is a survivor.

Dorothy will definitely be one for me to keep an eye on next time round. It's a great journey for her to go from the girl who didn't really speak for her first couple of episodes to the go-getter in Reunion.


Marion - her life now seems to lack a purpose, Clifford has moved on and has a new wife and baby on the way, her son appears with his dirty washing from time to time but her comment of "he shook my hand" when she first met him after her years in camp, doesn't bode well.

It's funny to think that we never got to meet Ben, even though he was mentioned so often.


Metro Goldwyn or Forster Brown had to wear a fat suit for filming and said she hated it!

Understandably. It must have been hot enough filming in Singapore even without the extra padding.


I imagine Maggie scenes with Louise Jamieson and how much better it would be.

I found it odd that they kept driving home how close Blanche and Maggie were - right down to Maggie naming her daughter Blanche - when they never met onscreen. I think during Series Three and Reunion Maggie mentioned Blanche's name more than other characters did. It never felt right.


Alice - well dull as dishwater and some acting lessons wouldnt go amiss there either.

I didn't mind Alice at all in Reunion. I thought she was written well enough to give closure while keeping the role small enough that the longer-established characters remained the main focus.


I did enjoy the scene at the dining table when toasting absent friends and Marion mentions their captors too. You just knew the camp would be split on that one and the atmosphere it created at the time, and her falling out with Beatrice.

That was one of my favourite moments. The way it went from happy to angry to the frozen atmosphere hanging over them was really well done. I believed it as well. It's exactly the kind of thing Marion would say, but I almost cringed when she said it because it was their first night together in all those years, so it was just too soon. I like that Beatrice was still refusing to pick up her glass even at the end of the scene when others had relented.


Beatrice and Ulrica - always good to see them again

I love their friendship. It's beautiful. They're kind of like the odd couple, but they always seem to agree even though they're taking very different approaches.



do have a cap of Ulrica driving up to Raffles in the lorry and she looks a ringer for Eric Sykes! Yes him - I must see if i can find it for you!!

Oh - I'd love to see it sometime.



Did you recognise Kates Dr friend at Toms grave site @Mel O'Drama - I remember him from Follyfoot

I must confess I've never seen Follyfoot. He did seem familiar anyway. Looking at his IMDb page he's had small roles in loads of things I've watched over the years.
 

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Barbara Fan

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OK @Mel O'Drama

will post this quickly as im going out for a run/walk/jog - run, OK Im kidding myself!! its a fast walk really (in the rain)

I always thought that this photo )I capped) from DVD looks like Eric Sykes in a Nuns costume

What do you think????

I will post more re 2nd half of Reunion later this week

 

Mel O'Drama

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im going out for a run/walk/jog - run, OK Im kidding myself!! its a fast walk really (in the rain)

Oh - you're brave. I applaud your dedication, BF. :gotcha: Hope you've got a nice, warming meal or drink to come back to. ;)



I always thought that this photo )I capped) from DVD looks like Eric Sykes in a Nuns costume

It may be Eric Sykes's face, but the action pose makes me wonder if Lindsay Wagner's body is underneath that habit. It's The Bionic Nun.
 

Barbara Fan

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I have ammended my typos @Mel O'Drama from last post, in a hurry yesterday
I did 90 mins walk then long soak in bath
ran for about 1 minute in total!!

Maybe Patricia Lawrence was the Bionic Nun - maybe she was Eric Sykes twin!! There is a resemblance
Will post Part 2 tomorrow re second half of episode

Did you know that poor Jake took unwell when filming in Asia and had to be admitted to hospital upon return to UK with a ? collapsed lung after having breathing difficulties swimming in the pool over there
Was well enough for filming back in UK
 

Mel O'Drama

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I did 90 mins walk then long soak in bath
ran for about 1 minute in total!!

That's one well-deserved soak. Good for you for getting out in the rain. I had a very leisurely walk in the rain today. Not quite 90 minutes though. Probably about half that. And no running. Ah well - Rome wasn't built in a day.



Will post Part 2 tomorrow re second half of episode

Oh great. I'm loving the little titbits you're sharing.



Did you know that poor Jake took unwell when filming in Asia and had to be admitted to hospital upon return to UK with a ? collapsed lung after having breathing difficulties swimming in the pool over there
Was well enough for filming back in UK

Oh yikes. No, I had no idea. I really need to get stuck into the Tenko Remembered book now that the series is over. So many books... so little time!!
 

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Found this little clip of filming Tenko / behind the scenes, its poor quality which is a shame

 

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Part 2 Upcountry

you always knew it wasnt going to end well staying at Mrs Forster Browns place - from the minute you saw the guards wave Sister Ulrica on her way then you saw the dead bodies of the true soldiers /guards at the side of the road

I enjoyed the scenes at the house and thought Stephanie Cole was brilliant finally piecing together that it was Chrsitina who was the traitor, when Christina gives the order not to shoot Beatrice and you realise that its her plan still makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

I loved that Dorothy and Jake were going to get together at the end and i loved them all sitting in Marions house listening to the Kings Speech (and also thinking how much the King hated making speeches and it must be tortuous for him due to his stammer)

I also liked that Kate and her Dr friend were going to stay on at the Monica Radcliffe Foundation and carry on the tradiiion and good works.

It was a very satisfying ending - In the book the only one who was unhappy about the filming was Emily Bolton as Christina who did not like what happened to her character and worried what people would think.
 

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nice interview

 

Mel O'Drama

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Thanks for the behind-the-scenes videos, BF. I'll explore them both when I have a look more time, but they look fascinating.


you always knew it wasnt going to end well staying at Mrs Forster Browns place - from the minute you saw the guards wave Sister Ulrica on her way then you saw the dead bodies of the true soldiers /guards at the side of the road

Yes. The direction and writing did a wonderful job of creating a sense of foreboding without giving too much away about what was going to happen.


I enjoyed the scenes at the house and thought Stephanie Cole was brilliant finally piecing together that it was Chrsitina who was the traitor, when Christina gives the order not to shoot Beatrice and you realise that its her plan still makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

The way it played out was clever. Not understanding what was being said, it's very hard to read what's going on. And with the very real threat going on, I didn't realise that Christina was giving an order. I thought she was making a heartfelt plea. I clocked the look on her face, but I thought it was a red herring to make the viewer wonder. It was only in the schoolroom scene near the end when Beatrice put the pieces together that it fell into place for me. And even then I thought there must be some mistake.


the only one who was unhappy about the filming was Emily Bolton as Christina who did not like what happened to her character and worried what people would think.

I can understand that. It's a great twist, but it does almost turn the entire series on its head because I'd view Christina very differently next time I watched the series (assuming I can remember the twist by then. And my memory is terrible, so I possibly wouldn't).


i loved them all sitting in Marions house listening to the Kings Speech

Yes - that was a really nice touch.


(and also thinking how much the King hated making speeches and it must be tortuous for him due to his stammer)

Oh yes. Again, I forgot about that because I was wrapped up in the moment.
 

Mel O'Drama

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Ooh! I've just seen that Stephanie Beacham and Louise Jameson are on tonight's Pointless, beginning very shortly.
 

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Watching it quickly on catch up, Louise Jamieson looks pretty good as does Maddie Smith. They should have put the Tenko duo together

Dont know who some of them are! Lauren for one - and I guess some of them didnt do Geography at school!

And sad that so many of the public dont know all the old actors! Id struggle with "new" ones!!
 

Mel O'Drama

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Louise Jamieson looks pretty good as does Maddie Smith.

They do indeed. I thought Louise looked very classy. Love the hairstyle and the suit.


They should have put the Tenko duo together

That would have been fun. It was nice that when asked about the favourite role of her career Stephanie singled out working with Louise on Tenko.


Dont know who some of them are! Lauren for one

Oh yes. That's usually the case with these shows. There are two or three (if that) I'll recognise straight away, then a few where it will ring a bell when they say what they're known for, and a few I don't know from Adam.



nd I guess some of them didnt do Geography at school!

Dear Lord. It was embarrassing. How could anybody think Scotland is a city?



And sad that so many of the public dont know all the old actors! Id struggle with "new" ones!!

I was flabbergasted that Bette Davis only scored something like 7 points.

Mind you (and you'll probably want to get the shotgun on me for this): I thought Olivia de Havilland was Donna Reed.
 
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