Theatre 625

Theatre 625

"Theatre 625" is a British television drama anthology series, produced by the BBC and transmitted on BBC2 from 1964 to 1968. It was one of the first regular programmes in the line-up of the channel, and the title highlighted the fact that it was produced and transmitted on the higher-definition 625-line format, which at the time only BBC2 was available in: the other channels, BBC1 and ITV, initially remained on the lower-quality 405-line format.

Overall, 114 ninety-minute plays were produced, and for its final year from 1967 the series was produced in colour, in common with the rest of the BBC2 line-up, the channel being the first in Europe to broadcast in colour. Some of the best-known productions screened in the strand include a new version of Nigel Kneale's 1954 adaptation of George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" (1965); the four-part "Talking to a Stranger" by John Hopkins (1966) which told the same story from four different viewpoints across four different episodes, and starred Judi Dench; and 1968's science-fiction allegory "The Year of the Sex Olympics", again by Kneale.

As with other British television programmes of the 1960s, many editions of "Theatre 625" are missing from the archives. However, "Talking to a Stranger" exists, and was repeated on BBC2 as part of the channel's twenty-fifth anniversary season in 1989, being shown again on digital station BBC Four in 2004. In a 2000 poll of industry experts conducted by the British Film Institute to find the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes of the 20th century, "Talking to a Stranger" was placed seventy-eighth.

Following the conclusion of the series in 1968, some of the colour plays were later repeated on BBC1 in the popular "Play for Today" strand in the early 1970s. "The Year of the Sex Olympics" was released on DVD by the BFI in 2003, although in black and white, as the original colour copy was wiped, with only a film telerecording surviving in the archives.

Technical note

"625 lines" refers to the "total" number of lines transmitted; however, some of the lines constitute part of the blanking interval. The actual picture only constitutes 576 lines; in terms of digital television this is equivalent to 576i.


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