TV preview: 'Baldrick' wants to take his time walking through NZ history

By Russell Baillie

Sir Tony Robinson of  Time Walks .
Sir Tony Robinson of Time Walks .

Despite his many achievements, Sir Tony Robinson will forever be known as Baldrick, the loyal but dim servant to the title character of the 80s British sitcom Blackadder. The English actor-presenter was reminded of his breakthrough role when he visited Peter Jackson to make a Wellington-focused episode of Time Walks.

After giving him a tour of his movie facilities, Jackson had a cunning plan; out came Baldrick's costume from Blackadder series two which Jackson picked up in a memorabilia auction. Robinson was chuffed at seeing his old Elizabethan duds.

"Can you imagine how flattering that one of the most celebrated and influential producer directors in all the world exposes the fact that he is a fan of your work? How much of a buzz is that?" he laughs down the line from London.

The first series of the Australian-commissioned History Channel show Time Walks had Robinson spinning yarns about the colourful pasts of various cities in Oz.

The new season has ventured across the Tasman for episodes about Wellington (screening March 10) and Christchurch (tonight).

Robinson does take a serious look at the city's post-earthquake rebuild. But he's also having fun too. He stages a recreation of the wartime feats of Charles Upham VC and bar - on the front lawn of the house the World War II hero was born in. And in the Wellington instalment, willing locals help him restage the street battles of the 1913 Great Strike.

The shows are powered by Robinson's infectious enthusiasm for storytelling, something that he developed as the frontman of the long-running British archaeological series Time Team.

"There's a huge amount of history I don't know about - but I do know how to ask the people who do know the history. That's my skill I guess."

He's also had a long involvement in the British Labour Party, but he says he doesn't think his politics influence the stories he features in Time Walks.

"I've never wanted what I do to be agitprop ... inevitably my approach to things will be coloured by the way I think but hopefully not in a way that would prevent people with different politics from mine enjoying it.

"I would like to think right-wingers looking at my work can go 'oh yeah, he's a bit of an old leftie but actually what he says about this kind of thing is very interesting'. I wear my heart on my sleeve but I don't preach."

Robinson will be back in New Zealand for more filming soon. He's including Auckland and Dunedin in an off-shoot series called War Walks which has him "looking at the experience of the First and Second World Wars through the prism of people in various towns and cities in both New Zealand and Australia".

And after our four main centres, he's got plans for wandering through the history of even more exotic local locations ... "Once we've done the four, hopefully the viewing figures will be very good and by series six we'll be in Palmerston North."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 20 Aug 2014 21:38:43 Processing Time: 544ms