Thursday, 23 February 2006

Jon Pertwee's Splink Retro


February 23, 2006 • Posted By Shaun Lyon
The magazine section of the BBC News website has a Doctor Who-related rarity - Jon Pertwee's appearance in the Splink road safety public information film, which aired on TV. It is one of a series of shorts being shown to mark the 60th anniversary of the Central Office of Information. You can reach the Splink feature at the BBC News website where there is also the opportunity to watch the 30-second film. The site says: "It's got everything you could want from a public information film - a slogan, dated costumes, a bit of nostalgia - but is also unintentionally amusing. It's an attempt at improving road safety for children, and came a year after Dave Prowse (later Darth Vader) had first played the Green Cross Man. The film dates from 1976 and stars the late Jon Pertwee, then just two years after having left the role of Doctor Who. He is essentially playing the same part, though - a curious uncle figure who is explaining the world to his young charges. Unfortunately the message of this film seems so complicated one almost needs the Tardis's translation software to understand what he's going on about. Where the Green Cross Man's approach was simple ("look and listen all the way across"), it must have been decided that children needed the rules of safe crossing spelling out for them more precisely. Which is where the problems start." Accompanied by screen grabs, the site features a transcript of Pertwee's spot and continues, "In fact, of course, what people were more likely to remember was the last second of this film, when Pertwee shouts Splink. It's a remarkable shot, not least for his outfit. But his expression is absolutely bizarre, presumably by design. It is very funny. Well, it would be funny, if the subject wasn't so serious. The Green Cross Code was introduced in 1971, with 'splink' as a supposedly handy mnemonic. But surprise, surprise children found it too complicated. The Times of 10 July, 1974 (before this Pertwee film was released) reported that in a survey of 595 children aged between seven and 15, precisely none could remember the drill in full. Furthermore, only 18% of children chose the safest place to cross the road." More general information and statistics then follow. Dave Prowse also played the Minotaur in the 1972 Jon Pertwee story The Time Monster. (Thanks to John Bowman, Andrew Holmes, Chris Winwood)