Behind the Scenes - TV Times; November 11, 2003
This programme came, it saw and it conquered audiences like an invading army. When Foyle's War hit our screens last year, over 10 million viewers became instantly hooked, making it the most successful new drama of 2002. And Michael Kitchen, the man responsible for breathing life into Det Chief Supt Christopher Foyle, couldn't be happier.
"That it went down as well and as quickly as it did was a huge, but wonderful, surprise," he says.
So he's glad to be back, playing the inscrutable South Coast detective who's waging a war against crime in his home town of Hastings, while a far bigger conflict rages on the world stage.
"That the drama's set against the background of war is one of the most appealing aspects for me and, I suspect, the audience," he says. "But there are all sorts of other elements that keep people watching."
There are indeed - a strong cast, riveting storylines, authentic Forties period detail and, naturally, Foyle himself. The formula remains essentially unchanged in the new series of four two-hour dramas, and the show's writer and creator, Anthony Horowitz, hopes it'll be as popular with viewers as before.
"We have submarines, German spies, Americans, lots of action and actors of star quality," he promises. "For me, Foyle's War is simply two hours of perfect television. If it is the last piece of television I write, then it has been a great career. Foyle's a very real character - he's a grammar school boy trapped by his class; he's professional, yet extremely private. It's breathtaking watching Michael play him."
Set in the autum of 1940, the first episode, Fifty Ships, explores America's crucial cooperation with Britain. As in the first series, there are a number of guest stars - look out for Amanda Root, Phoebe Nicholls and Adrian Lukis.
And romance is in the air for some of the regular cast - Foyle's son, Andrew, played by Julian Ovenden, falls for his father's driver, Sam, played by Honeysuckle Weeks.
"But Dad's not too keen," smiles Julian. "Perhaps, unconsciously, that's part of the appeal for Andrew."
The father-son relationship comes under pressure this series. "Andrew's risking his life every day as a fighter pilot and, of course, that would put a strain on all relationships," says Julian. "Foyle's already lost his wife - to lose a son would be unbearable. I can't imagine what it must have been like for the guys who flew these planes or for the people who loved them."
How Did They do That?
An Explosive Start
The boarding house of Foyle's driver, Sam, gets bombed in the first episode. Along with fire and ambulance crews, a local paper's photographer rushes to the scene to record the damage as the now-homeless tenants watch helplessly from a distance.
The production team went all out to make the explosion look authentic. A fake house, made from scaffolding, wood, plasterboard and tiles was added to an existing Victorian terrace before it was all blown up. 20 tonnes of rubbles was scattered around to look as though it had been blown out of the house. "We had to make sure we had the right colour brick rubble to match the house and that it didn't include any concrete," says production designer Martyn John.
The Real Thing
Sandbags appear regularly on Foyle's War. Fake lightweight sacks filled with sawdust can be obtained from props companies but Martyn prefers to use the real thing. "The lightweight ones never look as good," he says. We bought 1200 sandbags and had to fill them up. Every time we film somewhere new we have to take all six tonnes of them with us!"
Wood You Believe It?
Given that they have to find authentic period cars, armoured vehicles, trains and planes, the budget gets pretty stretched. As there was enough money to hire only one aircraft, the production team made eight 30ft two-dimensional cut-out Spitfires from wood and then painted them to look 3D. When they are lined up on a runway, it's hard to spot the difference.
A similar technique was used in the actual run-up to D-Day to fool the Germans into thinking that the allies would try to invade France in the Pas-de Calais rather than Normandy. Inflatable tanks and fake planes - which from the air looked real - were placed away from the real build-up of forces. It worked during and after D-Day - the Germans concentrated their efforts in the wrong area.
Creating the Past
During filming, 21st century towns and countryside obviously had to be transformed into the England of the Forties. "We had to remove or hide anything modern like tv aerials, satellite dishes, road markings, signs, streetlamps and burglar alarms," says production designer Martyn Lang. "To cover road markings, we put down dark ashfelt gravel and used wartime signs - like those which directed people to air-raid shelters - to cover up modern ones."
Vintage vehicles, including cars, military trucks and planes, were hired from specialist companies, while owners of modern cars were asked to move them while filming took place. Unfortunately, not everyone was co-operative!
"We were shooting in a pretty village and everyone had agreed to us being there - except for one man," says producer Jill Green. "He left his car outside and we had to park a large period van in front of it - it meant we could only shoot from two angles all day!"