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Stephen Poliakoff became one of the great television dramatists by keeping faith with a certain idea of the past, even as it was made redundant by Thatcherism

By David Herman   February 2006

History has always been a central subject in Stephen Poliakoff’s television drama, but what’s distinctive about his notion of the past is what one might call his white Russian aesthetic: the sense of history as catastrophe. In Shooting the Past (1999), Oswald Bates is looking at some photos. “I have to say just one thing to make these pictures absolutely electrifying. These people… are about to be hit by the most terrible change. Their whole world’s turned upside down. They have no idea. Uncertainty beyond their wildest dreams.” Shooting the Past is about a group of people in an old…

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