Goodnight Sweetheart

A bit of background. I am quite a WWII geek. Anything and everything about the era interests and fascinates me. It’s a massive subject though, but that means there is always something else to learn about however much you already know.  I have even set myself the challenge of watching every film centred around WWII, however the list is rather long and ever expanding. As well as films, there are numerous TV programmes (‘shows’ for my American readers).  Dad’s Army and Allo Allo are perhaps the most well known ones. There are numerous lesser-known ones.

Goodnight Sweetheart was set in both the 1940’s and the 90’s. It centres around Garry Sparrow (played by Nicholas Lyndhurst) who in the first episode realises that he can travel back in time going through a time portal at the end of Ducketts Passage. He quickly falls in love with a woman in the 1940’s called Phoebe and starts establishing a life in the 1940s.

Both Phoebe and Gary know each other are married. Phoebe is married to Donald who is serving in North Africa but as Phoebe put it’s “their relationship and marriage has never been much cop”. Gary gives the impression that his marriage is loveless and that his wife is only in name and eventually starts seeing another man. Back in the 1990’s however, despite Gary and Yvonne’s problems it is obvious that he loves her deep down. Of course, what Phoebe doesn’t know that Gary is married not in the 1940’s but in the 1990’s.

On several occasions Gary understands that flitting between the two eras needs to stop and that he needs to concentrate on just one woman and one life. His first attempt of staying in the 1940s ends in disaster. He rapidly realises that without the 1990s just down the road wartime London is not a hard place to exist. By being present in both eras he is able to supplement his life in the 40s, initially to impress and woo Phoebe with chocolate, meat, cigarettes, stockings, and even once bananas. He claims to have gotten them from the US Embassy shop that he has access to through his connections due to his secret war work and his previous life in the US, which is why few people have head of him before the 1940s. He is also able to bring back mint collectables from the 1940’s to sell them in his wartime memorabilia shop ‘Blitz & Pieces’. This prevents him having to have a real job as keeping two women happy 50 years apart is far more time consuming than a job ever could be. Eventually, in the final episode the time portal makes the decision for Gary keeping him in the 1940s with Pheobe who is by then his wife and their son Michael.

Whenever a TV program ends there are the inevitable unanswered questions. We know that Yvonne after finds out that Gary is a time traveller leading a double life with two women. What we don’t know is if Phoebe ever finds out what really brought Gary into her life. Throughout Gary’s time in the 1940s he makes numerous references to life far forwards of the 1940s. One such post-40s reference is to Marilyn Monroe. This is who Phoebe thinks Gary is married to, but what happens when Marilyn Monroe becomes a household name. Two people having the same name is the obvious and very plausible explanation. However when Gary tells Ron, his friend in the 1990’s and the only other person to know of his time-travelling antics, that he told Phoebe that his wife is Marilyn Monroe as it was the first name that popped into his head; in Ron’s amusement he gives Gary a photograph of Marilyn Monroe after signs it as if Marilyn signed it to him. Gary leaves the signed photo in his pocket and Phoebe sees it. What happened when, in the 50s, Marilyn becomes internationally famous and Phoebe realises that she has seen before the iconic picture from the film The Seven Year Itch where Marilyn’s skirt blows up far before the film was even at the scripting stage.

Gary also pitches himself in the 1040s, as well as a member of the Secret Service, as a singer-songwriter, bringing famous titles from beyond the 1940s to wartime London far before their time. He entertains everyone with songs actually by the likes Elton John, The Beatles and even Wet Wet Wet passing them off as his own. How does he deal with this later on? One explanation is that he changes the path of history and becomes credited with these creations. Maybe when time travelling Gary not only jumps between time periods, but also into a parallel dimension where his actions in the 1940’s do not alter the course of history in the dimension that he travels from. We know this isn’t the case though as on several occasions as evidence of Gary being in the 40s comes into his view in his life in the 90s. His actions carrying over into the future, is how once confined to the 1940s he reveals to Yvonne the truth in quite an eerie and emotional conclusion to the story.

However the antics of Gary are of course just a story. Time travel isn’t possible, and none of it actually happened. This makes the unanswered questions impossible to answer. Believing the characters and the situations they encounter real or even just wanting them to be real and wondering what happed to them after the programme leaves out TV screens is just the perfect testament to the writers for a job well done.

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