Hugh Fleming (Nigel Havers), a handsome, dashing lothario at Cambridge, enters the air force in 1939 as though the impending war will be a mere extension of a cricket match, only with considerably higher stakes.

Hugh Fleming (Nigel Havers), a handsome, dashing lothario at Cambridge, enters the air force in 1939 as though the impending war will be a mere extension of a cricket match, only with considerably higher stakes.

“Let a chap get 40 winks while he’s waiting for those nasty Germans,” he says while poised to take off in his Spitfire.

But early on, he is shot down, and his face is horribly disfigured by burns. The handsome, dashing aviator is now a grotesque. The woman he was to marry deserts him. Children cringe when they see him. He has lost his identity, his sense of self, his assured future.

The story focuses on Hugh’s ultimate determination to rise above the physical agony of plastic surgery and on the emotional anguish of redefining himself. It is a wrenching story, imaginatively structured and told by screenwriter Allan Prior.

Havers gives a striking performance, as does James Fox as the innovative plastic surgeon who treats the aviator. The supporting cast is unfailingly solid.

This is a quality drama done with great skill. The era and aviation scenes are also executed with authority and credibility.

But throughout, one wonders how this theme would be written as an American story from World War II or, for that matter, Vietnam, with the nuances and perspectives of our society. When it comes to longform drama, PBS is far more to do with England than its country of origin.

Masterpiece Theater a Perfect Hero Parts I-IV

(Sun. (3, 10, 17, 24), 9-10:30 , PBS)

Production

Filmed in England by Havahall Pictures and LWT for ITV. Exec producers, Nick Elliott, Michael Whitehall; producer, James Cellan Jones; director, Jones; writer, Allan Prior; based on a book by Christopher Matthew.

Crew

Camera, Ernest Vincze; editor, Clayton Parker; art director, Clayton Parker; music, Richard Holmes; production designer, Gordon Melhuish.

Cast

Cast: Nigel Havers, James Fox, Nicholas Pritchard, Fiona Gillies, Joanna Lumley, Amanda Elwes, Patrick Ryecart, Thomas Wheatley, Bernard Hepton, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Rachel Fielding, Harry Burton, Nicholas Palliser, Fiona Mollison, Margaret John, Tim Barker, Charles Pemberton, Rosalind Knight, Tacy Kneale, Brian Mitchell, Beryl Cooke, Jeff Rawle, Tony Collins and Robert Cotton.
With eloquence and elegant acting, this four-part series will thrill those who appreciate the richly textured English dramas that evolve, by American standards at least, at an almost leisurely, measured pace. But again, one questions why American public television is almost totally dependent upon England for its quality drama.

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