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A weird kind of Immortality.
I was watching the first series of Porridge on DVD earlier today and there, as a special feature, was an interview with Ronnie Barker, discussing the series and the characters and actors who he worked with on the series.
And then he started talking about his favourite episode. Now those of you overseas (or too young to have seen him) will be aware that Ronnie Barker died a year or two ago. So here we are with a deceased man talking about his favourite episode.
It struck me that this is a rather remarkable thing that we don’t think about. It’s quite commonplace to read about dead people like Napoleon or Richard the Lionheart and how they lived their lives, but their opinions, the things they like is another matter entirely.
We live in changing times. Any actor who has lived in the last 80 years you can probably see walking and talking and interacting with things when they were alive. Look, there’s Stan Laurel being chased by a policeman, look at the way he runs. There’s John Thaw in The Sweeney, he’s only 32 years old! There’s Brian Glover, bald and looking exactly the same as he always looked, yet only 33. He’s still young.
The descendants of these people will not just know they had a Great Uncle John or Grandad Brian, they will be able to see him walking, they will be able to hear his voice, see the wrinkles on his forehead crinkle. These make an ancestor more than just a name, they’re living breathing records of their lives.
These are facts we’re all aware of, but rarely consider. We take it for granted. But when Ronnie Barker said “my favourite episode is A Night In” we’re being told of a man’s favourite thing when he’s no longer here to appreciate it. How fantastic is that? Not just the man’s image or voice, but his opinions are stored. He’s talking to us. From the past! It’s mind-blowing.
And then he tells us of how sad the passing of Richard Beckinsale was at such an early age. We see and hear his sorrow. A dead man pitying another man for being dead. He then tells us about Brian Wilde and what a nice man he is. But Brian Wilde has since died, after Ronnie Barker died. So we have a dead man telling us about a living man who is now dead but died after he himself did.
If you think about this it’s an astonishing thing. I can’t believe that I will ever be remembered after I die. Hell, I’m barely registering in peoples’ consciousnesses while I am still alive. When I die I will be forgotten in the blink of an eye.
Makes you think.