This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
1986’s Edge of Darkness, a one-series-and-done thriller about murder, nuclear cover-ups, ecology, space colonisation, global extinction, and the role of ancient secret societies in all of the above, prompted a brief fad for dramas featuring a touch of magical realism or esoteric conspiracy here and there. They didn’t make a big deal of it at the time, mind, but if you look back the common threads become markedly more evident. The strangely compelling VHiStory blog, in which the author watches all the VHS tapes that have sat piled up in their garage for the past couple of decades, has made convincing arguments for a number of series as attempting to mimic the style and success of Edge of Darkness. Of these, both Jute City and Wipe Out have almost entirely vanished from view; neither has had an official DVD release, and whilst Jute City has appeared in bootleg form on YouTube footage of Wipe Out seems to be impossible to find. VHiStory makes a good case that Jute City seems to have followed the Edge of Darkness checklist a little too closely, whilst if Wipe Out‘s directly copied scenes from Edge of Darkness as VHiStory claims that might have created legal as well as commercial barriers to giving it another release.
Wipe Out was broadcast alongside The One Game, the third series VHiStory identifies as belonging to this “a bit like Edge of Darkness” microgenre. Unlike the others, it has enjoyed a DVD release, and for my money it stands on its two feet very well. Like Edge of Darkness, it’s full of ambiguous moments which can be read as suggesting a far more esoteric interpretation of events, but unlike Jute City or Wipe Out it benefits from a drastically more original story and an aesthetic style all of its own.