I’ve been a John Buchan fan for years now and have read and re-read his Richard Hanny thrillers many times. So when I saw that my local PBS-TV network was broadcasting the BBC production of The Thirty-Nine Steps on Sunday evening, I thought I’d give it a shot. I was hoping that just for once, the progressive media establishment would present a winning classic minus the contemporary political corrections. How naive of me.
This BBC rendering of the Buchan classic bears no resemblance to the original thriller first published in 1915. Buchan’s fast-paced spy adventure is told from a man’s point of view, a man who has lived on the rough side of life, a man who knows hard work, and the harshness of the South African Veldt. The best part of Buchan’s story is Hannay’s solo escapades through the unforgiving Scottish highlands and the proud simple people he encounters there as he attempts to elude his pursuers. Hannay is a strong confident character, a patriot, a man of honor, a man of his time.
But the Hannay put forward in this BBC hack job is the usual house broken and sensibly neutered tabby complete with the requisite boyish good looks–just enough sex appeal to draw the females but not enough to be dangerous. Played by Rupert Penry-Jones, a good actor in his own right but miscast in this role, Hannay becomes just another watered down white male in need of feminist redemption. The poor chap can barely find his way to the train station let alone trek through the wilds of the Scottish highlands. And of course, the BBC rewrite is compelled to invent a female co-star who is–yep, you guessed it–a suffragette, a confident independent model of 21st century womanhood created to show our sad benighted hero the error of his Victorian ways.
Sadly, an exciting spy novel featuring a strong decisive MALE displaying his skills, professionalism, and unhesitating patriotism gets obliterated by the cloying correctness of today’s mandated gender genocide.
So for an authentic treat, skip the BBC bilge. Read the real Buchan. You won’t be disappointed.