The search for “Living in the Past”

When I came up with the idea for Anglofilmia, I thought, “Well, this should be easy! There are movies about everything.”


As it turns out, there are really only a bare handful of films or television programs dealing with human existence after the Homo sapiens sapiens and before the Greeks, despite this period being fifteen hundred years long, and very few are fictional portrayals.

Carry On, Cleo! was a bust. IMDB was no help at all. But then I found a page mentioning a show that seemed like a perfect candidate.

“Living in the Past” aired on the BBC in 1978, and was an early precursor to contemporary “reality shows”. 15 participants lived in an Iron Age settlement and had to survive for a full year, using only tools and techniques known to humans at the time.

Sounds perfect for our project, right?

Unfortunately, the show is 100% unavailable. As far as I can tell, you can’t buy it, rent it or download it.

There was a follow-up show ten years later in which the participants are re-interviewed, so viewers can see how their lives were altered by their experiences. And the BBC created a new version of the show in 2001 called “Surviving the Iron Age”, which included three children of the original series’ volunteers.

But for some reason, that doesn’t sit well with me. I want to see the original before watching any of the derivatives. I want to meet the parents before I watch the children. And so, I must search for alternatives.

The documentation from the original 1978 experiment is available online, so that we can all learn from their lessons.

In the meantime, I’ll be chasing down a promising lead on another series. Stay tuned.