Like the previous reviewer the first thing that struck me was the dreadful pictures quality. If you didn't know you'd think this came from 1930 rather than 1970. I just can't believe pictures were so bad as late as 1970. The picture at the beginning of each episode which often features outside locations is absolutely appalling. I'm sure if Steptoe wasn't such a classic series they wouldn't be released. Although I was only a kid when the series originally came out I'm sure they weren't that bad when originally broadcast - perhaps the tapes have deteriorated? Even so surely they could have done something to restore them as so many other releases are digitally restored these days. Just as they junked shows back then it seems the BBC / 2 Entertain still have little regard for the BBC's fantastic legacy. Furthermore, I wonder when it was they actually lost the colour versions as I'm sure I can remember them being broadcast many years after they were originally shown. It was when I saw a grainy black and white version on TV of 'Without Prejudice' in the 1980' - an excellent episode from the next series later in 1970 - that I wondered what was going on. So It seems that some, if not all of Series 6 is also going to be released in black and white. This means that of the Steptoes only 2 out of the 8 series will be released in colour, apart from the two excellent Christmas specials. Furthermore, I wonder how they are going to be released? Not on their own I hope, but with series 7 and 8!
And I'm still wondering when and how we're going to get the Dad's Army Xmas specials (it appears they've already missed one).
Anyway what of this series? Well I believe by and large the seventies Steptoes surpassed the sixties episodes - the characters were more developed and the dialogue actually became deeper and more original. It's also easy to forget what a truly great comic actor Harry H Corbett was. He has the timing, intonation and facial expressiveness of Hancock himself. The opening episode sees the death of the Steptoes' horse, Hercules, and like many of these great scripts straddles the fine line between pathos and comedy extremely well. 'Any Old Iron' would perhaps be seen as politically incorrect these days, but is still a classic; whilst 'A Winter's Tale', despite being a re-write of an episode from Series 1 is marvellous. Galton and Simpson must have loved the holiday theme, as they returned to it again in one of the subsequent Xmas specials. `TB or not TB' (a variation on Hancock's 'The Cold') and `The Colour Problem' (ironic in view of the fact that they lost the colour versions!) are also excellent episodes. If anything the series was to become even stronger in series 6 and 7 before dipping slightly in quality again in the last series.