The One Game was a 1988 four part series that aired on ITV. It starred Patrick Malahide as Magnus, Stephen Dillane as Nick Thorne, and Pippa Haywood as Jenny Thorne (Nick’s ex-wife). Continue reading, I’ve tried to avoid spoilers, or just scroll down to the gallery.
Patrick Malahide as Magnus
Malahide’s physical appearance in The One Game is quite different than how he usually looks. He has a full head of dark hair and a rather fetching beard. He wears lots of black ensembles, including some pretty cool leather and denim outfits.
The Magnus character is intense and often cruel in how treats Nick, but there is also a gentlemanly chivalrousness to him. Magnus is actually likable and becomes more likable when we learn about his past.
The One Game
Nick is a highly successful businessman who owns a video game company. First, he finds his company’s assets severely depleted after Magnus, Nick’s former business partner and friend, hacks into his system and robs him. Then he is forced to play a real-life game, again because of Magnus.
Jenny comes into play after being kidnapped by Magnus. She is used as bait to keep Nick playing the game Magnus’ way. Magnus uses a series of puzzles and challenges to make life absolutely miserable for Nick, but it is all a way of confronting the past.
We gradually learn about their past as the series progresses. Magnus came into Nick’s life out of the blue. It appears as though he was some sort of wandering hippie type. They became friends and eventually Magnus introduced Jenny to Nick. It is obvious that Magnus loves Jenny but she chooses Nick for her husband. We also see a darker moment in the past through a scene replayed in Nick’s memory of a drowning woman’s hand reaching out from a lake.
The hand has a Camelot connotation to it. There are several references to Camelot throughout. Magnus is like a magical Merlin figure. He is obsessed with games and puzzles; it was partly due to Nick’s move to video games that forced Magnus out of the company. He would have preferred they stay with real-life games, the more real-life the better — such as the One Game. Nick is something of an Arthur. He has to constantly prove himself. Jenny is Guinevere. Nick’s current girlfriend, Fay (who turns out to be more than she appears), is something of a Morgana Lefay.
The One Game does not deal in “good” or “bad”. Magnus is not a villain. He is a very complicated and mysterious man with what would seem to be deep-rooted psychological issues. He escaped a mental institution yet the doctor who worked with him was extremely fond of him. When discussing Magnus with Nick and Jenny, she refers to him as her “friend” and we see video evidence of her trying to protect Magnus and help him maintain his dignity.
The One Game aired in 1988 and it does show. The computers and the fashions look extremely dated. It has a general feel akin to programs like The Avengers (with Steed and Peel, not Iron Man and Captain America) or The Prisoner. If you’ve ever seen The Avengers or The Prisoner you will have seen people suddenly thrust into weird, all encompassing situations set up for revenge. Despite these attributes, The One Game avoids being cheesy.
The One Game has the hallmarks of a cult television program, in my opinion. It is quirky, intriguing, occasionally humorous (deliberately so), and different with its combinations of Arthurian legend, computer gaming, and danger. It even has motorcycle jousting! Oh, and the soundtrack is great too.
Malahide and Dillane, of course, have both recently appeared in the 2nd series of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Patrick plays Balon Greyjoy (read about him here) and Stephen Dillane is Stannis Baratheon. There are no obvious similarities (though I feel there are some minor ones, but I won’t get into that) between the two series, but it is still fun to note.
The One Game, in its entirety, can be currently found on YouTube where it is described as “Cult TV”. There was a 2003 DVD release which is now out of print. I would love a re-release; it truly deserves one!