The story begins off Spithead, Portsmouth, England, in 1794. A storm is raging in the English Channel, and a small open boat is being lashed by squally rain. Huddled at the stern is a pale-faced 17-year-old midshipman about to begin his career in the Royal Navy. Soaked to the skin, Horatio Hornblower (Ioan Gruffudd) steps aboard his first ship and becomes violently seasick, much to the amusement of his new comrades. Despite this start, he is destined to become one of the most gallant and formidable figures of the Napoleanic Wars.
Although Hornblower was a big hit in the US its American backers decided to call a halt to making further episodes. After a long gap four more episodes aired in 2002 and 2003. The first two of these were filmed at the same time as the first four stories but not shown at the time.
Memorable moment: Hornblower’s shipmate Simpson (Dorian Healy) is a bully whose own failings make him jealous of the new recruit. He needles the new boy throughout their first voyage and the antagonism leads to a duel with tragic results.
You can see Ioan in another watery adventure: at the end of movie blockbuster Titanic. He plays a crew man manning a lifeboat and rescues Kate Winslet’s character Rose.
IOAN GRUFFUDD as Hornblower
ROBERT LINDSAY as Captain, Sir Edward Pellow
DORIAN HEALY as M’Man Simpson
MICHAEL BYRNE as Capt Keene
Script Editor: Tom Grieves
Music: John Keane
Design: Rob Harris
Costume: John Mollo
Executive Producers: Vernon Lawrence, Delia Fine
Producer: Andrew Benson
Network and Production Companies: ITV – Meridian – Celtic – Picture Palace
Duration: 8×120 minute episodes
Aired From: 7 October 1998 – 6 January 2003