Spyship (BBC-1 1983 with Tom Wilkinson and Lesley Nightingale)



UK / BBC One – Channel 7 Australia – The Entertainment Channel US / 6×53 minute episodes / Broadcast 9 November – 14 December 1983

Writer: James Mitchell / Additional Material: Robert Smith / Book: Tom Keene, Brian Haynes / Script Editor: Roger Gregory / Theme Music: Richard Harvey / Sung by June Tabor / Production Design: Myles Lang / Producer: Colin Rogers / Director: Michael Custance

Thriller serial. Journalist Martin Taylor returns home north from London after the death of his mother, his father is a trawlerman working aboard a ship called The Caistor, when it sets out for a standard voyage around the waters of Norway it fails to return home and is tagged as missing believed sunk with all men on board also believed dead.

Martin, along with girlfriend Suzy and many of the wives and girlfriends of the crew are sure something more sinister was going on especially when Martin discovers the Caistor had spy equipment on board. When people who have spoken out start to get bumped off in bizarre accidents Martin has to go undercover to get at the truth.

Excellent shot on video atmospheric six parter Spyship would have done well to have chosen a different title, one that doesn’t give away a key plot point quite so readily maybe. Tom Wilkinson has the lead as the everyman Taylor and the rest of the cast is first rate too, including a pre Auf Wiedersehen Pet Jimmy Nail as the only member of the crew not to die (he breaks his leg in an accident and returns home before the Caistor goes missing).

Although it’s clear early on that foul play is involved what’s interesting is that it seems to involve a cover up between MI6 and the KGB working together. James Mitchell’s script stay’s taut right to the end including up to the unforgettable final scene.

Tom Wilkinson as Martin Taylor
Lesley Nightingale as Suzy Summerfield
Peter Eyre as Francis Main
Michael Aldridge as Sir Peter Hillmore
Paul Geoffrey as Simon
Al Gillyon as Hoskins
Philip Hynd as Evans
Jimmy Nail as Metcalfe
Mandy Pickard as Mrs Metcalfe
Christine Hargreaves as Jean Williams
Joe Belcher as Johnno
Vivienne Martin as Mrs Franklin
Johnny Paterson as Norman
Malcolm Hebden as Tom Silvers
George Baker as Irving
Peter Ivatts as Millar
Don Henderson as Jack Fielding
Malcolm Tierney as Harding
Jean Boht as Mrs Silvers
Gaylie Runciman as Mrs Lindsay
David Burke as Rokoff
Erik Øksnes as Jaboksen
Thorley Walters as Doctor Dowdall
Patricia Gallimore as Nurse
Michael Lees as Captain Huninger
Judy Monahan as Christie
Ellen Horn as Berik
Arne Aas as Bølset
Bjørn Sundquist as Starvik
Trini Lund as Mrs Starvik
David Ryall as Strang
Toralv Maurstad as Bjørnson