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Oil Strike North: Deadline (S1EP1 BBC One 26 Aug 1975, Maurice Roëves)

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Deadline: “The toughest sea in the world” – that’s how the oilmen look upon the North Sea. Cold, grey, stormy – Triumph Oil are up against a deadline. Time, weather, supplies – everything is against them. Is it an impossible deadline?

Original publicity: Oil was once the balm that poured into the barrels of the Persian Gulf, the stuff that dreams were made of. But not to producer Gerry Glaister or writer Norman Crisp. The new drama series they have jointly devised tells the grimmer story of the battle for oil in the North Sea. What happens, they ask, when an international oil company, Triumph Oil, busy with off-shore drilling exploration, begins to suspect three months before its government concession runs out that there could be oil in a block they have so far given low priority?

Oil Strike North contains all the natural elements a writer usually contrives to build into drama: there’s a heightened sense of danger, millions of pounds at stake, fierce political issues, and, above all, human emotion. “We wanted to show,” says Gerry Glaister, “that the battle for oil in the North Sea is not just about priceless hardware, but about people at every level, from the government official down to the rig-men and roustabouts (drilling labourers)”. Both Glaister and Crisp are amazed to find how little the rest of the country knows about life on a North Sea oil rig – “They imagine vaguely that it’s a sort of John Wayne existence and that the men are making fortunes for themselves” – or how towns like Aberdeen and Peterhead are changing under the influence of oil exploration. “And yet the struggle for oil is going to affect all our lives over the next fifty to one hundred years. We think it’s the most important economic development since the Industrial Revolution, and that, of course, could not be witnessed on television. People do not seem to have grasped how totally we have become an oil-dependent country. As one of our characters says, “Oil doesn’t just drive power stations and ships, and heat factories … it’s in the clothes you wear, the shoes on your feet, the paint on your house, the carpet you walk on, plastics, checmicals, fertilizers…”.

Regular Cast: Nigel Davenport (Fraser), Michael Whitney (Frank Ward), Angela Douglas (Julie Ward), Callum Mill (Angus Gallacher), Angela Cheyne (Shona Campbell),

Guest Cast: Maurice Roëves, Ralph Ball, Noel Johnson, Tim Meats, Judi Lamb, Ronald Leigh-Hunt, Jay Neill, Ed Bishop, Jon Yule, John Line, Peter Godfrey, Richard Hurndall, Boyd McKenzie, Willy Joss, Bill Denniston, John Graham, Simon Clarke

Writer: Ken Hughes / Director: Peter Cregeen

Airdate: 26 Aug 1975 on BBC One Two

Series: Oil Strike North Season 1 Episode 1

Show Info: 13 part BBC drama series about the men and women working for international oil company Triumph Oil.