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Spyship (BBC Thriller, Tom Wilkinson, Lesley Nightingale)

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Spyship BBC 1983

In six part thriller serial Spyship, written by Callan creator James Mitchell, Journalist Martin Taylor (Tom Wilkinson) 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 (Lesley Nightingale) 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.

The serial was based on a novel by Tom Keene and Brian Hayes. The pair had been reporters on a ship sinking in 1974 that clearly inspired the events here.

Cast: 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

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

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