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Our Friends In The North (BBC Drama, Christopher Eccleston, Daniel Craig)

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Period drama serial Our Friends in the North is an immense study of 30 years of political life in Britain between the years 1964 and 1994 and following the lives of four Newcastle friends; Politically aware Nicky and Mary fun loving Tosker and troubled Geordie.

One of the greatest pieces of TV of the nineties with a superb cast too. Christopher Eccleston has spoken recently (April 2015) about possibly doing a sequel. One of those shows that resonates long after you’ve finished watching. If this had been made in today’s social media frenzy of a world it would be up there with the likes of Breaking Bad and House of Cards.

Stuart Urban was to have directed the first five episodes and indeed did direct many scenes of the first few episodes but a disagreement over the direction of the series with writer Ransley led to his departure and Pedr James was drafted in instead.

Kim Sengupta and Colins Wills in the Sunday Mirror of 28 Jan 1996 talked about the real life figures that inspired the police corruption aspects of the story: Millions of viewers will be unaware that it is based on true accounts of the blackest period in police history when hundreds of Britain’s policemen were on the payrolls of gangsters. Pornographer Bennie Barratt, played by Malcolm McDowell, is drawn from Jimmy Humphreys, the Mr Big in Soho at the time. The ‘crusading cop’ is the double of Frank Williamson, a senior police officer drafted in by then Home Secretary Jim Callaghan to clean up Scotland Yard. Frank was a script consultant on the series.

Cast: CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON as Nicky Hutchinson; GINA McKEE as Mary Soulsby; DANIEL CRAIG as Geordie Peacock; MARK STRONG as Tosker Cox; MALCOLM McDOWELL as Benny Barrett; ALUN ARMSTRONG as Austin Donohue; DAVID BRADLEY as Eddie Wells; FREDA DOWIE as Florrie Hutchinson; PETER VAUGHAN as Felix Hutchinson; LOUISE SALTER as Julia Allen; VAL McLANE as Rita Cox; TONY HODGE as Brian Cox; GEOFFREY HUTCHINGS as John Edwards; DANNY WEBB as Detective Sergeant (later Inspector) Ron Conrad; DAVID SCHOFIELD as Detective Inspector John Salway; DONALD SUMPTER as Commander Harold Chapple; ELSPETH CHARLTON as Mrs Soulsby; JACK McBRIDE as Mr Soulsby; FRANK COUCHMAN as Patrick Soulsby; JOHN DAIR as Charlie Dawson; DANIEL CASEY as Adult Anthony Cox; TRACEY WILKINSON as Elaine Craig/Cox (From episode six)

Writer: Peter Ransley / Music: Colin Towns / Costume: James Keast / Executive Producer: Michael Wearing / Producer: Charles Pattinson / Directors: Pedr James and Simon Cellan Jones

UK / BBC Two / 9×70 minute episodes / Broadcast 15 January – 11 March 1996

THE EPISODES

1. 1964

Nicky returns from America (after working with the civil rights movement) to pick up with his friends Mary, Geordie and Tosker. Geordie and Tosker are keen for Nicky to join their Pop group but Nicky is more interested in getting involved in helping his dads friend Eddie Wells in the forthcoming election. Geordie having got a girl pregnant then decides to leave Newcastle and head for London. Mary (after a spell as Nicky’s girlfriend) is growing closer to Tosker. Nicky decides to leave university and takes a job working for councilor Austin Donohue.

guest cast
ROD CULBERTSON as Bede Connor / WILLIE ROSS as Gordon Peacock / MALCOLM TERRIS as Mr Knox / ROGER AVON as Mr Broniff / LEON LISSEK as Walensky / TERENCE RIGBY as Berger / JOANNA BACON as Female Transvestite

 

2. 1966

Tosker and Mary have got married and are living in a high rise tower block built by one of Donohue’s cronies but Mary is already beginning to feel trapped. Nicky is now deeply involved as Austin Donohue’s (who is no longer a councilor) PR man. Donohue appears to have his fingers in many pies and not all of them strictly legal and indeed Nicky is starting to feel his job is not all he hoped it would be. Geordie, meanwhile, has begun working for Soho porn baron Benny Barrett who is having trouble coping with the demands of corrupt cops.

guest cast
TONY HAYGARTH as Roy Johnson / ALAN TURNER as Dr Russell / TERENCE RIGBY as Berger / PHIL ATKINSON as Councilor / TONY BARTON as Herbert Sidebottom / ROD CULBERTSON as Bede Connor / RICHARD MORTON as Singer in Club / DAVID BEGG as Billy Shaughnessy / NICHOLAS SELBY as Sir Edward Jones / BOBBY KNUTT as Les / MARK DREWRY as Michael Frisch / ANDREW GRAINGER as Dc Fred Black / CHRISTOPHER NORTHEY as MP in Sex Shop

 

3. 1967

Geordie is now Benny Barrett’s right hand man but is playing with fire by having an affair with Benny’s girlfriend Julia. Nicky is now working as a photographer. Mary is still married to Tosker and still living in their damp filled tower block, both are far from happy with their lot.

guest cast
PETER JEFFREY as Commissioner Colin Blamire / MATTHEW BARON as Anthony Cox / MICHAEL GUNN as John Clark / MARK DREWRY as Michael Frisch / MARK PEGG as DC Tony Weir / ANDREW GRAINGER as Dc Fred Black / LEON LISSEK as Wolensky / ANNE ORWIN as Mrs Weightman / ROD CULBERTSON as Bede Connor / HARRIET KEEVIL as Helen Windsor / TONY NEILSON as Waiter / JULIAN FELLOWES as Claude Seabrook / EILEEN DALY as Dancer

 

4. 1970

Nicky is living in London and is heavily involved with an anarchist group; Tosker is planning to move up in the world and opens his own shop (having got a loan from Benny Barrett whilst visiting Geordie in London). Geordie himself is beginning to tire of working for Barrett and acting as a go between for Barrett’s dealings with corrupt officers of the met.

guest cast
SIMON TYRRELL as Dave / KAT McLOUGHLIN as Moira / DAVID BEGG as Billy Shaughnessy / TONY TARRANTS as Nigel / HARRIET KEEVIL as Helen Windsor / PETER JEFFREY as Commissioner Sir Colin Blamire / KEITH HUTCHESON as Journalist / TREVOR COOPER as Detective Chief Superintendent Dennis Cokburn / SIOBHAN BURKE as Lucille / MARK DREWRY as Michael Frisch / DOUGLAS McFERRAN as D.S. Croxley / ANGELINE BALL as Daphne

 

5. 1974

Nicky is back at home; Geordie having been sacrificed by Benny Barrett is released into the world after serving a sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. Benny is nowhere to be seen having gone into hiding in Spain. Tosker is now a big success in the world of retail but his marriage to Mary, who is training to be a lawyer, is falling apart. Eddie Wells is elected to parliament.

guest cast
GRANVILLE SAXTON as Commissioner Jellicoe / WILLIAM HOYLAND as Commander Arthur Fieldson / SIMON COURY as Journalist / CHRIS WALKER as DCI Paul Boyd / HARRY HERRING as Arthur Watson / CHARLIE HARDWICK as Paul Bennett / SOPHIA DIAZ as Mercedes / SIOBHAN BURKE as Lucille / ADAM PEARSON as Anthony Cox / JULIAN FELLOWES as Claude Seabrook / JEAN HEYWOOD as Woman in Market / McKENZIE FRASER as Returning Officer / MIRIAM STOCKLEY as Singer / ARTURO VENGAS as Restaurant Manager / NICHOLAS PALLISER as Stockbroker

 

6. 1979

Both Nicky and Geordie are living in the Willow Lane tower block, Nicky decides to stand for parliament as a Labour candidate but gets caught up in the oppositions dirty tricks campaign. Tosker feels his life is going nowhere (and he’s losing his hair into the bargain), then he meets Elaine in a nightclub, falls in love with her and decides to divorce Mary.

guest cast
JULIA JAMPSON as Olive / LIBBY DAVISON as Sarah / MARY WOODVINE as Alison / NEIL ARMSTRONG as Ben / DAVID HADDOW as D.I. Martin Oldfield / PETER McGOWAN as D.S. Conay / NICK FIGGIS as Anthony Cox / EMMA LIGHTFOOT as Bernadette Cox / JUDITH PARER as Mrs Noblr / ROBERT PUTT as Taylor / CHRIS WALKER as D.C.I. Paul Boyd / GRANVILLE SAXTON as Commissioner Jellicoe / PAUL RAINBOW as Inspector / SASKIA WICKHAM as Cludia Seabrook / LARRY LAMB as Alan Roe / STEPH BRAMWELL as Beattie

 

7. 1984

The miners strike is in full swing, Anthony – Mary and Tosker’s son -is now a policeman on duty helping to keep the miners in check; Felix, Nicky’s father is now in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and Nicky himself is now making a name for himself as a photo journalist; Mary is now deputy leader of the council and after 20 years she and Nicky once again become an item. Tosker is moving up in the world and even joins the Masons.

guest cast
DAVID WHITAKER as Toby Roddy / DEREK WALMSLEY as Barry Roddy / TREVOR FOX as Harry / LARRY LAMB as Alan Roe / STEPHANIE PUTSON as Bernadette Cox / CRAIG CONWAY as Christopher Collins / SASKIA WICKHAM as Claudia Seabrook / BRIAN HOGG as Scab Miner / DAVID MARRINER as Police Constable / ANDREW TANSEY as Sergeant / SEAN GILDER as PC Lukoschek / AMBER STYLES as Rita Roddy / DAVID LYON as Commander / THE SWAMP SINGERS as Cajun Band / CLARE WELCH as Magistrate / JULIA LLOYD BARRIE as Barrister

 

8. 1987

Nicky and Mary are married but Nicky, now a well known photographer, cannot resist having a fling whilst in London; Whilst photographing down and outs in London Nicky is amazed when he sees Geordie amongst them – later whilst staying in a hostel Geordie sets fire to his bed, he is then incredibly given a life sentence in prison. Nicky faces up to the prospect of admitting his now quite ill father to a home; Tosker loses a fortune in the stock market crash and Eddie Wells dies.

guest cast
CATHERINE TERRIS as Mrs Merriman / DENNY FERGUSON as Cooper / COLETTE BROWN as Alice McDonald / HEATHER TOBIAS as Female Vagrant / ROGER MONK as Drunk / GEZ CASEY as Frank / JOANNE MacINNES as Francine Walker / MILES EDWARDS as Jason / SASKIA WICKHAM as Claudia Seabrook / PETER CELLIER as Judge

 

9. 1994

Geordie is out of prison and is back in Newcastle; Tosker, who is about to open a nightclub in the shadow of the Tyne bridge, takes him in and gives him a job. Mary is now an MP and hasn’t seen Nicky in a long while. The four friends then come together again for the funeral of Nicky’s mother Florrie.

guest cast
GAVIN MUIR as Father Kyle / MELVYN BARNES as Sean Collins / JOHN LARSEN as Fire Safety Officer / JOHNNY CAESAR as Eric Burden Look-alike