1 9 5 6 – 1 9 5 7 (UK)
30 x 30 minute episodes
This costume action series related the glorious exploits of King Arthur’s bravest knight and Queen Guinevere’s champion, Sir Lancelot du Lac (brilliantined William Russell, pictured above with a washing-up glove on his head).
In the background was King Arthur (Bruce Seton for the first three episodes and then Ronald Leigh-Hunt), his famous sword Excalibur, the revered sorcerer Merlin (Cyril Smith), plus Lancelot’s squire, former kitchen boy Brian (Robert Scroggins).
The first British series to be shot in colour (for 14 of the 30 episodes), the programme was lavishly photographed and used specially commissioned research from Oxford University to ensure the accuracy of its 14th-century settings – although no mention was made of Lancelot’s dalliance with the charming and sensible Queen Guinevere (Jane Hylton) or the conception of Sir Galahad behind the King’s back.
As an episodic adventure yarn with no particular story arc (such as a specific quest or challenge), the series heaved its way through various duels with warrior knights and opportune rescues of distressed damsels, with the occasional ingredient of wizardry thrown in for good measure.
William Russell became one of TV’s first heartthrobs through this role. He later played Ian Chesterton, a Doctor Who assistant, before arousing fond memories in middle-aged female viewers when he returned as Ted Sullivan in Coronation Street in the early 1990s.
One of the series greatest legacies was that it provided Patrick McGoohan with an early role in the episode ‘The Outcasts’. Here he met director-writer Ralph Smart, who would later devise Danger Man which would propel McGoohan to stardom and The Prisoner.
Sir Lancelot du Lac
Bruce Seton (1)
Ronald Leigh-Hunt (2)