1 9 5 6 – 1 9 5 7 (UK)
39 x 30 minute episodes
This ITV pirate action-adventure series, starring a young Robert Shaw as hands-on-the-hips style swashbuckling, pardoned ex-pirate turned King’s man Captain Dan Tempest, was a Weinstein Production for Sapphire Films Ltd.
In 1718, Tempest had been the leader of a band of freebooters in the pirate-infested British Caribbean province of New Providence in the Bahamas.
The opening episodes explained how English privateer Woodes Rogers (with Alec Clunes in fine Fairbanksian form) was made governor of the Bahamas with a brief to pardon or suppress the pirates in the Caribbean.
With the aid of reformed pirate Captain Hornigold (a rather taciturn Andrew Crawford) and Royal Navy Lieutenant Beamish (Peter Hammond) he finally brought most of the pirates in with an offer of a free pardon in exchange for switching sides and fighting on behalf of the Crown against the advancing Spanish, and help in countering the disruptive influence of other pirates, such as the infamous Blackbeard – a terrier-like George Margo playing the psychotic villain with enjoyable melodramatic relish in the first two episodes, before Terry Cooper took over in the role.
Armando (Edwin Richfield), Taffy (Paul Hansard) and Gaff (Brian Rawlinson) were all loyal members of Tempest’s swashbuckling crew on the formidable gunship Sultana, with Dickon (Wilfrid Downing), an impetuous young stowaway-turned-cabin-boy, and Captain Morgan (Tempest’s pet monkey) also seen.
Van Brugh (played with oily solicitude by Alec Mango) was an untrustworthy local businessman in Nassau, where the action mainly took place. Estaban (played by Roger Delgado, the future Master in Doctor Who) was one of the Spanish principals.
While The Buccaneers did display some stirring, full-blooded moments in its under-the-skull-and-crossbones saga, the buffoonish behaviour of its would-be cutthroat types often tended to test viewers’ patience.
The series was hailed as “one of the most exciting romantic discoveries of the year”. With its ‘a-roving’ theme song, The Buccaneers was reputedly television’s first pirate series and was also unusual in that its lead character did not appear until the third episode – the first two being devoted to setting the scene.
The first three episodes of the series were made at Nettlefold Studios in Walton-on-Thames before production moved to eight permanent sets at Twickenham Studios for episode four onward.
The sea sequences were filmed off Falmouth by a second unit and the ship featured was a show-business veteran, having already played the part of the Hispaniola in Disney’s Treasure Island (1950) and the Pequod in John Huston’s Moby Dick (1956).
The small budget meant members of the supporting cast often appeared as two different characters in the same episode.
Captain Dan Tempest
Governor Captain Woodes Rogers
George Margo (1)
Terence Cooper (2)
Sam Bassett/Captain Hornigold
Blackbeard | The Raider | Captain Dan Tempest | Dan Tempest’s War With Spain | The Wasp | Whale Gold | The Slave Ship | Gunpowder Plot | The Ladies | The Surgeon of Sangre Rojo | Before The Mast | Dan Tempest & The Amazons | Articles Of War | The Hand Of The Hawk | Gentleman Jack And The Lady | Marooned | Mr Beamish And The Hangman’s Noose | Dead Man’s Rock | Blood Will Tell | Dangerous Cargo | The Return Of Calico Jack | Ghost Ship | Conquistador | Mother Doughty’s Crew | Conquest Of New Providence | Hurricane | Cutlass Wedding | The Aztec Treasure | The Prize Of Andalusia | Dan Tempest Holds An Auction | Spy Aboard | Flip And Jenny | Indian Fighters | Mistress Higgins’ Treasure | To The Rescue | Decoy | Instrument Of War | Pirate’s Honour | Printer’s Devil