Home Television Drama Churchill’s People

Churchill’s People

1 9 7 5 (UK)
26 x 50 minute episodes

Churchill’s People was, without doubt, the turkey of 1975, although those who wish to be charitable might say that Gerard Savory’s eight-years-in-the-making 26-part series based on Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples was dogged with bad luck.

An industrial dispute caused a postponement, which meant the series missed the 1974 Churchill centenary year. It began (as did the critical slings and arrows) on New Year’s Eve with the first part, life in AD 43, which included the Roman invasion – by an army of two people!

But by then BBC bosses had already surrendered. They’d barely trailed anything of the £1¼ million series and refused to show previews to critics (a sure sign they knew the series was a flop). They scheduled it after the nine o’clock news and opposite ITV’s ratings-topper Public Eye.

Still, on and on, down the centuries Churchill’s People battled, the 800 leading actors, 1,000 extras and 20 directors bravely ignoring the audience’s non-Churchillian V-sign and dismissing claims that their efforts resembled a Women’s Institute pageant in a slightly tatty town hall.

The series was bogged down by cheap sets, confused performances and a dismal over-reliance on expository dialogue.

When BBC1’s new controller Brian Cowgill slotted Kojak in front of it some British viewers stayed tuned, perhaps gaining a little history with a giggle, but American viewers couldn’t switch off fast enough.

Dennis Waterman, who played the part of King Harold, fought a personal setback when he really did get something smack in the eye in a field near Hastings. It was nothing to do with the longbow, it was the lace of his cloak.

Dennis – who needed to survive the Norman Conquest in good nick to start thumping thugs again in The Sweeney the following week – required medical treatment, rest and new makeup, all of which delayed the recording of the battle.

Still, the episode ended on the eve of the King’s clash with William The Conqueror, so at least he didn’t have to keep an eye out for anything else.

King James I
Alfred Lynch
Oliver Cromwell
Bernard Hepton
Ealdred, Archbishop of York
Geoffrey Matthews
King Charles I 
Daniel Brian
Philip 
Geoffrey Beevers
Lucius 
Jeremy Kemp
Donald MacAmnay
Patrick Allen
Leo Hennessey
Ray Barrett
Bob Pott
Rodney Bewes
Jahn 
Colin Blakely
Tom Mackenzie
Tom Conti
William Wallace
Brian Cox
Aaron Graham
Edward Fox
Thomas Partridge
Derek Francis
King Henry III
Derek Godfrey
William Davenant
Ian Hendry
King Alfred
Alan Howard
Henry, Bishop of Norwich
Michael Jayston
Claudius 
Richard Johnson
Margaret Paston
Gemma Jones
William Brewster
Robert Keegan
John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
Michael Kitchen
George Campsie
Sam Kydd
William the Ewerer
Dinsdale Landen
Hugh Goodrest
Robert Lang
James Ings
Bryan Marshall
King Penda
Leo McKern
Sir Walter Raleigh
John Turner
Edward the Confessor
John Wood
Lord Sidmouth
Roland Culver
John Loxley
Clive Francis
Duke of Portland
Charles Gray
King John
Kenneth Griffith
Anna Partridge
Elvi Hale
King Oswy
Robert Hardy
George Loveless
Barry Jackson
Epillicus, the Barber
Arthur Lowe
Alice Campsie
Sheila Manahan
Queen Ealhswith
Anna Massey
Simon de Montfort
Daniel Massey
King Edward I
Stephen Murray
King Charles II
Denis Quilley
Mrs Trundle
Rita Webb
Caradoc 
Frederick Jaeger
Samuel Jenks
Geoffrey Bayldon
Guthrum 
Brian Blessed
Anne, Lady Rochester
Isabel Dean
Titania 
Polly James
Bishop Wishart
Fulton Mackay
Jack Plaster
Arthur Mullard
Ranulf 
Richard O’Callaghan
Samuel Partridge
Geoffrey Palmer
Laurence Kemys
Gareth Thomas
Hainault 
Patrick Troughton
King Harold II
Dennis Waterman
Colonel John Hewson
John Woodvine
Elizabeth Rush
Annette Crosbie
Samuel Ross
Jeremy Irons
John Church
Tony Selby
Colonel Michelburn
George Sewell
Boudicca 
Claire Davenport
Wulfric 
Patrick Stewart
Richard Lionheart
Clinton Greyn

Episodes

Pritan | The Lost Island | The Coming of the Cross | King Alfred | The Saxon Dusk | The Conquerors | A Sprig of Broom | Silver Giant, Wooden Dwarf | On the Anvil | The Wallace | Shouts and Murmurs | A Wilderness of Roses | The Whip of Heaven | A Rich and Beautiful Empire | America! America! | March On, Boys! | The Agreement of the People | A Bill of Mortality | The Derry Boys | The Fine Art of Bubble-Blowing | O Canada | Liberty Tree | Mother India | Mutiny | True Patriots All | Death of Liberty