1 9 8 4 (Australia)
3 x 120 minute episodes)
In 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, Australia’s then Prime Minister Robert Menzies (John Wood) was still looking traditionally to Britain for advice and assistance, dealing with Winston Churchill (Timothy West), who regarded Australian troops as being there to help Britain, rather than the other way round.
Little more than three years later, when Australian and American troops stopped the flow of Japanese invaders along the Kokoda Trail, the axis had shifted. This miniseries from Channel 10 (Australia) – subtitled “Australia Under Siege” – told the story of those three years.
Where Menzies regarded Australia as being a sort of offshore British Isle, John Curtin (Michael Blakemore) took a more realistic view when it came to enlisting aid. Curtin, the leader of the Labor Party, succeeded to the Prime Ministership on 3 October 1941, following Menzies who was forced to stand down, and the brief tenure of Arthur Fadden (John Clayton).
It was Curtin who realised it was no good relying on British support when Britain herself had enough problems. It was also Curtin who finally succeeded in bringing America to Australia’s aid, as he said in his 1942 broadcast to the US: “We are the last bastion between the Japanese and the west coast of America. If you let us fail, America itself is in danger”.
Finally, Franklin D Roosevelt (Warren Mitchell) sent General Douglas MacArthur (Robert Vaughn), whom Curtin appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Pacific. Despite their mutual antagonism, MacArthur and the Australian commander, General Thomas Blamey (Ray Barrett), finally halted the Japanese advance in New Guinea.
The action of The Last Bastion is divided mainly between Canberra, Washington and London: each place providing its own particular share of tension: In Canberra, there is Curtin facing not only the Japanese threat but opposition from within his own party on such matters as conscription; In Washington, there is Roosevelt wondering whether or not to commit troops so far out of America’s defence perimeter; and in London, the cigar-chomping Churchill – falsely believing Australia is protected by Singapore – does not take Australia’s plight as seriously or as responsibly as he should – until Singapore falls to the Japanese.
David Williamson spent two years writing and producing The Last Bastion. As a piece of television, the miniseries offered the sort of viewing rarely seen. It is history without frills, tautly directed by Chris Thompson, and its cast is strong and effective.
Franklin D Roosevelt
Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Gen. Tom Blamey
Mary Alice Evatt
Eddie Ward MP
David Lloyd George
Air Chief Marshal Portal
Air Chief Marshal Brooke-Popham
Adm. Ernest King
Gen. George C. Marshall
Gen. Jonathan Wainwright