A faithful adaptation of the classic novel that follows the attempt of young Jim Hawkins and his adult companions to find a legendary pirate treasure that's also coveted by their cook, who's actually an infamous pirate, Long John Silver.
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1977  

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Cast

Series cast summary:
Alfred Burke ...
 Long John Silver (4 episodes, 1977)
Ashley Knight ...
 Jim Hawkins (4 episodes, 1977)
Anthony Bate ...
 Dr. Livesey (4 episodes, 1977)
...
 Israel Hands (4 episodes, 1977)
...
 Job Anderson (4 episodes, 1977)
Talfryn Thomas ...
 Tom Morgan (4 episodes, 1977)
Roy Boyd ...
 George Merry (4 episodes, 1977)
Tim Condren ...
 O'Brian (4 episodes, 1977)
Richard Beale ...
 Capt. Smollett (3 episodes, 1977)
Roy Evans ...
 Joyce (3 episodes, 1977)
Brian Croucher ...
 Hunter (3 episodes, 1977)
Edward Peel ...
 Abraham Gray (3 episodes, 1977)
Jack Watson ...
 Billy Bones (2 episodes, 1977)
Jo Kendall ...
 Sarah Hawkins (2 episodes, 1977)
...
 Blind Pew (2 episodes, 1977)
Thorley Walters ...
 Squire Trelawney (2 episodes, 1977)
Christopher Burgess ...
 Black Dog (2 episodes, 1977)
...
 Ben Gunn (2 episodes, 1977)
Ena Cabayo ...
 Louisa Silver (2 episodes, 1977)
Stephen Boswell ...
 Dick (2 episodes, 1977)
John Baskcomb ...
 Mr. Blandly (2 episodes, 1977)
Keith Bartlett ...
 John (2 episodes, 1977)
Max Faulkner ...
 Sgt. Dance (2 episodes, 1977)
Linal Haft ...
 Joshua Arrow (2 episodes, 1977)
Henry Knowles ...
 Bill (2 episodes, 1977)
Derrick Slater ...
 Tom (2 episodes, 1977)
Royston Tickner ...
 Tom Redruth (2 episodes, 1977)
Clive Wood ...
 Dirk (2 episodes, 1977)
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Storyline

A faithful adaptation of the classic novel that follows the attempt of young Jim Hawkins and his adult companions to find a legendary pirate treasure that's also coveted by their cook, who's actually an infamous pirate, Long John Silver.

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16 October 1977 (UK)  »

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(4 parts)

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Trivia

Patrick Troughton (Israel Hands) previously played Roach in Treasure Island (1950). See more »

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User Reviews

 
As good as it gets
19 July 2006 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

One thing that characterised BBC drama of the 1970s was lack of money, and the concomitant stratagems devised to cover the yawning gap between vision and recourses. What could they have produced with just a bit more money? For this Treasure Island (co produced with Australia) they got it.

The cast and credits read as a roll call for the great TV character actors of the 70s, directed, produced and written for by men who had previously made plausible the glorious hokum of Dr Who.

John Lucatotti's script is fiendishly clever, and while little of RLS's original is missing, there is a significant degree of action that the book might allude to, but Jim (the narrator) is unaware of.

spoiler warning

It's in the first part of the story that this takes place; Billy Bones (a suitably desperate Jack Watson) tempts Jim's father (a suitably desperate but feeble Terry Scully) into arranging a two man treasure voyage, the corrupt shipping agent Ezra Blandly (a cosily conniving John Bascombe) guesses their intentions and tips off Silver, who hoodwinks and then cruelly tortures the information out of a hapless alcoholic Mr Arrow (Linal Haft). Billy Bones plans founder, and poor Hawkins snr catches pneumonia in the rain, which finishes him.

It can be perilous stuff to play with a classic, and all to Lucarotti's credit that the trick pulls off; his grasp of RLS's pirate idiom is so good that it really isn't easy to spot the additions if you don't know the original well (one of my favourite interpolations is Arrow telling Redruth 'You climb that ladder like a gamekeeper'), and the great advantage of Lucarotti's 'backstory' is that we are able to see much more of Flint's crew before the narrative starts killing them off.

The pirate characterisations are uniformly ripe; Patrick Troughton crafty and capable as Israel, Talfryn Thomas avaricious as Morgan, Stephen Boswell stammering as Dick, Stephen Grief a smoothly sinister Anderson, and Roy Boyd as a volatile, menacing Merry. Then of course there's Silver.

Alfred Burke is a quite astonishing Sea Cook; slick, violent, cunning, and dangerously plausible: Charm itself on one leg. At no point do you see an actor playing a part; you see John Silver. But for Jim and circumstances, he'd win easily.

And the good guys, honest to a man, are far from stupid; Anthony Bate shines as Livesey, beautifully precise; Thorley Walters blusters as Trelawney (but he's a crack shot, and the image of him wading ashore from the swamped jolly boat is a delight); Richard Beale delivers a sharply terse old salt as Smollett, the only pity is that he lacks a decent curtain call. Even Redruth, Hunter and Joyce (Royston Tickner, Brian Croucher, Roy Evans) come off well as three honest men out of their depth but doing their damnedest anyway.

Among this heavyweight cast it would be easy for a child actor to get lost, but happily Ashley Knight holds his end up extremely well (he played the young Claudius the previous year); the kid really can act, and he never, ever gets schmaltzy.

As to the rest Jo Kendall is a great doting wife and scolding mother, Christopher Burgess is a believably inept Black Dog, and David Collings is a repulsive, yet entirely human Pew; similar can be said of Jack Watson's Billy Bones; fierce, violent, bullying, but ultimately vulnerable. Paul Copley is a filthy, smelly and visibly barmy Benn Gunn – complete with what sounds to be a Manx accent.

If there's a tiny shortcoming, a couple of the sets do look like sets, but that's really quibbling: The acting is superb, the writing and direction peerless, with no character wasted, the fight scenes are great (look out for Israel chinning O'Brien with a belaying pin), and there's a roistering rendition of Fifteen Men as a title track. This Treasure Island is as good as it gets.


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