Screenplay (1986–1993)
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Boswell & Johnson's Tour of the Western Isles 

In the autumn of 1773, the English writer Samuel Johnson visits the Hebrides, or Western Isles, off the North-West coast of Scotland. With him are his friend, the Scotsman James Boswell, ... See full summary »


John Byrne


John Byrne


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Episode credited cast:
Robbie Coltrane ... Dr. Samuel Johnson
John Sessions ... James Boswell
Celia Imrie ... Lady MacDonald
Ruth McGhie ... Flora McDonald
Penelope McGhie Penelope McGhie ... Miss Campbell
Nicola Esson Nicola Esson ... Elizabeth McQuarrie
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Mark Anstee Mark Anstee ... Capt. MacLeod
Alan David Alan David ... Sir Aeneas MacPherson
Ian Dury ... Dr. Reid
Tony Halfpenny Tony Halfpenny ... Coll
Carol MacReady ... Lady MacPherson
Richard D. Sharp Richard D. Sharp ... Benjamin
Leo Sho-Silva Leo Sho-Silva ... Joseph
Joanne Thirsk Joanne Thirsk ... Caroline MacPherson


In the autumn of 1773, the English writer Samuel Johnson visits the Hebrides, or Western Isles, off the North-West coast of Scotland. With him are his friend, the Scotsman James Boswell, and his black servant Francis Barber. Staying with a series of hosts, including elderly Jacobite heroine Flora McDonald, Johnson and Boswell encounter traditional Scottish hospitality at first-hand, all the time arguing about politics (and in Boswell's case losing his head over every pretty woman he meets). Meanwhile, Francis and another black servant they encounter provide evidence of the new consciousness emerging in Britain's soon-to-be-independent American colonies. Written by Peter Brynmor Roberts

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Nothing to do with the real Boswell and the real Johnson
28 March 2008 | by beni-4See all my reviews

Gosh... There is not a SINGLE scene, among all the ones that make up the movie, taken either from James Boswell's real published diary or Johnson's book, both relating the facts of their tour to the Hebrides in 1773: No, ALL FACTS ARE COMPLETELY AND DELIBERATELY INVENTED. OK, I understand the director wanted to make a comic or at least ironic movie and have spectators laugh: but this is not a good reason to have them laugh AT Boswell and Johnson, ridiculing them just as if they were indeed two grossly ridiculous men. Boswell's diary is filled with nicely ironic and very refined and touching episodes, and there was no need to invent them on purpose. And since Boswell's irony and laughter was far too refined for today's public (this at least seems to be the director's opinion), well, they decided to give us some real, down to earth, contemporary and vulgar modern irony: thus we see Johnson and Boswell screaming and making faces all the time, as if they were two cart riders and not two refined men of the world; they act like two delirious middle-aged men, and there is not the least meaning or fascination in the various scenes; and we even see some even more ludicrous scenes and characters that never were, behaving in an illogical way without any apparent reason - nobody is immune from this, not even the secondary characters, like Joseph, Boswell's servant (and, apart from Ian Dury playing a minor character, the only convincing performer in the movie)... pray, forgive me but my copy of Boswell's "Tour to the Hebrides" must have several pages missing, if this really happened back in 1773! What kind of Tour to the Hebrides is this? who the hell are these two poor guys??? Guess we'll never know - but they certainly are not Boswell and Johnson.

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Release Date:

27 October 1993 (UK) See more »

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