Over the years, the paths of these characters intertwine, diverge then cross again, albeit occasionally stretching the bounds of plausible coincidence. The drama takes place against the backdrop of local authority and police corruption in the 60s, the radical far-left militancy of the early 70s, Thatcher's election, the 1984 miner's strike and the subsequent "murder" of Northern communities. What's brilliant about Our Friends is its melding of the personal and the political, with the soap opera of family estrangement played out against a backdrop of social decline. Peter Vaughn, playing Nicky's Dad as a former Jarrow marcher stricken by Alzheimer's, is especially poignant. If you didn't see this the first time, do so now.
On the DVD: Our Friends in the North has a bonus disc featuring a discussion with writer Peter Flannery and the producers and directors in which the making of the programme is revealed to have been as epic and protracted a saga as the drama itself. There are interviews also with stars Christopher Eccleston and Gina McKee. --David Stubbs
The entire BAFTA winning series
Comprehensive pop-up 'filmographies' for cast members
Complete soundtrack listing with chart history
Exclusive interviews especially for DVD with Gina McKee & Christopher Eccleston
Retrospective from the makers of the series including writer Peter Flannery and executive producer Michael Wearing
Precis and colour stills from an unscreened episode
First time round, I thought this was complete fiction, but watching it 8 years later I know that, in places, it's too close to the truth for comfort.
Down side? Too many fake accents. But don't let that put you off!
It's an overtly political piece, but in a way that demonstrates how political changes inform social change. Nicky (Christopher Eccleston) is consumed by involvement in the grubby and incestuos world of sixties north-east Labour politics, dominated by the exotic Austen Donohue. As Donohue's corruption unfolds, and the hopes formed by the election of a Labour government at the end of the first instalment fade away, Nicky turns to radicalism and protest, spending the seventies as a political and social photo-journalist, eventually marrying his childhood companion, Mary - herself bruised by a violent and turbulent first marriage to their mutual friend Tosker, which decays with the passage of the seventies. Geordie meanwhile is drawn into the Soho strip-clubs, run by Malcolm McDowell's grimy, fragile Benny Barrett.
Throughout, their lives are underpinned by their 'friends in the north' - fixers like Eddie Wells, whose life of solid political service to Labour masters is blown away in the storms of 1987, as the political tide reaches the high watermark of Thatcherism. Geordie's escape from the vice dens of Soho is complicated by ongoing investigations into vice and corruption in the Met. Nicky and Mary's marriage collapses under the weight of Nicky's independence and Mary's prospective career as a Blairite new Labour MP. Tosker's business and home are sacrificed at the altar of free market capitalism that he previously worshipped. Returning to the Newcastle in the nineties for the funeral of Nicky's mother, they survey a landscape still scarred by the miner's strike, but hope and optimism about the future. Crossing the Tyne Bridge, they step into the next phase of their lives, as Newcastle itself prepares to cast off it's former image with ambitious social building programmes, and a Labour government prepares to take office in London. The symmetry of their lives is complete.
Taking such a broad sweep across political, social and economic landscapes whilst retaining a cohesive and compelling narrative is a challenge fraught with potential hazards. Our Friends in the North achieves all those aims. It is often icily uncomfortable, but it more than does justice to the themes and the times that it depicts. With some magnificent central performances, it remains both memorable, and essential viewing.
This product's forum
Active discussions in related forums
Search Customer Discussions