What TV’s on at the BFI in January 2018? Including a John Hurt season, Collateral and Troy: Fall of a City

John Hurt in The Naked Civil Servant
John Hurt in The Naked Civil Servant

Every month, TMINE lets you know what TV the BFI will be presenting at the South Bank in London

Crikey. 2018 already. How did that happen?

Still, here we (almost) are and the BFI has already laid plans to welcome in the New Year. First among these is a season of John Hurt’s work, including episodes of I, Claudius, The Naked Civil Servant, Crime and Punishment, Whistle and I’ll Come to You and Doctor Who‘s The Day of the Doctor.

But that’s not all. There’s a couple of previews: BBC Two’s Collateral and BBC One’s Troy: Fall of a City (I can’t even). There’s also a Missing Believed Wiped featuring an old documentary about Rod Stewart – Rod the Mod.

All that after the jump.


Friday 12 January

I, Claudius: Zeus by Jove!
BBC 1976. Dir Herbert Wise. With John Hurt, Derek Jacobi, Margaret Tyzak, George Baker. 51min

Episode eight of the popular series charts Emperor Caligula’s violent – and controversially gory – descent into madness. Caligula (Hurt) has his uncle murdered and, believing himself to have metamorphosed into the god Zeus, plays out a terrible Greek myth. Hurt is both mesmerising and terrifying in his bravura portrayal of one of history’s bloodiest Emperors.

+ The Sunday Drama: Treats
Yorkshire TV 1977. Dir John Frankau. With John Hurt, Tom Conti, Kate Nelligan. 53min

In this beautifully observed study of a ménage à trois, Christopher Hampton provides a taught and insightful script and, in the hands of this remarkable cast, his dialogue crackles with a vicious and merciless edge.
A forgotten gem of a play.

Saturday 13 January

Stage 2: The Playboy of the Western World 
BBC 1974. Dir Alan Gibson. With John Hurt, Sinéad Cusack, Pauline Delaney, Joe Lynch. 120min

A fascinating surviving example of Hurt’s early work for TV. Sticking closely to the original stage play by John Millington Synge, a fresh-faced Hurt turns in a lively and endearing performance as Christy Mahon, the opportunistic ‘playboy’ of the title, who scandalises and delights a close-knit rural Irish community in equal measure. Under Gibson’s unfussy direction, Synge’s brilliant dialogue and rich characterisations are allowed to flourish.

Sunday 14 January

Wednesday Special: The Naked Civil Servant
Thames TV 1975. Dir Jack Gold. With John Hurt, Patricia Hodge, Liz Gebhardt, Stanley Lebor. 78min

In his astonishing BAFTA-winning portrayal of Quentin Crisp, Hurt displayed profound dignity and humanity as a man struggling for acceptance. Challenging attitudes at the time, the film provided Hurt with one of his most celebrated roles and took his career to a whole new level.

+ An Englishman in New York
ITV-Leopard Films 2009. Dir Richard Laxton. With John Hurt, Denis O’Hare, Jonathan Tucker, Swoosie Kurtz. 70min

Some 30 years later, and having become largely synonymous with the real Quentin Crisp, Hurt was persuaded to revisit the role – this time focussing on the period of Crisp’s life when, buoyed by his celebrity status, he emigrated to New York aged 70. Hurt now perfectly embodied the wistful but still potent reflections of this great gay icon
in his later years.

Wednesday 17 January

18:15 NFT1
TV Preview: Collateral + Q&A with writer David Hare, actor Carey Mulligan and director SJ Clarkson
BBC Two 2018. Dir SJ Clarkson. With Carey Mulligan, John Simm, Nicola Walker, Billie Piper. Ep1 60min

This gripping, high-octane four-part thriller from pre-eminent playwright David Hare stars Oscar-nominee Carey Mulligan alongside a fine ensemble cast. Set in present-day London, the drama explores the repercussions surrounding the fatal shooting of a pizza delivery man. Refusing to accept that this is a random act of senseless violence, tough, single-minded Detective Inspector Kip Glaspie (Mulligan) is determined to discover if there is a darker truth behind events.

Saturday 20 January

18:00 NFT2
Crime and Punishment
BBC 1979. Dir Michael Darlow.
With John Hurt, Frank Middlemass, Siân Phillips, Colin Higgins. Part 1: 75min, part 2: 75min, interval, part 3: 80min

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s atmospheric novel, centring on the acute social injustices as perceived by anti-hero Raskolnikov, is here brilliantly realised through Hurt’s complex and gritty lead performance. Screenwriter Jack Pulman (I, Claudius) provides another iconic role for Hurt and a deeply insightful and moving screenplay for what is one of the finest classic TV adaptations.
Tickets £15, concs £12 (Members pay £2 less)

18:20 NFT1
Missing Believed Wiped Special: Rod the Mod (aka An Easter with Rod) + Rod Stewart in conversation with director Francis Megahy
ITV 1965. Dir Francis Megahy. With Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry. 30min. TRT 90min

One of the most pleasing recent TV finds thought ‘missing, believed wiped’ was this fascinating 1960s documentary following the young Rod Stewart just before he became famous. The film is not only an intriguing look at the early days of a music superstar but it also shines a spotlight on a vanished London music scene and captures the excitement of the burgeoning British pop explosion. We’re delighted that the film’s director Francis Megahy will be joining us to talk about the film along with Rod Stewart himself.
Tickets £15, concs £12 (Members pay £2 less)

Sunday 21 January

17:20 NFT2
Sunday Premiere: Deadline
BBC 1988. Dir Richard Stroud. With John Hurt, Imogen Stubbs, Robert McBain, Greg Hicks. 85min

Tom Stacey, who adapts his own novel, writes with an acute insider’s knowledge of the changes in Fleet Street. In Granville Jones, an ageing and cynical Foreign Correspondent who’s seen it all, Stacey creates the perfect character for Hurt to inhabit. Although written in the 80s, the plot drips with contemporary resonance; on discovering a dangerous coup against the Emir by an Islamic militant-inspired group, Jones risks all to smuggle the story out of the country.

+ Whistle and I’ll Come to You
BBC 2010. Dir Andy De Emmony. With John Hurt, Gemma Jones, Lesley Sharp, Sophie Thompson. 54min

In this adaptation of the ghost story written by MR James, Hurt was the perfect choice to play the eccentric professor haunted by a presence in his seaside solitude. The drama is stylishly directed by De Emmony, and Hurt excels in communicating sheer terror.

Wednesday 24 January

18:10 NFT2
Performance: Six Characters in Search of an Author 
BBC 1992. Dir Bill Bryden. With John Hurt, Tara Fitzgerald, Brian Cox, Susan Fleetwood. 94min

Michael Hastings’ clever adaptation of Luigi Pirandello’s classic play updates it to a 1950s film studio, and Bryden’s atmospheric production proves a fine way to translate its multi-layered themes of illusion and reality to the small screen. When a strange family interrupts the filming, their tragic story proves more ‘truthful’ than the film’s script; but just where does acting stop and reality begin? Hurt excels as ‘the father,’ turning in one of his finest and most subtle TV performances.

+ In Your Face. John Hurt painted by Stuart Pearson Wright
Ch4 2002. Dirs Bruno Wollheim, Christopher Swayne. 12min

In this short programme exploring the relationship between different portrait painters and their sitters we get a glimpse of the real John Hurt.

Sunday 28 January

14:30 NFT1
Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor
BBC 2013. Dir Nick Hurran. With John Hurt, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman. 77min

For this extended one-off episode celebrating the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, there was only really ever one choice to play the Doctor in an incarnation from his past – it had to be John Hurt. In this story revolving around a terrible choice that the Doctor must make during the deadly Time War, Hurt is able to bring all his weight and gravitas to embody a Doctor haunted by his past, but with the wisdom to speak to his future selves.

Monday 29 January

18:00 NFT1
TV Preview: Troy: Fall of a City + Q&A with actors David Threlfall, Frances O’Connor and Jonas Armstrong, writer David Farr, exec producer Derek Wax and director Owen Harris Wild
Mercury-Kudos-BBC One 2018. Lead dir Owen Harris. With David Threlfall, Frances O’Connor, Jonas Armstrong, Louis Hunter, Bella Dayne. Ep1 and Ep2 120min

David Farr’s (The Night Manager) sweeping eight-part tale of mortals and gods takes the story of Troy back to its origins: to the judgement of Paris, his scandalous love affair with Helen, and the prophecy surrounding his birth. Told from the perspective of the Trojan royal family at the heart of the siege, Troy: Fall of a City is an epic story of love, intrigue, betrayal and belonging.

Booking times

Patrons and champions’ priority booking: December 4 from 11.30am
Members’ priority booking opens: December 5 from 11.30am
Public booking opens: December 12 from 11.30am


Members: £9
Member concs: £7.20
Non-members: £11
Non-member concs: £8.80
Under 16s: £6

Reduced prices for weekday matinees. Concessionary prices are available to senior citizens, students, unwaged and disability visitors. Proof of eligibility may be required.

As always, visit the BFI web site for more details.