The mini-series about the lives of four people from Newcastle that we follow over a period of time longer than 30 years is still considered one of the best British series of all time. “Our Friends in the North” enjoys a cult status in Great Britain, and thanks to this series, the four actors who embodied Nicky, Mary, Geordie and Tosker, i.e. Christopher Eccleston, Gina McKee, Daniel Craig and Mark Strong experienced great career upswings . We meet the four of them in 1964 as 20-year-olds, young people full of energy and ideas, and by the end they will become people in their fifties, whose lives will mostly not develop as they had hoped.
However, through the lives of Nicky, Mary, Geordie and Tosker, we also follow how the political and social situation in England developed throughout all those years, and the author Peter Flannery must be honored because he managed to capture the spirit of the times in an exceptional way and how English society was changing . Right at the beginning, the young idealist Nicky returns from a trip to America where he witnessed the human rights movement and saw how people were active in that struggle. A naïve and aspiring young man with a revolutionary spirit will immediately upon his return join the British Labor Party of which his father Felix (Peter Vaughn) was once a prominent member. But old Felix very quickly realized that it was a futile battle and became disillusioned in politics when it became clear to him that only unscrupulous careerists were passing through.
Because of politics, Nicky will also leave his relationship with Mary, who will end up with the young bon vivant Tosker, who hopes to succeed as a musician even though he is not particularly talented. Geordie, on the other hand, is a young man with a restless spirit who will escape from Newcastle and settle in London, where he will become the right hand of strip bar owner and pornographer Benny Barratt (Malcolm McDowell). Decisions and events from their youth will have an extraordinary impact on their later lives, and just like their father, Nicky will soon become disillusioned with politics, but he will remain a stubborn fighter for justice until the end.
And the story takes place there until 1995, when Great Britain has already stepped into the modern era, and Flannery managed to wrap it all up fantastically. “Our Friends in the North” is one of the most complex and comprehensive series I have ever seen and a first-class drama in which we simultaneously follow systemic and deep corruption in all structures, from politics to the police. We also see how the profiles of politicians and the ways in which politics were conducted have changed over the course of those three decades. And while the young and stubborn Nicky raged in the mid-sixties because of the corruption in the Labor party, the way social housing is built in the north, all this will be just a cat’s cough compared to what the politics of the eighties and nineties will turn into.
This story follows all the most important events in the political history of Britain at that time. That’s how Nicky will return to politics at the end of the seventies, only to realize again that the game there has become even dirtier than it was. We will see that the dirty and rotten, so-called “Smear” campaigns are not new, but how the politics of the conservatives in the eighties affected the life of the mining north. We will see how miners’ strikes were extinguished, how society changed and what led to the terrible social problems of the eighties, huge crime and the decay of the old British society. However, the eighties were the years when those with the right information and who were in the right place at the right time could earn exceptionally well, and one of the characters will always be there somewhere.
Their destinies will constantly intertwine and in certain periods someone will be in a better and someone in a worse phase, and all these characters are brilliantly built and we will see until the end how their fates were mostly tragic. This series also caused great controversy in England as it was obvious that Flannery based characters such as politician Austin Donahue (Alun Armstrong) and builder John Edwards on real people and real scandals in the north in the sixties and seventies. This series is great, among other things, because it does not romanticize any of those time periods, but tries to show all the problems and difficulties as realistically as possible, as it shows in an exceptional way how not only society evolved in those thirty years, but also the politics that completely intertwined with business and forgot about the base.
Flannery originally wrote “Our Friends in the North” as a theater play and several attempts were made to make a series during the eighties, and the character of Nicky was partially invented by Flannery himself. It was only in the mid-nineties that Flannery managed to transfer his drama to television, but even that was not easy because the BBC was afraid of lawsuits since many of the characters from the series were irresistibly reminiscent of some people from reality. In the end, not only did he manage to make a series, but “Our Friends in the North” is a series that deservedly stands at the very top of British drama production of recent times.