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Introduction

The epic race to the South Pole between rival explorers Scott and Amundsen is one of the greatest adventure stories of the twentieth century.

To reach their goal the Englishman, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, and Norwegian Roald Amundsen, undertook in 1911 the awesome 1,500 mile trek across the desolate frozen wastes of Antarctica facing danger, extreme suffering and death.

Their motives and methods were quite different, but their aim was the same - to be first to plant their country's flag at the Pole.

Now Central Television's "The Last Place on Earth", a gripping 7-episode film drama series, tells the true story of that legendary contest and the men behind the myth - their strengths and weaknesses, their passions and obsessions, their innermost doubts and fears. It sheds fresh light on Scott's leadership and on Amundsen's much underrated achievement.

Amundsen won the race, but it was Scott who was to reap the glory. After the bitter disappointment of coming second all five members of the British Polar team perished on the return journey. The last three to die were Scott, Wilson and Bowers, just 11 miles from safety. The tragedy turned Scott into a national hero, hailed as an inspiration to succeeding generations.

'The Last Place on Earth' stars Martin Shaw as Scott and the distinguished Norwegian actor Sverre Anker Ousdal as Amundsen. Susan Wooldridge, acclaimed for her portrayal of Daphne Manners in 'The Jewel in the Crown', plays Scott's fiery independent wife, Kathleen. Stephen Moore plays Wilson, and Max von Sydow is Fridtjof Nansen, Amundsen's mentor.

The impressive cast also features Richard Morant as Captain Oates, Syvester McCoy as Lt. Birdie Bowers, Pat Roach as Petty Officer Evans, Michael Maloney as Lt. Teddy Evans and Bill Nighy as Cecil Meares.

Award-winning dramatist, Trevor Griffiths, wrote the powerful screenplay which is based on Roland Huntford's book 'Scott and Amundsen' (now retitled 'The Last Place on Earth'). The director is Ferdinand Fairfax, the producer Tim van Rellim and the executive producer Robert Buckler.

The series follows the stories of Scott and Amundsen, from their political manoeuverings in London and Norway as they gather men and money for the expeditions, to the drama and excitement of their journey across Antarctica.

Amundsen was 39, a professional from the tiny new nation of Norway, who was dedicated to the goal of achievement. He knew that success depended on meticulouspreparation and he had turned himself into a survival expert and a practised skier. For him victoru could mean future backing for his polar researches. He was calculating enough to conceal his planned attempt on the South Pole until it was too late for anyone to stop him.

Scott was 43, the product of a rich and powerful Empire already in decline. He was a comparative amateur urged to make his bid by an ambitious wife and the hope of promotion in the Royal Navy. He was spurred on by the deeply ingrained conviction that Britain had a supreme right to the Pole.

On the long journey across the Antarctic ice Scott stubbornly insisted on travelling most of the way on foot while Amundsen, who had learned from previous experience, relied on huskies and the use of skis. It was to prove a crucial decision.

'The Last Place on Earth' was filmed on location in Norway, Canada, Greenland, Scotland, and London, over a sixth month period from February to August 1984. The splendours and horrors of Antarctica were recreated in Frobisher Bay, Canada, on the edge of the Arctic Circle.

Scott's ship, the 'Terra Nova' was reconstructed in Denmark for the production and the three-masted barque was converted into Amundsen's 'Fram' by the judicious switching og masts, deckhousing, stern and markings.

'The Last Place on Earth' begins Monday 18 February, at 8.30pm on the full ITV Network with a first episode of ninety minutes, followed two days later (Wednesday) by episode two at 9pm. The remaining five one hour episodes will be shown weekly on Wednesday at 9pm.

'The Last Place on Earth' is made by Central Productions in association with Renegade Films.

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