Home History Library Museum Contact Links Site Map

In which Amundsen is dissed and Scott, et al are dead

Episode Seven: "Rejoice"

This is by far the most depressing episode. The long death march of Scott's party, which dominates the episode, is heartbreaking in its detailed despair. The grotesque make-up, the painful, slow movements of the actors; one wonders how far they really had to stretch to portray such misery. It does not sound like a particularly easy shoot. Our admiration goes out to all of the English crew for what they did, but especially to Martin Shaw, Richard Morant, Sylvester McCoy and Stephen Moore for a smashing performance. Seriously.

To add to the depression of watching these men die in a very horrible way, we also get the unabashed cynicism of both Huntford and Trevor Griffiths, the screenwriter, regarding the Empire and the haughty collective reaction to Amundsen's triumph and Scott's defeat. When Lord Curzon (publicly, mind you) calls Amundsen's expedition a "simple, uncomplicated journey," and then offers a toast of "three cheers for the dogs," one has to admire the self-restraint Amundsen shows. This scene captures quite perfectly the pompous, entitled self-satisfaction that got Scott in that predicament in the first place.

This episode's delightful details:

Oates does not say his famous "I may be some time" line before he exits the tent. This is a reflection of Huntford's view that Scott purposefully over-dramatised his death for the public. In addition, as Birdie is pleading for Oates not to leave, he shoots a look in Scott's direction that hints that perhaps Bowers's undying admiration of Scott has, in fact, died.

When Atkinson and the crew find the final camp of Scott and his men, it is covered with snow drift. It is one continuous shot from the approach of Atkinson, to him digging out the tent, to him finally cutting open the tent with a knife to find the dead bodies. This means the actors had to sit in that tent and be dead for an unnerving amount of time. Dude.

The many voice-overs from Scott's diaries during the final episode continually refer to the bad weather, and what a surprise it was. This brings two things to mind: Meares's line about a man who sits and whines about the weather in the Antarctic; and that people suffering from scurvy are more susceptible to the cold.

During the final moments of Scott's last scene, there are continuous excerpts from his letters in voice-over. It is an amazing juxtaposition between his physical condition-- dying painfully of hunger, scurvy and cold-- and the lucidity and deliberateness of his letters. He knew he was writing for posterity, and adjusted the facts accordingly. An amazing bit of mental strength to have as one is dying.

The reaction Amundsen (Sverre Anker Ousdal) has when he hears that Johansen has killed himself is stunning. It was this moment in the film that clicked with some of us, and made us realise what an undeniably fantastic actor Ousdal really is.

This episode's goofs:

During Amundsen's slide presentation, he shows a picture of "the TransAntarctic Mountains." In fact, this is a photograph of Elephant Island taken by Frank Hurley on the Endurance expedition. But time played a mean trick on the continuity folks of LPOE: Amundsen's actual slides were found just a year later in the attic of Amundsen's nephew's widow.

Amundsen allegedly visits Cook in jail during his American tour in 1913. In actuality, Cook was not imprisoned for fraud until 1925.

Back to Episode 6

Back to Masterpiece Theatre Theater

Copyright © 2000, 2001 Emily Slatten; about framheim; about the pictures