The Final Cut (TV serial)
|The Final Cut|
|Written by||Andrew Davies (adaptation)
Michael Dobbs (novel)
|Directed by||Mike Vardy|
|Running time||4 x 50 minutes|
|Preceded by||To Play the King|
The Final Cut is a 1995 BBC television serial, the third part of the House of Cards trilogy. Directed by Mike Vardy, the serial, based on Michael Dobbs's 1995 novel of the same name, was adapted for television by Andrew Davies. It details the conclusion of Francis Urquhart's reign as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
The serial opens with Prime Minister Francis Urquhart shooting his gun dog, now too old to perform its duties – a scene which establishes the theme of the ending of a career. Shortly afterwards, Urquhart attends the state funeral of Margaret Thatcher. He publicly praises Thatcher as his mentor, but privately begrudges her record as the longest-serving Prime Minister in recent history,[note 1] a record that Urquhart himself is soon to surpass.
To "leave my mark on Europe," Urquhart champions a treaty resolving the Cyprus dispute. While boundaries are fixed by five international judges, Urquhart – prompted by his wife Elizabeth – is secretly working to bring offshore oil deposits under the control of the Turkish authorities on the island so that a Turkish-British consortium will have the right to exploit them; an executive of the consortium has promised to provide for Urquhart's retirement fund in return. Urquhart also has a personal connection to Cyprus. As a nineteen-year-old British Army lieutenant serving there in 1956, he killed two young EOKA guerillas while trying to get information from them. Urquhart has frequent nightmares and flashbacks of this event, and also of the murders of Mattie Storin and others, shown in the previous serials.
Returning to London on the motorway from a meeting with the oil company executive, Urquhart's car is rammed by another car containing three drunken louts. The attackers are quickly killed by his security staff. Urquhart sustains minor head injuries in the collision, but his life is not endangered. Lying in his hospital room, Urquhart experiences again his recurring nightmare about the killings in Cyprus. When Elizabeth arrives at the hospital, he is delirious and confuses the incident on the motorway with the incident in Cyprus.
Tom Makepeace, the Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, chairs a cabinet meeting while Urquhart is in hospital, and it is announced that the motorway incident was simply the result of "road rage." Urquhart considers Makepeace – the actual negotiator of the Cyprus treaty – as a potential challenger, although he doesn't take the threat very seriously, considering him "not a fighter" but "a sentimental dreamer".
Meanwhile, the brother of the two Greek Cypriots killed by Urquhart is now living in London. Unknown to Urquhart, he witnessed their deaths and recognises Urquhart as the soldier who killed them. He asks his daughter Maria to investigate, using the pretext that he wishes to find the location where they are buried in order to arrange a proper memorial, but is really considering taking vengeance on Urquhart. Maria's search of government records finds a report written by the soldier who killed her uncles, but the name of the soldier is deleted. She approaches Urquhart, who appears to be welcoming and eager to help. However, Urquhart arranges for documents revealing his involvement to be excluded from a coincidental declassification of records relating to the British involvement in Cyprus. But he also confides the truth to Elizabeth.
As in the previous serials, Urquhart chooses a female protégé (although this time without the mediation of his wife). He appoints the ambitious backbencher Claire Carlsen as his Parliamentary Private Secretary. Claire also happens to be Makepeace's lover. When Urquhart asks her advice about Makepeace, however, she tells Urquhart to "get rid of him."
Encouraged by Claire, Urquhart enrages Makepeace by making a speech in the House of Commons suggesting that Britain should not adopt the European currency, but that Europe should instead adopt English as its official language. When Urquhart seeks to appoint Makepeace to the Department of Education in a cabinet reshuffle, Makepeace resigns from the government, crosses the floor, and emerges as the prime minister's main adversary in parliament. He also challenges Urquhart for the leadership of the Conservative Party and forces him into a second ballot.
Although Claire ends her sexual relationship with Makepeace, she continues to talk to him privately and encourages him to fight Urquhart. She also advises Maria to take her case to Makepeace, who repeatedly raises the cover-up in parliament. At Makepeace's suggestion, Claire purloins the original report on the Cyprus killings with Urquhart's name revealed from the secret government archive where it is stored. However, Urquhart's bodyguard, Corder – informed by the archive clerk – seizes the document from her.
Makepeace's leadership challenge has attracted enough support to convince Urquhart that his position is in jeopardy. He decides to leak information regarding the oil deposits in the territory awarded to the Turks in order to stir up a conflict in Cyprus and trigger an international incident that requires Britain to intervene so that he can use as "our Falklands" to unite Britain under his leadership. In reaction, Greek nationalists kidnap a British diplomat, and later also the Greek Cypriot President.
Urquhart orders a British military intervention. Though initially successful, the intervention later results in the death of civilians, including young schoolgirls, largely because of the prime minister's drastic orders. Urquhart's support plummets, and when he proves unwilling to accept responsibility for the deaths, or even to express sympathy for the victims, many MPs openly call on him to resign. While Urquhart appears defiant, his wife is worried, and she consults Corder for advice on how to save him. Corder advises "drastic measures", and informs her that he has sent a copy of Mattie Storin's tape, revealing Urquhart's role in her death, to Makepeace.
Makepeace confronts the prime minister and announces that he will publish the tape, but not before Urquhart has achieved his aim of surpassing Margaret Thatcher's record. After this, Urquhart again meets Maria. The incriminating Cyprus report has been sent to Maria's father anonymously - presumably by Corder - and Maria vows to publish it. After this, Urquhart despairs, but Elizabeth consoles him: "We can be safe still!" and hints at a ploy by Corder.
At the unveiling of the Margaret Thatcher memorial, on the day when Urquhart surpasses her record, a sniper in Corder's services appears on a rooftop and shoots the prime minister (and Maria's father, who had approached Urquhart with a pistol). Elizabeth had arranged for his assassination as the only way to preserve his reputation (and the retirement fund). Urquhart dies in her arms, while Corder offers his services to Makepeace, the apparent successor.
- Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart, Prime Minister
- Diane Fletcher as Elizabeth Urquhart
- Isla Blair as Claire Carlsen MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary
- Paul Freeman as Tom Makepeace, foreign secretary and later backbencher on the opposition side.
- Nickolas Grace as Geoffrey Booza Pitt, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and later foreign secretary
- Nick Brimble as Corder, Urquhart's bodyguard
- Yolanda Vazquez as Maria Passolides
- The opening scenes containing Margaret Thatcher's funeral proved controversial and generated a great deal of adverse commentary in newspapers, as it was felt to be inappropriate to show the funeral of a real person who was still alive. It also led to Michael Dobbs demanding that his name be removed from the credits.
- The episode length was reduced from 1 hour to 50 minutes.
In the novel, but not in the television series:
- Urquhart does not kill Georgios and Euripides Pasolides in a lone operation but, as an officer, is responsible for their deaths.
- Urquhart successfully thwarts the attempt to build a statue in honour of Margaret Thatcher. (Its erection is a theme -- of political mortality -- running through the television series.)
- Makepeace does not openly challenge Urquhart for the leadership of their party but leads a popular movement against the Prime Minister.
- Urquhart faces losing a general election and he is urged to resign by his Cabinet Ministers to keep his undefeated record.
- Mattie Storin's murder is not mentioned and the information not revealed to Makepeace.
- Urquhart is not suspected as the murderer of Georgios and Euripides Pasolides until all is revealed at the end.
- Urquhart is not assassinated on Corder's orders, but allows the brother of the men he killed in Cyprus to shoot him, making himself a martyr in the process.
- Makepeace does not succeed Urquhart but is tarred by association with Urquhart's assassin as planned.
- It is unclear whether Urquhart beats Margaret Thatcher's record in office as the longest-serving post-war prime minister.
- The serial refers to Thatcher as Britain's longest-serving Prime Minister, when she was actually the seventh-longest serving. The novel does not contain this mistake, as it accurately refers to Thatcher as the longest-serving post-war Prime Minister.
- Garner, Clare (5 November 1995). "Art aping life? I couldn't possibly comment". London: The Independent. Retrieved 16 July 2009.