The National Dream (miniseries)

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The National Dream
Written by William Whitehead
Timothy Findley
Starring John Colicos
Gillie Fenwick
William Hutt
Joseph Shaw
Gerard Parkes
Chris Wiggins
Narrated by Pierre Berton
Country of origin Canada
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 8
Producer(s) James Murray
Eric Till
Running time 1 hour (time slot)
Original network CBC
Original release 3 March – 28 April 1974

The National Dream, also known as The National Dream: Building the Impossible Railway, was a 1974 Canadian television docudrama miniseries based on Pierre Berton's 1970 book of the same name, plus Berton's 1971 follow-up book The Last Spike.[1] The television adaptation was written by William Whitehead and Timothy Findley.


The series portrayed the concept and construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway during the late 19th century, with Berton himself as narrator.[2] The National Dream combined dramatic reconstructions of the events (directed by Eric Till) with documentary content (directed by James Murray).[2][3] Production required two years and cost CAD 2 million. Royal Trust, which was the executor of Cornelius Van Horne's estate, paid $400,000 to be a principal sponsor.[4]

CBC Television premiered the eight-part hour-long series on 30 March 1974[1] and aired its final instalment on 28 April 1974. The series' rated audience of three million within Canada set a record for CBC in terms of dramatic programming. The series was also dubbed in French and broadcast on Radio-Canada,[4] and was later seen in modified form on BBC in the United Kingdom.

Principal cast[edit]

List of episodes[edit]

  • The Great Lone Land
  • The Pacific Scandal
  • The Horrid B.C. Business
  • The Great Debate
  • The Railway General
  • The Sea of Mountains
  • The Desperate Days
  • The Last Spike

After initial release[edit]

The series was never intended for international sales to cover any significant portion of its production costs.[4] Berton, however, was believed to have earned at least $250,000 from it, as well as from a re-release of the related books.[4]

There has never been a home video release, but it is available to educational institutions in DVD on special order from the CBC.[5]


  1. ^ a b "National Dream slated". Windsor Star. 22 February 1974. p. 17. Retrieved 23 May 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Rail-building Series Back". Leader-Post. 26 Dec 1975. Retrieved 23 May 2012. 
  3. ^ "A Historical Series On TV to Camouflage American Domination". The Forge. 20 May 1976. Retrieved 23 May 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d MacDonald, L. Ian (February 7, 1974). "Too late for Van Horne's Dream". Montreal Gazette. p. 27. 
  5. ^ "The National Dream". Retrieved September 6, 2014. 

External links[edit]