Next Tuesday night another Australian drama leaves our screens as Nine’s Sea Patrol makes on its final voyage.
The HMAS Hammersley will set sail on 5 years and 68 episodes.
Since premiering in 2007, the series has offered a broadly-appealing drama, action, romance and glamorous settings. With a cast led by Lisa McCune and Ian Stenlake, its final crew includes John Batchelor, Conrad Coleby, Matthew Holmes, Kristian Schmid, Nikolai Nikolaeff, Danielle Horvat plus Tammy McIntosh, Ditch Davey and Renai Caruso.
Previous castmates included Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, David Lyons, Kirsty Lee Allan, Jay Ryan, Steve Bisley, Saskia Burmeister, Tasma Walton, Ian Roberts, Jessica Napier, Alan Dale, Josh Lawson, Sibylla Budd and Christopher Stollery.
Produced by McElroy All Media, the show been nominated for several Logies, but never won. Yet it sells to numerous foreign territories, including the United Kingdom, Serbia, Belgium, Indonesia, India, Russia, Italy, South Africa, Mexico, Vietnam, and Palau. It also plays internationally via Hallmark.
To mark the ending of the series, TV Tonight tasked Clint Rolfe, webmaster at fansite sea-patrol.com to reflect on the show’s achievements.
“Sea Patrol came at a time when Australian drama looked pretty bleak. Hal and Di McElroy set out to do something that no one in Australia has ever done. They succeeded in making an ambitious action-drama shot almost entirely on location – and in some of the most challenging locations imaginable. Two months every year on the open water, working alongside real Navy personnel, followed by two months in jungles and various other remote land locations. Cast and crew working in extraordinarily dangerous and trying conditions with constant exposure to life-threatening animals, extreme weather conditions and sea-sickness,” he said.
“No, the show was not perfect. Early scripts often seemed overwritten, the characters restricted by necessarily formal Naval language and procedures.”
But Rolfe says the show improved from year to year, a challenge given much of the series was shot out of sequence. Producers had limited access to the actual navy vessel, and had to shoot all exterior scenes with the boat for the series ahead of interiors and other scenes (Continuity earned their stripes!).
“The improvements in the writing, acting and editing are particularly evident from Series 4, with the last couple of years delivering some especially high quality episodes that would stand up for scrutiny next to any other Aussie drama.”
He acknowledges the risks taken by producers Hal and Di McElroy and hopes it will encourage others to tackle big-scale dramas.
“Sea Patrol‘s legacy is extensive: it injected a huge amount into the Queensland economy; it has forever captured Mission Beach on film just before it was destroyed by Cyclone Yasi; it has had a positive effect on Navy recruitment during a period of unfortunate publicity for the organisation; it provided a unique training ground for a group of actors and crew who were forced to think quickly and intuitively in a way that no other job has ever demanded them to – these lessons and skills can only have a positive flow on effect to the industry.
“As for loyal fans of the show, Sea Patrol will be remembered as journey we went on with a group of fantastic and often quirky characters played by actors we already loved, came to know and love, or developed a new appreciation for. Our sailors with their odd Naval nicknames all had failings of one kind or another; the thing that united them was their extraordinary capabilities and commitment to defending Australia.
“I hope it can take a place next to Blue Heelers and Water Rats as another solid McElroy production.
“I think they’ve done a fantastic job.”
Sea Patrol finale airs 8:30pm Tuesday (Sydney / Brisbane); double episode 8:30pm Melbourne / Adelaide / Perth.