Watch the BBC's "Oppenheimer" miniseries starring a young Sam Waterston

In the late 1970s, the British Broadcasting Corporation commissioned its own take on the story of the father of atomic bomb. Premiering in 1980, the BBC's Oppenheimer was a 7-part miniseries with a $1.5 million dollar budget starring future Law & Order star Sam Waterston in the title role. Here's a little more background on the piece, courtesy of Variety:

[Director Peter] Goodchild's seven-part 1980 BBC series "Oppenheimer" — with the physicist played by 40-year-old Sam Waterston, just years away from his Oscar-nominated performance for "The Killing Fields" — received seven BAFTA nominations and took home three golden masks, including best drama series. The show, which was co-produced with WGBH Boston (which contributed just $100,000), also picked up a Golden Globe nod for Waterston along with two Primetime Emmy nominations.

Viewed through a contemporary lens, "Oppenheimer" is astonishing. A BBC-produced series telling an American story, featuring a predominantly American cast? It simply would never happen now. The broadcaster's ongoing fight to justify its license fee-based funding model — in which every BBC-watching household in the U.K. pays £159 ($204) a year to fund its content — means that most original dramas on the Beeb have a distinctly British flavor.


The bulk of its seven hours focused on the formation of the Manhattan Project and the Los Alamos settlement in New Mexico, with special attention paid to Oppenheimer's tumultuous relationship with General Leslie Groves and other scientists such as Edward Teller (played by "Poirot" star David Suchet). A masterful depiction of the Trinity test in Episode 5 used archival material to convey the actual blast, but also relied on a huge, arid Colorado Springs set. The final two episodes focused on Oppenheimer's post-war troubles, and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission hearing that stripped him of his security clearance, effectively severing his ties to U.S. government.

The Variety piece notes that Goodchild's Oppenheimer is no longer even available in the BBC archives or the iPlayer — but someone has posted the entire series on YouTube, at least for now. There's also a DVD boxed set, if you can find it anywhere.