Michael Palin to star in Ian Hislop’s WWI history drama The Wipers Times

Emilia Fox, Steve Oram, Ben Chaplin and Julian Rhind-Tutt will also star in the new commission, based on a true story and co-written with Nick Newman

Michael Palin is making a return to acting in BBC2’s new history drama, The Wipers Times. The Monty Python star – who has carved a career fronting travel documentaries in recent years – will appear alongside Silent Witness actress Emilia Fox, Steve Oram (Sightseers), The Hour’s Julian Rhind-Tutt and Ben Chaplin (Me and Orson Welles). 

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The historical drama is set in the bombed-out ruins of Ypres in 1916 where Captain Fred Roberts and Lieutenant Jack Pearson produce trench newspaper The Wipers Times after discovering a printing press. Based on a true story, the humorous, satirical and subversive periodical was hugely popular amongst soldiers and survived the Battle of the Somme as well as the disapproval of superior officers.

While Roberts and Pearson were highly decorated, they went unrecognised during their lifetime and The Wipers Times is the story of the “extraordinary resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity”. 

Written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman (A Bunch of Amateurs), the production will be directed by Andy de Emmony (The Bletchley Circle) and produced by David Parfitt (Parade’s End, Shakespeare in Love). 

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Speaking of the new commission, BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow said, “Just like the original Wipers Times, this new history drama will be filled with jokes, spoofs and amazing examples of courage behind the laughs. I am delighted to be bringing such a brilliant drama and cast to BBC2.”