You may think you've seen The Gold before.


A flashy BBC drama based on a true story, ready to draw in a sleepy Sunday night audience and wake them up a bit. A series where an all-star cast bounces off each other, pitting the best of the TV crop against one another as cops and robbers.

A crime story with brilliant thieves and even more brilliant detectives, a cat and mouse game taking place across the streets of London.

In truth, The Gold is all those things and none of them, putting a surprising and deeply refreshing twist on a tried and tested TV genre. It's an intricately crafted crime drama which, in a way so many don't, feels truly authored.

Here's the set-up - the six-part drama tells the true story of the Brink's-Mat robbery in 1983, in which six armed men broke into a security depot hoping to find a sizeable sum of money, but instead found £26 million in gold bullion, making it the most substantial theft globally at the time.

The cast of The Gold on gold bars.
The cast of The Gold. BBC

The series stars Hugh Bonneville, Jack Lowden, Dominic Cooper, Charlotte Spencer and Tom Cullen in central roles, and follows both sides of the operation, as those involved in the theft try to evade the law and the police try to track them down.

So far, so expected. But there are three aspects of the series which set this true crime drama apart, making it a must-see for fans of the genre.

One is the sprawling scope and focus of the story. For a London-based series, it takes place in a surprising number of global locations, with scenes set in Spain, Italy and Sierra Leone.

It also follows an absolute slew of protagonists, shifting focus from the detectives to the police chiefs to the robbers to the launderers. The central image for the series (above) features fives faces emblazoned on gold, but you could just as easily make that 10, 15, 20 faces.

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In widening out its attention, the drama gives a clear sense of just how expansive the theft became, and how muddied the waters were by the number of links in the criminal chain.

Jack Lowden as Kenneth Noye and Frankie Wilson as Brian Robinson in The Gold.
Jack Lowden as Kenneth Noye and Frankie Wilson as Brian Robinson in The Gold. BBC/Tannadice Pictures/Sally Mais

When it comes to the cast, Lowden is a particular highlight. His Kenneth Noye is a combination of East End charm and unassailable determination, with Lowden giving him a charismatic edge but a necessary dark streak. He's easy to empathise with but utterly belligerent, and it's clear from his first moments on screen that he could turn on a dime.

Meanwhile, Cooper brings his Edwyn Cooper a tragic hopelessness, a sense of a man desperately trying to escape his past and prove himself, but in doing so only becoming more haunted by his own self-loathing.

In truth, there are so many central cast members, all of whom are putting in such stellar work, that it's hard to single out individuals. Lowden and Cooper are phenomenal, but so are Bonneville, Spencer, Cullen, Emun Elliott, Sean Harris, Ellora Torchia and more.

Another point of deviation is how, unlike most dramas which are driven primarily by story or character, this one is propelled by its thematic interests. Obviously this series is not just about the gold, but it's also not just about the specific individuals who took it or those who sought to retrieve it.

It's about wealth and class, and it wears its big ideas on its sleeve. Sure it might be somewhat on the nose at times, but that's the '80s for you - everything was a bit on the nose.

It was the 'greed is good' era, and the difference between the haves and the have-nots, even the difference between old-money and new money, was stark.

The drama attempts to look at every angle of the social hierarchy in Britain at the time - those looking to rise up the ranks, where any slight twinge in an accent or an unexpected mannerism could give the game away, those looking to retain their status and those looking to bring it all down, while knowing that will never truly come to pass.

Dominic Cooper as Edwyn Cooper in The Gold.
Dominic Cooper as Edwyn Cooper in The Gold. BBC/Tannadice Pictures/Sally Mais

Crucially, this issue of class isn't a relic of the past. Britain remains a country deeply fascinated with and determined by class, in a way which is perhaps unlike any other nation. The series posits that, unlike elsewhere, it's impossible to ever truly leave behind your social roots no matter how many nice suits you wear and how much is in your bank account.

The series may not be exposing anything new here, but in so persistently pursuing the same line of enquiry it gives relevance to a time-tested truth and attempts to find the base reasoning behind a financial crime.

Finally, there's the series' ace in the hole - its interest in the domestic lives of its protagonists.

Really, that shouldn't be saying much. The fact that the series takes the time to explore its characters' romantic relationships, their friends and their families should not be a refreshing switch-up, but it really is. Just seeing it on-screen reminds you of how often dramas about crime skirt over these facts, giving a detective or a thief's wife or husband only the briefest of look-ins.

Here, they are central to the plot, often playing as much of a role as those directly involved in the robbery. They are crucial in shaping the outcomes of their partners' lives, and, in how far-ranging everything gets, the lives of all those featured throughout the series.

The drama attempts to understand how the theft affected everyone touched by it, and there are arguably few more affected than those pulled into its orbit through their partners. The arguments, the scheming and even the tender moments spent with one another all have to be seen in order to understand the bigger picture.

Charlotte Spencer as Nicki Jennings and Emun Elliott as Tony Brightwell in The Gold.
Charlotte Spencer as Nicki Jennings and Emun Elliott as Tony Brightwell in The Gold. BBC/Tannadice Pictures/Sally Mais

The Gold isn't perfect and it likely won't be for everyone. It's a complex web meaning some stories get more of a look-in than others and the emotion can't always land when you're trying to juggle so many plates.

Also, if you're looking for a Happy Valley replacement for Sunday nights, this certainly isn't it. It's an entirely different prospect, for better or for worse depending on your personal taste.

However, what it does have is an originality, a sense of purpose and a drive to tell a different kind of story. It shows us that not all crime dramas need to be character explorations of a troubled detective, or gritty tales of a good man breaking bad.

Instead they can have an unbelievable story to tell but do so by first finding the thematic resonances and using a vast scope to examine them. Here, it's all thanks to directors Aneil Karia and Lawrence Gough and, even more so, screenwriter Neil Forsyth.

It's not a re-invention of the crime drama – that wasn't necessary. But what it is, is an ambitious evolution. And it's gripping throughout.

The Gold airs Sunday 12th February at 9pm on BBC One, with all episodes then becoming available on BBC iPlayer.

The Gold: The Real Story Behind Brink’s-Mat: Britain’s Biggest Heist by Neil Forsyth and Thomas Turner is available to pre-order now.

Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.


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