Oppenheimer (TV series)

Oppenheimer is a biographical miniseries in seven parts about J. Robert Oppenheimer, produced by the BBC. It was broadcast in the United Kingdom between 29 October and 10 December 1980, and in the United States from 11 May 1982 as a component of PBS' Masterpiece Theatre.[1] The series stars Sam Waterston as Oppenheimer.

Written byPeter Prince
Directed byBarry Davis
StarringSam Waterston
Edward Hardwicke
David Suchet
Narrated byJohn Carson
ComposerCarl Davis
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series1
No. of episodes7
Executive producerPeter Goodchild
ProducerRuth Caleb (associate)
CinematographyRodney Taylor
EditorTariq Anwar
Running time7 x 60 minutes
Original networkBBC
Original release29 October (1980-10-29) –
10 December 1980 (1980-12-10)

Plot synopsisEdit

The series depicts Oppenheimer's wartime role as head of the weapons laboratory of the Manhattan Project, during which he was under constant surveillance by the federal government because of his association with Communists. It culminates in a U.S. Atomic Energy Commission hearing in 1954, in which Oppenheimer is stripped of his security clearance.



Television critic John J. O'Connor wrote in The New York Times that Oppenheimer was "persuasively" played by Waterston, and that "the production is primarily interested in telling, quite absorbingly, one of the more puzzling and indeed astonishing stories of contemporary American history.[2] Baltimore Sun TV critic Bill Carter called it "never less than a fascinating portrait of a truly fascinating man." while criticizing a "choppy production technique that makes much of the film seem rather raw."[3]

The series was nominated for seven BAFTA Television Awards and won three (Best Drama Series/Serial, Best Film Editor (Tariq Anwar), and Best Original Television Music (Carl Davis)). It was nominated for two Emmy Awards, for Outstanding Limited Series and for Outstanding Writing in a Limited Series or a Special (Peter Prince). It was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV (Sam Waterston).[4]

Major General Kenneth Nichols disputed his portrayal in the series, saying that it "portrayed me serving as a personal aide to Groves on frequent visits to Los Alamos," when he only did so once.[5]


  1. ^ TV Guide: Oppenheimer. Retrieved 2022-04-09
  2. ^ O'Connor, John J. (13 May 1984). "CRITICS' CHOICES". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 1 December 2021.
  3. ^ Carter, Bill (11 May 1982). "Intriguing PBS Look at 'Oppenheimer'". The Baltimore Sun. pp. C4. Retrieved 25 January 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  4. ^ IMDB awards page
  5. ^ The Road to Trinity: A Personal Account of How America’s Nuclear Policies Were Made by Kenneth D. Nichols (1987, Morrow, New York) ISBN 068806910X

External linksEdit