BBC1, 9.10pm

I WAS pleasantly surprised by this new series. As the name suggests, it’s about the notorious Gunpowder Plot. I was expecting the usual Saturday night swashbuckling nonsense, with swordfights, torchlight, and heroes swinging from chandeliers through stained glass windows, but there are no such silly shenanigans.

Instead, this is a slow, grim, serious drama, packed with big stars like Mark Gatiss, Peter Mullan, Liv Tyler and Kit Harington. It opens with the death of Elizabeth I. The Scottish King James has ascended the throne, the country is at war with Catholic Spain, and English Catholics are being persecuted. If they’re found attending mass, or harbouring a priest, they’ll be executed (and be warned, there are some very detailed, horrific execution scenes).

Harington plays Robert Catesby, a Catholic who will not stand for this persecution and so his thoughts turn to a plot to assassinate the king. After tonight’s first episode, the remainder of the series can be seen on iPlayer.

MORE4, 8pm

THIS is a repeat, but you’ll forgive me for including it here as TV tonight is hardly spectacular, and I couldn’t bring myself to be dishonest and recommend anything else. In this pleasant little programme, Richard Wilson tours the Highlands and Islands by train and boat. Interestingly, he makes part of his journey tonight on The Hebridean Princess.

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know I’ve written about this ship, an old CalMac ferry which was previously fortified as a floating nuclear bunker.

The government might have used it to carry a bunch of ministers and civil servants during a nuclear war, letting them hide in the various sea lochs until they could return to the ruins of London. Wilson enjoys the luxury onboard, and it’s chilling to think how this ship might have been used.

And when he’s on dry land, Wilson relaxes on the Belmond Royal Scotsman. Nice work if you can get it!