When he appeared on Celebrity Mastermind, Vic Reeves chose as his special subject the golden age of piracy between 1680 and 1720. Appropriately, in this 10-part series, he explores the careers of some of history's most infamous scoundrels, such as Deacon Brodie, Blackbeard and Captain Blood, through historical documents and dramatic reconstructions.
In tonight's opening episode, Reeves attempts to divide fact from fiction about the highwayman Dick Turpin. Talking to the old rogue (played by himself) in a tavern, Reeves (above) contends that we have accepted an unrealistic image of the thief created by Victorian author Harrison Ainsworth in his novel Rookwood. In reality, Turpin was a ruthless villain whose gang went around the country robbing and pillaging. Born in Essex in 1705, he dabbled in poaching but soon moved up to raiding houses and murder. Despite stalking the roads around London, few records exist linking him with stagecoach robberies and the immortal phrase, "Stand and deliver!"