It tells the story of the Great Train Robbery on 8 August 1963, first from the perspective of the robbers, and then from the perspective of the police. Coincidentally, the first part, A Robber's Tale, was shown on the same day that train robber Ronnie Biggs died.
A Robber's Tale is set between November 1962 and the aftermath of the Great Train Robbery on 8 August 1963. Beginning at London Heathrow Airport where the big practice robbery took place, Bruce Reynolds (Luke Evans) gathered a group of men to target the Royal Mail train heading between Glasgow and London.
A Copper's Tale begins in the early morning of 8 August 1963 after the train robbery took place. Six of the best police officers from Scotland Yard are called to help with the investigation, with DCS Tommy Butler (Jim Broadbent) in charge.
The Great Train Robbery was commissioned by Ben Stephenson, controller of BBC Drama, and Danny Cohen, controller of BBC One. The executive producers are Simon Heath for World Productions, the company behind the series, and Polly Hill for the BBC. Julia Stannard is the producer of the two ninety-minute films.
The two films were first due to be broadcast in August 2013, on the 50th anniversary of the train robbery, but was postponed to December 2013 because of scheduling issues. The production was inspired by the book Signal Red by Robert Ryan.