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October 20, 1985|HOWARD ROSENBERG

"THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH," Sunday, 8 p.m. (50) (24); 9 p.m. (28) (15)--Forever and ever, it seems, public TV's "Masterpiece Theatre" has been about the only place on earth where Americans could consistently find superior miniseries.

Good stories and good acting, thanks to the British.

And now, to start its 15th season, "Masterpiece Theatre" brings us a six-part dramatization of the brutal, grinding race by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and British Navy Capt. Robert Falcon Scott to reach the South Pole.

Beginning with Sunday night's 90-minute premiere, the miniseries traces the stories of the two men from the raising of funds for their expeditions through their separate arduous treks across the frozen Antarctic wasteland.

The Norwegian used dog teams and skis as transportation. Scott used ponies.

Amundsen won the race. Scott arrived more than a month later, on Jan. 17, 1912, then perished in the snow with the other four members of his team on their return home.

Scott is played by Martin Shaw and Amundsen by Sverre Anker Ousdal in this British Central Productions/Renegade Films co-production that was filmed in Canada, Greenland, Norway, Scotland and London over six months in 1984.

The series will give American viewers their first extended look at Susan Wooldridge since her fine performance as the shy, fated Daphne Manners in "The Jewel in the Crown." She plays Scott's ambitious wife, Kathleen. Max Von Sydow and Brian Dennehy also have roles in the production.

"The Last Place on Earth" was adapted by Trevor Griffiths ("Reds," "Sons and Lovers") from "Scott & Amundsen" by Roland Huntford. It was directed by Ferdinand Fairfax.

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