14 January 2006 | biffo2
A very restrained, conservative drama
Upon seeing this drama, I found the first few episodes to be really slow - a step-by-step account of the birth and childhood of the prince, containing all the dry and mundane details of the politics of the time and a lengthy show of his education. The young prince is portrayed as a sensitive, handsome boy under too much pressure from his parents and tutors. Whether everyone would agree with this representation I don't know - we never see him having fun with his brothers + sisters for example, and his natural apathy never comes across. Personally, I skipped the early episodes and only watched them after i'd watched the rest of the series, as I wanted to get on with the story.
Although the drama picks up after the death of Prince Albert, the main problem with it is that is that the writing is so restrained. We see much of Bertie as a respectful son, husband and a cheerful friend, but NEVER as an adulterer (we never see any first-hand evidence of this, although his 'letters' are sometimes alluded to), we seem him playing cards a lot of the time and being a nice brother to Vicky. Too many scenes are devoted to sympathising with him over his mother's refusal to give him any real duties (She says he is too frivolous and irresponsible - though we don't SEE him doing anything very bad so this totally UNBALANCES the drama).
As the lead, Timothy West portrays Edward as an intelligent idealist, not a reckless, fun-loving rake, and this, combined with the rather one-sided writing, means that West doesn't nail the character, and as a main character Bertie is rather bland. Annette Crosbie is a formidable Queen Victoria, we see how she jealously coveted her beloved husband and deeply resents Bertie - but this is about as much scope as the writing gives to her, so we are again denied a fully rounded character.
By far my favourite portrayal was that of Queen Alexandra - the only character who the writing gave full justice to. We see her in-depth as a wife and mother, her tact and ability to dispel a bad atmosphere, her kind but simple nature, and her close bond with her sister Dagmar. Helen Ryan's performance is brilliant, she really gets Alexandra's personality off to the audience, even in her speech and movements. She is the only character with whom Bertie has a deep, complex relationship.
As you can imagine, most of the series is filmed on tape in a studio, though the sets and costume are all very fine and sumptuous. The direction is generally okay, although sometimes I found that emotional scenes (still playing music in the background) would abruptly cut, and then we'd be on to the next scene, which seemed a bit crude.
One of my main problems with the series is the concept itself. Of all the many Kings and Queens of England, why make a 13HOUR long series on... Edward the Seventh? It seems a bit of an odd choice to me. And then to subsequently leave out controversial aspects of his life just takes out all the fun and action. The King himself was a very lively, adventurous personality with a strong need for sexual and emotional fulfilment - I think he's be bored to pieces watching a drama like this.
Ultimately, if you like history and have the time, 'Edward the King' is a quiet, compelling drama and will give you something decent to watch. Despite its flaws, you cam see they have taken the time and effort to recreate the Victorian age. However, it's not big on action and might not appeal to many of a younger generation. Though it lacks the dramatic intensity of dramas like 'Elizabeth R' and 'I, Claudius', anyone with an interest in the era and some patience will enjoy this.