4 December 2009 | didi-5
intriguing idea, sadly doesn't work
Touted as one of the TV events of the year, this five-part drama documentary sounds fascinating. Five different actresses play Elizabeth II, who came to the throne of England in 1952.
Focusing on key events in her reign and life - Princess Margaret's affair with Peter Townsend; the late 60s rise of republicanism; sanctions against South Africa and battles with Mrs Thatcher; the fallout from Charles and Diana's separation; the acceptance of Camilla Parker-Bowles into the family.
The archive footage included in each episode is fascinating, as are some of the recollections and observations from a succession of interviewee talking heads. But the drama is curiously unengaging and goes for cheap shots in the dialogue - would Prince Philip really refer to Margaret Thatcher as 'bloody grocer's daughter'? Would the Queen really ask 'is it gloves orf' when referring to the Press? The actresses playing the Queen do their best - Emilia Fox, Samantha Bond, and Barbara Flynn coming off perhaps more convincingly than Susan Jameson and Diana Quick. Ken Colley also does a good job as Prince Philip in the penultimate episode, which also features Paul Rhys as an intriguing Prince of Wales. Part of the interest of these kinds of series are the casting of actors you'd forgotten about - Doreen Mantle, for example, who plays the Queen Mother.
A disappointment, perhaps because some of the situations are just too close in time - perhaps because they are over-dramatised and obviously have no basis in fact. It is beautifully filmed though and well-researched - it is just that it doesn't really come across in the way it has been publicised. If 'her story is all our stories' we really do need to have more concrete evidence about what she is like.