1 September 2016 | l_rawjalaurence
Captivating and Up-to-date Historical Drama
On the basis of seeing the first episodes of this Masterpiece drama, broadcast in the UK by ITV, I can freely say that I am hooked on to it. Daisy Goodwin's script is both taut and cleverly written, while the performances of the main protagonists are uniformly convincing. I particularly like Jenna Coleman's characterization of the young Queen - so apparently vulnerable yet possessed with an inner strength of will that enables her to resist the repeated blandishments of her self-interest mother the Duchess of Kent (Catherine H. Flemming), who so dearly desires to assume the title of Regent, aided and abetted by her unscrupulous ally Sir John Conroy (Paul Rhys).
This eight-part drama wears its moral scheme on its sleeve by contrasting the hissable villain the Duke of Cumberland (Peter Firth), with the pragmatic yet goodhearted Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell), who admires the Queen yet remains convinced that she has to transform herself from an immature girl into suitably monarchical material, and will try his utmost to achieve that transformation. Sometimes he has to be cruel to be kind, but all in a good cause. In between these two extremes stands the Duke of Wellington (Peter Bowles), and Sir Robert Peel (Nigel Lindsay), both members of the Tory Party (and hence implacably opposed to Melbourne's politics), but interested in maintaining the business of government.
As with most television costume dramas, the sets and decor are both opulent and historically accurate, supplemented by useful CGI shots where necessary. I especially liked some of the cinematographic effects (by John Lee) - especially the use of aerial shots to suggest the insignificance of humanity when compared to the greater business of running the country.
And it is this sense of contemporaneity that lifts VICTORIA out of the run-of-the-mill and transforms it into living, breathing drama. We hear a lot about the importance of "duty" - from the Queen as well as her friends and enemies - and we are led to speculate on what that term really signifies. Is it just a catch-all description masking self-interest, or do people really believe in it? In light of recent political upheavals in the United Kingdom, with one Prime Minister resigning (ostensibly out of "duty"), and the opposition party tearing itself asunder with different conceptions of the same term, we wonder just how much VICTORIA is commenting on the present as well as the past, especially in its concern with politics and its relationship to the country's future.
I am definitely hooked, and await the remaining episodes with eager anticipation.