|Jenna Coleman as Victoria|
Victoria (Daisy Goodwin, Rebecca Eaton, ITV, 2016) finished last Sunday with the promise of a second series after a very promising first run. The series which premiered on ITV at 9 o’clock, in direct competition to Poldark genuinely impressed me, and seemed to be competitive in the ratings for the BBC equivalent. This is really the first time in a long time that ITV has given the BBC a run for their money with Period dramas, as they have been the king of the genre ever since Mr Darcy dove into the lake in 1995 (Pride and Prejudice). When all is said and done, Victoria did actually beat Poldark for ratings, which is, for ITV a major feat.
So after watching the series, here are the major things that stood out to me:
Firstly, I want to acknowledge the only bit of the film composition that would annoy me. The costuming and setting were done beautifully except that every now and again there would be an exposition shot of London using CGI. The problem with this was that there was always something ‘off’ about the CGI. It didn’t look very realistic, it was badly rendered and it was quite jarring to be suddenly brought out of a live action period drama by these moments of poor CGI. These moments didn’t add anything, for the few seconds the exposition shots took place, I think we could have seen something else that actually contributed to the story and maintained audience attention rather than spending the budget on an unnecessary and, frankly, very bad composition of Victorian London.
Secondly, I think the soundtrack should be mentioned. The soundtrack really captured the essence of the series and was very compelling. I’m not an expert on musical analysis but I thought it suited the mood and the tone. The only exception may be the final episode the music was dramatic in the extreme and almost overtook the narrative, we saw this in the BBC’s version of And Then There Were None (2015) also, there is no need for this continual dramatic music, sometimes the action, or indeed silence can say volumes more. Generally, I thought the series maintained it well.
|Victoria and Albert – newlyweds, indeed.|
Now on to the actual narrative. I always hate when people talk about “chemistry” in media – what does that even mean? How are you defining it? It’s a frustrating term. However, their performances of Coleman and Hughes were excellent, and I do think they worked well together in creating a modern, ‘sexier’ version of Victoria and Albert, who, prior to this, were mostly identified on British Television by Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988). I will say that I thought it got ‘too’ sexy towards the end of the series – unnecessarily so, the best episodes were by far the one’s where they meet and prepare or marriage, after marriage the series lost its way a bit so I wonder if a better structure for the series would have been to elongate the courtship of the two, but, I supposeVictoria had a long reign that can be covered and the makers did not know they would get a second series.
The effectiveness of the secondary plots varied. The plotline between Ernst (David Oakes) and the Duchess of Sutherland (Margaret Clunie) actually seemed a little ridiculous -I found I really didn’t care. A far better story line, with better pacing than perhaps either of the others, is the narrative between Nancy (Nell Hudson) and Mr Francatelli (Ferdinand Kingsley) – there was a good build up, good “chemistry”, we are taught about their individual characters as well as watching them together and the final cliffhanger was genuinely devasting. I’m not sure if it is because the Duchess of Sutherland is married, and Ernst a Prince, who both know they are in the wrong, and repeatedly say so, but I was not invested and did not mind that they did not end up together. Perhaps the worst reaction to have to a love story is apathy, which leads me to another point of concern in the series which is the sheer volume of romantic relationships- it is a palace not a high school in the 1990s.
|Nancy and Mr Francatelli – an unexpectedly lovely addition to the plot.|
So there are some thoughts – overall, I’m looking forward to the next series and though the actors and the ambiance (including set and costume design, which I haven’t spoken much about) were well done – Coleman definitely made the right decision to leave Doctor Who. What did others think? Did you enjoy it or did you find it was more of the same?