Victoria, Queen Victoria.
Yes, say that like “Bond, James Bond”, and Jenna Coleman steps into the lead role as her uncle, King William IV, is brown bread, and it’s only 1837 (what, not yet time for The One Show??)
Being a period drama, ITV have thrown a stack of cash to bring an ornate palace to the screen in a new series whose cast includes Doctor Who‘s Jenna Coleman as the titular, 18-year-old monarch, The Sarah Jane Adventures‘ Luke – aka Tommy Knight, and Gwen from Torchwood aka Eve Myles, so I had to ask, when does the TARDIS appear? No, thankfully, Russell T Davies’ appalling scriptwriting is nowhere to be seen in this eight-parter, created and written by Daisy Goodwin.
Victoria is entranced by the dashing Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell), and ‘dashing’ is certainly nothing you could accuse the current crop of being. John Conroy (Paul Rhys) wants to be her private secretary, but the Lord wants to step in, clearly because he wants to get his leg over, and he’s also single, given that his wife died several years earlier. Between the two of them, Conroy clearly the cardboard cutout baddie, with him and Melbourne freuqently being at loggerheards.
As the first episode played out, you got the feeling that some of them are trying to trip up the new Queen, while pretending to have her best interests at heart, and there’s also a ball carried out in a style which reminded me of one of Armstrong & Miller’s later series sketches. With a few moments of humour, this helps echo that feeling all the more, so you’ll certainly be a bit more amused than the real Queen Victoria was.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of period dramas, but even still I expected to be entertained and this all plays out in the most predictable way possible. Split into six parts over 90 minutes, this is a very long 90 minutes, and once the first slightly lengthy section had played out, the rest seemed to follow in very quick succession with a high frequency of adverts.
CGI recreates the outside of Buckingham Palace, and many other locations – and CGI sets is certainly something Ms Coleman will be used to. As for the title of the episode, ‘Doll 123‘ refers to an otherwise unnamed doll given to Victoria on her eleventh birthday, but as soon as this had been explained, it was mostly forgotten about.
Jenna Coleman is hotter than hell as always, and the high profile of this programme will secure her a long and continuing future in TV and movies. Most of the rest of the cast are fine, but as the villain of the piece, Paul Rhys, as Conroy, is frowning more and more with a view to his face etching more lines upon itself as if he’s in a race to fill it completely.
Oh, and since I’m only 5’8 myself, I think short women are awesome. Queen Victoria was 5’0, while Jenna is 5’2. If you have anything negative to say about ladies of small stature, she’ll chop off your head!
Victoria continues tomorrow night on ITV at 9pm, and then every Sunday at 9pm. The series is available pre-order on DVD, ahead of its release date of October 24th, but if you miss the episode, you can catch it later on the ITV Hub.
Episode 1 Score: 4/10
Series Directors: Tom Vaughan, Oliver Blackburn and Sandra Goldbacher
Producers: Rebecca Eaton and Paul Frift
Creator/Writer: Daisy Goodwin
Music: Mearl and Ruth Barrett
Victoria: Jenna Coleman
Mrs. Jenkins: Eve Myles
Miss Skerrett: Nell Hudson
Sir John Conroy: Paul Rhys
Penge: Adrian Schiller
Lady Portman: Anna Wilson-Jones
Brodie: Tommy Knight
Charles Francatelli: Ferdinand Kingsley
Lady Flora Hastings: Alice Orr-Ewing
Duchess of Sutherland: Margaret Clunie
Duchess of Kent: Catherine H Flemming
Duke of Coburg: Andrew Bicknell
Lord Chancellor: Richard Dixon
Baroness Louise Lehzen: Daniela Holtz
Tsarevich: Daniel Donskoy
Duchess of Cumberland: Nichola McAuliffe
Monsieur Philippe: Gabriel Constantin
Professional Dancer: Charlotte Mason-Apps
Lady/Wedding Guest: Georgie-May Tearle
Footman: Richard Varley
Lord Of The Realm: Philip Gascoyne
Chartist Protester: Michael Hargreaves
Posh Lady; Quaker: Clare Crowther
Lord Alfred Paget: Jordan Waller
Salesman: Jacob Smyth
Profesional Dancer: Cameron Beames
Lord: Nig Richards
Royal Soldier: Taavi Peelo
Young Mother: Sophie Mort (uncredited)