The Musketeers: 1.01 - Friends and Enemies
The new big budget and highly publicised BBC One adaptation of Alexander Dumas classic novel has debuted on Sunday nights.With a largely unknown cast taking on the role of the legendary Musketeers, whose story is rewritten and adapted by Adrian Hodges (responsible for both Primeval and the recent re-imagining of Survivors for the BBC), and a widescreen soundtrack by Murray Gold, the corporation is putting a lot of faith into this being a crowd pleasing drama.
So how does it fare?
The plot itself of the opening episode is a very loose affair, almost of no consequence in fact. A light bit of fluff about some of Richelieus men impersonating Musketeers to discredit them in the eyes of the King. Instead episode one is designed to introduce us to the characters that we’ll be sharing the next 10 weeks with. The traditional Three Musketeers, Athos, Aramis and Porthos are pretty interchangeable at this stage, with very little character differentiation between them.
D’Artagnan played by Skins veteran Luke Pasquiliano is as hot headed and charming as in previous adaptations, whilst the only three characters to truly stand out are Hugo Speer’s Captain Treville, Peter Capaldi’s Cardinal Richelieu and Tamla Kari as Constance Bonacieux.
Speer, as ever puts in a good honest portrayal of a Captain wanting to do what’s right, bringing in echoes of his role as Sergeant George in Bleak House. Kari’s character stands out, not so much for her acting, which is great, but for her accent. Whilst there are no attempts at a French accent which would push this more into the realms of Allo Allo. The fact that her character has the undertone of a Birmingham accent that sneaks out is really jarring in scenes of 16th century France.
Undoubted star of the show, and scene-stealer from every performance is Peter Capaldi, who has the right air of charm and menace to bring the villainous Richelieu to life. I am looking forward to more scenes of Capaldi and Speer in the future as their characters are both opposed to each other and vying for position in the court of King Louis XIII. Played here as a dilettante weak fop, which may not be historically accurate.
As an opening episode to introduce the characters and the settings this was OK. The filming quality was superb, the lighting, the scenes and the production standard was high. The action sequences, whilst looking very choreographed, stand out in HD. But it wasn’t up to the quality of Ripper Street, which, like it, or not is the benchmark by which all BBC drama should be judged.
It did do enough to make me want to watch next week, and I hope that the characterisation of The Musketeers is fleshed out as at this point I don’t particularly care about D’Artagnan, and can’t tell which Musketeer is which.
I also hope the plot gets more interesting and isn’t padded out with clichéd sword fight after sword fight, which suggests the directors couldn't think of anything else to do.
Luckily with 9 more episodes there are plenty of opportunities for The Musketeers to make good on the promise that it shows.