So, the BBC have a new “historical” drama series based on that much-loved classic The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. So far, so awesome for any fan of swashbuckling action, right? Well, yes and no…
On the one hand, The Musketeers offers a wealth of eyecandy to…I was going to say ‘ladies’, but maybe that’s too heteronormative – to anyone who appreciates the sight of attractive young men in leather doublets and bucket-top boots. The settings are excellent too; the series is filmed in the Czech Republic, which stands in for so many historical locations these days. I also love the opening titles, which have a “Young Guns” vibe, blending gorgeous artwork with live action to a foot-stomping theme tune.
One the other hand, sticklers amongst us may have a few gripes. The swordplay isn’t exactly stunning – the actors wield their rapiers more like broadswords, slashing where they should be lunging – and the dialogue can be clunky at times. Peter Capaldi, who has excelled in many roles including the infamous Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It, somehow lacks the necessary scenery-chewing presence as Richelieu that this light-hearted drama requires. Given his riveting presence in other shows, I can’t help but wonder if the director is more to blame than Capaldi himself?
I was particularly pleased to discover that Santiago Cabrera had been cast as the womanising Aramis. Having seen his appearance in early episodes of Merlin, I picked him out as an actor I’d love to see cast as my own Mal Catlyn (though Aidan Turner will always be my first choice). So, watching Cabrera run around with rapier and pistol is a nice substitute for getting to see Night’s Masque itself made into a TV show
To me as an amateur historian, though, the most interesting aspect of the series is the casting of black actor Howard Charles in the role of Porthos (far right in the above photo). Before anyone cries tokenism, I’d like to point out that Dumas himself was mixed-race: his paternal grandmother, from whom he took his surname, was a black slave in Haiti. It’s so easy to view our past through the whitewashed lens of previous generations – frankly it’s about time we admitted that Europe has always had a small but nonetheless real and ubiquitous black population.
The Musketeers may not be up to the standards of great BBC dramas such as Pride & Prejudice or Sherlock, but it’s a fun show that will hopefully bring a classic story to the attention of a new audience.
- More about The Musketeers on the BBC website