Archangel, BBC1

by | Mar 20, 2005 | All, Reviews

What to say of you liked it

A taut, thrilling adaptation of Robert Harris’s innovative novel about Russia returning to the era of Stalinist values through the leadership of his long lost secret son.

What to say of you didn’t like it

• The almost indiscernible sound of the last drops of blood being exorcised from Russia’s communist past in the squalid and craven form of a wholly ignorant drama by immoral Western film makers which characterised most Russians as deluded fools dreaming of a time they never knew.

What was good about it?

• Daniel Craig as the improbably named Dr “Fluke” Kelso who managed to combine a historian’s perceptive mind with the decisive practicality of an adventurer like a reluctant Indiana Jones.

• The script alluded to potential global instability should young Joe Stalin become Russia’s leader, but only on few occasions did anyone lecture tiresomely as to the grim implications of an aggressive Russia to the rest of the world.

• The sparse title sequence that was reminiscent of the BBC News Six O’Clock news from the 1980s.

• Some elements of Russian life were very well observed from the local delicacy of cabbage soup, carpets nailed to the living room walls and Zinaida’s fake Western clothes such as her top that was branded with the legend Sport Jeans.

• The Russian characters spoke in their own language rather than heavily accented English which complemented the atmosphere of authenticity built up through the bleak rural vistas of decaying towns and cities full of selfish crooks and corrupt officials.

• The array of villains who assailed Fluke and Zinaida from all angles such as cynical American newsman O’Brian, Stalin’s long lost autocratic murderous son and his mentor the slimy Mamantov, and the Russian Special Forces who were ordered to eliminate all

traces of the threat to the current regime.

• The shocking denouement of a vengeful Zinaida gunning down the new Stalin after he was greeted at a railway station by hundreds of fervent supporters.

What was bad about it?

• The unnecessary history lesson of how Stalin was “responsible for more deaths than Hitler, Pol Pot and Genghis Khan combined”. People who are ignorant of the Great Terror shouldn’t be pandered to.

• The trite choral music which piped up when Fluke and O’Brian went within 20 feet of a church.

• When O’Brian and Fluke were fleeing from Major Kretov, O’Brian stepped in a bear trap – yet another variation on the horror film fundament of stumbling when running away from certain doom.

• When Fluke fell into a freezing river and clambered into a boat to sail downstream, he later arrived back in the town of Archangel dry and not suffering any effects of hypothermia.

• The conclusion when Zinaida shot the new Stalin was excellently executed but had a number of flaws. She, as a prostitute/lawyer with no recorded history of handling firearms, hit her quarry right in the heart. And she seemed to have no real reason to murder the new Stalin as he had been living in a remote woodshack for the past 50 years and was blameless for the murder of her father. The ending also was too abrupt as it didn’t round up the consequences of Zinaida’s actions for herself and Fluke.

• The portrayal of Russia was one of exaggerated horror as almost all the characters were either very poor or a criminal, with even public officials and guards prepared to neglect their duty for the right price

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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