With the mammoth rollercoaster that was the Sherlock finale just past and the UK still reeling in the aftermath, the BBC have followed it up with The Musketeers, a new Sunday night venture from Primeval’s Adrian Hodges. It’s exactly what you’d expect – an onslaught of heaving-bosomed women, a stiffly formal, all-black clad villain and more than one high-speed swordfight. The Musketeers may not be perfect but it’s a considerable step up from the likes of Atlantis and probably the best possible replacement for Sherlock.
Everything gets on at quite a cracking pace from the atmospheric and somewhat tragic pre-title sequence (the titles themselves are as loud and quasi-swashbuckling as you’d expect; superb work from the always wonderful Murray Gold) to the introduction of the titular Musketeers. They consist of the impulsive D’Artagnan (Luke Pasqualino, who I shall eternally know as the put-upon bellhop in Miranda), the Jack-the-Lad of the group, Aramis (Merlin’s Santiago Cabrera), the levelheaded Athos (The Hour’s Tom Burke) and the gallant Porthos (Howard Charles): a collection of reliable clichés and our heroes for the next ten weeks. The four (not three) are likeable enough characters with enough depth and charm to keep me coming back for the next couple of months – unlike the dull as dishwater Jason of Atlantis. Representing the baddies is brand new Time Lord Peter Capaldi (he’s working undercover in the seventeenth century whilst Clara is off being all plummy in Death Comes To Pemberley) as icy cold Cardinal Richelieu, a man contented to manipulate the king and ride around in a carriage so black it could be mistaken for a hearse. “You’ll burn in hell,” one of the poor souls he encounters cries. “I have work to do here first” he replies in an impassive voice.
The women, on the other hand, are represented mainly by Tamla Kari and Maimie McCoy as Constance Bonacieux and Milady de Winter respectively. Kari and McCoy both put in good turns but neither character are3 particularly well rounded so fingers crossed for some development.
If you’re looking for a bout of escapism then The Musketeers is right up your street; episode one is fairly self-contained but then again most series don’t introduce arcs until midway through. There are plenty of muskets drawn and bayonets waved as well as many good-hearted japes from the lead quartet meaning The Musketeers dances the thin line between serious drama and Atlantis-style entertainment before toppling into the latter.
Doctor Who and Sherlock alumnus Toby Haynes directs with flair, keeping the camera on the move semipermanently and his camerawork nicely compliments Hodges’ script. It doesn’t quite ooze the historical charm it should and Hodges uses maybe one too many modern colloquialisms but above all The Musketeers is fun, fuelled mostly by testosterone (the female side of things doesn’t get as gratifying a look in as the men) with some solid performances (Pasqualino, Cabrera and Capaldi are highlights); it’ll be what washes the next ten weekends away.
Contributed by Patrick Sproull
The Musketeers starts Sunday at 9.00pm BBC ONE