Victoria is a British period drama depicting the early life of Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman) and the early stages of her marriage to Prince Albert (Tom Hughes). She came into the throne at a meek eighteen years old. This debut season is her showing Parliament and the European public that she is a capable Queen despite her lack of experience. At the height of the Empire, ITV’s Victoria is riddled with themes like family, power and politics but most of all she’s young, a woman and the driving force behind England’s worst enemy, CHANGE.
Victoria was on my radar for a while and it’s one of a few shows that I tuned in weekly for. Poldark is on at the same time, so each week I’d alternate. I’d watch one show live and the other on Catch Up straight afterwards. I couldn’t stand Jenna Coleman’s character in Doctor Who and that’s down to poor writing for her character, and not down to the ability of the actress. She’s a highly talented actress and has absolutely captivated me as Victoria in this first season of the ITV series. After Downton Abbey leaving us, I was looking for a show to fill in that Sunday slot, Victoria is a worthy contender that ITV sought to pit against BBC’s Poldark on Sundays at 9pm.
Not long into the season premiere, I was taken with Coleman, and was sure that she was capable of leading this period drama. Jenna Coleman is petit (like Victoria) and she is an inspired choice for the role. I don’t think she’d be anyone’s first choice. But after seeing the first season, I’m struggling to see why she wouldn’t be. Jenna Coleman is outstanding. She’s come a long way since Emmerdale farm, having been in Waterloo Road and then becoming a bit more known in Doctor Who as Clara Oswald. Also, I recently saw her in Me Before You along side Emilia Clarke and Charles Dance. She’s a capable actress, given the right script and Victoria proves that.
Rufus Sewell was sensational as Lord Melbourne. He’s only in five episodes but he owns every episode he’s in, playing the British Prime Minister with a bold pragmatism that every PM should have but also a very engaging humorous swagger about him. For an older fellow, he gets around quite swiftly and frankly, he has delivers his lines so well, that sometimes I have to rewind to hear them again. Lines like “public opinion is not known for its logic Ma’am…if people get into the way of making kings, they might get into the way of unmaking them…the duke is a Tory Ma’am…he knows very well that if there’s something people hate more than a German, it’s a papist.” really add to the show’s Britishness and its place among the period drama greats as well as being a very honest take of imperial British identity.
The hair/makeup design, props, costume and general production value make you want to cry because of how beautiful it looks at an est. meagre £10m season budget. It’s what you call using money practically. America take note. Broadcasted by ITV in the UK, I have to say Britain have churned out another period paragon. Once you start watching, you can’t stop. It’s royally good. Daisy Goodwin’s script is intelligent, witty and concrete. It’s punchy, glamorous and exciting, with the castings for every character being on point and their performances are scarily convincing. Especially Victoria who has the appearance of a quaint girl, yet is able to resist indirect attack, even from her own mother the Duchess Of Kent (Catherine H. Flemming) who wants the title of Regent with her opportunistic partner in crime, Sir John Crony (Paul Rhys).
The eight-part historical drama is filled with colourful characters with your outright protagonists like Victoria and Albert (Tom Hughes) to Sir Robert Peel (Nigel Lindsay) who I grew to like. Typically, there are those who are behind the times, and want to stay in their small little worlds of polite society. These are characters like the pompously class-obsessed Sir Piers Gifford (James Wilby) and Lady Gifford (Annabelle Mullion). And in all dramas like this, we have our despicable villainous characters. In this show, it is the Duke Of Cumberland (Peter Firth) while the antiheroic Melbourne (Sewell) is often the “cruel to be kind” character that is set on making Victoria suitable for ruling and not this “babe in the woods” teenage girl. Peel and Wellington are both members of the Tory Party so they don’t always see eye to eye with Melbourne, as they are on opposing political faculties.
I must reiterate that the sets and décor are out of this world. John Lee’s cinematography is also to be commended but nothing beats filming on location. Victoria was filmed wholly on the beautiful picturesque lands of Great Britain. It may be set way in the past but it certainly feels like a contemporary drama. There have been many period dramas that are set in the past but we made in the 2010s but Victoria is the opposite of this. Like Poldark, Victoria is a very modern period drama that can engage audiences of all ages.
Victoria (Coleman) is drilled with the word “duty” by many who would like to see her fail. This is coming from her “friends” and enemies. With each episode we see, we are subjected to what really defines duty. There are many times when the monarchy simply don’t care about the public, the people they are supposed to be ruling? When Albert appears to care, the English aristocracy look at him as if he’s crazy. But then again, they took issue with his being German, a papist and having the Queen’s ear.
It’s no secret that Britain has gone through the works on a political front this year. One Prime Minister has quit, we voted to leave the EU and Farage has been using the limelight to further his political agenda. Well, some things don’t change. This is all happening whilst British politics is ripping itself apart. Britain has a knack for cutting itself nose off to spite its face. It seems Victoria shares common ground with modern day Britain in its ideologies, culture and its plans for the countries future, or lack of. Filled with first rate performances, a stimulating musical score and expert set pieces/costume design, Victoria is certainly one to my favourite shows of the year and certainly up there with Pride & Prejudice and Downton Abbey.