After about six months, the UK’s new historical drama hits America on BBCAmerica. It premieres on 9/8 central starting tonight, Sunday, June 22.
So the question is: why should I watch another boring historical drama that’s the 800th adaptation of Dumas’ ‘The Three Musketeers’? Glad you asked.
First it has a real catchy theme song and opening credits. Us Americans tend to be ruined by American network shows, a great many of which have minimal titles if any at all, little or no theme, and end credits that are covered up with advertisements and voiceovers. Murray Gold (modern-era ‘Doctor Who’) gets the musical credit and like much of work, the theme has a driving rhythm and a catchy melody. See also his ‘I Am the Doctor’ theme for the Eleventh Doctor.
The title sequence has enough running, jumping, and barrel throwing, to give MacGyver exhaustion. Here it is, recorded by some fan off of a TV screen so apologies for the poor quality.
Speaking of ‘Doctor Who’, it has upcoming Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi as Cardinal Richelieu, the sometime-villain of the piece. In the first episode Richelieu is a real bastard, having his mistress executed for her affair with Aramis. The fact he knows Aramis is the one responsible seems to have slipped his mind, at least in the first few episodes. Since then, Richelieu has been more of the schemer, and like the best villains, believes that he’s doing the right thing for France. In fact, he comes across more of an anti-hero than a villain, plotting to make sure that France remains a powerful nation. Richelieu doesn’t seem interested in personal power, and the fact that he works with the Musketeers on several occasions helps to sympathize him further. Unfortunately, Capaldi has left the show to work on ‘Doctor Who’, and his presence will be missed. But American viewers won’t notice that for ten episodes.
That brings us to the Musketeers of ‘The Musketeers’. The producers have cast four reliable actors to play the parts. My favorite is Howard Charles—Porthos—who steals most of the scenes that he’s in. Mr. Charles doesn’t seem to have a lot of TV credits, which is a shame. As far as I can tell, he isn’t related to Craig Charles from ‘Red Dwarf’ despite the last name, but he has a Lister-like quality. He gets a lot of the humorous dialogue a bit of a slob, and a lot of a drinker. This version of the novel portrays Porthos as a half-blood African. That gives him an anti-slavery subplot in the third episode, “Commodities.”
The other actors are good as well. Santiago Cabrera plays the womanizing Aramis that falls in love with every attractive woman he meets. Sometimes several at the same time. Tom Burke is subdued as Athos, while Luke Pasqualino is okay as the young brash D’Artagnan. Thank fully they focus on all four Musketeers throughout the episodes, and both Porthos and Aramis—the characters typically overlooked in most interpretations—play an equal part with Athos and D’Artagnan.
The rest of the actors are also okay but those are the standouts. They grow on you, particularly Tamla Kari as the plucky Constance who finally decides to grow a pair and learn how to fence and shoot. The guest stars, like James Callis (Baltar, 'Battlestar Galactica') also seem to enjoy showing up for work.
It’s also nice to see a show—that isn’t a comedy—where the actors appear to be having fun. Granted, ’The Three Musketeers’ is the kind of swashbuckling adventure novel that lends itself to actors having fun. Still, the actors look like they’re happy to be there. The actors banter back and forth, creator and main writer Adrian Hodges (‘Primeval’, the 2008 ‘Survivors’ remake, and the rather desperate adaptation of ‘Labyrinth’,) gives them a lot of witty things to say. It may not be realistic that the Musketeers crack wise at the drop of a feathered hat, but it sure is fun.
Overall, I’d say that any given episode is better than most of the recent movie adaptations. So give it a chance before tuning into ‘Penny Dreadful’ on Showtime at 10/9 if you can. You’re not watching that? Well, that’s an article for a week or so when that series wraps up its first season.