TV Review: Victoria

Jenna Coleman plays Clara Oswald playing Queen Victoria in this new eight part ITV biopic based on the life and times of Alexandrina Victoria. Coming into power at the age of eighteen after the death of her uncle she is presumed naive and palpable by not only those closest to her, but those who intend to see her fall. Dresses, deceit and dolls this period drama is clearly meant to fill the gaping hole for the still mourning fans of Downton Abby.

As the pilot episode was a whopping 100 minutes long I feel like I can pass quite a heavy handed judgment on the show already, and so heavy handed judgement I will pass….

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Starting on a positive note; I loved the opening shot. A stag in the foreground as a carriage goes by in the background. Don’t ask me about it’s connotations as I’m sure my guess is as good as anyone else’s, but it was striking and memorable and pretty.

That being said, after such a beautiful opening shot, pretty much everything else fell flat. The plot for instance was all over the place, there was no middle or end, things just seemed to happened. It felt like I had watched an episode and a half of a series, surprised when it continued after a scene that felt like a conclusion, and confused when it ended abruptly.

Okay so even though the series is called Victoria, it’s not all about her. There are other characters around her that went through their own issues and had their own stories, particularly the staff. Heck maybe back in ye ol’ England the kitchen was the place to be seen, where all the staff could chat, plot and gossip freely… but in this case my mind instantly paralleled it to Downton Abbey, and I only bloody watched the first two seasons. Not only that but I love a good B Plot, so it was a bit of a bore to find that the hoity-toity dressmaker, the convoluted footman and the mysterious newbie were all predictably tiresome.

As I’m sure you can guess from my thin veiled opening paragraph one of the main issues I had was Jenna Coleman’s acting. There was a lot of skepticism when it was announced she would be playing the titular role, from myself included. But I hoped for the best – which is where I went wrong. Don’t get me wrong she had her moments, particularly when she had to act “Queenly” but I think the core issue derives from the fact that we all know her from Doctor Who. She’s not the greatest actress in the world (which isn’t a bad thing) but perhaps going straight from the high profile world of Doctor Who to the equally prolific world of Queen Victoria was a pitfall. We haven’t seen her on anything else so how are we supposed to see her as anyone else?

Rufus Sewell as Lord Melbourne (Lord M) added a level of maturity to the episode. Not necessarily in age but in the sense that he seemed like the only person who had their head screwed on straight. He had no agenda but to do good by England when everyone else seemed to only be out for themselves. This assessment is of course based solely on the first episode, so who knows how his character will develop, especially seeing as how Rufus Sewell isn’t exactly known for playing a moral and upstanding character.

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As I am certain Victoria will be based on some semblance of Historical accuracy, what’s to come should technically be of no surprise. However I do still wonder how the plot will progress. I gather over the course of the season Victoria will grow from a slightly spoiled and stubborn teenager to an even more spoiled and stubborn old woman, but the steps she’ll take to get there seem far from interesting at this point. I feel no investment to continue on with the the show other than the sad fact that I currently have nothing else to watch and I’m a sucker for pretty dresses.

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