As an Anglophile, History buff, Doctor Who fan PBS’ Masterpiece had me at hello with Victoria. Jenna Coleman plays the erstwhile Queen from her unlikely ascension at the age of 18, to – well at this point up to about age 28 or 29 with seven of her total nine children having been born. The first season I found very compelling, a young woman who relied far to much on the advice and company of Prime Minister Lord Melbourne – played exceptionally by Rufus Sewell. But even in that early time period the show had problems. It relied far too much on the upstairs / downstairs Downton Abbey plot lines regarding the cooks, maids, valets and the like. While every subplot involving those characters isn’t in and of itself bad, there are far too many actual historical characters coming and going from Victoria’s orbit with far to thin a characterization to spend so much time on whether the Queen’s dress maid is going to marry the chef. Also, perhaps as much as I like to believe I know British history, this production (done in partnership with the BBC) perhaps assumes a much better working knowledge of which Prime Ministers fall in order than I possess. But with that said, they manipulate history to fit the overall theme of each episode while relying on the audience’s knowledge of the actual facts in other instances.
I was particularly excited about the most recent episode since it dealt with the ramifications of the Revolutions of 1848. As a “Revolutions” by Mike Duncan listener I was pretty well educated about those events and found the episode to be both clever in some instances and disappointing in others. Having deposed King of the French Louis-Philip tell Bertie and his older sister about kings losing their heads while standing in front of a painting of King Charles I was clever. Showing Victoria fleeing to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight when that palace wasn’t finished for three more years – and having her forgotten sister also show up in London to “escape” the revolutions when 1. that never happened and 2. Victoria and Feodora exchange letters from the moment Feodora left to get married and Victoria financially supported her sister almost from the moment she became Queen until Feodora’s death.
If there is a conclusion to this rambling mess of a post, I guess it is this. This show is frustrating. It could be great, it is often quite good, and sometimes terrible. It always looks amazing, which is perhaps half the appeal. Anybody still watching?