sun 14/07/2024

Tutankhamun, ITV | reviews, news & interviews

Tutankhamun, ITV

Tutankhamun, ITV

Edwardian derring-do on the trail of King Tut

Mummy's boy: Max Irons as archaeologist Howard Carter

Freshly minted for ITV's Golden Age of Empire slot on Sunday nights, this new four-parter breezily splices together Edwardian derring-do toffery with a patina of Indiana Jones and (not least in the music) a miasma of Lawrence of Arabia. Our story began in 1905 in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, as archaeologist Howard Carter sought to beat a swarm of international treasure-hunters to the holy grail of an undiscovered Pharaoh's tomb.

As played by Max Irons, Carter is rude, irascible, ferociously single-minded and stuffed with more facts about ancient Egypt than a Google server-farm. One of the first things we saw him do was punch a visiting French dignitary who'd been offensive to one of his workers, prompting the Egyptian authorities to rescind Carter's licence to dig.

No matter. We fast-forwarded a couple of years to the arrival of Lord Carnarvon (sportingly played by Sam Neill, looking as if he's always on the lookout for a racing certainty or a low-flying pheasant). Carnarvon is an amateur in the fullest sense of the word. In a three-piece suit which might have been perfectly sensible for a shooting party in Wiltshire, he rolled casually into the sun-blasted desert – Tutankhamun found its sweeping panoramic landscapes in South Africa, with ancient ruins digitally added later – in his Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost (a vehicle so rare that it got its own credit at the end), pottered about for a bit to recruit a few local workers, then hauled them out into the sandy wastes in the hope that their shovels might strike something ancient and valuable. Fortunately, valuable time and effort were saved when the estimable Selim (Waleed Elgadi) suggested he might be wise to have a word with Carter (pictured above, Sam Neill with Max Irons).

Carter, perceiving that Carnarvon's true worth lay in his chequebook (or at least his wife's, she being a Rothschild), launched an impassioned campaign of persuasion, luring Carnarvon into a potentially endless investment by insisting that priceless antiquities would inevitably be found. Carter also got a leg up (and, in due course, a leg over) from Maggie Lewis (Catherine Steadman, pictured below with Irons), from New York's Metropolitan Museum. It was she who showed Carter a thing resembling a green flowerpot, unearthed by her fellow American, Herbert Winlock (Jonathan Aris). The Yanks hadn't a clue what the writing on it meant, but Carter smugly produced the answer in a flash. It was Tutankhamun, or at least Tutankhamun's original name before he adopted his royal cognomen.

Not even Carter knew how the evidentiary pot had reached the Valley of the Kings, when Tut's HQ had been in Amarna, 300 miles away, but he knew a man who did.  Thus we encountered bluff, bewhiskered Professor Flinders Petrie (Rupert Vansittart), emerging from a cave naked and covered in mud. Refreshing himself with sardine juice from a tin, Petrie averred boomingly that Tutankhamun had abandoned Amarna after his father died and moved to Luxor, right by the Valley of the Kings. Result! Carter and Petrie celebrated by drinking a life-threatening brew of ethyl alcohol and citric acid.

Unfortunately, further progress was curtailed by the arrival of the British Army, announcing that since World War One had broken out, everything non-warlike was now forbidden. Lord Carnarvon would be shipped home on the SS Debrett's while Carter would be packed off to join the war effort. This looks like being a vigorous drama that keeps the action pumping and its characters big and brightly-coloured, even slipping in some educational facts along the way. Can't wait for episode two. 

Lord Carnarvon would be shipped home on the SS Debrett's while Carter would be packed off to join the war effort


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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awful. inaccurate. full of cgi also inaccurate.shots of the Cairo museum show tge river on the wrong side and pyrmids in shot. not. no romance as shown, terrible flooring on outside sets. i lived in Egypt for over 10 years and tuned in for my favourite country and archaeology. like victoria it is dumbed down inaccurrate twaddle. The only reason i may watch is for Sam Neill. Some people will think this rubbish is true

I really hope Tutankhamun's curse strikes the ones who wrote this "thing". Some of the caracters, as Petrie, Lacau and Even Lady Almina are depicted in an almost offensive way. I can't understand the choice of the actors who play the main characters, too. A too young Carter looking always the same during the 15 years search for the tomb, a too old Evelyn Herbert, a snobbish Lady Almina, and Sam Neill as Carnarvon going around Luxorìs bars shouting in search for the "right man for the job"? Awful. And about the love story between Eve and "her" Carter... A girl of 20 and a man about 50, who knew each other since Eve was 8. They were more like uncle and niece, I suppose. And what about that "hint" of slight gayness on Herbert Winlock? That man had wife and children. Go study a bit about the true story. If fiction is based on aomething truly happended, and real people, you can't push it so far

The production was riddled with errors and outright falsehoods. Wost notably, Evelyn was Carnarvon's niece not his daughter and there was no indication of any relationsip between the two and Carter's supposedly other 'romantic' interest, the lady Egyptologist Maggie Lewis is an entirely fictional character! Guy Burt totally re-wrote history here to make Carter into an Indiana Jones type romantic hero. It was really Winlock who deduced that the tomb was in the Valley and still to be found and he was not gay, but in all probability, Carter was.

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