sat 24/02/2024

Victoria, Series Finale, ITV | reviews, news & interviews

Victoria, Series Finale, ITV

Victoria, Series Finale, ITV

Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes were made for each other in classy dynastic romp

Royal spice: Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria

One down, eight childbirths to go. The young Queen Victoria was delivered of her first child at the climax of this moreish opening series, and the bells of Windsor tolled for joy. ITV, debutant scriptwriter Daisy Goodwin and biographical consultant AN Wilson will be feeling parental pride that between them they have given birth to a healthy 10-pound whopper that looks very much like the natural heir to Downton.

Victoria took its cue from dynastic romance to tell the story of a proto-feminist teen thrust into the limelight like a 19th-century pop starlet forced to grow up on the job. The story punctiliously visited every known trope in the life of such a heroine: the overbearing mother, the rugged father figure, Lord Melbourne, the suitor for whom mutual loathing turns to love and, in this final episode, the dastardly uncle suspected of regicide. “I am a better monarch than you could ever be,” Victoria told the Duke of Cumberland (and King of Hanover), hiding a sneaky smirk as she turned on her heels. Pow! Take a sock on the jaw from the sisterhood.

Each episode contained a plot tidily resolved by the end of the hour – Albert finding a public role, Victoria conquering aristocratic opposition – while marching on towards the tear-jerking climax in which loads on frockcoated males witnessed the wails of the royal parturition. In this final episode her Majesty’s Euro-relatives descended to await the birth, while fears for her safety proved to be not without foundation as a madman took a potshot at her. The theme of regicide was deftly introduced in the opening bedroom scene. Albert, browsing a joke book, found one about the Shakespearean character who was also a chicken killer. Answer: Macbeth, because he murdered most fowl. “We are not amused,” chirrupped the queen, not entirely meaning it.

As history, Victoria has scored no higher than a gamma plus. The plus is for occasional outbreaks of constitutional box-ticking, such as Victoria's vow to “uphold the laws of this nation under God” rather than string up her would-be assassin. As television drama it merits an alpha minus. The minus is for the merest lip service paid to the dramatis personae marooned more or less plotlessly downstairs. The frothing Mr Penge was written as a harrumph in livery; this week he deemed childbirth “a nasty, dangerous business” and took a dim view of a wet nurse invasion (pictured above, Adrian Schiller in a strop). And the storytelling resorted too often to telling not showing. “Albert and Victoria seem less comfortable with each other since I was last here,” mused Albert’s brother Ernst, despite no evidence.

The class-act cast rose to the challenge of putting flesh on a boney script. Aside from Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes (pictured right), who handsomely conveyed the known truth that V&A really did have the hots for each other, Nigel Lindsay was a lovely Peel and Daniela Holtz a touching Baroness Lehzen. This finale was enlivened by the good toff/bad toff double act of Alex Jennings as kindly King Leopold of Belgium and Peter Firth as the scar-faced blackguard Duke of Cumberland. An extra round of applause to Ruth Barrett's catchy mock-choral theme music.

Where to now? The first series covered three years. Wilson and Goodwin have doubtless assured the ITV bosses that there’s plenty of drama still to be had from this right royal franchise. How long it can continue depends on the availability of the leads and the ability of the make-up department to slap the patina of age on their pristine young faces. But this could run and run all the way up to Albert’s death in 1861 at the age of 42, although such a finale would be a bit of a downer for a drama determined to be amusing.

As history 'Victoria' has scored no higher than a gamma plus. As television drama it merits an alpha minus


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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