It's been a long time coming but this new reworking of the Dumas's Three Musketeer's starts this Sunday on BBC1, and while not staying entirely true to the book it's narrative is felt throughout. As Creator and Executive Producer Adrian Hodges says "I simply felt the time was right to do something different with the founding myth of the Musketeers and to do what Dumas himself did with history - respect it, use it wisely, but also have fun with it." He adds "this new version is not an adaptation of the book, but rather a series of new adventures sometimes inspired by the novel, sometimes by the events of the period, and sometimes by more contemporary issues given a historical spin."
The opening episode introduces the main characters through two seemingly unconnected storylines, until you factor in the scheming and politically hungry Cardinal Richelieu who is a skilled puppet master. Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It, Doctor Who) is marvellous is the role, his subtle manipulation of King Louis (Ryan Gage; The Hobbit) is a treat to watch, and his utter ruthlessness is chilling later on in the episode when he deals with those he feels that have disappointed him.
The Musketeers themselves are played fairly straight, rather than as caricatures as in some of the film adaptations I have seen in the past. I can see that the BBC might be pushing the shipping aspect of some of them a bit more than they would have in recent years past; d'Artagnan's (Luke Pasqualino; Skins) two love triangles are both set up quite prominently, as is Athos's (Tom Burke; The Hour) brooding romantic past and Milady's (Maimie McCoy; Endeavour) glee at getting revenge on past lovers for example.
These kind of relationships do well online (as we saw with Atlantis and Sherlock recently) so part of me wonders if they have been hinted at so much early on in order to ground the characters with some of the audience. It’s not a side of shows I ever really get into myself, but I can’t deny that it is popular with many and this popularity can assist greatly in promoting a show, especially on twitter and tumblr. But, in this episode at least, they don’t take over the story as much as they could considering the plotlines involved, and aren’t too much of a distraction from the main adventure.
I can’t talk about the Musketeers without touching on the swordplay, and there is plenty of it; including a barroom brawl near the start of the episode where Porthos (Howard Charles) has to duel with a fork instead of a sword. I understand that the cast spent weeks together in boot camp learning horse riding and swordplay, and it certain shows both in their skills and in how they work as a team in the big fight towards the end. It may not be entirely realistic that four people can take on such a large challenge and win the day, but then this show isn’t about being wholly realistic. The entire premise of the Musketeers is meant to be slightly fanciful and poetic; where the audience root for the gallant heroes and mock the malevolent villains.
Friends and Enemies airs at 9pm on Sunday 19th January on BBC1 and BBC1 HD, below are a few dialogue teasers to see you through until then. Don't forget to come back to vote in our poll after the episode and let us know what you think.
“Are you one of those religious nutcases?”
“That could have been your throat, don’t make me kill you over a mistake”
“You should try flattery sometimes, it plays very well around here”
“I won it in a card game with a red guard”
“You asked me to help you discredit the Musketeers, I have done so”
“Is that why you hate them so much, because they are beyond your control?”
“Tell your friends that Athos of the Musketeers spared your life”
“Degenerate! Touch me again and I’ll gut you like a fish”
“Attacking an unarmed opponent defies every principle of chivalry”
“Simply tell the Cardinal that I had a good reason for being here”
“Tomorrow my name will live forever”