There’s something about period dramas that captivate me. The language, the settings, the costumes, the regal-ness and politeness etc. My favourite movie of all time is a period drama. (Ever After: A Cinderella Story. At least I classify it as that genre anyway. Side note: If you haven’t watched that film, please do so. PLEASE) I had no idea about this particular series until I stumbled upon it a few days ago. 8 episodes; a perfect binge session. I had watched The Young Victoria with Emily Blunt a few times so unfortunately my mind couldn’t watch it with a clean slate.
Victoria (Season 1) follows Queen Victoria’s (Jenna Coleman) accession to the throne at age 18, her reign for the first few years and her duties as Queen of the UK. It depicts her marriage to Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) and her relationships in the palace, both personal and professional. The series also features Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell) and many other important figures for the royals in the 19th century.
Like I said, The Young Victoria was in the back of my mind. Particularly in the first couple of episodes, all I could do was compare the story, settings, and characters with that film. Which is why I struggled with the first episode a lot. Thinking back, it may have been the length of the episode (70 minutes) though it was well paced. I’ll detail it more in the next paragraph, but I found Victoria to be too entitled and arrogant in the beginning. However, once the story started to move forward, I found myself enraptured in the world and caring about the characters. The series added or took away elements about the characters that changed the tone and structure of the story. Which was expected as this was a far bigger production (of 1×70+min and 7x50min episodes) than a feature film. I wasn’t expecting as many sub-plot lines as there were. Albert’s brother Ernest (David Oakes) and his flirtatious affair and Miss Skerrett’s (Nell Hudson) secret past was a nice balance between stories. Daisy Goodwin wrote 7 of the 8 episodes (Guy Andrews wrote 1×07) which was great because the tone and style of the series never changed or faltered. There were big sections of episodes which I didn’t care for (namely 1×01 and 1×02) as I felt things were being set-up for the rest of the series. But once the conflict with Lord Melbourne, the Parliament and Albert arose, I enjoyed it greatly.
Character time! As mentioned, I did not like Victoria’s portrayal in the beginning. In the pilot in particular, I felt she showed little emotion and was much like a brick wall when she spoke to others. This changed in 1×04 when meeting Albert. I won’t lie, I’m a sucker for olden day romance. Hence my favourite movie of all time. Coleman’s and Hughes’ chemistry was undeniable as the couple. I had no trouble believing that they truly loved each other. I was gradually growing on Coleman’s performance but I was struggling a lot with Hughes. I understood what they were trying to do with Albert’s character but it came off very cold and emotionless for several episodes. This included some scenes with Victoria; the dialogue was written as if they cared for each other but his delivery was very monotone and stern. Up until 1×07 did I feel that way. I didn’t have much of a problem with the other characters, supporting and recurring. The antagonists of the series did a great job in their roles – the Duke of Cumberland (Peter Firth) and Sir John Conroy (Paul Rhys). Guys. There’s also a puppy in the series. Dash, the Queen’s lap dog, makes an abundance of appearances which I was truly happy about.
A big part of why I kept watching this series were the settings and costumes. This went hand in hand with the cinematography because this show had some beautiful shots. One in particular I remember was Victoria walking to Lord Melbourne in Brocket Hall in 1×03. Another one was the entrance of Victoria in her wedding dress walking down the aisle. Man, this show has a lot of walking. I also liked how close and intimate the shots were between Albert and Victoria, particularly the bedroom scene at the end of 1×05. My last mention is the moving wide-shot of Albert enjoying the locomotive ride in 1×07. Let me get back to setting and costumes. For the love of god, it looked amazing. And more importantly, the production looked like it’s time. There are some modern adaptions of the Victorian age that look very artificial but this was close to effortless. The palaces, parks and streets of the UK were gorgeous and looked authentic. The lighting the colouring were also played around with a bit, which added to the emotion of the scene and/or characters. Everything felt real, which I loved.
Okay, post-production. My major fault for this show was its scene transitions. They pulled me out of the story and it felt like I was watching scenes sometimes rather than the episode as a whole. It didn’t happen all the time but when it did I facepalmed. This issue had to do with sound design as well as the music would just cut out and go towards a new establishing shot. The actual music and scoring I liked. I would need to watch the series again to form some more thoughts on it, but mainly I didn’t have a problem with it. The theme song and opening titles were too long and a bit annoying though. I skipped thorough it all the time after 1×01.
I loved this series. Even just watching the trailer back it made me want to re-watch it. It may not be for everyone, but if you do like stories about love, duty, and royal drama (or if you simply want to watch something very pretty) please find a way to watch this series.
Rating: I am honestly hating that I wasn’t born in the Victorian era. Great stories with great heart. 4/5.