Cliché surmounts cliché, and cleavage surmounts corsets, in the overproduced first episode of The Musketeers. Musical themes from Murray Gold resonate over swashbuckling sword and pistol fights, like less-inspiring versions of Pirates of the Caribbean compositions. We ride through the woods like we’re outlaws in Sherwood Forest, except the fighting is rather more like we are watching a late night Disney parody. The villains lack all gravitas, as they meekly attempt gritty, gruff threats like adolescent boys attempting to lower their register. With so many pretty faces, one might suspect the casting team were desperately attempting to compensate for this poorly written script.
It’s all very silly indeed. One musketeer resorts to duelling with a fork, lacking a sword. The secret lover hangs out of a window by his fingertips while the mistress’s paying client talks about his feelings and court secrets. This is Peter Capaldi (new Doctor Who, don’t you know), playing the villainous Cardinal Richelieu, who will let nothing get in the way of his duty to rid the world of the evil Musketeers. In fact, the goodie-baddie storyline just seems like a confused, sexed-up plot which, rather than occupying the Sunday night primetime slot, should have been aimed at the pre-watershed audience.
Freddie from Skins has gone back to the noughties for a floppy hair mop-do, and instead of dropping at Bristolean raves is now prancing about on set in very-well-lit Prague pretending to be a dashing seventeenth-century hero in Paris. He gets all the ladies, from the alluring scarlet woman to the cute married ones, satisfying rampant teenage instincts (both his and the audience’s) by whipping out his pistol at every opportunity. All his shots are accompanied by an obligatory, intense period of Flynn Rider-esque smouldering.
Here comes the smoulder…
The costumes were obviously found rummaging around in the Skins school drama cupboard for Luke Pasqualino to play d’Artagnan. The actors in general, and especially Capaldi, seem wondrously uncomfortable in their absurd period costumes. At least the stunts weren’t pretend. Luke told the Radio Times that they did them all themselves after military boot camp had so prepared them by practicing yoga and learning to run in Cuban heels.
The opening teaser does manage to challenge our conceptions of what a remake of Dumas’ book should be. We get a middle-aged d’Artagnan killed in the first few minutes by a youngish man introducing himself as Athos. All is of course explained. Freddie, sorry young d’Artagnan, wants to avenge the death of his father. Young d’Artagnan was putting away the horses during this inn-ambush and heroically fights off one baddie. So he gallops off and accidentally proves himself a terrific swordsman fighting Athos (not actually the man who named himself as the Musketeer). Then he ends up hanging out with the Three Muppets, I mean Musketeers, and using his lady friend Constance (Tamla Kari) to serve as a dolled up distraction. In the process he saves Athos from the gallows and is told he will appreciate the irony.
The women in this show are either married – goodie and repressed – or single – baddie and impassioned. Either way, they are sexual objects with lots of bosom on show. But in case you thought the show might be sexist, god-forbid, the married-goodie Constance is given the Voice of Feminism: “If only men would think instead of fight, there might be more good ones left.”
Amusement does arrive surprisingly amidst the lines of the so-clichéd-it-must-be-ironic script, in the unlikely quips between Luke Pasqualino and an inn lady. He says, ‘This looks like a badger’s intestines.’ She says, ‘Speciality of the ‘ouse. Enjoy.’
I rather think this might have been the only self-reference of the show that actually worked. The show’s tagline should be: badger’s intestines – speciality of the BBC – enjoy.
For the undeterred, the Musketeers is next on this Sunday at 21:00.
Review originally publish by Boar TV.