Tag Archives: The Hour

New <7>Musketeers<8> refreshes the swashbuckler genre

The Musketeers

From left, Athos (Tom Burke), Porthos (Howard Charles), D’Artagnan (Luke Pasqualino) and Aramis (Santiago Cabrera) set off for new adventures in ‘The Musketeers,’ premiering Sunday on BBC America.


The Musketeers, a new period adventure series premiering Sunday on BBC America, opens as D’Artagnan (Luke Pasqualino, The Borgias) and his father are on the road to Paris from their farm in Gascony when they are set upon by a band of masked highwaymen dressed as Musketeers. One of the group, who introduces himself as Athos, murders the older man in cold blood.
Bent on revenge, D’Artagnan continues on his journey and seeks out the Musketeers, determined to kill Athos. Eventually, however, the truth becomes evident: The attackers were impostors, and D’Artagnan teams up with Aramis (Santiago Cabrera, Heroes) and Porthos (newcomer Howard Charles) to bring the real killer to justice and clear the name of the real Athos (Tom Burke, The Hour).
The trio soon realizes they have been drawn into another crafty plot by the power-hungry Cardinal Richelieu (the great Peter Capaldi, Doctor Who), who hopes to use them as pawns in his scheme. Much wisecracking and swordplay ensue.
Reduced to bare-bones synopsis, the episode may sound like standard-issue swashbuckler fare, but that’s exactly what series creator and head writer Adrian Hodges (My Week With Marilyn) doesn’t want The Musketeers to be.
“Too often, swashbuckling has become a kind of code word for insubstantial characterization, endless swordfights which have little or no consequences, and (an) old-fashioned approach to storytelling which is dull and encrusted with period trappings and lame jokes,” Hodges writes in a lengthy introduction to the series included in the BBC America press materials.
Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel The Three Musketeers has been adapted for both film and television many times, so Hodges started out with a decision not to remake the same story, but to send the well-known characters – which also include the treacherous Milady de Winter (Maimie McCoy) and the delightful Constance Bonacieux (Tami Kari) – on a series of new adventures inspired in some cases by events in the novel, in others by the historical context of the story.
This creative approach is reflected in the costumes for the Musketeers, which jettison most of the frou-frou from earlier Musketeers entries in favor of dark, leathery outfits that have eye appeal while also being action-friendly. And speaking of action, it’s very well choreographed and filmed (and, by the way, not all swordplay – the Musketeers, after all, got their name from the handguns they carry).
Also contributing to what Hodges calls “a swashbuckler with teeth” is a gallery of really excellent performances. Pasqualino is right on the money as the hot-headed D’Artagnan, while Cabrera is all sly seductiveness as the ladykiller Aramis. Burke is a thoroughly charismatic Athos, while Charles, who comes to the series from a theater background, makes an amusing, affable Porthos.
For all the merits of the men in the cast, though, I have to give huge props to Kari, whose charm and spectacular comic timing help Constance steal pretty much every scene in which she appears. This actress is a real keeper.
The wintry Czech Republic, which stands in for 17th-century France, provides one breathtaking natural backdrop after another, and the episodes I’ve previewed all move at a breakneck pace, propelled by some genuinely witty wisecracking between the Musketeers. It’s easy to see why The Musketeers, a co-production of BBC America and BBC Worldwide, already has been given the greenlight for its second season even before the first one starts airing here in the States. It’s that good.
D'Artagnan and Constance

To evade arrest, D’Artagnan (Luke Pasqualino) stuns Constance (Tamia Kari) with an unexpected lip-lock just minutes after their first meeting.

BBC America’s ‘Atlantis’ far from all wet

Jack Donnelly, Mark Addy and Robert Emms star in 'Atlantis,' premiering tonight on BBC America.

Jason (Jack Donnelly), Hercules (Mark Addy) and Pythagoras (Robert Emms, from left) find themselves in a bind in BBC America’s new fantasy series ‘Atlantis.’


Hardline classicists probably will want to give a wide berth to BBC America’s Atlantis, a new fantasy series premiering tonight. For the rest of us, however, this lavishly produced and imaginatively written riff on well-known yarns from mythology adds up to some first-rate and generally family-friendly entertainment.
Tonight’s premiere opens in the modern world, where a young man named Jason (Jack Donelly) is preparing to make a dive in a mini-sub in search of some clues to what happened to his father, who vanished from this particular stretch of ocean without a trace. Jason has had only a glimpse of what may be some related underwater wreckage when his craft is rocked by mysterious turbulence and bathed in eerie lights.
The next thing Jason knows, he is regaining consciousness, naked and disoriented, on a beach. Grabbing some conveniently abandoned clothing, he makes his way to a nearby city that looks to be the stuff of legends, where he inadvertently sets off a ruckus in the marketplace before being rescued by a bookish math geek named Pythagoras (Robert Emms, War Horse). Jason learns he is in Atlantis, where he feels an uncanny sense of familiarity. This impression of déjà vu is only heightened after he meets the revered Oracle (Juliet Stevenson, The Hour), an enigmatic seeress who offers Jason guidance and her personal protection.
He’ll find use for the latter almost immediately, too, because Jason has appeared in Atlantis on the day when all local citizens are required to draw stones in an annual lottery ordered by King Minos (Alexander Siddig, 24) to determine which of them will be sacrificed to the town’s fearsome monster, the Minotaur. Offering further help in this quest, however reluctantly, is none other than Hercules (Mark Addy, Game of Thrones), a formerly great hero now gone to seed.
Sharing the nearby palace with Minos is his beautiful but cruel queen, Pasiphae (Sarah Parish), who may well have a secret command of the dark arts, and their daughter, the princess Ariadne (Aiysha Hart), who takes an immediate liking to Jason.
Created and written by Howard Overman, who did likewise on the British cult hit Misfits, Atlantis has top-notch production values and zippy dialogue that mingles pseudo-classical speech with contemporary, self-aware irony (Jason tells Pythagoras at one point that his triangles and theorems “are destined to bore children for centuries!”), while the extended sequence inside the dimly lit maze of the Minotaur is satisfyingly creepy and suspenseful.
“It is both a privilege and a delight to have the opportunity to take audiences on a journey into the fantastical world of Atlantis,” Overman says. “Drawing on the Greek myths for inspiration, we aim to tell classic action adventure stories in unexpected and exciting ways.”
'Atlantis' is ruled by Queen Pasiphae (Sarah Parish, left), King Minos (Alexander Siddig) and Princess Ariadne (Aiysha Hart).

Queen Pasiphae (Sarah Parish, left), King Minos (Alexander Siddig) and Princess Ariadne (Aiysha Hart) make up the royal family of ‘Atlantis’ on BBC America.