Monday, August 31, 2015

The Rise of Dark Ages for TV

The Dark Ages aka the Anglo Saxon period/The Vikings/ per-Norman Conquest is experiencing a revival in the popular conscience. There are no fewer than 3 major television dramas currently set to explode on the small screen in the coming months.
First is The Last Kingdom, an adaptation of Bernard Cornwell's best selling series.  Cornwell was of course responsible for Sharpe. The Last kingdom stars Alexander Dreymon and follows the first book of the current 8 book series. It is due to be shown on BBC2 in October and starts on BBC America on 10 October. It is produced by the same people who did Downton, so I am expecting a quality production.  This the  trailer:

Then there is Beowolf: Return to the Shieldlands for ITV which is due to premiere in January 2016. multi award winning actor William Hurt (Humans, Kiss of the Spider Woman), acclaimed actress Joanne Whalley (Wolf Hall, Jamaica Inn), Ed Speleers (Downton Abbey), David Harewood (Homeland, Blood Diamond), Ian Puleston- Davies (Coronation Street), Lolita Chakrabarti (My Mad Fat Diary, The Casual Vacancy), Elliott Cowan (Cilla, Da Vinci’s Demons), Ellora Torchia (Indian Summers), Gisli Orn Gardarsson (Spooks and Spirits), Susan Aderin (The Last Detective), Kirsty Oswald (Ripper Street), Laura Donnelly (Outlander), Edward Hogg (Indian Summers), Alex Price (Father Brown), Jack Rowan (Silent Witness) and Itoya Osagiede (Okora: The Prelude).
Kieran Bew Beowolf:Return of the Shieldlands
This is a retelling  of the Beowolf Story complete with dragons. It stars Kieran Bew as Beowolf but boasts of such actors as
You can read more about the cast here.
In short ITV are spending a bob or two on it. It is currently filming in the North East until early October.
Then there is the  14th century epic The Bastard Executioner about the Marcher lords and the Anglo-Welsh borders for FX Networks. This the trailer for  that series:

Of course there has already been Vikings.
And then  there is  Game of Thrones which operates in a quasi- Dark Ages world.
So why now?
Among other things, the Dark Ages was the last time Northern Europe experienced the ravages of a barbarian horde. Historical fiction does hold a dark mirror up to society and by examining the Dark Ages, it is possible to examine what happened when there was a clash of civilizations. Also we are now in a post-Christian world. It is therefore  to look at the Dark Ages from beyond the prism of Christianity brought civilization. It is possible for pagans, if you will, to be good. And then there is the stirring of the break up of the United Kingdom. The Dark Ages is when the Four Nations were formed. Understanding the reasons for the formation and what went before is something people are curious about. And besides, it is a chance for a rollicking good adventure.

My fingers are crossed that others continue to realise the potential for this time period. I am currently hard at work on my Anglo Saxon queen trilogy and am hoping that it will be well received once it is published. Until the tenth/eleventh century, women welded power in a way that has not been appreciated. Elfrida's reforms of the church, in particular her insistence on the seclusion of nuns contributed to a decrease in political power for women.

Anyway, I am excited to see the television and therefore  popular public conscience is turning towards the Dark Ages. It is ironic that  ten years ago Publisher's Weekly published a piece saying that they thought Vikings were a time period that would never return.

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