Category: BBC TV Series

To The Ends of the Earth (BBC Television Series 2005)

3 Kernels

BBC Television Series
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Sam Neill, Jared Harris, Victoria Hamilton, Others

Let me preface this review by saying I had a keen interest in watching this film. One of my English ancestors (2nd great uncle) left northern England and sailed to Australia in the early 1800’s to make a new life for his family. Through ancestry research, I’ve found new relatives in Australia and New Zealand who are decedents and pictures of the graves of the brave family travelers. So, of course, I had a great interest in what it would be like on a ship sailing to the ends of the earth from top to bottom.

After seeing such stars as Benedict Cumberbatch, Sam Neill, Jared Harris, Victoria Hamilton, in the series, I had hoped to be in for a treat about life on a ship, the English separation of class, and the various interactions of the voyagers seeking out a new life elsewhere. Frankly, as the story unfolded with each of its main themes for the three episodes, I wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped to be in the substance of the series. Nevertheless, life on the ship was an eye-opening experience from Edmund Talbot’s first response upon entering the lower deck, “What is that smell?”

I can only imagine what it was like for passengers throwing up from the tossing and turning, riveted with fear of the possibility of meeting a French war ship during the voyage, or stormy weather that takes water onto the ship and threatens the old converted battleship from sinking to the depths of the ocean. My ancestors were not aristocrats, so as tiny as the little private cabins some were given, I have no doubt they were in the dark holes of the ship shoved in like rats for most of the voyage. Frankly, we think some have it hard on cruise ships that have problems today. Let’s face it, we have no idea of the life of the poor and what they endured while those with titles received the small benefits of status.

Benedict was quite good, I thought, as he acted his voyage of travel and character realization. The long trip and Talbot’s actions to various situations serve to open his eyes to some questionable traits that cause him shame. The film is tag lined, after all, as “An epic journey of self discovery.”

Jared Harris, who I recently saw hang himself in Mad Men, was alive and well as the captain of the ship. He played a great seasoned sailor, as well as those who portrayed the crew. The other characters from a vicar to various individuals have their own side stories, personalities, and quirks.

Unfortunately, for me, I did not think it was a five-star wonder, but more of an eye opening voyage to what individuals endured traveling the stormy seas from the ends of the earth to get to a new world. For me a meaningful story leaves a lasting impression, and the only thing I felt impressed with was life on the ship and not the interactions and occurrences in the lives of the characters themselves.

There are instances of immorality that may shock some, but it’s no different than portrayed in movies of the 21st century. It’s probably surprising because audiences may not wish to believe people were as indecent in that time period. Human nature is human nature regardless of the era.

On top of the rest, I wondered how they filmed the scenes from watching the travelers tilt from one side to the other, while being jarred around on several occasions, or what ship they used for the movie. If it had been me, I would have been barfing with the rest of them. Perhaps the camera men were heaving over the side as well if they were on the open sea.

Now you know the scoop, so if the experience of traveling abroad in such a fashion interests you, it’s worth the watch. It’s currently on Netflix.

Monarch of the Glen (2000 – 2005)

monarch-of-the-glen-dvd4 Kernels

 The Bankrupt Estate

Stars:  Alastair Mackenzie, Richard Briers, Susan Hampshire
Type:  TV Series – BBC Scotland

I’ve been streaming Monarch of the Glen for a few weeks now and have made my way through Season 4. There are a few more ahead of me, but I’ve peeked online and read what is to come. No surprises await me.

When Season 1 began, I was quickly drawn into the story and the lives of all the players with great interest. Archie, the reluctant Laird, played by cutie Alastair Mackenzie, is a keen personality drawn home to Glenbogle and a position he doesn’t care to hold. The family estate is bankrupt, his father is in denial of the problems, and his mother schemes to keep Archie there. Archie, however, is determined to make it a short visit and hopes to return to his overbearing girlfriend and entrepreneurship as a restaurant owner in London. The family estate contain painful memories of a brother who drowned in the loch.

As the story ensues, he is sucked back into the world of his childhood. His dead ancestors, along with his parents, are determined to make him face up to his responsibilities as the Laird of Glenbogle. Events lead to just that – he abandons his life in London and roots himself back into his heritage. His family and the staff are an eclectic mixture of personalities, as well as family friends and potential loves. Of some interest, one friend of the family and neighbor is played by Julian Fellowes, who later went on to write Downton Abbey.  The first three seasons I thoroughly enjoyed, but as the seasons continued on, I found myself losing interest.

Archie’s first love interest, Katrina, made a great angst-filled love story of two personalities clashing together, who were both too proud to admit their feelings. When they finally do, the actress who plays the part leaves the show, and we are left with Archie once again seeking to adjust.

Lexie, the cook and housemaid, has her eyes on Archie; but, of course, the class separation looms before her as an obstacle. Golly and Duncan are great side characters and employees of the estate.  Hector, Archie’s father, and Molly his mother, are wonderful characters in their own right. The story focuses upon their intent to get the estate out of debt before the bank forecloses and forces them to sell. As they struggle to get out of debt, life goes on with its ups and down, along with humorous and lighthearted episodes that continue to entertain. There are a few characters I grew to dislike, however, especially from the bank!

Unfortunately, I found the series losing steam toward the end. Huge changes in casting and story line occurred, and the blending of the characters you’ve come to love, suddenly unravel. People leave the show, replacements come in, and things change. I think, too, I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed over Archie’s choice of a love interest in Lexie at first. For so long there was no spark between the two, and then suddenly he confesses he’s loved her all along. The emotionless expression on his face gave me the impression he was settling rather than being head-over-heels in love, which is the story I would have preferred to see. I see in the episodes ahead, a little more emotion between the two, though.

In any event, it’s a good and entertaining watch. The Scottish history and heritage is fascinating. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and makes me want to visit Scotland the next time I cross the pond. It was filmed on location in Scotland around Badenoch and Strathspey and at the Ardverikie House, on the far shore of Loch Laggan.

One other comment, if you’re not used to heavy Scottish brogue, the dialogue is sometimes difficult to understand.

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