Since the mid-1990s, BBC has long been the home for Sunday night costume dramas. The success of Pride and Prejudice saw the channel tap-into an audience interest of watching times gone by before they greet the dreaded Monday morning. Recent times have seen ITV taken on the mantle, delivering Downton Abbey and Mr Selfridge leaving the BBC in the dust. The White Queen is a full-force attack on claiming back Sunday nights, delivering an action-packed romantic period drama. However, this 10 part adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s novel series just doesn’t work.
The White Queen wants to have the political intrigue, along with the added raunch of The Tudors and Game Of Thrones. The BBC have sanitised this, but US cable channel Starz have added extra flesh, presumably because these days you can’t have swash unless you loosen one or two buckles. What’s left is a flaccid period drama that feels a bit cheap. The ten part series has a reported $25 million budget (about half of Game Of Thrones), but it lacks scale, like it was filmed around a few National Trust locations in-between tourist visits.
Rebecca Ferguson is quite bland as the titular White Queen. I’m not quite sure if this is down to the writing or her performance, but if the BBC want to rustle-up more period dramas, then they might want to avoid Gregory’s royal chick-lit. Sisters may be doing it for themselves, but Gregory isn’t doing them any favours. The show is also supposed to be seen as the launching pad for Max Irons career, however he comes across more like a sixth-form student playing dress-up, than King and leader. He does however seem like a good actor, but he’s woefully miscast. James Frains’ Richard Neville has much more to do, but he’s done his sneering villain routine in much better productions, while Janet McTeer is brought in to be the Queen’s magic-fascinated mother. Backstabbing and political machinations ensue, but it’s all rather boring in a join-the-dots type of way. It’s as if all involved decided to read Wikipedia for research.
The White Queen faces stiff competition on the epic costume drama front, but it fails on nearly every level. You can hype a show hoping that an audience will tune it, but you’d better have the goods to back it up. The White Queen does not.