Klondike is a rip-roaring gold-mining drama based on the real-life gold rush that took place in Alaska at the tail end of the 19th Century. This Ridley Scott produced mini-series first was the first ever scripted series produced by the Discovery Channel and it’s an enjoyable western with a good cast that has a lot to recommend. However, this gold rush drama doesn’t quite match-up to many of the great shows in this golden age of television.
Richard Madden (Game Of Thrones’ Rob Stark) plays Bill Haskell, a young man with an adventurer’s heart. He sets off for the Yukon with his friend Byron Epstein (Augustus Prew), but things are much tougher than expected. They’re almost killed on their trek through the Canadian wilderness but things don’t get any better when they arrive in the frontier town of Dawson. There they discover allies in the local Preacher (Sam Shepard) and Belinda Mulrooney (Abbie Cornish), the local lumber mill owner and they also come up against Tim Roth’s evil Count and Ian Hart’s sleazy Soapy Smith.
Directed by Simon Cellan Jones, Klondike is a fast-paced old-fashioned affair. It has echoes of Robert Altman’s classic ‘70s western, McCabe and Mrs Miller, with its wintry setting and local corruption but it moves just a little too fast and it’s a little too superficial. The treacherous trek to Kondike has some impressive moments but it takes up little screen time. This could have been extended to give a more in-depth feel for what these gold-diggers went through as they went out into the unknown n search of their dreams. You could have a series on that alone.
Performance-wise, everyone does everything that you would want. Madden shows that he might just have a career after Games Of Thrones, while Sam Shepard is his usual craggy and stoic self. Oddly, it’s Tim Roth who lets the side down in the acting stakes. His Count is a pantomime villain, all sneer and double crosses. It’s partly the way the character is written, but he could have attempted to add some nuance into his performance.
Klondike is never going to change the face of television, but it’s still a strong mini-series. Impressive production design and cinematography mean that it’s a good looking show that feels authentic. The Ridley Scott production has an engaging story and good performances, and while the writing may feel a touch derivative, the show is worth your time.