The Musketeers and their place in history television

So, the BBC’s ‘The Musketeers’ series is just getting stuck into its second series. Frankly, it’s about time we featured them here.

The series occupies a basic Dr Who off-season niche that was previously filled by Robin Hood and Merlin. Except this time, the story is based in historical fact (no arguing Hood fanboys!). It, along with the godawful Atlantis, represents the reality that the BBC is running out of stories to tell. Look at it this way; they started out by recounting two of the core English myths, moved on to a drunkard’s recollection of Ancient Greece, and have now steered on to French classics.

On the plus side, it’s actually fairly fun in a world-gets-in-jeopardy-and-the-heroes-have-to-save-it-in-a-single-episode, don’t-hate-me-I’m-a-terrible-judge-of-quality kinda way.

Like all of the BBC’s series in the same niche, the writing is seriously lacking. Liberties have been taken with both the historical and fictional source material, in proportions that are, frankly, French.

On the other hand, the casting and the costumes alone could pretty much carry the thing by themselves. Seriously, this series alone has made me rethink whether I’m wearing enough leather in my life. And the answer is no. I really am not.

BBC One Musketeers in uniform, on horseback

As with pretty much every screen adaptation of Dumas’ books, I’m pretty bummed out that Porthos is not the MOST MASSIVE MAN EVER. But he’s played by Howard Charles, who is pretty cool in a geezer kind-of way. And yeah, I totally get the casting of an African-American actor in the historical context.

Athos and Aramis are basically the same character except that one is grumpy and the other one had an affair with the Queen. D’Artagnan is played Luke Pasqualino, who you might remember from Skins. Except that this time you’re much less likely to want to punch him in the face for being such a whiny tormented teen.

But crucially, and this is the main reason I enjoy these shows in the first place, it is romp television. It’s relatively good-natured. There are plots, but they are foiled, again and again. Compared to shows like Game of Thrones, they are a lot easier to deal with. I don’t have to worry about shifting allegiances. You can tell the bad guys apart because they’re always wearing black and scowling.

So yes, it’s not at all like history, in that respect. But sometimes I watch TV to let my mind relax, rather than have to figure things out. This combination is just right.

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