Jamestown – Sky 1 (2017) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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jamestown

A big old ship sailed into Sky 1 on Friday night.  It was the launch of their big new eight part drama series with the much promoted tagline “By the makers of “Downton Abbey””.  I don’t watch a great deal on Sky 1.  Since football comedy “The Rovers” which I enjoyed it’s just the rebooted “Hawaii 5-0” that makes it into my planner, but I thought I would give this a go.

It’s 1619 and the men sent to colonise Virginia have been there for twelve years.  Now the ship is bringing them in women, known as “maids to make wives”.  With one exception, the men and women have never met, yet deals have been struck and they have already been paired off.  It’s a good premise.  It had the slight feel of the Jimmy McGovern penned  Australian-convicts- on- the beach BBC2 series “Banished” from last year, but this doesn’t star Russell Tovey and is probably going to be less edgy and grim.

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The Women Of Jamestown – Jocelyn, Verity and Alice

“Jamestown” seems as if it will focus on three of the betrothed women who have survived the journey to meet their men.  Alice (Sophie Rundle) thinks she has lucked out when she sees the man waiting for her, only to discover that it is the brother of the man and that she is really betrothed to a churlish Henry (Max Beesley) who wants a quick return on his investment and rapes her whilst she is out walking on the first night.  We can all tell that his brother Silas (Stuart Martin) is a much better bet.  Alice’s good friend Verity (Niamh Walsh) has a bit of trouble finding her man until she discovers he is the one with his ear nailed to the stocks for blasphemy (watch out Stephen Fry!).  Meredith (played by Dean Lennox-Kelly) is a drunk and is soon gambling using Verity as stake.  Perhaps the most interesting of the female characters is the one with the back-story, a woman who tells Alice before they dock that she had to leave England as a man had been killed and who has already met her beau, the company recorder, Samuel.  This is Jocelyn (Naomi Battrick) who in the first episode looks like she is being set up as the Alexis Carrington of the piece as she schemes and manipulates to get her own way and to ensure her survival and that the man she has been paired with will prosper in this new community.

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Jamestown itself was the first permanent English colony in America with its existence pre-dating the Pilgrim Fathers.  The programme makers have chosen to relocate this in Hungary as the series has been filmed near Budapest.  It is written and created by Bill Gallagher, who has previously worked on those comforting historical dramas “Lark Rise To Candleford” and “The Paradise”.  The first episode was directed by John Alexander, a man with historical pieces “Indian Summers” and “Sense And Sensibility” among his many television credits.

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Jamestown Colony

The most striking thing about the series was how lovely it looked.  Colours are quite vivid, making the sea (when calm) a vivid shade of blue. True, there is no doubt going to be a lot of mud, but this New World has a clearness and lushness which just might keep a few viewers along for the ride just to wallow in the scenery.  Also in the cast there are some good old reliables such as Burn Gorman (“Torchwood”/”The Hour”) Jason Flemyng (“Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels”/”Primeval”) and Shaun Dooley (“Broadchurch/”Cuffs”).  In this first episode they were all rather upstaged by the dim but devoted domestic help, Mercy (Patsy Ferran), who judging by her non-appearance on the IMDB cast list might not play much of a future role in the series.  (Surely IMDB cannot make a mistake?) If this is so, then this is a shame because it was played with the making-the-most-of-a-minor domestic role which spans way back to Ruby from the original “Upstairs Downstairs” and includes Daisy from “Downton Abbey” (By the makers of Jamestown).  I couldn’t help but wonder, as Mercy was already there when the boatload of women arrived why she wasn’t the most popular girl in the town and already shacked up with one of the better looking men.  But then, that’s seventeenth century class differences, I suppose.

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The jury is still out if I’m going to last the distance with “Jamestown”.  I’ve already got one historical drama on the go, the cup-runneth-over “Harlots”, which is a mass of tightly contained heaving bosoms in a series which is actually beginning to win me over with its tale of eighteenth century London rival brothels, shunted for some reason onto ITV Encore ( a channel I don’t think I’ve ever watched before). To keep the Downton connection going to the very end this features the ill-fated Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) as the highly-esteemed Charlotte the harlot, currently making out with a much more downmarket Irishman than the chauffeur she elevated from downstairs in “Downton”.  All in all, I’ve decided I’m going to be paying a visit to Jamestown for the next episode at least.  There’s plenty of dramatic potential in the characters and the scenery is gorgeous.  Whether the makers have another Downton on their hands I’m less convinced.

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Jamestown is on Friday nights at 9pm on Sky 1.  The first episode is available to watch on Sky catch-up platforms.

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7 thoughts on “Jamestown – Sky 1 (2017) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

  1. Not much impressed. But then again I am an impatient viewer. Jocelyn, as a character is definitely captivating the most. She comes across as being manipulative and calculating, she has shown her art…in persuading her hubby-to-be to get the governor to be his best mate for their upcoming nuptials….Not sure if she realized how dangerous her scheming is. in the end..but made her stance much more as a husband’s decision…The maid in their household reminds me of the funny character of Mini, from (just forgot the name, was is Larkside to Candleford..?), a maid (Chloe Bentley- haven’t done much, but landed herself a role of Ruby in Poldark) to a post mistress (acted by the younger Sawalha, Julia). This maid was appropriately cast as funny, typically religious – for the time.., I mean seriously praying over Jocelyn, as if she were dying…real comic character…silly, naïve and ready to please her master…One thing, which put me a bit off, it was supposed to be a dirty Jamestown, full of new settler, but could do with a bit of grime for authenticity, instead it look too clean….Jocelyn appeared to be a negative character, but surprisingly, she becomes vital in fighting for the women – in places where changes can be made..10 min. before the end I kept falling asleep, missed the scene where Silas gets rid of his bro violent Henry, only him being still alive and found by Indians in the forest.

    What are you saying about Last Kingdom? Script of the year, production and camera the same…comparing to the serious with Sat night, BBC1, I absolutely detested, full of mambo-jumbo fantasy scenes, too violent and grim, just because the main actor in it struck the gold with the Hollywood names like Ridley Scott,…it was utter rubbish. No proper substance.

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    • I think we are along similar lines, Monika. I agree about the lack of grime but I actually felt the look and the colours quite captivating. I’m obviously in need of a bit of sunshine and sunlight! Haven’t watched “The Last Kingdom” and it is unlikely that I will get round to it. I have read the Bernard Cornwell books and to be honest struggled with them and decided aftwerwards I needed a break from this type of historical fiction. I’m interested to read your comments about it though. I take it your last bit refers to “Taboo” which I know you didn’t like, but I actually stuck with it and I think that’s largely because I find Tom Hardy fascinating. I even rewind the Sky adverts he’s doing at the moment, just because I like listening to his voice! There’s an admission……………….

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  2. Tom Hardy (Taboo), that’s the bloke…I think it is a question of liking. I somehow find it hard to follow his speech, he has a rather breathy and quiet diction and weird (for me) delivery…I am ok with my hearing. It just doesn’t do it for me. I find him ok as an actor, but nothing extraordinary…Bernard Cornwell stuff is harder to read and not to get lost in it. Read all the Sharpe books (reused), watched all the episodes available of Sharpe. Again, style of writing….suits me. I even wrote a short review for it…Don’t worry not taking over your job:). Going to look for it.

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  3. Hi Phil,

    Absolutely loved Sean Bean in Sharpe, never seen Games of Throne….or wherever he is now in…
    This is my take on Last Kingdom, great description, even if I play my own trumpet here. Look for it, when time…
    When a powerful script is turned into an excellent production and camera work, there is only one result, the 2nd series of underrated historical drama, Last Kingdom. Uthred, as a character was much more defined. He developed into a fine warrior, a father and a loving husband. Violent, at times, gory, but such were the times during the early Saxon days, days of grim life and savagery, the fight for sheer survival. King Alfred, the righteous, level-headed, cool and reliant on Christianity, aided by his sage wife came to a cross road, when their own flesh and blood was kidnapped and held a hostage by pillaging, ransacking and raping Danes; for a handsome monetary reward. The stake was raised high, the princess v Wessex’s survival itself. Odda, payed the ultimate price as a life-long adviser to Alfred. He came across as a war-mongered stubborn fool, who proved to be right. There was only one way how to save the sheer existence of the Alfred kingdom. To fight. 

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    • Thanks very much for this, Monika. You’ve changed my mind – perhaps I should seek this series out. I would have to start with series 1 though (I’m a bit of a chronological obsessive). I’m delighted to have you sharing your views so eloquently on here!!

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  4. I forgot this was on and didn’t record it, we do our supermarket shop on Friday evening. I heard from a lady at the cattery that it was “too bland” for her. It will probably be repeated soon so I will watch it then. I also forgot about Harlots. I’ve had a rather fraught, stressful week with the cat spending 3 days at the vets, he’s over the worst but it was awful and that is part of my excuse. A brilliant review, I do so love reading them, please don’t stop.

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    • Thank you Kay, I’m not intending to stop anytime soon!! Sorry to hear about the cat and hope he is well on the way to recovery. I’m not sure whether I would agree with it being bland but I do know where she is coming from and I think it’s to do with the look of it. Monika commented below that there wasn’t enough grime and that the colony just looked too clean and that could give the whole thing an air of blandness. I actually quite liked the blast of colour, which was almost like an assault on the senses at time and hope with the mix of characters in it that things might get a bit more gritty! Worth a view though -sure Sky 1 will have it on again during the week.

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