Sherlock’s World: Ann K. McClellan

★★★

Fan Fiction and the Reimagining of BBC’s Sherlock

In December 2013 at the BFI, Caitlin Moran persuaded the unwilling Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch to read from an explicit homoerotic fanfic based on their characters in the BBC’s Sherlock series. The internet condemnation was swift. Fans felt that Moran had betrayed the unspoken rules: that fanfiction is written by fans for fans and that it’s shared in a safe space. The author of the fic in question, who hadn’t been consulted, was humiliated and mortified that two of her idols had been made to read her story out as a joke, and that her work had been singled out by Moran as an example of the embarrassing extremes of Sherlock fandom. Obviously it was an ill-judged move on Moran’s part and I feel deeply for the poor fan whose heartfelt writing was held up for a cheap laugh. But this episode only came about because Sherlock has created such a broad, lively and vocal fandom – especially extraordinary given there are only twelve episodes in the four seasons to date (plus a special). This scholarly study, to be published in October, delves into Sherlock fandom and forms an introduction to fan culture more generally.

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Westworld: Season 1

Westworld

★★★★½

Sometimes you just have to binge-watch a series and I’ve been completely captivated by Westworld, which I discovered on Amazon a couple of weeks ago. For those who haven’t yet come across this phenomenon, it’s a TV series developed from a 1973 film written by Michael Crichton, who seems to have a bit of a thing about immersive theme parks that go wrong (remember his modest little film about dinosaurs?). Westworld presents us with a vast, sprawling park in which visitors can play out their Wild West fantasies of murder, adventure and sexual domination, interacting with an astonishingly advanced group of ‘hosts’, or robots programmed with particular characters and storylines. It’s epic, ambitious and astonishingly well-made, with a fantastic cast. A real must-see.

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Henry VI: Parts 1, 2 and 3

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses

Shakespeare fans rejoice! As part of the Bard’s 400th birthday celebrations, the BBC have embarked on the second cycle of their dramatisations of the history plays. Back in 2012 we had Henry IV and Henry V with Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston at the helm and now we embark on the most tumultuous and bloody period of British history: the Wars of the Roses. With three parts of the lesser-known Henry VI condensed into two episodes, the present cycle will round off in style with Richard III. As I did last time with Henry IV, I’ll write about both parts of Henry VI here and Richard will get his own post. And so, to steal shamelessly from another play, once more unto the breach…

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Anno 1790: Season 1

Anno 1790

★★★★

(Sveriges Television, 2011)

I’ve been meaning to write about this for ages and, if I don’t do so now, I will completely forget to mention it; and that would be a shame, because this really is rather good. You’ll be aware by now that I don’t really do crime fiction. It’s not that I have a problem with it per se, but I prefer historical fiction and fantasy, and there are plenty of those books to keep me amused for now. I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, of course, but the Millennium Trilogy is about as far as I ever got into the Scandi-crime field. However, I recently stumbled across Anno 1790, an excellent 2011 TV series from SVT (the Swedish national broadcaster). It combines crime investigation, historical drama and just a hint of illicit romance. It’s full of gorgeously bleak, brooding views of 18th-century Stockholm and features a sensitive, educated and equally brooding hero.

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Vikings: Season 2

Vikings

★★★★

You’ve got to give it to the team behind The Vikings. I thought Season 1 was good; but they kicked off the first episode of Season 2 with an intense battle scene, complete with shield walls, impalement and Rollo surging around without his shirt on; and things simply haven’t let up since. If the first season was about dreams, exploration and quiet calculation, this second season plunges us into the difficulties of keeping hold of power: the negotiation, the double-bluffing and the hard choices about who to trust and who to destroy. Sometimes, as both Ragnar Lothbrok and his enemies will discover in different ways, the most dangerous of men are not those who drink and argue and go fiercely into battle, but those who wait on the sidelines, and watch, and weigh, and measure.

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Vikings: Season 1

Vikings: Season 1

★★★★

(created by Michael Hirst)

Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while will have noticed that I tend to get slightly overexcited about some subjects. Tudor costume, for one thing. The Trojan War, for another. And Vikings – for which we can entirely blame Dorothy Dunnett’s King Hereafter. Earlier this year, there were a lot of posters around London advertising the new drama series Vikings, made for the US-based History channel. As I don’t have Sky, I’d given up all hope of being able to watch it any time soon, but I then discovered that LoveFilm Instant has the exclusive rights in the UK and so, over the weekend, I stormed through the entire first season.

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Miranda

Miranda

★★★½

Although I have a television, I don’t watch it much and so I’m usually hopelessly behind with the latest hit series. Just look at how long it took me to get into Sherlock, for example. With Miranda, however, I’m even further behind. Series 1 was aired in 2009 and Series 2 in 2010, but I knew virtually nothing about it, beyond the fact my parents had seen some of the episodes and found it amusing. (I only knew that because my mother started pouncing on every time I said ‘such fun’ in the course of a conversation, and had to explain herself.)

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The Devil’s Whore

The Devil's Whore

★★★★½

First screened in 2008, this four-part TV series shows us the English Civil War through the eyes of a woman. Subtitled, in a teasing nod to the Newgate scandal-sheets, A True Account of the Life and Times of Angelica Fanshawe, it begins in the early 1640s.  Angelica (Andrea Riseborough) is goddaughter to Charles I, blessed with wealth, position and security: the first episode opens on the eve of war, with her wedding to her cousin Harry, her childhood sweetheart.  As hostilities between King and Parliament deepen, her married life comes to an abrupt close and, banished from the court, Angelica finds herself in growing sympathy with those who seek to make a better world.  The series follows her as she struggles to defend her own well-being and her family home, as the sands of political fortune shift under her feet.

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Sherlock: Seasons 1 and 2

Sherlock

★★★★½

How on earth did I manage to miss the first season of Sherlock?  Mark Gatiss’s and Stephen Moffat’s sleek, modern take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories has been catapulted into the stratosphere of cult shows over the last few months.  I feel very much like a latecomer at the party.  Over the Christmas holidays I watched the first and last episodes of Series 2, which was enough to get me absolutely hooked.  After watching The Reichenbach Fall, I spent hours reading through comments on news websites, trying to figure out how he did ‘it’.  My wonderful parents bought me the Series 1 and 2 boxset for my birthday and, since then, I’ve been luxuriating in this marvellous programme, which has rekindled the kind of geekish fervour I previously reserved for The Lord of the Rings.

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The Borgias

The Borgias

★★★★

There was apparently a very bad TV series about the Borgias in the 1980s, but fortunately I’m too young to remember that. Nevertheless, when I heard that the production company Showtime were following up The Tudors with The Borgias, I felt a frisson of excitement mixed with slight dread. The Tudors began with such promise, but I rapidly lost faith in a series which didn’t have the courage to show its protagonist ageing and thickening out.  Its focus was not on the history, but on the series of unfeasibly Sloaney-looking girls who caught the eye of Jonathan Rhys Meyer’s implausible king.

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