Exciting times for history fans! The Last Kingdom (BBC2) starts this week (22 october at 9pm). Expect fighting frightening Vikings, blood and gore, and defending the shores of the British Isles. Expect important and resonant themes of immigration and colonisation. Expect rugged men looking rugged astride horses against rugged landscapes. And expect Bernard Cornwell’s books (this show is based on his series The Saxon Story) to be stacked sky-high in Waterstones.
But don’t expect dragons. Or magic. And it seems there’s slim chance of sex or nudity. If we’ve learned anything this week it’s been that writer Bernard Cornwell is not a fan of Game of Thrones. His work in based in history, so while the costumes, weapons and landscape look epic and lavish, there’s zero fantasy elements.
Not to say that he doesn’t understand the appeal. He says “If I was a commissioning editor at the BBC I’d say, ‘We want Game of Thrones – boys, let’s have dragons and tits,'”. But GoT would never work on the Beeb, not in a month of Sundays. Can you imagine the vast swathes of plot they’d have to cut to meet old school British moral standards? “All the families in Westeros lived long happy lives, and kings died peacefully in their beds.” It would be a very different story.
Speaking of which, Cornwell points out the major flaw in George R R Martin’s books:”So many characters. So many strands. You have to have large sections where the plot is explained, just have to sit there and be told what’s going on. This is very, very dull. So they put a lot of naked women behind it all. They’re called ‘sexplanations’ in the trade. My programmes won’t need sexplanations.”
Fighting talk! So Bernard, how will you keep the viewers entertained without access to Targaryen tits or dragon ex machina plot resolutions? I’ll be very interested to find out!