Series Review: 'Victoria' S2 is slightly underwhelming

24 September 2017 - 01:05 By Gerard O'Donovan
'Victoria' stars Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria.
'Victoria' stars Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria.
Image: ITV

A sumptuous reimagining of Queen Victoria's early years, Victoria, took our screens by storm last year, hurtling former Doctor Who star Jenna Coleman to household-name status.

Just four episodes in, millions of viewers were left bereft by the extinguishing of the newly crowned monarch's unrequited teenage crush on her splendidly handsome prime minister and mentor Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell).

Unfortunately the series took a dip when Victoria's subsequent, better known and entirely genuine, romance with Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) didn't quite live up to that standard of enrapturement.

Albert, despite being played by the suitably chiselled Hughes, was portrayed not so much as a romantic hero as an insufferably self-righteous Teutonic prig.

It was also unfortunate that around the same time Netflix launched its stunning series The Crown, which demonstrated precisely how royal history could be rendered into exquisite drama without the need to sacrifice any historical integrity whatsoever.

Returning for a second series, then, Victoria's opening episode was beset by much the same problems. Having given birth to her first child, the young queen was struggling to bond with her newborn and champing at the bit to return to her state duties.

WATCH the Season 2 trailer for Victoria

Only to be undermined at every turn by her evermore control-freakish (never the most attractive of qualities, even in Victoria's time) husband and just about every other puffed-up pesky politician in her court.

The Queen's proto-feminist struggle to reassert her monarchical independence might have been more convincing if the script hadn't been peppered with such clunking statements of the obvious as: "What my country needs is a queen, not a brood mare."

Nor did the script's repeated insistence on male approval being the only signal - from Albert, of course, but from the fathomlessly paternalistic Duke of Wellington (Peter Bowles) as well - that could be accepted by Victoria that she was doing anything right.

Still, the sad military debacle a long way away at the Khyber Pass gave occasional reminders that what we were watching was grounded in historical fact.

And Diana Rigg provided much needed light relief as Victoria's new mistress of the robes, the thoroughly obnoxious (but no doubt soon to be redeemed) Duchess of Buccleuch; while longing looks from her niece Wilhelmina (Bebe Cave) towards Albert's lovelorn brother Prince Ernest (David Oakes) promised a return, in a minor way at least, to the wellspring of romance.

Overall, then, a slightly underwhelming start to this much anticipated return, though the visuals remain as stunningly rich and impressive as before. - The Daily Telegraph

• Season 2 of 'Victoria' airs on Mondays on DStv channel 123 at 8pm. It's also Catch Up.

• This article was originally published in The Times.