Digital Spy

Search Digital Spy
14

TV Blog

'Titanic': What's Julian Fellowes's new drama like? - Preview

By
As soon as new drama Titanic was announced, people were saying it would be Downton Abbey on a boat, thanks to writer Julian Fellowes being involved with both series. Now, I normally hate comparisons... so it's a shame that Titanic is so very, very easy to link to the Crawleys.

That's not necessarily a bad thing in itself - after all, Downton Abbey's secured itself an extremely loyal following, and those viewers are likely to enjoy Titanic too, with its class divisions and pretty clothes.

Titanic: Exterior of Titanic

© ITV



Downton Abbey even kicked its series off by mourning people lost in the tragedy of the Titanic, though Fellowes has resisted the temptation to put those characters in this show.

But as well as the divisions between First Class and steerage (with Second Class and even First Class Servants thrown in there to make things that bit more complex), Titanic has borrowed other ideas from Downton Abbey, too.

Titanic: 2nd Officer Charles Lightoller played by Steven Waddington, Captain Smith played by David Calder and Chief Officer Wilde played by Will Keen

© ITV



There's the absolutely huge cast - everyone from stokers to servants to Earls to actresses to engineers to sailors to Guggenheim and Astor. The idea is to give us a view of the ship as a whole, instead of focusing on one or two characters.

Of course, that's an awful lot of people to get to know, so keeping track could potentially be a problem. Still, Fellowes has tried to get around this by sinking the Titanic four times - once at the end of each episode. Each instalment will focus on a select group of characters, leading up to that fateful iceberg, and then rewind for the next edition so that we can meet other people.

Titanic: Perdita Weeks as Georgina, Linus Roache as Hugh, Earl of Manton and Geraldine Somerville as Louisa, Countess of Manton

© ITV



This is confusing at first - before I realised what was going on, I thought the iceberg at the end of the first episode was a decoy to ramp up the tension - but it does give the show an intriguing structure and it's interesting enough to see various stories from different perspectives (often, scenes are repeated from a new point of view).

The question is whether people will be willing to stick with it and get invested with these characters. There are certainly stand-outs - the tension between the snobby-as-hell Countess of Manton (Geraldine Somerville) and second class passenger (and by no means saint) Muriel Batley (Maria Doyle Kennedy) is full of camp fun.

Titanic: Muriel and John Batley played by Maria Doyle Kennedy and Toby Jones

© ITV



Other characters I took to included the sparky Georgiana (Perdita Weeks) - the daughter of the Mantons and a budding suffragette - and vivacious maid Annie Desmond (Jenna-Louise Coleman). But with such a massive cast, it's difficult to really get attached too quickly, and as the show switches from one story to another, some viewers might lose patience.

And like Downton Abbey, it's hard to describe Titanic without mentioning the word "soapy". To make us care about these characters, Fellowes has injected human interest storylines - everything from family secrets to hints of romance to jealousy and bitterness. In other words, the passengers on board could easily be transferred to a country estate.

Titanic: Paolo Sandrini played by Glen Blackhall and Annie Desmond played by Jenna Louise Coleman

© ITV



The camp factor is definitely there, too - we're talking some serious melodrama (at one point, a passenger reassures his child that the crew have said everything will be fine, before turning to his wife and using the biggest stage whisper around for a fantastically over-the-top: "They're lying.").

One of the problems with dramatising the story of the Titanic is that we all know how it ends... and in this case, it seems like the passengers and crew do, too.

The foreshadowing is a bit overwrought, with everyone insisting that they definitely have enough lifeboats, honest; plenty of people at various intervals talking about how nothing will sink the Titanic; and the captain swanning around deciding that everything will be fine just before he turns in for the night. It's all just a bit obvious. Add to that the orchestral music to signal that this iceberg is Bad News and you've certainly got a spectacle.

Titanic: Jim Maloney played by Peter McDonald

© ITV



None of this is to say that Titanic isn't entertaining - the sets are absolutely lavish, there are interesting characters, the cast is both extensive and talented, and the scenes after the iceberg has hit can be genuinely moving, as everyone rushes for a lifeboat and the true tragedy unfolds (though Tube Talk has only seen the first two episodes, and the survivors and victims will not be revealed until the fourth and final instalment).

And this version of Titanic is hardly the first to go a little over-the-top - James Cameron's much-loved film, after all, decided the sinking wasn't dramatic enough if Leonardo DiCaprio wasn't handcuffed to a pipe.

Titanic is, in fact, very watchable and it should be celebrated for trying something new with its different structure. And there's no doubt that it will be a huge success - not just because of Fellowes and the Downton Abbey phenomenon, but because the story of the Titanic is still so captivating even after all this time.



Titanic will air on ITV in the UK and on ABC in the US later this year. Are you looking forward to Titanic? Leave your comments below!

You May Like

Comments

Loading...