As a Classics student and keen fanatic of mythology, you can imagine my anticipation upon hearing that the BBC was producing a historical-drama series. Their interpretation of Homer’s ‘Iliad’, Troy: Fall of a City, is far from a Greek tragedy.
The series opens by portraying the prelude to the legendary Trojan War. A Trojan prince, Paris (Louis Hunter), having recently discovered his royal heritage, is sent to Sparta on a diplomatic voyage on behalf of his father, King Priam (David Threlfall). Whilst sojourning in the palace of King Menelaus (Jonas Armstrong), he falls in love with Helen, wife of the King (Bella Dayne). The two flee to Troy in secret, whilst an enraged Menelaus gathers the other kings of Greece and pledges war, the aim being to retrieve his wife. Meanwhile, members of the Greek camp are also facing their own difficulties. The countless altercations between the different leaders, the constant meddling of the Gods, and the total lack of resources start to take their toll on the Achaeans.
Series writer David Farr claims to have not intended to construct a direct portrayal of the prodigious battles of the ‘Iliad’, and instead wished to focus on the development of the characters throughout the series, and this clearly shows.
Though the series has managed to perfectly encapsulate Paris’ irresponsibility and recklessness, the fact that viewers witness Paris’s struggle to adapt to the royal lifestyle is certainly the highlight of the show. Though writers may have slightly missed the mark in terms of the literary accuracy of Paris’s character traits, it is refreshing to view Paris in this new light, as opposed to his usual media portrayal as the coddled imprudent hellion that he is so famed for in mythology.
The same can be said for Dayne’s portrayal of Helen. Though majorly absent in literature, likely due to the status of women in Greek society, Dayne chooses to portray the Spartan Queen as intelligent, outspoken in her political opinions, and fiery in the presence of men. Whilst Paris is coming to terms with the consequence of his injudicious decision, Helen herself is faced with the frustration of being an outsider in Troy and struggles to find her place within her new royal family, many of whom simply view her as the beautiful impetus which will secure Troy’s ultimate downfall. To witness Helen asserting her own power in such a elegant and collected way is a genuine pleasure, particularly during her intimidating encounter with Achilles during Episode Three.
The writer’s characterisation of Agamemnon (Johnny Harris), brother of Menelaus, was also a pleasant surprise. He is a character whom Homer portrayed as callous and somewhat barbaric, with the main focus of the entire epic being his feud with Achilles. There is no doubt that the most moving moment of the entire production so far was witnessing a tormented Agamemnon being forced to sacrifice his own daughter in order to appease the Gods.
The entire show is nothing short of an aesthetic delight. The elegant and rich costumes of the female characters, as well as the battle garments of the warriors, certainly compliment the exotic landscapes upon which the series is filmed. There is no doubt that Troy: Fall of a City is a compelling piece of television, and is guaranteed to bring endless drama and adventure to Saturday night television.
Image: Graham Bartholomew via Wild Mercury Productions/BBC