Friday, 17 April 2015

Australian angst, Hunger and Hangmen... BBC Banishes a all star cast.

Okay my sweethearts, I have been holding off on this one until I saw the whole run, but today I can release upon the world my humble thoughts on the BBC2 Drama


There has been much made of the fact that there are no indigenous people in the series  that not a single black face is seen in the evidently unpopulated Outback and section of coastal New South Wales , but I really only need refer back to the fact that McGovern based the series on the letters and records of the first settlers. Two things would be obvious to even the most casual observer, the indigenous people would not have been merrily recording their experiences in their journals and whilst I am not in any doubt at that that atrocities were undertaken in a bid to create these colonies and I am  completely sure these abuses were carried out by British military in the main, their stories would not have been recorded to protect the feelings of the people back home who had sent these folk across the world, out of sight and mind.

Secondly as really only the Officers would be proficient writers, any records of the time would be
reliant on Military logs or the redacted and altered correspondence received by loved ones back in England. Those too were sanitised so to not upset "delicate wives and mothers". 
On a more flippant note if I saw this lot bowling up on my beach, I would disappear on Walkabout pretty quickly too, they are a bit of a rabble!

The writer of gritty Scottish Drama Cracker  and Movie Priest has pulled a real blinder with the story of the first Brit Convicts sent to Australia to start a colony and the struggles of both the unfortunate convicts and the Redcoats soldiers tasked to keep order ... The compliment of Brits Abroad is filled out by a preacher and his wife and a lawyer.

As is often the way, the good guys and the bad guys are not always easy to discern in this one, as 

hunger is more of a problem than convict unrest and the plight of the soldiers is often almost as grim as that of the convicts! 

I have been interested by the historical elements of this show, the fact that this was not prison in the sense of a confinement, this was a colonisation much like that of America, the only difference being that this rather than being principled folk escaping religious intolerance, it was the dregs of British Criminal society who took the long trip to avoid the hangman's noose. The convicts are dealt with sympathetically and the two real villains of the piece are soldiers played with a great deal of slimey zeal  Joseph  Millson and Adam Negaitus, yet they too retain much to make them human if not really likeable.

The role of Governor played by the Incomparable David Wenham is part gaoler, part politician and full time arbiter and his position, tied by the confines of Military policy but morally upright and determined to give the convicts the best chance at a clean slate in this new and inhospitable land is
very interesting.

Particularly good though is the oft used by the BBC, but much underrated; Russell Tovey whose central part as the convict with awful luck and an unrequited love for his very best friend's girl makes him one of the most faceted and easily relatable characters, you care about James Freeman even more than Wide boy Tommy or tart with a heart Elizabeth. His arc has been gripping, heartbreaking and brutal.

The ever zany Ewen Bremner plays the pastor trying to bring the convicts to God without supplies for a church and his morality is stretched to its bounds as conditions get worse and the darker side of human nature begins to be delved to ensure survival of the fittest. 

Also of note is .. Ned  Dennehy Who plays Letters Molloy, convict scribe and the seeming moral centre in the Convict group.
There are a number of stock characters but the main core are beautifully painted with strengths and weaknesses, foibles and redeeming features and has made watching this show a real pleasure and a true journey that stayed with me days after each episode aired and was a source of debate weekly.

I can safely say that each and every cast member is perfect for the complex roles they inhabit, all are strong! The show has built to a cataclysmic crescendo that left me breathless, emotional and desperate for more!

BBC viewers should catch it on I-Player,  and international viewers it is my fervent prayer that you will get this as an Brit Export very soon.

Well done Beeb, this was a triumph.


  1. You've increased my anticipation of watching this series in the upcoming weeks Emma! Excellent recap!!

    1. It truly is the most intensely involving show I have seen in ages... Grips you from start to totally amazing finale... If they do not make more, I might weep !