Photo: BBC/Dusan Martincek
There’s no getting round it. BBC’s new sword-slashing drama The Musketeers is rather pants. In fact, pants feature rather heavily; there’s barely a scene where our heroic quartet aren’t slipping in or out of their trousers after doing the old all for one with a woman. Oh yes, this is primetime evening BBC entertainment: and it’s not afraid to be sexy.
That seems to be the main focus of Adrian Hodges’ fast and loose adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic text: d’Artagnan walks into a room. Great. But is there a way to do that more sexily? Luke Pasqualino is roguishly charming enough as the newcomer to the group, holding his own against Tom Burke’s swaggering Athos, and Santiago Cabrera’s smouldering adulterer Aramis. Even Howard Charles manages to be manly despite Porthos’ main characteristic being that he likes to drink and cheat at cards.
Hodges tries to give them motivations – revenge, honour, love – but most of them seem to boil down to one thing. You guessed it: sex. In fact, all the women in the show barely have any depth at all, existing only to provide motivation for the men, either through dying or sleeping with them.
By the time Maimie Mccoy’s Milady shows up, then, she has to really up her game to seem sexy at all by comparison. All dressed in red, though, she manages it with enjoyable pantomime villainy – a hamminess matched by Peter Capaldi’s calculating Cardinal Richelieu, who really puts the fun in “Sacre bleu, what a funny looking facial hair you have!”
Capaldi’s Machiavellian plotting is what keeps you watching despite the mostly mediocre plot and dialogue as cheesy as Roquefort. You can almost forgive the fact that he wears black instead of scarlet. Because, of course, black is way sexier. In fact, the whole production team does a grand job of hotting Dumas up for the modern age, kitting everyone out in leather and shooting scenes in Prague with an enjoyably trashy attitude towards period accuracy.
Director Toby Haynes (The Reichenbach Fall, lots of Doctor Who) keeps things down and dirty without hectic handhelds or swooping editing, so when the action arrives, it’s a satisfying bit of swordplay – or, in one pub brawl, a forkplay. The Musketeers buckles its swash well enough; it’s just a shame that the rest of the show doesn’t follow suit. If you can tolerate the naffness, though, the BBC’s latest series looks like it could fill your Sunday nights with a few giggles. And sex, of course. Yes, The Musketeers is rather pants. But at least the pants are made of leather.
The Musketeers is available to watch on-demand on BBC iPlayer.