TV miniseries review: Titanic (ITV, 2012), directed by Jon Jones, written by Julian Fellowes
tl;dr: The love child of Downton Abbey and That 1997 Film, but it’s really good. Lots of characters to keep track of, though.
Penned by the man behind Downton Abbey, the four-part miniseries Titanic is the story of the RMS Titanic, but done in a sort of … Downton Abbey style. Famous characters from the actual ship’s history are included: officers Lightoller (Steven Waddington), Murdoch (Brian McCardie) and Wilde (Will Keen); ship designer Thomas Andrews (Stephen Campbell Moore), Captain Smith (David Calder) and the White Star Line man Bruce Ismay (James Wilby).
The first three episodes tell the stories of the enormous cast of characters up until the point where they’ve hit the iceberg. The fourth and final part then deals with the actual sinking, who survives and who doesn’t.
There are characters from first class (Linus Roache, Geraldine Somerville, Perdita Weeks, Celia Imrie, and Peter Wight), second class (Toby Jones, Maria Doyle Kennedy), third class (Peter McDonald, Ruth Bradley, Dragos Bucur), servants of first and second class passengers (Lee Ross, Lyndsey Marshal), and staff (Glen Blackhall, Antonio Magro, Jenna-Louise Coleman)
I won’t go into all of their respective plots, because that would take forever, but there are some similarities with the 1997 film, such as an upper-class young lady with a rebellious streak … And yes, it’s impossible not to compare this series with the film. Visually, they’re very similar for obvious reasons – same life jackets, same ship, and some characters look similar too, such as the captain. What we don’t get are the cheesy lines, the cheesy storyline, or the whole “let’s forget about everyone else except these two characters”. This is an all-inclusive deal, which is also the biggest problem.
There are just so many characters that it’s difficult to give them enough time for you to really care about them, let alone learn their names. (Then again, I’m rubbish with names. If you’re not, you can probably keep up better.) To me, there’s “that guy from The Catherine Tate Show” who is teasing “that maid with the book” but who secretly loves her; there’s Lord and Lady Wossname with the Daughter who falls for That American Bloke; Toby Jones and “The First Mrs Bates” (which of course made me think she was a villain, and it wasn’t until the end of episode three I realised she wasn’t), Foreign Geezer, Irish Family, the Italian Brothers: one in the boiler room, one a first class restaurant waiter, who charmed the dimples off Cute Maid, and Lightoller.
Irish Family’s mum I didn’t care much for, because while she was conflicted, and that’s good, she was too indecisive about it. “I want our old life, really, and while I don’t want to leave Belfast, I won’t mention it, and ohhhh, Foreign Geezer, I’ll have some of him … maybe, but really, I just want everything to stay the same”. Argh! Not to mention their horde of children, two of which were definitely Stupid Children, that keep running away and putting themselves in danger. Irish Family’s father, on the other hand, was such a sweet man.
Cute Maid and Italian Waiter were delightful. And oh, Toby Jones had my fullest sympathies. Being married to the First Mrs Bates seemed about as enjoyable as any Downton Abbey viewer would have guessed – yes, it really was tricky for me to put Mrs Bates aside and realise that this was a completely different character, with totally different chips on her shoulders. When Lady Wossname’s Irish heritage was brought up, and the Lady gave her husband the 1912 equivalent of a “STFU!!” look, the First Mrs Bates, a very proud Irishwoman, had my fullest sympathies.
Considering I felt tears forming toward the end of episode three, I dreaded the final episode, knowing how much the 1997 can make me cry. What a finale, though. Heartbreaking and sad, terrifying (oh yeah, people get locked in here too), and at the same time probably even more historically accurate than the aforementioned film.
And it’s really good, too. Then again, I’ve come to expect a certain standard from Julian Fellowes since he stopped being Kilwillie (Monarch of the Glen) and started writing costume dramas. Sure, it’s a lot like Downton Abbey, except here you get more focus on the “downstairs” rather than a more equal split of upstairs and downstairs, but then again, it’s a lot more interesting to hear about the second and third class passengers and the servants.
Well worth a watch, but be warned, there might be crying.
4 out of 5 missing binoculars.