Taboo (2017 TV series)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||1|
|No. of episodes||8 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||55 – 57 minutes|
|Distributor||BBC One (UK)
Sonar Entertainment (non-US)
|Picture format||1080i (16:9 HDTV)|
|Audio format||Dolby Digital 5.1|
|Original release||7 January 2017– present|
Taboo is a British television drama programme produced by Scott Free London and Hardy Son & Baker for BBC One and FX. The show premiered on BBC One in the United Kingdom on 7 January 2017, followed by the United States premiere on FX on 10 January 2017. The programme was renewed for a second series in March 2017.
It was created by Steven Knight, Tom Hardy, and his father, Edward "Chips" Hardy, and is based on a story written by Tom and Chips Hardy. The eight-part series, set in 1814, begins with James Delaney (Tom Hardy) returning to England after twelve years in Africa with fourteen stolen diamonds, following the death of his father and as the war with the United States is nearing its end.
Kristoffer Nyholm and Anders Engström each directed four episodes of the first series. The music was composed by Max Richter. The show has received generally favourable reviews, with critics praising Hardy's performance. Two more series are planned.
- Tom Hardy as James Keziah Delaney, Horace Delaney's son
- Leo Bill as Benjamin Wilton, records officer, East India Company
- Jessie Buckley as Lorna Bow, Horace's widow
- Oona Chaplin as Zilpha Geary, James Delaney's half-sister
- Mark Gatiss as the Prince Regent
- Stephen Graham as Atticus, underworld informant to Delaney
- Jefferson Hall as Thorne Geary, Zilpha's husband, insurance broker
- David Hayman as Brace, Horace Delaney's loyal servant
- Edward Hogg as Michael Godfrey, minute taker, East India Company
- Michael Kelly as Dr Edgar Dumbarton, American physician at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London and spy
- Jonathan Pryce as Sir Stuart Strange, Chairman of the East India Company
- Jason Watkins as Solomon Coop, Private Secretary to the Sovereign
- Nicholas Woodeson as Robert Thoyt, Delaney's solicitor
- Edward Fox as Horace Delaney, owner of a shipping company based in London
- Franka Potente as Helga von Hinten, brothel madam
- Ruby-May Martinwood as Winter, Helga's acolyte
- Scroobius Pip as French Bill, assistant to Atticus
- Fiona Skinner as Brighton, a member of Atticus's gang.
- Christopher Fairbank as Ibbotson, Delaney's tenant farmer
- Richard Dixon as Edmund Pettifer, Africa desk, East India Company
- Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Abraham Appleby, East India Company
- Tom Hollander as Dr George Cholmondeley, chemist and scientist
- Marina Hands as Countess Musgrove, American spymaster in London
- Danny Ligairi as Martinez, Polynesian associate of Delaney
- Lucian Msamati as George Chichester, Sons of Africa lawyer
- Louis Serkis as Robert, James Delaney's illegitimate son
Taboo was created by Steven Knight, Tom Hardy and his father, Edward "Chips" Hardy, and is based on a story written by Tom and Chips Hardy. Knight and Tom Hardy previously worked together in the 2013 film Locke and the TV series Peaky Blinders, which premiered in 2013. The first series was directed by Kristoffer Nyholm and Anders Engström. The music was composed by Max Richter. Two more series are planned. The second series was renewed in March 2017.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||UK viewers
|1||"Episode 1"||Kristoffer Nyholm||Steven Knight||7 January 2017||7.00|
|James Delaney, believed dead, returns to London to attend the funeral of his father, Horace. Other than owning a small part of the west coast of North America, Horace has left nothing of value. The land, Nootka Sound, is in dispute between Great Britain and the United States, who are at war. The East India Company had an agreement to buy the land from Zilpha Geary, Delaney's half-sister, but Delaney knows the war is coming to an end, greatly increasing the value of the land, and scorns their offer. Delaney discovers his father had died from arsenic poisoning, so his mind could have been affected during his final months.|
|2||"Episode 2"||Kristoffer Nyholm||Steven Knight||14 January 2017||6.18|
|Delaney sets about reclaiming his inheritance; he buys a ship at auction, then begins to assemble his crew. The reading of Horace's will concludes with the appearance of Lorna Bow, a London actress, announcing that she and Horace were married. Delaney pays off Horace's numerous creditors, and makes contact with Dr Dumbarton. The East India Company plot Delaney's murder. The man with the silver tooth stabs Delaney, but Delaney, although severely injured, manages to kill him.|
|3||"Episode 3"||Kristoffer Nyholm||Steven Knight||21 January 2017||5.57|
|After Dumbarton administers to Delaney's wound, his assistance regarding Nootka Sound is made clear. Delaney cleverly protects his life against the East India Company and the Crown by writing his will which states that all his possessions would pass to the United States government. When Lorna Bow makes claim for half of Horace Delaney's assets, she is warned that her life is at risk and she should flee to Paris. Godfrey is blackmailed by Delaney to provide secrets from the East India Company's meetings. Bow, on leaving the theatre is abducted, only to be rescued by Delaney.|
|4||"Episode 4"||Kristoffer Nyholm||Steven Knight and Emily Ballou||28 January 2017||5.36|
|Bow, encouraged by Delaney, allows herself to be arrested by the Crown. About to be raped by Coop, she is rescued when the East India Company intervene having been tipped off by Delaney. Cholmondeley advises Delaney on gunpowder. They plan to steal refined saltpetre from a Company warehouse. An attempt to kill Delaney instigated by the US secret agent Carlsbad, ends with the disembowelment of his attacker. When Delaney is invited to a ball held by the Countess Musgrove he asks Bow to accompany him. Although she neither confirms or denies it, he realises that Musgrove is Carlsbad. Thorne, suffering from laughing gas provided by Cholmondeley, challenges Delaney to a duel to the death.|
|5||"Episode 5"||Anders Engström||Steven Knight and Ben Hervey||4 February 2017||5.63|
|When Thorne's shot at Delaney's chest proves to have been sabotaged, Delaney fires at the second, killing him. Because the Crown had purchased the saltpetre, the Company pay the consequence for the theft. The Prince Regent decides to make matters difficult for the Company and sends George Chichester, a lawyer for the Sons of Africa, to investigate the sinking of the Influence, the slave ship that has been haunting Delaney’s memories and on which 280 people died. Dumbarton tells Delaney that the Americans know about his hidden farm. Bow has followed Delaney’s instructions and brought him his father’s trunk; he finds the treaty that proves Nootka Sound was bought from the natives, rather than taken by force. Delaney believes that his father bought his mother, a Nootka woman, for beads.|
|6||"Episode 6"||Anders Engström||Edward "Chips" Hardy and Steven Knight||11 February 2017||5.43|
|Brace tells Delaney that his mother was confined to a mental asylum after she attempted to drown him and that his father had saved his life. Zilpha murders Thorne and his corpse is disposed of by Dumbarton. Ibbotson takes confession but the priest is in the employ of the Company. The gunpowder is not found and is successfully transported to the dock, but the Company destroy Delaney's ship. Delaney gets hopelessly drunk, and on recovering, he finds Winter's corpse beside him. Chichester continues his investigation into the Company's corruptness discovering that the name of the slave ship had been changed and it was registered as being empty; that it was staffed with a skeleton crew; and that Stuart Strange’s own brother owned a sugar plantation in Antigua.|
|7||"Episode 7"||Anders Engström||Steven Knight||18 February 2017||5.53|
|Following Winter's funeral James is fearful that he may have killed her whilst drunk but, unlike Helga, Lorna believes in his innocence, especially as he houses another young waif, Robert. James is visited by George Chichester, accusing him of complicity in sinking the slave ship but offering immunity if he will indict the East India Company, after which Brace makes a dreadful confession to James. Meanwhile a vengeful Helga tells Strange about the gunpowder, leading to James being imprisoned and tortured, for treason. Lorna does her own sleuthing to prove James innocent of killing Winter whilst James' ally in the company, Michael Godfrey, agrees to testify against them, requiring George to spirit him away for his own safety. With the Prince Regent still annoyed at the East India Company James is surprised to find Strange offering him a compromising bargain.|
|8||"Episode 8"||Anders Engström||Steven Knight||25 February 2017||5.59|
|In prison awaiting trial James lets Strange know he is aware of his part in the sinking of the slave ship, a fact Michael Godfrey will reveal to the Royal Commission, thus forcing Strange to arrange his release, though James is distraught to find that Zilpha has killed herself. Lorna and Atticus also rescue Helga, telling her that James was framed by the East India Company for Winter's murder. James, Lorna, Atticus, Michael and their associates prepare to escape on the ship Strange has arranged for them but there is a traitor in the group, not to mention a vengeful Prince Regent, leading to a dockside shoot-out before the survivors can set sail for America and the East India Company is ultimately discredited.|
Taboo premiered on BBC One in the United Kingdom on 7 January 2017, and on FX in the United States on 10 January 2017. The debut episode had 1.839 million viewers in the US, and a rating of 0.6 for the 18–49 demo. Its Live+3 figures were 3.43 million viewers – 1.63 million adults in the category 18-49 – the time-shifted percentage increase of 101% in the demo is a record for FX. In the US, the first season averaged per episode 1.33 million viewers and 0.4 rating in the 18-49 demo on the episodes initial airings, but increased to 5.8 million viewers per episode after viewing figures from all platforms had been added, including on-air replays, delayed viewing and streaming.
The show has received generally favourable reviews, with critics praising Hardy's performance, the show's aesthetic and the slow burn aspect. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the series an approval rating of 78% based on 45 reviews, with an average rating of 7.03/10. Their critical consensus reads, "After a sluggish start, Taboo takes a hold as a mysterious, dark, and often brutal period drama with plenty of promise as a series – most notably Tom Hardy's exceptionally watchable performance". On review aggregator Metacritic, the series has a score of 67 out of 100 based on 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Ben Lawrence of The Telegraph gave Taboo 3 out of 5 stars, stating that Taboo's strength is that, despite borrowing from westerns, gangster flicks and even Dickens, it still manages to feel utterly original. Sam Wollaston of The Guardian noted that while some of the dialogue does make you wince, Hardy's acting and onscreen presence more than makes up for it.
Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, Tim Goodman noted that Taboo is a solid if slow, in the early going, entry in FX's stable of series, with a compelling turn by Tom Hardy. Kevin Yeoman of Screenrant wrote in his review that it all added up to a dark, slow-moving but nonetheless intriguing drama with secrets to dispense in due time. He also said that it was likely that those drawn to Hardy’s onscreen intensity and seemingly unlimited capacity to become the physical embodiment of gloomy menace would be the ones most likely to stick around until the very end, and in doing so would reap the potential rewards.
Some historians have expressed concern that the East India Company may be portrayed inaccurately. Before the broadcast of Taboo, Steven Knight said, "This man, James Delaney, is a deeply flawed and deeply troubled human being. His greatest struggle will be against the East India Company which, throughout the 19th century, was the equivalent of the CIA, the NSA, and the biggest, baddest multinational corporation on earth, all rolled into one self-righteous, religiously-motivated monolith." Tirthankar Roy, an economic historian at the London School of Economics, argued that it gave an excessively negative view of the East India Company. Nick Robins, author of The Corporation That Changed the World, added that the organisation had made a positive contribution, but that by the time it was dissolved it had long "outlived its usefulness". A lecturer at Manchester Business School, Matthew McCaffrey, considers Taboo to portray monopolies realistically.
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