Troy: Fall of a City

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Troy: Fall of a City
Series title over a thunderous sky
Genre Drama
Historical fiction
Fantasy
Screenplay by David Farr
Nancy Harris
Mika Watkins
Joe Barton
Directed by Owen Harris
Mark Brozel
Starring
Composer(s) Robin Coudert
Country of origin United Kingdom
United States
Original language(s) English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 8
Production
Executive producer(s) Derek Wax
David Farr
Producer(s) Barney Reisz
Production location(s) South Africa
Running time 56 minutes
Production company(s) BBC
Kudos
Wild Mercury
Netflix
Distributor Endemol Shine Group
Release
Original network BBC One (UK)
Netflix (international)
Picture format 2:1 1080i
Audio format Stereo
Original release 17 February 2018 (2018-02-17) – present
External links
BBC website

Troy: Fall of a City is a British-American miniseries based on the Trojan War and the love affair between Paris and Helen. The show tells the story of the 10 year siege of Troy, set in the 13th century BC. The series was commissioned by BBC One and is a co-production between BBC One and Netflix, with BBC One airing the show on 17 February 2018 in the United Kingdom, and Netflix streaming the show internationally outside the UK.[1][2]

Despite high expectations, the show's Saturday night primetime slot, and its ₤16 million budget per episode, Troy: Fall of a City was a ratings disaster for the BBC, with only 3.2 million viewers tuning in for the first episode and viewership dropping to only 1.6 million by episode four. Nonetheless, it received generally favourable reviews from critics, with specific praise focusing on its acting, costuming, set design, its more thoughtful, psychologically complicated interpretation of the Trojan War, its portrayal of Helen, and its inclusion of the Greek gods. It did receive criticism for its dialogue, which some critics regarded as stilted and unnatural. Its relatively close portrayal of the war to the traditional retellings was praised by some as faithfulness to the original myths and criticized by others as lack of originality.

Premise[edit]

The story of the 10 year siege of Troy by the Greeks is told after the young prince of Troy, Paris, has an affair with Helen of Troy, the wife of the Greek king.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The series was filmed in Cape Town and consists of eight episodes.[7] It is written by David Farr, Nancy Harris, Mika Watkins, and Joe Barton, and directed by Owen Harris and Mark Brozel.[3]

Episodes[edit]

Series 1 (2018)[edit]

No. in
series
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions)
1"Black Blood"Owen HarrisDavid Farr17 February 2018 (2018-02-17)3.2 Million[8][9]
2"Conditions"Owen HarrisDavid Farr24 February 2018 (2018-02-24)N/A
3"Siege"Owen HarrisNancy Harris3 March 2018 (2018-03-03)N/A
4"Spoils of War"Mark BrozelMika Watkins10 March 2018 (2018-03-10)1.6 Million
5"Hunted"Mark BrozelDavid Farr17 March 2018 (2018-03-17)N/A
6"Battle on the Beach"Mark BrozelJoe Barton24 March 2018 (2018-03-24)N/A
7"Twelve Days"John StricklandDavid Farr31 March 2018 (2018-03-31)N/A
8"Offering"John StricklandDavid Farr7 April 2018 (2018-04-07)N/A

Changes from earlier adaptations[edit]

The show makes a number of alterations from the original Greek texts, as well as departures from earlier modern adaptations of the legend.[10] For instance, it vilifies Menelaus, proposes a resolution to Briseis's captivity, and omits Aeneas's identity as the son of Aphrodite.[10] The show also omits the final reconciliation between Achilles and Agamemnon from the Iliad, instead replacing this with Agamemnon resorting to "ignoble trickery".[10] It also reimagines the circumstances of the Trojan Horse stratagem by making it be filled with grain for the starving city, thus making the Trojans more likely to bring it in.[10] More significantly, it also incorporates myths about the lead-up to the war and about the backgrounds of the major characters that are not found in the Iliad and are not normally included in most modern adaptations.[10]

One of the show's most radical changes from earlier adaptations was its decision to include the Greek gods as human-like characters played by live actors who speak normal dialogue.[10] While the gods are major figures in the original Homeric epics, ever since the mid-twentieth century, adaptations of the Trojan War have nearly always either removed the gods from the story or heavily reduced their role in it.[10] Most twenty-first-century adaptations of the Trojan War, including the film Troy (2004), Alessandro Baricco's Iliad (2004), Margaret George's Helen of Troy (2006), and Alice Oswald's Memorial (2011) omit them entirely.[10] The gods play an active role in the show for the first half of the series, but they recede into the background halfway through after Zeus orders them to stop intervening in the war.[10] Zeus does give this command in the original Iliad, but it is almost immediately violated and eventually repealed entirely.[10]

The most controversial change was the showrunners' decision to cast David Gyasi, a black actor, as Achilles[10][11] and Hakeem Kae-Kazim, another black actor, as Zeus.[11] These decisions resulted in almost immediate backlash among people on the internet, with many accusing the show of "blackwashing" (i.e. casting black actors to play originally white roles).[10][11] Several classical scholars defended the production, arguing that black people existed in ancient Greece and that the ancient Greeks did not have a concept of "race".[11] Tim Whitmarsh, a professor of Greek culture at the University of Cambridge, stated, "Our best estimate is that the Greeks would be a spectrum of hair colours and skin types in antiquity. I don't think there's any reason to doubt they were Mediterranean in skin type (lighter than some and darker than other Europeans), with a fair amount of inter-mixing."[11] He also added that there is no single, absolutely definitive version of the Trojan War story: "Homer's poems are merely one version and the Greeks themselves understood the story could change... There's never been an authentic retelling of the Iliad and the Odyssey – they've always been fluid texts. They're not designed to be set in stone and it's not blasphemous to change them."[11]

Reception[edit]

Ratings[edit]

The show was a ratings disaster.[8][9][10] Despite its Saturday night primetime slot and each episode's ₤16 million budget, the first episode aired to an audience of only 3.2 million viewers, while other shows in the same time slot have easily surpassed 5 million.[8][9] By episode four, the viewership had dropped to only 1.6 million.[8][9]

Critical reception[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an critics' approval rating of 71% based on 12 reviews, and an average rating of 5.67/10, indicating generally favourable reviews.[12] The critics' consensus reads: "Troy: Fall of a City never tries to reinvent the bronze wheel but succeeds in engaging audiences with both royal and divine intrigue, making for a highly enjoyable romp in the lost kingdom."[12] In a 16 February 2018 review for The Independent, Jacob Stolworthy praised the series for its willingness to alter the myths to explain or remove illogical aspects,[13] as well as Louis Hunter's acting in his lead role as Paris.[13] He also praised the show's elaborate costuming, "its lavish set design, production values and sci-fi soundtrack",[13] commenting, "Viewers are immediately transported to ancient locations (in actuality beautiful Cape Town) in scene one and never relents. If it's escapism you're wanting, series link away."[13] He criticized the first episode, however, for seeming "too tame" in light of the numerous early comparisons to HBO's Game of Thrones.[13]

In an 18 February review for The Guardian, Euan Ferguson praised the show for its faithfulness to the original myths[14] and for its strong portrayal of Helen, which he stated stood in stark contrast to the demure portrayal of the character by Diane Kruger in the 2004 Hollywood blockbuster film Troy, which had starred Brad Pitt as Achilles.[14] Ferguson compared Troy: Fall of a City favourably to Game of Thrones and commented that the show will "hopefully expunge any residual memories of the 2004 Brad Pitt epic".[14] He comments, "...older viewers can marvel at the silked lushness of the sea scenes while revelling in an old tale well told, younger ones can learn a little, about the names of the gods, and the fire-haunted dreams of Cassandra, and about mankind’s ancient rush towards betrayal."[14]

A review from the same day by Rupert Hawksley for The Daily Telegraph tentatively praised Troy: Fall of a City for its more thoughtful, psychologically complicated interpretation of the Trojan War in sharp contrast to the 2004 film Troy, which Hawksley derided as a "shallow flex-fest".[15] Nonetheless, Hawksley criticized the characters' occasionally stilted dialogue.[15] He concluded, "Troy: Fall of a City might just be a fresh, psychologically knotty take on one of the greatest tales of them all."[15]

A review from 28 February by Rachel Cooke for New Statesman panned the show,[16] complaining that "all the men look as if they're in a Calvin Klein ad", that the dialogue is unrealistic, and that its portrayal of Helen and Paris's relationship is "tediously 21st century".[16] Cooke concludes: "The dialogue is so richly silted with self-help banalities, we might as well be watching a Meghan and Harry biopic as a drama inspired by the greatest of all epic poems. There's also something exceedingly creepy about its retro, soft-porny direction (by Owen Harris); every time Helen takes a shower, you half expect her to whip out a Flake."[16] In a 8 April review for IndieWire, Steve Greene criticized the show for telling the same story that has been told thousands of times before and offering very little innovation.[17] He concludes: "The result is a series more competent than compelling. The tiny diversions from the norm seem thrilling by comparison".[17] He did, however, offer extended praise for David Gyasi's performance as Achilles and Joseph Mawle's performance as Odysseus[17] and for the show's creators' unusual decision to include the gods in the show.[17]

In an unreservedly positive review for Buffalo News on 26 May 2018, Randy Schiff praised the show for its pace and acting,[18] commenting specifically on Hunter, Dayne, Gyasi, Mawle, O'Connor, and Threlfall's performances.[18] He also lauded the portrayal of Helen as a "stately and intelligent" woman whose "deep desire for independence" is only satisfied once she goes to Troy, where women are valued just as much as men.[18] He also expressed wonderment at the show's portrayal of the Greek deities,[18] writing, "I found myself especially mesmerized by the show's eerie presentation of deities: here, spectacularly partisan goddesses strut across raging battlefields, while a world-weary Zeus (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) remains resolutely neutral amidst the chaos."[18]

Andrea Tallarita defended the show in a 28 June 2018 review for PopMatters, arguing that the show's commercial failure may have been partially a result of the viewing audience's ignorance of the original classical texts, which the show treated with surprising fidelity.[10] She generally praised the show, stating that it has "a dignified life of [its] own",[10] but she criticized the decision to make the gods less involved for the second half of the series, as well as the fact that the show limited itself to only include a small number of especially important deities rather than the vast pantheon appearing in the Iliad, calling this decision "such a wasted opportunity".[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Netflix Boards BBC Drama 'Troy' From 'Night Manager' Writer". Hollywood Reporter. March 1, 2017. Retrieved March 2, 2017.
  2. ^ "Netflix Invests Nearly $2 Billion in European Productions, Promises More". Variety. March 1, 2017. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "'Troy: Fall Of A City': Bella Dayne, Louis Hunter & More Join BBC/Netflix Epic". Deadline. March 30, 2017. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
  4. ^ Clarke, Stewart (2017-07-19). "Hakeem Kae-Kazim to Play Zeus in BBC and Netflix Series 'Troy' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  5. ^ a b c d "Troy: Fall of a City - Episode 1 - Credits". BBC One. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
  6. ^ "Troy: Fall of a City - Characters - Other Trojans Loyal to Troy". BBC One. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
  7. ^ "David Threlfall and Frances O'Connor to star in BBC and Netflix's Troy: Fall of a City". Deadline. March 30, 2017. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d Jones, Lucy. "ANNOYED WITH TROY Troy: Fall of a City flops as just 1.6m tune in to BBC's £16million bonkbuster". The Sun. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d Kalafatis, Joanna (15 March 2018). "BBC's Controversial 'Troy: Fall of a City' Ratings Continue to Tank". Hollywood Greek Reporter. Greek Reporter. Greek Reporter.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Tallarita, Andrea (28 June 2018). "'Troy: Fall of a City' Was Overlooked for the Wrong Reasons: Troy: Fall of a City tries to attack our racial prejudice but reveals more about our Classical ignorance". PopMatters. PopMatters.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Ling, Thomas (24 February 2018). "No, the BBC is not 'blackwashing' Troy: Fall of a City: Why has the casting of David Gyasi and Hakeem Kae-Kazim as Achilles and Zeus proved so controversial?". Immediate Media Company. Radio Times.
  12. ^ a b "Troy: Fall of a City: Season 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandago. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  13. ^ a b c d e Stolworthy, Jacob (16 February 2018). "Troy: Fall of a City episode 1 review: BBC drama struggles to convince in disappointingly tame premiere The series shrugs off Game of Thrones comparison with bloodless opening episode". The Independent. Independent Print Limited.
  14. ^ a b c d Euan, Ferguson (18 February 2018). "The week in TV: Troy: Fall of a City; Collateral; Trauma and more The Beeb's answer to Game of Thrones gets off to a strong start. Plus thrillers from David Hare and Mike Bartlett". The Guardian. Guardian Media Corporation. The Guardian.
  15. ^ a b c Hawksley, Rupert (18 February 2018). "Troy: Fall of a City, episode one, review: a fresh take on one of the greatest tales of them all". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. The Daily Telegraph.
  16. ^ a b c Cooke, Rachel (22 February 2018). "In Troy: Fall of a City, all the men look as if they're in a Calvin Klein ad: Rachel Cooke reviews Troy and 24 Hours in Police Custody". New Statesman. Progressive Digital Media. New Statesman.
  17. ^ a b c d Greene, Steve (8 April 2018). "'Troy: Fall of a City' Review: 'The Iliad' Becomes Just Another Story in Netflix Series That Tells Greek Mythology by the Book The eight-part series covering the famous Troy/Sparta feud of millennia past, offers a few striking performances, but not much else new to a classic tale". IndieWire. Penske Media Corporation. IndieWire.
  18. ^ a b c d e Schiff, Randy (26 May 2018). "You Should Be Watching: 'Troy,' 'In Search of the Trojan War,' 'History of Britain'". The Buffalo News. Berkshire Hathaway. The Buffalo News.

External links[edit]