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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Great Fire


Starring: Andrew Buchan, Jack Huston, Rose Leslie, Daniel Mays and Charles Dance
Distributor: ITV Studios Global Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
5 037115 366238
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 10 November 2014

Inspired by the historical events of 1666 and with the decadent backdrop of King Charles II’s court, The Great Fire focuses on the circumstances which led to the catastrophic fire, Thomas Farriner’s family life at the bakery in Pudding Lane, the playboy King’s extravagant lifestyle, and Farriner’s complex relationship with his fictional sister in law, Sarah. Thomas is central to the drama which is based upon existing historical knowledge with fictional stories...

The Great Fire is a four-part drama series that was originally broadcast between 16 October and 06 November 2014. While an enjoyable series, I think the biggest problem I had with it was that the narrative was stretched to breaking point. There are only really three stories here (the love story of Thomas and Sarah, the need for Charles II to change in order to be a monarch his subject can get behind and several elements taken from The Diary of Samuel Pepys and crammed into a short period of time).

It's odd because everything else works wonderfully. The acting is first rate; the costumes and set designs are gorgeous; the effects look realistic; and even the music is beautiful... but I didn't really care for the script. There are a lot of really hammy scenes and awful dialogue and it's a credit to the actors that they turned any of the scenes into watchable television. King Charles final, rousing speech, is a little cringe worthy and the hinted at love story between Thomas and Sarah is a little stomach churning.

I thought the script patronised its audience a little too much and the whole show felt like a historical drama for people who don't like historical dramas, or want to learn anything at all about what really happened. I understand the necessity to inject other stories to keep the plot moving forward, but honestly, this story would have worked just the same without the backdrop of the Great Fire. It's spoon fed, watered down soap opera style silliness.

It also couldn't decide whether it wanted to be a family show or deliver a more adult message at its core. The love story is only ever hinted at (even the sex scene is only implied). Torture by the fictional Lord Denton, the king's spymaster (played wonderfully by Charles Dance) is briefly alluded to. So why then have a scene where a mob quite gruesomely hang a catholic and another where Sarah is almost raped?

If, however, you totally suspend disbelief, and ignore the fact that Thomas spends the entire series making his own problems by leaving his children and Sarah and then having to find them again... and then losing them once again... you'll enjoy this well made, but rather silly, series.

For extras we get The Great Fire: Behind the Scenes (21 min, 24 sec, which interviews cast and crew on elements of the show including costume, design, Samuel Pepys, the love story and special effects.


Darren Rea

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