Becoming Elizabeth: STARZ has released this new series about the young UK monarch Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII as a young girl. It is an 8-part series, and has no known stars to me. Alicia Von Rittburg has the starring role. Set in the mid-1500s, the story deals with the time post King Henry’s death and the succession of the throne to his 9 1/2 year old son Edward. To me, it is funny that in North America, that in that time we didn’t even exist as a country. We were filled with nature and indigenous peoples. While in Europe, there are castles and battles and intrigue playing their real life version of the Game of Thrones. Make no mistake that this was a complicated time, with a dead King who has heirs from many women, he proclaims himself the head of a new church, the Church of England, and dismisses the Catholic faith. For young Elizabeth at 13yo, her Dad has passed away, her 9 1/2 yo brother takes the throne with adults, his Uncle, to guide him, an older sister Mary and plenty of those around them all seeking favour.
I am no English historian, what I know of this time, I know from the numerous depictions that have come from film and TV. The stories have everything that can intrigue with love, duty, drama, sex, scandal, betrayal, villians and heroes. From Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett, to Lady Jane with Helena Bonham Carter, to The Other Boleyn Girl with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansen they each have this time period in mind. The Tutors TV series also addressed more of the intrigue surrounding Henry as opposed to the daughters. Mary is treated very differently in this series than for example in Elizabeth, where she was a sickly, unattractive and half-mad woman on the throne in a loveless marriage with no children. This is a very different portrayal of a woman who has to deal with the men around her making decisions, as well as the decisions on whether to marry and how to remain safe. All the while her younger sister, Elizabeth seems to be acting inappropriately.
The production value for this series is high with the settings and the costuming. I find that the series starts off slowly but gains momentum as the stakes get higher. The early scenes deal with young Elizabeth who is brought into the home of her Uncle Thomas Seymour, who is character portrayed as charming, ambitious, seeking favour to gain in his station by any means possible. His brother Edward is position himself as the young King’s Lord Protector, effectively running the country and the Council. He was older brother to Jane Seymour, Henry’s third wife. The brother’s have their own battles between themselves while trying to deal with a battle in Scotland and other international issues like Spain. The acting is good. The story progresses in dealings with Thomas and also between the siblings when Edward Seymour falls out of favour. There is of course the appropriate cliff hanger in the end as they are expecting this series to continue on. It couldnt have been easy to be a woman in this time, and add to that the drama of the Crown and who is next in line with the throne. Like Succession, the TV series, the siblings have to deal with one another while being impacted by those advising them. Elizabeth being third in line, with a younger brother on the throne, would have expected to live a life outside the royal limelight, in the same way that Prince Edward or other QE II offspring must have felt. I imagine that she never expected that she would ever be the Queen of England. But the 1500s were not easy times, certainly from a medical perspective or technology or dietary or hygiene. Things happen, and they shaped history after that. Worth a viewing if this type of thing is to your tastes.
Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan: With the passing this week of Lt Uhura, Nichelle Nichols, at the age of 89, I decided that I should write about this storied franchise. In 1982, this sequel to Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out. The first Star Trek was for me an exercise in boredom. It took forever to finally reach the Enterprise, and they were so enamoured with the ability to show the size of the ship that they focused on doing mostly that. The onboard interaction with the well known crew from TV series was fine. This was greatly improved in this installment as they brought back a villain, Khan, from the TV series to actually have something for the Enterprise to do! The emotional stakes are much higher as well with the crew on the Enterprise having casualties from attacks on it. All the familiar faces are here with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, James Doohan as Scotty. Young Kirstie Alley plays a young Vulcan trainee. Ricardo Montalban returns as an older buff Khan.
Kirk is getting older and was promoted to Admiral, which is more of a desk job. He wants to be in the field, exploring space, instead of watching over new recruits. A ship, with Chechov on board, has mistakenly stumbled upon Khan and the remainder of his people on a desert planet. He tortures them and captures their ship. They head towards a space station where they are working on a new technology, called Genesis, which is meant to be a molecule accelerator which in effect can create life for nothing. It would be sent to a desolate planet through a rocket and then transform that planet into something akin to earth with life. Khan wants that technology and views it as a weapon, in the same way as Bones does on the Enterprise. It seems Kirk’s ex-flame works on the project, and she seeks him out when the manipulated Chechov requests all the details about Genesis. There are some good battles with older CGI, but they are effective. The two captains manoever around trying to defeat their enemy. This is satisfying and one of the better Star Trek movies. This movie plants the seeds for the next movie in the series, which I won’t divulge for those who may not have watched. Worth checking out, wherever it may be.