I held off writing a review of ITV’s latest drama series Titanic, written by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, for many reason. Firstly, after the first episode of the 4-part drama, I can’t say I was too enamoured with it, and I didn’t want to write it off as a dud before I had seen it in it’s entirety. Secondly, with James Cameron’s 3D extravaganza re-released only a week ago, I didn’t want to review it with comparisons in mind. Thirdly (and lastly) it didn’t seem fitting to write a review on a series which hoped to show the sinking of the Titanic from many different perspectives before all the stories had been told. Now it’s finished, I can dive straight in with my critique (gargh; hopefully there will be no more unintentional puns, but only spotted this one after rereading!)
I have to start with the positives, and there are many. Fellowes has been criticised for seemingly simplifying the maritime disaster as Downton on a boat- or Drownton Abbey as I like to call it. But there are many positives to this assumption. The set, the costumes and the attention to detail all hail back to the work Fellowes has put in with Downton. There can be no dispute that a lot of love has gone into this series, and Fellowes should be praised for this, as should all the cast and crew.
Gold, silver and bronze awards for acting should go to Jenna-Louise Coleman, Toby Jones and Maria Doyle Kennedy, who were really amazing. I even forgot that Maria Doyle Kennedy had been Mrs. Bates in a past life- and for a Downton lover, that’s no easy task.
For all the good, there is, however, the bad. There were plenty of lacklustre performances- to be diplomatic, I won’t specify who disappointed the most mainly because I don’t feel the script gave the extremely talented actors and actresses involved much scope to stretch their acting legs.
Unfortunately, this is the main flaw with this Titanic miniseries, and is most likely why the ratings dropped so rapidly from the first week. Instead of a chronological narrative, Fellowes chose instead to jump from time frame to time frame, showing events from different perspectives. An excellent tool if he was writing a book, but not so much when the viewer is expected to watch repeated scenes week after week.
By the final episode, the iceberg collision had turned into a bit of joke- ‘Surely they would have avoided it after the 4th hit!?’ cried my Gran in frustration, and I was inclined to agree. The suspense and drama of the event was lost in a sea of repeated goodbyes and lengthy cliches- with gems such as ‘We won’t need more lifeboats!’ and ‘This isn’t goodbye!’ being paraded out in such a way I was shocked that the actors weren’t winking at the camera.
The biggest disappointment for me was, after 4 episodes of cringe worthy exchanges, the viewer was cheated out of closure for many of the main characters. People we had been introduced to disappeared without comment, while others surfaced who we hadn’t seen since episode 1.
In hindsight, maybe that was the point. To be invested in certain characters, only to be left with no answers, is perhaps a device used by Fellowes to show how uncertain the sinking was. People had no idea who had survived and who hadn’t, and so the viewer was left to the same fate.
On a more positive note, one of the most poignant scenes of the whole series was between father Jim Maloney and his daughter in the last episode- a beautifully shot scene charged with emotion and impending doom.
All in all, this was a valiant effort to bring the story of the Titanic to television that didn’t quite work-the heart was definitely there, but the execution was off. In the end, despite it’s flaws, it could not compete with James Cameron’s 1997 effort- and as a viewer, I couldn’t help but make comparisons with it.
EDIT: I counted 3 unintentional puns. I’m quite ashamed of myself!