The BBC recently aired the series finale to this summers hit, The White Queen. A ten week special which was based on three books written by best selling author Philippa Gregory as part of the ‘Cousins War’ series. The series explores the War of the Roses from a woman’s perspective, so instead of battles (though you see plenty of them) it is mainly based upon the suspicion and betrayal of court life in medieval England. The show starts with a young King Edward IV falling in love with the commoner and progresses until the battle of Bosworth were we see King Richard III fall at the hand of Henry Tudor.
Although both have been hits in their own medium the question is, how do they compare?
Each book is told from a different perspective and each in first person. We see the thoughts of The White Queen (Elizabeth Woodville) Anne Neville and Margaret Beaufort in each book however the television show is not told in first person, so the TV show cleverly weaves all the events and conversations together. The show is written by Emma Frost, the same comical genius who wrote Shameless and many other hit TV shows. No doubt she has done it again. Although this period drama is not comical, Frost manages to sneak some one liners into the show, showcasing her talent for diversity. The language in a period drama is always a touchy subject, you need to write in such a way that you get a sense of the period but also in a way that the audience know what exactly you were talking about. In my opinion, it was done extremely well.
Although not all of the characters from the book made it, nearly all of the plot happened exactly as it did in the book. However unlike the book the tone changes, you do not hear their thoughts on the television show as it is not first person. So some characters look cold and harsh whereas in the book their actions were explained and the audience felt compassion for the character. We obviously cannot discuss the show without talking about the actors. Although many were unknown, one of the recognizable faces was of course Max Irons, the latest Brit who seems to be making his way in Hollywood. Irons has the role of King Edward, opposite Rebecca Ferguson. Unlike the many roles in teenage films, Irons seems to have grown up and was a perfect actor for the role. The show then goes on to showcase the acting of Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who, Broadchurch) and Freya Mavor (Skins) with many other names cropping up too.
One of the major things the series had off was the alternative view of Richard III. Although many have criticized the show for not because historically accurate, Gregory and the BBC have offered a compassionate yet troubled man than the tyrant associated with his name. Many fans of the books and TV show have defended the series by stating that it is in fact historical fiction.
The series was fast paced where the book was not. In some areas, the book seemed to drag with the protagonist only thinking and explaining things that the audience did not need to know; something which as a reader enabled you to imagine the world it takes place in. The TV show did not need to do that as the set was already there for the audience to see so you could jump from conversation to conversation without having to dwell on the thoughts of the character to much.
All three books were covered in a matter of ten weeks, the events woven together for an audience who could then make up their own minds and be impartial to the thoughts of the character. I thought it was genius. We did not need to understand what the character was thinking but we could see how they were appearing to everyone else, for viewers who had not read the book, it gave a more mysterious and almost sense of crime to it.
In summary, both the book and the television series tell a great story and the adaptation was done brilliantly. Minimal things were cut out and nothing left the audience confused. The sets and costumes were all so convincing that as soon as you put an episode on you are in Medieval England. One criticism I do give is that although they take time to explain things in detail during the start of the series, as the pace gets faster, you get lost in all the news characters being introduced that you can get lost and confused. However, that may be their attempt to show the fast pace of war.
Whatever their reason, I think they adapted the show beautifully and I will miss watching it on a Sunday evening.
5 Stars ★★★★★