The British always do a much better job at historical drama than the Americans, and 'Warrior Queen' is splendid proof of that. This series takes place in the year 61 AD, and recounts the story of Boadicea, the queen of the Icene tribe of native Britons who rebelled against the invading Roman legions. I've used the traditional spellings here ... but in the TV series, the queen's name is given as Boudicca, and her tribe are called the Iceni. Unless a time machine is available, nobody will ever know the authentic pronunciations.
Queen Boudicca is played, dynamically, by Sian Phillips. Her best-known role is as Livia in 'I, Claudius', but I think she gives a better (and deeper) characterisation here. She's surprisingly sexy in this role, yet entirely believable as the spiritual and military leader of a determined tribe whose lands and lives are under threat. This is no 'Xena, Warrior Princess'. The actress's Irish accent is no anachronism, as we've no idea how these people actually spoke.
The most fascinating parts of this series are the exterior scenes filmed at a rebuilt Iron Age settlement in Petersfield. These sequences are so chillingly authentic, I had no difficulty believing that I was watching actual events of 2000 years ago, with the original participants.
The only flaw here is the performance of Nigel Hawthorne as the Roman procurator, commander of the occupying forces determined to subjugate or destroy Queen Boudicca. A comparatively obscure actor at this point in his career, Hawthorne gives a dry, sly, wry performance that's slightly too droll for these dead-earnest proceedings. Two years later, Hawthorne would become famous on the sitcom 'Yes, Minister'. Watching his performance here in full Roman drag as Catus Decianus, it's difficult (in hindsight) not to think that Hawthorne is actually playing Sir Humphrey Appleby, magically propelled two millennia into the past. Still 'Warrior Queen' is a fascinating and well-made enactment of an historical era that is dramatised far too seldom.
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