In the early 1800s young Edmund Talbot travels on a not too sea-worthy ship to New South Wales to take up a post with its governor. He keeps a journal, recording his impressions of crew and passengers. He gets on well with the Captain, Anderson, an amateur botanist who grows plants in his cabin, but, due to a social gaffe, well-meaning young parson Colley falls foul of the captain, later getting drunk and having gay sex with crew members. Despite Edmund's efforts to broker an understanding he remains in his cabin, where he literally wastes away. Edmund has a sexual encounter with the comely Zenobia, travelling with her parents, but he comes to realize that they are not related at all, merely a sexual threesome. Miss Granham, travelling to take up the job of a governess, falls for the older Mr. Prettiman, whom Edmund despises as a free-thinker, though they eventually reconcile. Prettiman is badly injured in a fall and Miss Granham agrees to marry him immediately, with flowers provided ... Written by
don @ minifie-1
Won't regret watching. Won't remember too long either
Reliable. This is the word that has probably been most related to BBC. Movies they make can be great, good, watchable, but never a waste of time, a disappointment, a complete disaster.
"To the Ends of the Earth" is a typical BBC work. Time, place and circumstances that most of productions would use for a romantic story BBC again turns into a cold reality, slapping us in face by facts that those were tough times, and in some moments we almost expect a narrator to tell us facts about the ship, the organization of the navy, the geographic data related to position of the ship. They show us that this is neither a "Love Boat" nor "Bounty", and that a good story doesn't need such extremes to be told.
And as the story develops we accept the fact that this is the same hard work and bad conditions as Dickens or Zola would describe us in factories or mines in novels taking place in same years. This was their world, their reality. In these circumstances some traditional rules of well behaving change, some traditional interpersonal relations change as well. This isolated world with its past abandoned, present threatening and future obscure looks like Antarctica base in "The Thing", spaceship in "2001", desert island in "The Blue Lagoon" or post-apocalyptic enclave in "Testament". They all know that most likely they won't see civilization ever more, and even seeing next day is questionable.
The captain is strict and seems cruel in some scenes, but can't be compared to Bligh. Early years of 19th century are not remembered as blossoming democracy, and ship almost sentenced to sinking is impossible to save without a firm hand. And seeing wild crowd of drunk, heartless sailors (that is for sure closer to reality than crew in "Treasure Island" or Errol Flynn movies where almost all pirates follow their code of honor) you may get a feeling that the ship needs a real dictatorship to get any chance of reaching so distant destination.
This harsh reality is melting in the second, weakest part of the mini-series. Watching it we are not sure if we see what is happening, or some imagination or hallucination of the main character. Too big deflection from the style of opening and closing parts.
In the last part we are finally witnessing changes in characters, they become more human and not only figures that the ship must contain for realism in semi-documentary movie. Here we start feeling them, understanding their motives and behaving, expecting what will happen to them. The cruel and dangerous nature, the lack of humanity and the ship itself are still there almost palpable as characters, but not dominating any more - now we have alive persons to see and hear.
Unfortunately, the ending is too sugared. We, certainly, did expect that the ship will successfully reach Australia, but last few minutes are a typical 19th century too romantic final chapter, with a list of characters, good and bad, and their destiny, that was more or less obvious and expected before they saw the coast. Just saving their lives would be a very happy ending (almost a miracle), but that wasn't enough... I know that the director had to follow the old story and that brought in my mind the illogical and forced happy-end of "Great Expectations", still... any modern slimy American romantic comedy could beat this ending.
"To the Ends..." might be a bit too long (middle part!), but in spite of its end it is worth watching both for the story and for understanding how people really sailed, conquered and settled the last wild pieces of the Earth. At least it will be less boring than just reading history and technical articles about it.
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