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
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Wonderful and varied "Bildungsroman"; and Benedict Cumberbatch's finest performance
This miniseries is a delightfully absorbing story that takes you out of your familiar time and place into a world of strange events and unique situations. Don't think of it as a sea-going adventure, though, for it doesn't seem that way, despite the occasionally lurching furniture and ocean views.
It is, in fact, a lovely "Bildungsroman" (journey of self-discovery), set in the early 19th century, and centered very clearly around the somewhat naively self-centered and very privileged Edward Talbot, who, despite his having reached maturity, is journeying out of his sphere for the very first time. The situations which beset him and force him to reexamine his life are not specific to sea voyages, but rather they are brought about because he is in the confines of a ship with a multitude of people from various walks of life, for a very long voyage across the world.
Fans of Benedict Cumberbatch should note that this is an absolutely unmissable performance by him. It's arguably his best -- and most wide-ranging -- performance in his very illustrious career.
If you like great stories, unusual period adventures, and/or Benedict Cumberbatch, this miniseries is a Must Watch. Don't let its apparently sea-going theme put you off, especially if you don't go in for that sort of stuff. This is a psychological study through and through (as might be expected from William Golding), and the sea is only a mere backdrop.
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