Last Night’s TV – The Queen

by Lynn Connolly


This docudrama excused its inaccuracies – or probable inaccuracies anyway – by prefixing the programme with the disclaimer that the parts of it that were based on fact were from “the best available resources” – presumably the worst available resources weren’t consulted then – with the addendum against slander/libel, declaring, “the drama is imagined.” Well, duh.

But that’s where this show fell down for me. I don’t see the point in mixing the two; it’s either about stuff that’s really happened or it’s fiction. The two don’t make good bedfellows. Mainly because the only time we know we’re seeing what really happened is in the archive footage and the eye-witness accounts from those in the know.

Other than that, they may as well have had, for example, the real footage of the Queen officially launching the QE2 then spinning round in a phone box to reappear in a spandex suit with a big Q on the front and shoving it off the dock herself.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if the non-documental evidence was based on hearsay from those who’d been around, rather than to just declare it “imagined” drama.

That said, Emilia Fox who was first to play the Queen – there are to be four more as her Maj ages in each episode – did a lovely job of portraying the monarch. Her necessarily staid public persona and rather more fun private one were parlayed into a very watchable on-screen presence by Fox, as was Princess Margaret, played equally well by Katie McGrath.

We saw the pair believably acting the parts of sisters who clearly loved each other very much, but whose loyalties were tested by the scandal that was Margaret’s affair with Peter Townsend. The trouble is, it’s not really close to scandal when compared with today’s monarchy, and we’ve heard and seen the story too often to still find it terribly interesting. Well, I have anyway.

The one thing that was noteworthy though – and arguably the only thing that made this programme worthwhile – is how much the monarchy, and the Queen herself, have moved on and adapted. I mean, in the time of the big hoohar over Margaret, who’d have ever predicted that the Queen’s son would marry a divorcee and still be in line for the throne?

However, as I said, that point was probably the only really interesting point to come out of this docudrama. It tried too hard to entertain and I suspect that’s because the programme makers knew that just relaying facts about the Queen would be boring, given we know all the stuff off by heart. But the addition of the dramatic parts a) lacked drama and b) lacked credibility.

I may tune in to see Barbara Flynn portraying the Queen in her 1992 annus horribilis – primarily to see if Flynn handles the role differently than Helen Mirren did in the film version – but other than that, while there are worse ways to spend time on a Sunday, it wasn’t sufficiently interesting to keep my attention for all five episodes.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.