Wednesday, 2 July 2014
New Worlds: Episode 3
"Our lives will never change until the kings are torn from their thrones."
This episode, we get Native Americans being all noble savages and that in ways that, while trying hard not to be racist in their depiction, may cross the line into patronising as all depictions of tribal societies inevitably do. We also get interesting political discussion which shows us how the die-hard republicans of the Good Old Cause morph slowly into Whigs, keeping an outward show of monarchy but sidelining it to the extent that one Ancien Regime French ambassador once famously refused to accept that England was a monarchy at all after 1688. This is not a Whig script, of course; it is still interested in the history of the Left and not that of Liberals such as myself who are, while way to the left of Clegg and those dangerous Orange Book entryists, are not from that tradition.
Beth survives transportation and meets a sort of proto-Squanto, proceeding to go predictably native and to act as the hand-wringing, post-colonial mouthpiece of our authorial voice. The King proceeds to be a right bastard, and Angelica's house goes to one of a Judge Jeffries' mates who isn't very nice to the staff, allowing us to see a bit of proto-Chartist class conflict. There's a lot of proto-this and proto-that in this somewhat Marxist script. There's nothing wrong with this, of course, but I wish the script had put equal attention to giving the characters a little depth. None of them come across as anything more than ideological mouthpieces.
Beth and her new Native American mates soon run up against John Hawkins, Henry Cresswell and their equally genocidal Puritan mates in Massachusetts which, once again, it is instructive to see depicted as the frontier. Abe, meanwhile, gets involved with the Rye House Plot. Ted, now back in Massachusetts, finds his beloved Beth now married to the dastardly Henry Cresswell. And the whole Commonwealth of Massachusetts gets a bit of a bollocking on behalf of the King, who is on the Indians' side, sort of. One of the Massachusetts Bastards, incidentally, is Chris Finch from The Office.
Beth's presence in the tribe is discovered, and our RP accented Yankees Hope and Beth resume sleeping together, now a much naughtier thing than it was before. Ned soon becomes outraged at the fact that not only his love rival but also his father are, as William Goffe had put it, "land pirates". Soon enough the tribe is wiped out in a nasty bit of germ warfare. Such is the original sin of America, and it is a very English sin.
The political subtext is entertaining, I suppose, but in the absence of characters in whom one can take an interest it's all there is to grab hold of, and it's not exactly subtle. New Worlds continues to disappoint.