Ex­ploits across the colonies

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Pay Television - Ta­boo,

Cre­ated by Steven Knight ( Peaky Blin­ders), with ac­tor Tom Hardy and his fa­ther Chips, this new eight-part se­ries is a gothic ad­ven­ture tale set dur­ing the Bri­tish-Amer­i­can War of 1812.

Hardy Jr plays James Keziah De­laney, a man be­lieved to have died at sea but who reap­pears in Lon­don for his fa­ther’s fu­neral, much to the sur­prise of his half-sis­ter Zil­pha (Oona Chap­lin).

De­laney, once a promis­ing cadet with the East In­dia Com­pany, has long since been seek­ing his for­tune in Africa, but is also ru­moured to have been en­gag­ing in un­spec­i­fied “un­nat­u­ral” prac­tices. He oc­ca­sion­ally breaks into an African lan­guage, and is also haunted by a slave in chains.

Much of the nec­es­sary ex­po­si­tion oc­curs around the board­room ta­ble of the East In­dia Com­pany. De­laney’s fa­ther, Ho­race, owned a strate­gic piece of land in Canada’s Nootka Sound, which would yield con­trol of Van­cou­ver Is­land. With Britain and United States still at war in 1814, Ta­boo the land is con­sid­ered ex­tremely strate­gic. The East In­dia Com­pany, led by De­laney’s for­mer com­man­der Sir Stu­art Strange (Jonathan Pryce), wants the land, and his gen­teel ap­pear­ance be­lies an avari­cious de­ter­mi­na­tion.

The se­ries also stars Mark Gatiss ( Game of Thrones, Sher­lock) as the Prince Re­gent, Ni­cholas Wood­e­son ( The Dan­ish Girl) as the so­lic­i­tor Robert Thoyt, and Franka Po­tente ( The Bourne Iden­tity) as Helga the brothel madam.

When it pre­miered ear­lier this year in the UK, re­cep­tion was mixed. Some re­ferred to it be­ing a “pas­sion project”, im­ply­ing Hardy was good but the se­ries wasn’t. Oth­ers less char­i­ta­bly called it “pon­der­ous”.

But watch the first episode, and you are guar­an­teed to be in­trigued about where this strange, cin­e­matic and highly orig­i­nal story leads. Mon­day, 9.30pm, BBC First.

Tom Hardy as sol­dier of for­tune James Keziah De­laney in the Bri­tish se­ries

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