Exploits across the colonies
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