The BBC and Downton Abbey‘s producer has teamed up to create the historial drama The Last Kingdom, set in the Viking age and expected to compete with Game of Thrones.
This week, it was announced that the BBC, together with Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films, have joined forces to develop and film the Viking series The last kingdom. To be shown in the UK on BBC Two and on BBC America, the 8-episode series will be based on Bernard Cornwell’s popular Saxon Stories novels, with the script being written by Stephen Butchard, the BAFTA nominated and RTS award-winning screenwriter of Good Cop, Five Daughters, and House Of Saddam. Bernard Cornwell (pictured below) was previously known for his Sharpe novels, which were turned into a series of TV movies starring Sean Bean.
Set in pre-England in 872, several kingdoms have become victims of invading Vikings. The kingdom of Wessex is alone in the war against the raiding Northernes, and Alfred the Great is one of the few who can hold up the defence. One of the victims is Uhtred, son of a Saxon nobleman. Uhtred was orphaned by the Vikings, then kidnapped and brought up as a Viking. This puts him in a dilemma, both personally and politically, as he takes part in the creation of a new nation.
-Cornwell’s Saxon novels combine historical figures and events with fiction in an utterly compelling way. In the hands of Stephen Butchard we believe it will make original and engrossing television drama. In part the epic quest of our hero Uhtred, it is also a fascinating re-telling of the tale of King Alfred the Great and how he united the many separate kingdoms on this island into what would become England, executive producer Gareth Neame said.
Neame, who won Golden Globe and Emmy awards for Downton Abbey, added: -How England was once a group of separate smaller Kingdoms and how its inhabitants the Anglo-Saxons forced out their Viking invaders and came together for the first time as a single entity called England.
Richard De Croce, senior VP Programming for BBC America commented: -We couldn’t be more pleased to be working with BBC Two and Carnival Films – a hugely successful British production company that really knows how to create a hit for the US. The last kingdom is an engrossing story of epic scale that will feed our audience’s appetite for excitement, smart storytelling and compelling characters.
Ben Stephenson, drama controller of the BBC, said: -I hope The kast kingdom will expand BBC Two’s distinctive portfolio of drama. It’s an epic narrative with an extraordinary creative team. It will feel like nothing else on television, with all of the scale and intrigue of the best fantasy stories but the reality of fact. The BBC hopes that the show will become a long-running franchise, as the 8 novels holds enough material for multiple seasons.
Some of the characters of the series are given, thanks to the novels, and the series will mix actual historical persons with fictional characters, with themes like politics, warfare, religion and identity being explored. The last kingdom is expected to compete with Game of Thrones and Vikings and will offer “heroic deeds and epic battles”, according to Carnival Films, for example when warriors like Ivar the Boneless and his feared brother Ubba takes action. But unlike the HBO fantasy series, The last kingdom is a fictional world rooted in reality, about the birth of England.
Butchard, Neame, Chrissy Skinns (Mr Selfridge) and Nigel Marchant (Dracula, Downton Abbey) will produce the series, with Nick Murphy (Prey, Occupation) co-executive producing and also directing several episodes.
Fictional characters in the novels:
- Uhtred – the protagonist, narrator, dispossessed Ealdorman of Bebbanburg originally called Osbert
- Earl Ragnar the Fearless – Danish warlord who adopts Uhtred
- Ragnar Ragnarsson (Ragnar the Younger) – Ragnar’s son, Uhtred’s foster brother and close friend
- Rorik Ragnarsson – Ragnar’s younger son and Uhtred’s childhood friend
- Thyra Ragnarsdottir – Ragnar’s daughter kidnapped by Kjartan
- Brida – East Anglian Saxon girl, Uhtred’s lover and friend
- Sigrid – Earl Ragnar’s wife and mother to Ragnar the Younger, Rorik and Thyra
- Ravn – blind skald and Earl Ragnar’s father
- Sven Kjartansson – Uhtred’s sworn enemy and Kjartan’s son
- Kjartan – Danish shipmaster who destroys Uhtred’s future
- Father Beocca – Alfred’s priest and Uhtred’s family friend
- Mildrith – Uhtred’s pious West Saxon wife
- Leofric – Uhtred’s friend, warrior and shipmaster
- Odda the Younger – Ealdorman Odda’s son and Uhtred’s enemy
- Ælfric – Uhtred’s uncle and usurper of the throne of Bebbanburg
- Lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg – Uhtred’s father
- Gytha – Uhtred’s stepmother
Historical characters in the novels:
- King Alfred of Wessex (Alfred the Great) – the King of Wessex
- Æthelflæd – Alfred’s eldest daughter, Lady of the Mercians.
- Guthrum the Unlucky – Danish warlord called the unlucky
- Ubba Lothbroksson – Danish warlord feared by many, older brother to Ivar and Halfdan
- Ivar Lothbroksson (Ivar the Boneless) – Danish warlord feared by many, brother to Ubba and Halfdan
- Halfdan Lothbroksson – Danish warlord and younger brother of Ubba and Ivar
- Ælswith – Alfred’s wife who dislikes Uhtred
- Æthelwold – Alfred’s nephew and friend of Uhtred
- Ealdorman Odda – Earldorman of Wessex
- King Edmund of East Anglia
- King Osbert of Northumbria
The series, which will start shooting in the autumn, is planned to open on TV in 2015.