This box set comprises both series of this 1983-85 smash hit BBC fictional historical drama series following the fortunes of two families: the landowning, aristocratic and pious Lacey' and the wealthy, mercantile, puritanical Fletcher', set against the backdrop of the English Civil War. Starting in May 1640 the first episode introduces the main characters whilst the second introduces the basic background to the conflict.
The first series follows the family as it is torn apart by the conflict and their changing loyalties up to the defeat of the Royalist forces at the end of the First English Civil War. Series two covers the second and third civil wars and the eventual Restoration of the Monarchy. Episodes are basically stand alone with the ongoing wars and family relationships providing threads of continuity.
The wording is modern English but the style has an olde worlde edge to it, although the filming style tends to come across as stage theatre. The period flavour is enhanced by the rich harpsichord music and whilst the costumes are lavish, the settings are subdued and rough edged rather than the overly romantic pristine interiors popular with producers. The outer case holds two box sets, one for each series, both holding 2 cases with 2 discs each. Both series contain 10 episodes. Picture quality is good, but of the day, with the occaisional scene being a little fuzzy, but not enough to spoil the viewing while the sound is fine.
Anyone interested in period drama or wants to know the history of this period should watch this for whilst it centres on fictional characters, the backdrop is very real and the period flavour is unbeatable. Above all it's a drama about loyalty, friendship and betrayal yet features relatively little actual fighting. A definite ***** view.
on 8 September 2014
Thoroughly enjoyed it. This is a wonderful period drama about the Civil Wars made more than thirty years ago by the incomparable BBC. The costumes are gorgeous and worth an exhibition of their own and the settings, interior and exterior, perfectly chosen. I was a bit thrown by the change of actor playing Edward between Series 1 and 2 and some of the situations (particularly in Series 2) seemed contrived but overall it this box set has been well worth the expense. I'll be watching it many times!
on 26 July 2013
I enjoyed this enormously when it was first screened in the 1980s, and I'm sure I'm not alone in having been inspired to assume the hobby of re-enactment as a result; the only down side was hearing all the stories of filming (where else were the Beeb going to get the extras?) and wishing that I'd been there.
Re-watching it in (I think) 2009 I was initially less impressed (the first series is comparatively light on war), until I recalled some of the names of the creative team - John Hawkesworth, Jeremy Paul, Rosemary Anne Sisson - this is Upstairs Downstairs does the Civil War!
And very effectively it does it too - this is very much the twenty years of 'King and Cause' vs 'God and Parliament' seen through the eyes of two families, the Laceys and the Fletchers (and no prizes for guessing which supports what), by marriage united, and (as the title asserts), by the sword divided. It's all very well scripted, acted, costumed, directed, and much of the location work is at Rockingham Castle.
Julian Glover, as Sir Martin Lacey, dominates the first series until his death defending his home, and then continues to loom right to the end as subtextual angry ghost, with his son Tom (Tim Bentinck) as a dashing revenger. Lucy Aston and Sharon Maughn start off as the principled Cavalier Girl and Roundhead Girl respectively, and by the end of the story, both have whored themselves to their leaders. Rob Edwards seems to have a thoroughly miserable twenty years as the principled, but weak and priggish, John Fletcher.
Season One has a nice below stairs counterpoint in the Saltmarsh brothers, Will and Sam, each doomed to die; one for his king, the other shot by his own side as a Leveller.
It's not at all wanting for derring do, high boots and well-stacked bodices, and so could very easily teeter over into the melodrama of Barbara Cartland, and I think it's actually part of the fun that it doesn't! It is a very good representation of the time.
Aside from the above, particular praise for Rbert Stephens as the duplicitous drunkard Sir Ralph Winter, and Eileen Way as Minty, who surely is a witch. On that subject Christopher Neame does a lovely job as a witchfinder - clearly based on Hopkins. Jeremy Clyde plays a pitch perfect Charles I, while Peter Jeffery does a fine job as a suitably warty Cromwell.
The BBC doing that which it did exceptionally well.
[A little note for those interested in such things; it looks to me as if there was an intention for Malcolm Stoddard (as Hannibal Marsh) to return in Series 2 and become Anne's lover. Mr Stoddard did not - for whatever reason - and the character line was assumed by Major General Horton, played by Gareth Thomas. That's how it looks to me]