There's a point in the recent version of King Kong (Yes, this review is about Nostromo) where one of the characters, reading 'Heart of Darkness'- also written by Joseph Conrad, finally glimpses the dark underlying themes and says doubtfully "it's not an adventure story, is it....?". I suspect some are destined to feel the same about this series, straplined as 'The Epic Adventure' - an uneasy but obvious attempt to make hard-to-target material find a marketable audience. Seen as 'period' drama - notoriously a female-audience thing (personally I'm saddened-and not a little scared(!)- that every other customer who buys this is apparently chasing Colin Firth!) but the themes are all rather 'masculine' - and just to narrow things further you have to be carrying a brain to appreciate them. All this means a well-recognised 'core audience lack' problem and it's a shame, because Nostromo did quite well at being what it was meant to be - and I suspect there are plenty of people out there who did, like me, enjoy it a lot.
Plus I must add what has to be the crowning recommendation for any tv adaptation of a classic: I watched this back when it was first on in 1997, then read Nostromo and lots more of Conrad's books.
Extremely difficult to dramatize, this has to go down as a very credit-worthy attempt. Beautifully shot, atmospheric music from Morricone, some class performances from Finney and Firth and others - with, however, a few notable drops - some of the other acting is variable, even wooden, the script is so-so (in an epic scope, director seems much more at home with his Victorian English than with his 18th century South Americans) and there are a few too many spelled-out unsubtle dialogues that are obviously there to make the plot easier for the audience to follow. But even with all that, it's both compelling drama and easy on the eye.
If you can look past the period-drama hood, the intended underlying themes of the novel are still there to be seen, along with the sweeping feel of a world in miniature.
A last footnote on politics - the story has been rendered much as-was in the novel - much of which is, typical-Conrad, notoriously equivocal. It's easy to nitpick the themes and point out incipient racism or Eurocentrism, but that's totally missing the point. It's part of Conrad's appeal that he could paint his characters and situations, explore 'ideal values' - but still not (rant-like) take sides.