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11 of 13 people found this helpful
Terrific drama but poor history
on 9 August 2014
This production needs to be considered as a drama and also as a historical reconstruction. As a drama it works very well indeed with some superb acting (to be expected given the cast) and fine production. The story is gripping and carries the viewer along, never feeling laboured or anything but enthralling. Viewed as a drama it really does work extremely well, my only criticism would be that the voice overs are over done and can become a bit distracting. I apreciate that in a story this complex some form of filling in the back story is important to avoid confusion and to make the story comprehensible but I thought this could have been done better. If this review was only considering the drama I'd give it 4 or 5*. The problem is that it is also a historical reconstruction and it will influence beliefs of those watching the program. On a positive it does dispel the myth that Europe just drifted into war and that the war just happened, a view promoted by people like David Lloyd George and others after the war and which became an accepted truism in popular history. There was nothing accidental about the war and it is entirely explicable. The problem here is that after this positive begining there are inaccuracies and poor characterisations which mean that this is another TV drama purporting to be historically accurate yet which is found wanting. The Sarajevo assassination is completely misrepresented, and in a way which significantly alters the way in which many viewers will think about this act. The story almost ignores Austria-Hungary and where it does include these most essential players in the events it is to show a moribund emperor and dandyish ambassadors. The Austro-Hungarian drivers for war are glossed over and remarkably the bellicose Conrad von Hotzendorf (who was far more enthusiastic for war than Moltke) is ignored completely, an appalling omission. The characterisation of Kaiser Wilhelm whilst entertaining does not ring true and portrays him as some sort of cartoon charicature when in reality he was a rather complex character. Moltke is portrayed as a machiavellian thug who almost single handedly forced Europe into war, despite some bellicose statements this is a grossly unfair representation. Falkenhayn is just portrayed as an accessory to give context to the sequences involving Moltke. The impression of a German chief of general staff almost bullying the Kaiser and forcing Europe into war is not consistent with reality and the omission of Austria-Hungary is almost inexplicable given their critical contribution to the events of those days. The program also gives a very British-centric version of events in which things revolved around London with Paris and St. Petersburg all but ignored when it was very much a continental affair. Although rivetting drama the program is dangerously misleading and I fear it will just replace old myths and misconceptions with new ones for many who view it. The show also has a feeling of applying 21st Century sensibilities to relationships between those in authority with those lower down the social hierarchy which feels a bit contrived and false. So, whilst I'd rate this very highly as a drama I feel the historical inaccuracies and misrepresentation mean it falls down, I'd give 1 or 2* for it as a reconstruction, so 3* is a compromise between very good drama and very poor history.