There have been countless films and all manner of incarnations over the years of the four loveable rogues d’Artagnan, Aramis, Athos and Porthos, from the early swashbuckling epics featuring Oliver Reed to Disney and Barbie versions. The Three Musketeers is a classic tale, and the BBC bought it to life with their 10-part series which concluded last week.
Fans of the book should be warned – much of the BBC version takes liberties with the original tale penned by Alexandre Dumas, but many of the additions work a treat and help turn the tale into several stand-alone stories.
Episode 1 is perhaps the worst in the series, which is a shame as many will be turned off by the at-first jarring chemistry of the four heroes (Luke Pasqualino, Tom Burke, Santiago Cabrera and Howard Charles) and the seemingly downright dull portrayal of Cardinal Richelieu played by Peter Capaldi.
However, things soon improve and. given the chance, the series comes alive as the actors begin to show a genuine bond so crucial to those characters. Capaldi himself turns from uninspiring plot device to vehement but enigmatic villain, and the plot twists he becomes involved in show great inventiveness with the story.
Each character is given at least one episode to consider their troubled past, from the thieving market slum antics of Porthos and the troubled Aramis’ chance encounter with an old flame, through to the honour-bound Athos and his past with other villain Milady.
Some fine guest appearances by the likes of Vinnie Jones, Jason Flemyng and Sean Pertwee add to the colour, but perhaps what The Musketeers does above all is make you want to be a part of that world full of drinking, wenching, fine facial hair and a good old-fashioned duel.
Many detractors will bemoan the changes in story away from the original book and known film versions, but the truth is Dumas himself developed his story from a musketeer diary which had only fleeting mentions of three musketeers by the names of Aramis, Athos and Porthos. Dumas would no doubt have been proud by some of the creative plot devices used by the writers.
The series walks the line between humour and drama well enough, but does at times feel like the heroic quartet are never truly in danger so engrained are their characters in popular culture. Nevertheless, The Musketeers is a successful re-imagining of a world once walked, and if given the time to settle into the series, should have you crying “all for one, and one for all” in no time.