TV review: A Discovery of Witches, Sky One
- Henry Northmore
- 8 September 2018
New supernatural drama trades on tired clichés
'It begins with absence and desire, it begins with blood and fear, it begins with a discovery of witches.' It's also the words that begin every episode of Sky One's new supernatural drama, based on the All Souls trilogy of novels by Deborah Harkness, which finds monsters and magic existing undetected in modern Britain.
Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer) is an American academic, and lapsed witch, who inadvertently opens an ancient manuscript buried deep in the bowels of the Bodleian Library while carrying out research at Oxford University. The discovery of this antique text draws witches, vampires and demons as an age-old prophecy proclaims it contains dark power that might be linked to a disturbance in the world's magical forces.
Harkness' books have been praised for their historical accuracy and page turning pace. However this TV adaptation forgets to add any sense of dynamism or character. There's a lot of talk of magic and prophecies but very little action. Everyone just stands around looking consternated while delivering their lines in breathy hushed tones. The grey colour palette only adds to the gloom.
The actors are all fine (the cast also includes Alex Kingston, Lindsay Duncan, Owen Teale and Greg McHugh) but merge into a stodgy mass of vaguely supernatural stock characters. Only Matthew Goode stands out, bringing both charisma and danger to suave sophisticated vampire Matthew Clairmont, struggling to keep his blood thirsty urges in check. By episode three it dawns on you that the paranormal trappings are just window-dressing for a tale of forbidden love and smouldering passion. A storyline we've seen rehashed again and again in Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Buffy, etc, etc. A missed opportunity to add something new to a well-worn cliché.
Episodes watched: One—four of eight.
A Discovery of Witches is on Sky One from Fri 14 Sep, 9pm.