New Worlds (4 stars)

New Worlds

Follow-up to The Devil’s Whore ramps up the carnage and injustice

‘It’s a world where you’d be going to one of the new Restoration plays or a lecture at the Royal Society, walking past bodies in gibbets and heads on poles.’ New Worlds co-creator Peter Flannery discusses the inherent tensions of 1680s England ahead of the four-part drama which takes up the cudgel from the mightily acclaimed The Devil’s Whore. Acclaimed, that is, by everyone other than those not overly enamoured by the liberties taken with historical accuracy.

Such views revolved around the fact that its central character, Angelica Fanshawe, never existed, yet had relations and nuptials with people who very much did. For the creators (Flannery and Martine Brant), exact facts can be relegated a notch or two so long as essential truths about the historical period in question remain intact.

Over in dramatic licence-land, our feisty maverick is back after 20 years (now played by Eve Best rather than Andrea Riseborough) with a grown-up daughter Beth (Freya Mavor of Skins and Sunshine on Leith fame). Living in a sort-of commune they call the ‘common wealth’, the Fanshawes and friends thrive in a bubble away from the state tyranny and religious dogma wielded by Charles II and awful, bloodthirsty henchmen such as his illegitimate son, Duke of Monmouth, Judge Jeffreys (aka ‘the Hanging Judge’) and nasty landowner, George Hardwick. But inevitably, trouble finally comes calling in the shape of Abe Goffe (Jamie Dornan), another made-up outlaw-hero whose sense of justice powers the drama.

The naysayers have every right to pull New Worlds up for playing fast and loose with the facts, but on purely dramatic grounds, it all works a treat. If there wasn’t a true character such as Abe or the proto-feminist warrior Hope, you would definitely have to make them up in order to push the story forward (after all, that guy Shakespeare liked to toss truth around for the betterment of his plays). As a piece of TV, it could have stuck the burgeoning love story between Abe and Beth a little further into the background: the Fanshawe family being torn asunder by preposterous state accusations is a captivating storyline all of its own without embellishment.

New Worlds starts on Channel 4, Tue 1 Apr, 9pm.

New Worlds | Tuesday, 9pm | Channel 4

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