TV review: Jamestown, Sky 1 (3 stars)

TV review: Jamestown, Sky 1

Women arrive in Virginia after the men have lived alone for twelve years in this new period drama

All the publicity and adverts for Jamestown proudly proclaim 'from the makers of Downton Abbey'. Though if you tune in expecting a genteel costume drama you might be in for a shock when you encounter this gritty tale of early British settlers in America.

In 1607 men set out for the new world to colonise Virginia. Then 12 years later women sailed out to join them. This was a very different time with very different values. They had been purchased as wives, sold as chattel. Unsurprisingly their arrival had a seismic effect on the all-male community of Jamestown. As one character describes it: 'a hive of men starved of women.'

The township isn't what most these women expected. A muddy plot of shacks, wooden huts and basic housing. A powder keg fuelled by family feuds, capital punishment, gold and disease. Episode two adds hellfire and brimstone to the volatile mix with firebrand preacher (Shaun Dooley) accusing one of the new arrivals of witchcraft; while episode three explores the settler's relationship with the Native American tribes.

Despite the attention to period detail Jamestown is less captivating than its intriguing premise. Alice's (Sophie Rundle) romance feels like it's dictated by plot rather than genuine chemistry. Niamh Walsh's feisty Verity is more interesting, fighting against the inherent sexism of the age and forming an unlikely bond with her new husband (Dean Lennox Kelly). Though Jocelyn (Naomi Battrick) will have perhaps the biggest effect on Jamestown, subtly politicking behind the scenes. The menfolk include Max Beasley, Burn Gorman, Gwilym Lee and Jason Flemyng all variously plotting for power or bloody revenge.

Creator Bill Gallagher is best known for his work at the lighter end of the costume drama spectrum (The Paradise, Lark Rise to Candleford). Jamestown is far darker, and certainly doesn't aim for the cosy comforting world of Downton, but feels like a soap opera wrapped up in a period trappings.

Jamestown starts on Sky 1, Fri 5 May, 9pm