Liam Rudden: Well buckle my swash, the BBC has a winner

Aramis in The Musketeers. Pic: BBC
Aramis in The Musketeers. Pic: BBC
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ABOUT a year ago, while browsing through the bargains in Bookworld, on Princes Street, I stumbled across a boxset of DVDs.

Actually there were two boxsets, which together made up the complete 1999 BBC drama series The Scarlet Pimpernel, starring Richard E Grant in the title role with Downton Abbey’s Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Marguerite Blakeney, and my favourite British actor Martin Shaw, as Chauvelin.

Somehow I had missed it on broadcast. It was quite riveting. A great old-fashioned, swashbuckling adventure in a mould I thought they’d stopped making a long time ago.

So you can imagine my delight on Sunday night when the BBC launched their latest big budget drama, The Musketeers.

Not that there wasn’t a little trepidation. BBC drama has not been particularly credible of late. Thankfully, a strong cast, breathtaking locations, good script and exciting action sequences ensured that this is one winter winner for the Beeb.

It reminded me of the classic series written and produced by Richard Carpenter for ITV - it’s not just the BBC that can do costume adventure. Programmes like Dick Turpin and Robin of Sherwood.

The former starred Richard O’Sullivan as the 18th century highwayman, with Michael Deeks as his side-kick Swiftnick, and was a must- see in the late 70s. Similarly, Robin of Sherwood, starring Michael Praed, then Jason Connery, son of Edinburgh’s most famous son, was obligatory viewing in the 80s.

Both continue to stand up today. That’s the beauty of a period piece, and the reason The Musketeers could well find a place in my own personal ‘TV Heaven’ hall of fame.