An Abbey sized hole is looming in PBS’s lineup of Masterpiece drama programming and the network has announced plans to fill it with a larger-than-life queen. Victoria, an eight-part miniseries based on the reign of the 19th century queen, will anchor the network’s Sunday night schedule beginning in 2017.
Period pieces can be hit-or-miss but the popularity of Abbey proved that good storytelling transcends eras. Debuting in 2011 the first season was only beat out by Breaking Bad on Metacritic scores, and as word got out about the spicy residents of the fictional British estate the audience grew from about 4 million to more than 10 million viewers for certain episodes. The 5th season premiere came in second only to CBS that evening, a rare phenomenon for PBS.
EW reported on the announcement from Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton during the TCA press tour. “Downton Abbey has proved that millions of viewers will turn up year after year for a beautifully crafted period drama. Victoria has it all: a riveting script, brilliant cast, and spectacular locations. And it’s a true story! This is exactly the kind of programming Masterpiece fans will love.”
Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who) will anchor the new series as Victoria. Rufus Sewell (The Man in the High Castle) will play her prime minister and friend, Lord Melbourne. Tom Hughes will play her husband (and cousin) Prince Albert, and Alex Jennings will appear as Belgium’s King Leopold I, uncle to Victoria and Albert.
Coleman is best known as the Doctor’s companion on the last three season’s of Doctor Who, though she also appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger and starred in Emmerdale. I was lucky enough to be in the audience when she and Matt Smith (the 11th Doctor) crashed her boyfriend, Richard Madden’s panel during 2013’s Comic Con. She’s is indeed as adorable as she seems.
Victoria was Britain’s longest-serving monarch until she was recently surpassed by the current queen, Elizabeth II. Victoria’s reign lasted just over 63 years during a time of industrial, cultural, and intellectual growth, and expansion of the global British Empire; for the last 25 years of her reign she was also the Empress of India. Her nine children found marriages with royal spouses throughout the European continent, which gave her strong international ties.
Though Victoria was a popular cultural figure it was the posthumous publication of her diaries that gave an insightful look into the smart ways she exerted her influence. More than the previous generation of monarchs she touted family values and moral self-control, so this series will probably hold up to PBS straight-laced broadcast standards.
Her life was most recently depicted in the 2009 film The Young Victoria, starring Emily Blunt. The character of Queen Victoria has shown up on dozens of TV episodes, including a 2006 Doctor Who ep in which she was played by Pauline Collins.