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8:07pm on Friday, 15th June, 2012:

Eagles Fallen


I finally finished watching the boxed set of the 1974 TV series Fall of Eagles I started watching in October last year. I put it on hiatus while I was playing SW:TOR, but I was keen to get back to it. I watched the last episode today, followed by interviews with one of the directors and two of the main cast members (Charles Kay, who played Tsar Nicholas II, and Gayle Hunnicut, who played his wife the Empress Alexandra). The other main cast members and directors were dead.

I really enjoyed the series. It was a lot more historically dense than today's TV, and it assumed an educated viewer. A modern programme showing the same historical period would have had a death-of-Rasputin scene and a murder-of-the-Tsar scene, but these were merely mentioned in voice-over. After all, everyone knows what happened to Rasputin and the Tsar's family. I was really impressed by this approach. The first episode about Lenin (there was a second one later) was particularly well done: it really got across the man's ends-justifies-the-means, over-focused vision. Very scary. I wasn't looking forward to the episode because I thought it would be rather too complimentary, but it was pretty objective. My facourite episode was one set in Russia following the assassination of Grand Duke Sergei, which was very good at conveying the atmosphere of the times. The main character in it, Pyotr Rachkovsky, had an almosy Maigret air to him. Typically of the series, he died in a voice-over at the end of the episode.

My favourite character was Kaiser Wilhelm II, played superbly by Barry Foster. All the leading actors read up on their characters in great detail, and there's every reason to believe that Foster's interpretation of the man's personality is close to the actuality. He's very likeable.

I wish they made TV series like this today, but they don't. Worse, if they did, I wouldn't ever get to hear about them.

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Copyright © 2012 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).