Plot: Victoria (Jenna Coleman) is just eighteen years old, but she is about to assume a position of immense power and influence. She is now Queen Victoria, ruler of the most powerful kingdom in the world and while she is brash, she also feels a dedication to her people and position. As she settles into the throne, she faces some incredible challenges and trials, but also a lot of the same issues as other young women her age. This means finding a suitable spouse, planning a family, and navigating social circles, though all of these are more stressful when you govern over an entire nation. As she tries to balance all of her duties as ruler and her own personal issues, including some family drama, can she become a Queen her public will be proud of?
Entertainment Value: While some period dramas lean on the more visceral side of life in a different era, with rampant violence and sex, Victoria takes a more grounded and complex approach. The show draws on all kinds of historical sources, including the personal diaries of Victoria herself, to paint a unique and vivid look into the early years of this incredible ruler. This first season covers about three years of her tenure, which take place as she assumes power and learns to govern, as well as pursues her own personal interests. I loved all the subtle social and political machinations in motion here, as it is such a different take on these endeavors and really allows the characters and dialogue to shine. I think anyone who appreciates the delicate arts of persuasion, manipulation, and intimidation will find a lot to like here, as the social/political dance is a prominent element of the show. This includes the realm of romance, another area in which Victoria really shines.
As the show is character driven, it depends a lot on the cast and this is a large, talented ensemble. Jenna Coleman has the lead and she is fantastic, in a role that had to be a tough one, given the inexperience and impulsiveness of Victoria at the time these episodes unfold. She is able to convey the naive viewpoint of a girl her age, but also a certain charm and strength, so it is nice to have Victoria shown as a real person, not an unshakable monarch. Tom Hughes also turns in some terrific work, but the cast is deep and remarkable even beyond the leads. Also around are Rufus Sewell, Margaret Clunie, Peter Bowles, Samantha Colley, Nell Hudson, Daniela Holtz, David Bamber, Eve Myles, and even more. I also wanted to mention the lavish production design, which captures the visuals and feel of the era so well. This is a beautiful series thanks to the elegant costumes, gorgeous set design, and attention to detail in all of the period related elements of the show. If you appreciate period dramas, Victoria’s first season has a lot to offer and sets the stage for even more.