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Warrior Queen: reviews

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Mar. 23rd, 1978 | 12:00 am

From: The Stage, 23 March 1978

The other side of the Roman coin
by Hazel Holt

Murder, rape and pillage are not, perhaps, ideal tea-time fare for children, but these were the facts of life in 1st century Britain and Thames’ Warrior Queen (ITV, Monday March 20, 4.45 pm) is very strong on facts.

This reconstruction by Martin Mellett of the life and times of the Iceni queen Boudicca … has tried to give the feeling of life as it was lived and not merely the romantic story of a female freedom fighter.

… the early British huts, the weapons, tools and artefacts and in the contrasting material tokens of Roman civilisation, [were] all carefully researched and meticulously manufactured and set in carefully chosen locations. This, we are entitled to feel … is approximately what Britain looked around 60 AD.

The contrast is well made between the primitive rituals of the Druid-ridden Britons, led by the priest Volthan (a vital performance by Michael Gothard in a fine selection of animal skins) and the suave brutality of the Romans … At the centre of the drama is Sian Phillips as Boudicca … It is a performance of some stature, giving subtleties of interpretation to a script that is intrinsically straightforward.

Warrior Queen makes an interesting contrast to all the Roman-oriented drama we have been seeing lately, giving us a chance to see the other side of the coin, the less acceptable face of the Pax Romanus.


Greg Jameson on Entertainment Focus

Warrior Queen is shot almost entirely on location, which benefits the production in providing a sense of realism and space … Especially commendable is the innovative use of still photography to depict battle scenes – though they should have gone the whole hog as the choreographed fight sequences are woefully unconvincing.

Interestingly, there’s plenty of blood and direct violence that ends up on screen, including a Druid sacrifice of a bird. Burnt skulls and nightmarish sequences suggest Warrior Queen was aimed at an adult audience.

… The costumes for the tribe of Iceni and the druid Volthan (the late Michael Gothard, probably best remembered as a sidekick baddie in the Bond movie For Your Eyes Only) make a good fist at historical accuracy, though they are predictably far too clean …

In visuals and performances, Warrior Queen is very close to open-air theatre, and completely alien to any drama that may appear contemporarily on the airwaves. Whilst it may not be slick and entirely convincing, Warrior Queen nevertheless unravels a good yarn over two and a half hours of television without patronising the viewer, and assuming a basic working knowledge of Roman history …

The overall verdict is that Warrior Queen is a solid if slightly overambitious serial. What it loses in production values it makes up for in the stellar cast. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable curiosity from the late 1970s, and a decent if flawed stab at bringing a Roman historical drama to the screen.

Full review.


Movie Mail

A spectacular six-part series that brings to life the valiant yet doomed attempt by Boudicca, the widowed Queen of the Iceni tribe of East Anglia, to wrest power from the Romans in first-century Britain. Produced by Ruth Boswell (Timeslip, Tightrope, Shadows), Warrior Queen stars Siân Phillips as the fearless Celtic queen, Nigel Hawthorne as Catus Decianus, the rapacious Roman Procurator, and Michael Gothard as Druid priest Volthan.

Full review.

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