Is The Last Kingdom really the new Game of Thrones?
If you’re addicted to all things Lannister and Targaryen, and currently suffering from a severe case of Westeros withdrawl, you probably think “the new Game of Thrones” the highest accolade any TV show could receive.
On the other hand, if you’re someone who never quite got what all the Thrones fuss was about, the phrase is probably enough to have you reaching for the off switch.
Oddly enough, however, the BBC’s new historical drama The Last Kingdom – already dubbed “the British Game of Thrones” after one episode – could appeal to viewers on both sides of the divide.
Based on Bernard Cornwell’s bestselling The Saxon Stories, it’s set in ninth-century Britain, and boasts names such as Alexander Dreymon, Matthew Macfadyen and Rutger Hauer among its cast. It seems to be fairly heavy on the gore and bloodshed, and is set in a pre-Medieval world of Saxons, swords, and battles. So far, so Game of Thrones.
On a superficial level, both series feature a fairly miserable-looking hero with long dark hair, a complex backstory and a thing for big black coats (unlike Kit Harington's Jon Snow, Dreymon's Uhtred sadly doesn't have a wolf).
Both shows also feature tough-as-nails warrior women, and a host of difficult-to-pronounce, slightly ridiculous-sounding names – although most of the unusual monikers featured in The Last Kingdom were admittedly taken from early English history, rather than invented by George RR Martin.
But, in a move that has annoyed fans of Game of Thrones (which was loosely inspired by the Wars of the Roses), Cornwell recently implied that The Last Kingdom is an altogether more serious affair.
"If I was a commissioning editor at the BBC I’d say, 'We want Game of Thrones – boys, let’s have dragons and tits,'" he told the Telegraph. "But as much as I love George's book, it doesn’t have that grounding in reality. Mine continually has to come back to this real story – the making of England."
The Last Kingdom airs on BBC2 at 9pm on Thursday nights.