“Are you running to, or from, something?”
I’ve never been to the cinema to watch a TV programme before but there’s always a first time for everything and last Sunday we found ourselves in the midst of hordes of children during a family film funday to preview the new Sky 1 series Sinbad. The most expensive show Sky have ever commissioned in the UK, it was filmed over 9 months in Malta and marks a determined attempt to capture the family-friendly Dr Who/Merlin market from Impossible Pictures, who also produced Primeval.
As you may have deduced from the pictures, my motives were not entirely artistic, as the show also marks the return of one of my favourite actors, Elliot Cowan, to the screen (plus introduces another nice-looking gentleman called Elliot into the bargain). And as I don’t have Sky and will have to wait for the DVDs to come out at the end of the 12 episode run, this seemed like too good an opportunity to miss to catch the first episode and attend the subsequent Q&A session.
First things first, the show looks pretty darn fantastic on the evidence of the first episode at least. The show has reinvented Sinbad as a young man, rattling against the walls in his home city of Basra when an unfortunate turn of events makes a deadly enemy out of the ruling Emir’s brother. When tragedy then strikes, he is forced to flee the city and finds escape on the ship Providence where many an adventure lies in wait as he absorbs the repercussions of his actions with a motley crew of survivors, including Cowan’s rugged Viking Gunnar, Junix Inocian as a comedy chef, Estella Daniels as a mysterious princess and Marama Corlett as a chirpy urchin type.
Production values are sparkling, there’s a cinematic sweep to it in Colin Teague’s direction (and not just because I was watching on a big screen) and the Basra scenes looked suitably epic, especially during a parkour-inspired chase. But the show also looks good on the water and the special effects team have obviously worked hard on creating something that looks natural as well as impressive, but have equally let their imaginations run riot with a fearsome string of monsters to look forward to throughout the series. And the writing, by Jack Lothian for this episode, balanced comedy and mysticism quite well considering the amount of set-up it had to achieve as well.
Elliot Knight, fresh out of drama school in his debut role, seems set to become a winningly charming lead as the well-meaning Sinbad, Dimitri Leonidas as the inexperienced ship’s doctor promises much, and I look forward to how the devious Lord Akbari and Taryn, Naveen Andrews and Orla Brady, decide to wreak their revenge on Sinbad as I do love a good baddie. The quality of the guest roles is indicated from the off by Janet Suzman’s brief but effective appearance here, Sophie Okenedo looked fierce in the trailer for next week and we’ve got Nikki Amula-Bird, Miranda Raison and Dougray Scott to look forward to, along with Evanna Lynch who attended the Q&A sessions despite not being able to say much about her character (who I think is in the last episode). On the other hand, George Harris has been employed again...
So a great beginning for this series and one which I hope is maintained across the run, resulting in a swift release of the DVDs so that I can watch them! And as for the delectable Mr Cowan in all his sun-bleached glory, you will thank the heavens for his opening scene here… ;-)
Photo of Elliott Cowan borrowed, with much appreciative love, from here where there's also a good interview with him.