Note the back scabbard. Also the inauthentic two-handed grip on the sword.
Someone on Facebook told me The Last Kingdom, the BBC TV adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s series of novels about the days of Alfred the Great, was really good. So I watched one episode. Then someone else on Facebook said that it was all right, but Cornwell’s antipathy toward the Christian church was implicit throughout. So I decided I wouldn’t watch any more.
But that won’t stop me reviewing what I saw.
First of all, it seemed to me superior, from a historical perspective, to the execrable Vikings series on the History Channel. Cornwell is a serious historical novelist, and so the story bears some recognizable resemblance to real events and conditions. The picture of the Danes in England follows reality to an extent.
I was mostly troubled by the design of the production – the kind of muddy look that is so characteristic of the Vikings series. Everybody dresses dull, in browns and grays. In fact, the Vikings (as well as the Anglo-Saxons) loved bright colors, and chose them whenever they could afford them.
And the armor. Mostly leather armor, and helmets that seem inspired by real Viking stuff, but are oddly… vestigial. As if manufactured for Wal Mart. Where are the bright corselets, the gilded shields, the boar-crested helms of Beowulf (a roughly contemporary poem)?
And back scabbards. I am so sick of back scabbards. The Vikings didn’t use them, the English didn’t use them. The only way to make a back scabbard work is to strap it real tight, so it doesn’t shift around, and that will chafe you very efficiently after a few hours’ march, believe you me.
The Danes’ hall wasn’t bad, except for the upper gallery, which has no archaeological warrant. But I could forgive that, I guess.
Still, all and all, The Last Kingdom wasn’t appealing enough to persuade me to endure the ecclesiophobia of the overall production.