The BBC’s new flagship drama Troy starts on Saturday night (February 17) and it’s looking like a big one. Early reviews have made positive comparisons between it and Game of Thrones, while star David Gyasi has promised “visceral” scenes throughout. Blimey. Here’s why Thrones fans should check it out.
— BBC One (@BBCOne) February 11, 2018
1. It’s based on a tried-and-tested, actually legendary story
Troy: Fall of a City is based on Homer’s Iliad, a 3,000-year-old epic poem formed of 24 books. Wait – come back!
The story, which details the siege and fall of the city of Troy, is so legendary and renowned that you’ll find references to it all over western culture, from Christopher Marlowe’s 1604 play Doctor Faustus to Monty Python’s 1975 film The Holy Grail – and to some extent, even the ironic naming of The Simpsons‘ idiotic hero, Homer.
The city of Troy did actually exist, in present-day Turkey, but its fall was dramatised in the Iliad to include the interference of the Greek gods, which leads to personal and political rivalries so strong and full of intrigue that the city’s siege lasts 10 years.
The Iliad is up there with the most significant fictional works of all time, and though it’s been adapted for the screen before – in the most recent, memorable and imperfect instance, Brad Pitt’s 2004 film Troy – this is the first big-budget version for TV in years: reason enough to get excited.
2. It looks epic
The show is a collaboration between the BBC and Netflix, and it looks as though the producers have spared little expense in bringing the grit and glory of antiquity to life. From the below shot, it looks as though the cinematography could be on a par with HBO’s glossy sci-fi/western, Westworld.
3. There’s fantasy, but it’s not annoying
As mentioned above, the legend of Troy is sparked off by the gods’ interference in human affairs – namely The Judgement of Paris, shown in the below scene. Here the king of the gods, Zeus, asks the notoriously fair Paris to settle a dispute on his behalf, by picking which of three goddesses is most beautiful: Aphrodite, Hera or Athena. In this crucial moment he picks Aphrodite, goddess of love, who helps him win the hand of Menelaus’ wife, Helen. Helen later returns with Paris to Troy and sparks the war between Menelaus’ Greece and Troy, under the control of Paris’ father, King Priam. Still with us? In picking Aphrodite, Paris causes such offence to Athena – goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare – that she sides with Menelaus and the other Greeks attacking the Trojans, and ultimately sways the tide in favour of the Greeks.
Throughout the series we’re likely to see these fickle and foible-riddled gods appearing in human form, sometimes revealing their true selves and sometimes in disguise, and when they arrive we’ll see them bestowing favours or setting challenges for our heroes and villains. Because of the established mythology of the Greek gods, it’s far easier to swallow this kind of fantasy than some of the pulpy mumbo-jumbo that makes Game of Thrones off-putting to some: no dragons here.
4. The story already has an end – but there’s an opportunity for second season
Being thousands of years old, this story is complete: there’s no long wait for season 2. Unlike Thrones, fans won’t be kept waiting years for new episodes of this series, and they won’t be wondering whether the author’s version will be different (as with George R.R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter, currently seven years in the making). However, there is a second text by Homer, the Odyssey, which could form a spinoff series.
It tells the fantastical tale of Odysseus’ 10-year journey home from Troy (which itself lasted 10 years). In this story – also 3,000 years old, also 24 books long – Odysseus must use his intellectual prowess to overcome nefarious nymphs, a hungry Cyclops and a journey into the underworld, among other near-impossible tasks. While he spends his time returning to his wife Penelope after 20 long years, she herself is battling off the advances of several aggressive suitors due to her husband’s lengthy absence and presumed death.
5. The story is well known, but it’s not going to be predictable
From what previews have indicated, we can assume several differences from Homer’s story. The most significant is that one of the Princes of Troy, Paris, grows up outside the walls of the city, not realising his royal heritage, whereas in the Iliad, he’s born and raised in Troy. This decision has presumably been made so that viewers are introduced to the world and traditions of Troy through Paris, our ostensible hero (also something of a war-causing idiot). According to Digital Spy, Paris will be portrayed as a “more capable and less naive” character than usual, and that’s just the first difference – we can expect many more.
It’s understood that Paris will compete against his brother Hector in the games at Troy, possibly without even knowing that they are related.
At this point he will discover his heritage and be brought into the family, before meeting Helen, eloping with her, and causing Helen’s evil husband Menelaus to lead the Greeks into war against Troy. From then on, how things go down remain to be seen – but things look very promising.