In different hands, a drama about Vikings from the History channel could have been humourless and dull, but The Tudors creator Michael Hirst is the man who made Henry VIII's court as soapy and steamy as a laundry, and with Aussie pants-model-turned-actor Travis Fimmel bringing an irresistible boyish charisma to the central role of Norse hero Ragnar Lothbrok, this engaging mix of family drama, rustic politics and bloody violence quickly turns out to be highly addictive.
Good news, then, for fans of sexy history, as Hirst tells RadioTimes.com that not only is he working on a fourth season that will be longer than the previous ten-part series, but also that the show could run and run.
“I’ve written five episodes [of season four]. We’re going to do more episodes this year, I think we’re doing 16,” says Hirst. “I have a huge hope that we can continue [beyond that].”
The key to the drama's potential longevity is that it’s based on the reasonably well-documented mythology-cum-history of Ragnar and his heirs, which means that **SPOILER ALERT** even after Fimmel’s character meets his demise (in a snake pit at the hands of Northumbrian King Aelle, if the series follows the ancient records) his sons – real historical Viking leaders Ivar the Boneless and Bjorn Ironsides – will be there to pick up the story.
“I always anticipated continuing with Ragnar’s sons because many of them became as famous, if not more famous, than he was,” says Hirst. “There was the rather remarkably named Ivar the Boneless and Ragnar’s elder son [Bjorn] who sailed around the Mediterranean, and then they went to Iceland and Greenland.
“So much happened in the early years of the Vikings it’s incredible, which is why I wanted to start at what was essentially regarded as the beginning of the Viking age.”
The saga of when and where to watch Vikings is as complex as Ragnar’s own adventures. It premieres in the US on History before becoming available to UK viewers on Amazon Prime and finally arriving back on History in this country.
Season two comes to History here from Tuesday 24th March, with the third run currently landing one episode at a time on Amazon and the previous two also available there, as well as on DVD.
Hirst dislikes fantasy drama and isn't keen for his show to be compared with Game of Thrones but if you've never seen Vikings and like the HBO series there's much you'll probably enjoy about Vikings. It's smaller in scale but feels more personal for it, not least because we spend so much time so closely involved with Ragnar, his family and his ridiculously blue eyes. But it shares Thrones' political wrangling and bloody violence as well as the gorgeously shot landscapes of Northern Ireland, where much of Game of Thrones is filmed.
Although Ragnar’s journey – both to foreign lands and up the bloody pole of Viking nobility – is the main focus of the series, the other stand-out character is his wife Lagetha (Katheryn Winnick). A kick-ass warrior mum with the political wisdom to advance on her own in Viking society, she should be the poster girl for strong female characters in TV drama.
Compared with Tudor Britain, 13th century Scandinavia looks pretty feminist. And with leads like Fimmel and Winnick it definitely has something for both the men and the ladies...
Vikings series two begins on History on Tuesday 24th March at 10pm