Bernard Cornwell’s series of Saxon novels is about to hit TV screens as The Last Kingdom. While the BBC2 drama is free of magic and dragons, its medieval world of warlords, castles and brutal battles is already being compared to Game of Thrones, a series whose popularity has arguably paved the way for The Last Kingdom.
Nevertheless, Cornwell is not a fan of the HBO fantasy-drama, calling it “very, very dull” and slamming the perceived use of “naked women” to make it more interesting – something he says his own show won’t resort to.
“So many characters. So many strands,” says the writer in the new issue of Radio Times. “You have to have large sections where the plot is explained; just have to sit there and be told what’s going on. This is very, very dull. So they put a lot of naked women behind it all. They’re called ‘sexplanations’ in the trade. My programmes won’t need sexplanations.”
It’s an opinion that will resonate with some, but far from all. Game of Thrones has certainly been accused of the gratuitous use of sexual scenes – in particular those that include violence against women – but it is also hugely popular, critically acclaimed and the recent winner of an incredible 12 Emmy awards.
Cornwell can claim a similar degree of success himself, having sold a staggering 20 million copies of his historical novels. They include the Sharpe stories, which were turned into an ITV series starring Sean Bean – who coincidentally went on to play ill-fated Game of Thrones patriarch Ned Stark.
The Last Kingdom draws loosely on Cornwell’s own ancestry, which he can trace back to the 6th century kings of northern England. The series follows a Saxon boy – the son of Matthew Macfadyen’s Northumbrian king Uhtred – who is captured by Vikings led by Rutger Hauer’s Ravn and sets his sights on reclaiming his father’s lands.
The series begins on BBC2 on Thursday 22nd October.
Read the full interview with Bernard Cornwell in the new issue of Radio Times, on sale from Tuesday