Since Game of Thrones, the TV adaptation of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, first began four years ago, we’ve seen a slew of similar series hitting screens. Following in the footsteps of the blockbuster HBO effort have been dramas like Vikings, Marco Polo and Black Sails, with even the Doctor Who-inspired time travel romance Outlander owing a debt to the travails of the Westerosi nobility.
Now audiences are getting The Last Kingdom, a new BBC dramatisation of a series of books by Sharpe author Bernard Cornwell. Full of sword n’ shields battling, rival Kings, political intrigue, sex and violence it looks like another in a long line of Thrones knock-offs – but the novelist is having none of it.
“I have read the [A Song of Ice and Fire] books, and I know George vaguely,” Cornwell told RadioTimes.com. “I think it’s terrific really, you can’t quarrel about that thing, it’s great.
“But driving my books is this story of England and its making. I mean, George isn’t held by that, and George can have dragons, and George can have endless naked women doing those… what do they call it? The sexplanations. Sexposition, yes.
“And George is so cavalier with his characters – they die off and then new ones come. You’ve no idea who Jon Snow’s related to… And of course it all works, but you’ve got to have sexposition to tell people it.
“However far we [with The Last Kingdom] wander from that basic story, it’s there somewhere. And sometimes we wander very far from it, when Uhtred’s off doing his thing, and behaving very badly. But someone’s gonna pull him back at some point, and to that main story.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly Alexander Dreymon (who plays Saxon warrior Uhtred in The Last Kingdom) agrees with Cornwell about the emphasis on real history – though he was a bit happier to acknowledge the two series’ crossover appeal.
“I think every new show, or every new anything really, needs to be compared to what’s already out there,” he told us.
“People always wanna say it’s something-esque, and it’s flattering because Game of Thrones is a great show, and I’m a great fan of it. I mean, we are compared to Game of Thrones but the truth is we’re nothing like it. We haven’t got any dragons, you know? It’s historical facts seen through the eyes of a fictional character.
“But it’s still history, and it’s very real. Even the style of shooting is very real – there’s no gloss. You’re just right in there.”
So what do you think – was The Last Kingdom Game of Thrones-lite, or its own historical animal? Vote now…
The Last Kingdom will return to BBC2 next Thursday