Sky is going all out to conjure up a new fantasy hero for our times with its big-budget Christmas Day offering. Scheduled at exactly the same time as Doctor Who on BBC1, The Last Dragonslayer is quite the statement of intent.
Capitalising on the recent fad for scaly firebreathers (The Hobbit, How to Train Your Dragon, Game of Thrones…), this feature-length drama is an adaptation of Jasper Fforde’s book, the first in a series for young adults (there have been three so far; a fourth is planned for 2017).
Sky commissioning editor Cameron Roach says, “Hot on the heels of the success of Fungus the Bogeyman we’re incredibly excited to commission another Christmas drama event for Sky1.
“The Last Dragonslayer holds all of the ingredients for the perfect seasonal treat for the entire family; wizards, dragons, a kick-ass heroine and the perfect magical cast.”
Executive producer Pete Czernin adds: “Adapting Jasper Fforde’s madcap world and unique characters, screenwriter Tom Edge has forged an exciting, fast-paced family adventure that is both compelling, endearing and emotional.”
The heroine in question is orphan Jennifer Strange, who is destined to become the fabled beastmaster of the title.
Topically for our pre-Brexit times, it’s set in the Ununited Kingdom, where magic has lost its power. But will kind and gentle Jennifer Strange (played charmingly by Ellise Chappell) accept her new role?
With its alternate world of magic and mythical creatures I did initially think of Harry Potter (look out for a real Rita Skeeter character), but The Last Dragonslayer is played largely for laughs, and the atmosphere conjured up is more akin to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.
It’s a sparkly, gently satirical family fantasy, which really takes flight when Jennifer confronts her nemesis (Richard E Grant getting in on the action after Benedict Cumberbatch’s triumphant Smaug in the Hobbit films) – the effects are tremendous.
Grown-ups will enjoy spotting the famous faces – including Matt Berry as a covetous king and Anna Chancellor as the hissable president of the world’s biggest conglomerate. This is where fantasy meets pantomime… welcome to fantomime!
The Last Dragonslayer is on Sky1 at 5:45pm on Christmas Day