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“To the Ends of the Earth” (M)

January 15, 2012

This month, I had the good fortune of happening across a remarkable BBC miniseries entitled “To the Ends of the Earth”.

The series is based on a trilogy of novels by William Golding, who is the author responsible for Lord of the Flies.  Its high production value, the stupendous acting, and the themes explored within the story all impressed me to no end, and I decided that this blog would be an appropriate arena for a review.

The mini-series chronicles the journey of a war-turned-passenger ship from England to Australia in 1812, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars.  The protagonist is Edmund Talbot, a young nobleman with considerable influence, who chronicles the events of the ship in a diary.  Although many significant events are happening around the world at the time the story takes place, the plot is almost entirely concerned with the relationships and dynamics between the ship’s passengers, and the (often very complicated) outcomes of these relationships.

Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Atonement, Stuart: A Life Backwards) does a ridiculously good job of playing the presumptuous, arrogant, yet somehow likeable Edmund.  Jared Harris (Mad Men, Two of Us) and Sam Neill (Jurassic Park, Dean Spanley) also give amazing performances as the ship’s captain and Mr. Prettiman, respectively.

In terms of themes, the idea of community, and the responsibility one has to community, is thoroughly explored within this work.  Through understanding how his actions have affected his fellow passengers, Edmund learns much about himself, and questions previous assumptions about his upbringing.  A remarkable thing about the mini-series is that, ultimately, it does not provide any clear answers.  There is no clear moral to “To the Ends of the Earth”, beyond what the viewer chooses to tease out.

The series is, unfortunately, not very well-known, and therefore not the most accessible thing to watch.  However, if you happen across it, I would highly recommend sacrificing 3 hours to watch it, both for the thought-provoking subject matter, and the eye-candy ships and period costume.  Enjoy!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0435995/

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