Saturday, 23 January 2016

Period Drama Challenge - Banished, A Review


Here is my first review for the Period Drama Challenge with Miss Laurie at Old Fashioned Charm.

I am reviewing an 7 part drama series called Banished. It is set in 1788 at the first settlement of Australia.
The First Fleet consisted of approximately 1,000 convicts and 350 free men and women. After landing, they needed to establish shelter, food beyond the stores they had brought with them and some semblance of an ordered society to ensure the safety of all. Imagine Survivor but in long dresses!

I must admit to not being overly impressed with the three main characters.

Not with their acting but with the actual character portrayal. These three were convicts and much as I know that Governor Phillip was very understanding (considered lax by some of the soldiers) with the convicts, it seems that these three had the run of the place and could pretty much do what they liked. Pardoned from hangings, pardoned from beating up soldiers - the main convict character seemed to me to just be a bully - and got away with it.
I think it possibly has to do with the love of the underdog. Australians particularly seem to want to venerate the supposedly downtrodden victims at the expense of the lawmakers and keepers. Everyone wants to have a convict ancestor, not so keen on having a redcoat! It seems to have been taken too far in this series and makes the actions of the convicts and the soldiers supposedly guarding them seem unrealistic, although I guess as the soldiers were outnumbered by convicts 3:1, they would be careful about provoking them. And it was noted by Governor Phillip that the soldiers were often 'reluctant' to undertake their duties.

Of much more interest to me in this series were the secondary stories - the fact that the blacksmith was a 'protected' convict as his role was so vital to the fledgling colony; the back story of the 'use' of women convicts by the soldiers and the ballot system that existed (and was sanctioned by Governor Phillip) to share them among the soldiers; the Reverend and his wife.

I must admit though to thinking that, for a colony that was at starvation point and down to very strict rations, everyone seemed very well-fed and very clean!

A highlight of the series for me was David Wenham's portrayal of Governor Arthur Phillip. Fabulous actor - the TV series Seachange is one of my all time favourites.

Phillip had an enormous task ahead of him when he arrived in Australia, particularly as the new penal colony was largely abandoned by the mother country of England and left to struggle on by itself. Communications from England were sporadic and vague and Phillip had to assume total control of the colony. Luckily for his fellow First Fleeters, Phillip was a fair, calm and methodical leader, who saw from the beginning that Australia could be more than just a prison dumping ground.

Percival Serle wrote of Phillip in his Dictionary of Australian Biography:
Steadfast in mind, modest, without self seeking, Phillip had imagination enough to conceive what the settlement might become, and the common sense to realize what at the moment was possible and expedient. When almost everyone was complaining he never himself complained, when all feared disaster he could still hopefully go on with his work. He was sent out to found a convict settlement, he laid the foundations of a great dominion.

 Also watch out for this wonderful actor, Ryan Corr, and the story of his soldier character and the convict woman he loves. Very sad.

Ryan Corr is a fantastic actor and will appear in a later review in The Water Diviner. He also starred in a TV series I loved called Love Child (but I cannot feature it here as it is set in 1969!)

Overall, I would say Banished is worth watching, but it just did not seem wholly believable to me.


  1. I suppose I shouldn't be shocked that the female convicts were put up for auction like that, but still, it's rather sickening. What a terrible lifestyle.

    Although with David Wenham in the series, I may give Banished a try. I do admire his acting chops . . . the man is so talented. And it doesn't hurt that he's quite good-looking!

    Great review, and very honest! I love it when viewers enjoy something, but still look at it and go "meh, it was good, but this and that didn't quite work." Great job, Jayne!

    1. I know - even studying Australian history, I had never heard that it was an officially sanctioned practice.
      David Wenham - amazing! He has done some great local TV series as well. I just love his voice too - could listen to him all day!
      I think your quote above exactly described how I felt about Banished. Mind you, I did sit down and watch it all in two nights!

    2. You did better watching Banished that I'm doing finishing Jamaica Inn. It's a bit long-winded and, well, boring. So sad. Oh well, I still have 1 episode to go. My opinion my change!

    3. Will look forward to reading your review then! Hope the last episode redeems it for you.

  2. Where did you watch this? Is it avalible online or did you buy it on DVD?

    1. I borrowed it from my local library on DVD. There seem to be a few places you can view it online, but I never watch online so I can't say if they are good sites.

  3. Great review!! I definitely believe that having likable lead characters is so important to a show - and also a believable story, lol. I liked how you touched upon Governor Philip also. I don't really know much Australian history so this miniseries does intrigue me. :D

    1. It was interesting. Even for someone who studied Australian History, I learnt a few things that I feel like researching more now.