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.
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.