Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Roman Mysteries: The Colossus of Rhodes (TV adaptation)

It's been a while since I read the book of this one, which is always an advantage when watching adaptations - it allows you to watch and enjoy it without constantly noting every little difference from the book! Some spoilers follow.

This is a really nice adaptation, with some really nice touches of humour. I love the scene where Flavia, Lupus and Jonathan claim to have had dreams that were bad omens, to chase away Captain Geminus' regular crew so that they can go after the slavers. It's very funny, and it also plays on something I discussed a lot in my thesis - the fact that there were people in the ancient world who paid a great deal of attention to dream omens, but the equally important fact that not everyone thought any dream was significant, while some thought only a few dreams were significant. There's also a great moment where the captured children are led in chains to join our heroes, also in chains, and Jonathan explains they've come to rescue them, to which a very small child replies 'Well - thanks.'

Floppy (better known to history as Gaius Valerius Flaccus) is introduced as Flavia's love interest here and you can tell he's going to be her love interest because in his very first appearance he looks snooty and rudely shoves Nubia as he walks past. Mr Darcy has a lot to answer for. His poem is fun, especially Nubia as the 'African Queen' and his snub of Flavia (I bet she's not handsome enough to tempt him to dance either). I don't have my copy of the book with me, but I think this comes more or less directly from it, if memory serves!

The sailing scenes are beautifully shot and remind me a little of the BBC adaptation of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which was really nicely done as well (much better than the more recent film). I can't remember if the storm at sea that provides the cliffhanger between Parts 1 and 2 is in the book or not, but it provides a nice, exciting setpiece. There's also a lovely David and Goliath moment as Lupus faces an apparent giant with a sling-shot.

Lupus is much more uncertain and reluctent to look for his mother here than in the book, which works pretty well. Where books can explain a character's feelings and actions in detail, TV and film have to use facial expressions (especially if the character is quiet or, in this case, mute) and reluctence is easier to show - a similar change was made to Aragorn's motivation in The Lord of the Rings for the films.

The temple of Apollo as shown here looks more like a temple of Isis or a mystery religion, all bricks and closed in with no columns, but architecture isn't really my forte, so it's probably fine. I'm glad the adaptation kept the scene of Lupus' mother singing to him, which was my favourite part of the book. There was an odd moment where one character suggests that 'sometimes Apollo demands death' from those who 'give their life' to him. No he doesn't - only in myth, not in real life. Just because human sacrifice is all cool, TV people, does not mean people actually did it, at least not in Greece and Rome. Still, the character in question was a traitor, so maybe he just didn't know what he was talking about!

A 'North by Northwest' moment (© 2008 LEG)


  1. Thanks for posting this, Juliette. I think this was one of my favourites! :-)

  2. I liked this one a lot, and it's so beautifully filmed! I'm not sure which is my favourite TV story so far - probably The Secrets of Vesuvius actually, because Simon Callow plus volcanoes is awesome! :)

  3. Colossus and Dolphins were my two favorite stories, books and TV, because Lupus is simply wonderful in both of them. His character arc was my favorite of the four kids in the books, and these two books never fail to bring a tear to the eye.


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