WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHERE?: Netflix from 15/11/20
There can be few women more associated with the 80s than Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher – they are so iconic that it was always going to be difficult to know how one of the most popular series on TV would cope with their arrival.
- Read on for reasons including how Emma Corrin and Gillian Anderson do in the Diana and Margaret roles
In our view series 4 of Netflix’s The Crown is the best yet and that’s a high bar to clear for a franchise which saw its 3rd 10-episode outing in 2019 bag 2 Emmys and a Golden Globe.
Season 4 opens in 1979 with Margaret Thatcher’s 1st election victory and debut episode Gold Stick features the IRA threat and a letter from the grave which can’t help but bring Prince Charles (if anyone ever doubted the acting ability of Josh O’Connor, this series is further proof of how he is becoming 1 of this country’s finest actors) and Diana closer.
The season’s funniest episode is its 2nd, The Balmoral Test, in which both Thatcher and Diana are invited to the royal family’s Scottish castle home as their hosts mull over what they are made of.
The differences, not least in class, between Thatcher and the Queen become clear when the former wonders what she is doing wasting time which could be spent working to transform the country while the latter is busily smoothing over the prime minister’s unease with an outdoor life.
If we have a problem with this season it is that the reason why Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles cannot be together is often referred to but never feels well explored.
It’s a slight misstep in a series which encompasses the Falklands War, Michael Fagan’s intrusion into the Queen’s bedroom and Diana’s triumphant 1983 tour of Australia which leaves Charles upstaged and upset.
The clash between the Queen and Thatcher is the best thing about this series which points to what the women have in common, not least their age, but also highlights how far apart they were.
It’s a showdown which brings out the worst in the 2 men by the women’s sides. Prince Philip observes: ‘The last thing this country needs is two women running the shop.’ While Denis Thatcher says: ‘Two menopausal women? That’ll be a smooth ride.’
The acting is often what elevates The Crown above the historical inaccuracies of the writing which are clearly embellished to enhance the drama. Tobias Menzies is extraordinarily moving as Philip in episode 1 when revealing his jealousy at being supplanted in Lord Mountbatten’s affections by Charles.
There’s huge strength in depth in the supporting cast and Erin Doherty as Anne is just spot-on and so different to when we saw her on the stage in Chichester recently.
Emma Corrin as Diana has the advantage of being relatively unknown and her transformation from fresh-faced innocent to a woman trapped in a marriage with unenviable baggage is well-judged. The scene where she is rollerskating the corridors of Buckingham Palace listening to Duran Duran on her Walkman couldn’t be more emblematic of her loneliness.
Colman and Bonham Carter are always good but it is Anderson who is the revelation doing enough to physically resemble Thatcher with a tilted head and deep voice but giving us so much more than caricature who is the triumph.
Ironically, Thatcher’s differences with the Queen signify the end of those around her in her Cabinet who she comes to regard as part of the furniture of the past.
This is the 1st season of The Crown in which we feel as though we’ve truly lived through the events it dramatises and perhaps that’s part of why we’ve fallen so head over heels in love with it. The must-see show of the moment.