Life after Capaldi for The Musketeers

The Musketeers

When Peter Capaldi was unveiled as the 12th Time Lord, it left something of a hole in 17th-century France.

As the new Doctor Who, the actor will not be able to reprise his role as the villainous Cardinal Richelieu in BBC One's high-octane The Musketeers, should, as expected, a second series be commissioned.

Capaldi (The Hour, The Thick of It) has spent much of this year in Prague filming the 10-part adventure romp - inspired by Alexandre Dumas' novel The Three Musketeers - which is due to be broadcast in early 2014.

But its lead writer and executive producer Adrian Hodges still had no idea his big-name baddie was about to enter the Tardis.

'I was rubbishing it up until the last second,' he revealed, during a BBC Production Creativity Festival session in London this week.

However, with the drama's other stars - Tom Burke (Athos), Santiago Cabrera (Aramis), Howard Charles (Porthos) and Luke Pasqualino (D'Artagnan) - contracted for the long run, Hodges and BBC exec producer Jessica Pope are beginning to see past their initial gloom.

Start Quote

It does allow us to recalibrate. If you have a regular baddie they often weaken as you go on because the heroes always win.”

End Quote Jessica Pope Executive Producer, The Musketeers
'Blessing in disguise?'

'It does allow us to recalibrate,' reasoned Pope. 'If you have a regular baddie, they often weaken as you go on because the heroes always win.'

Hodges, too, was ready to embrace a 'different villain and a different vibe'.

'Would we have chosen to lose [Capaldi]? No, of course we wouldn't,' he admitted. 'Is it a blessing in disguise? Perhaps, we'll have to wait and see.'

The Musketeers - which started out some years ago as an in-house development - is an attempt to recreate the adventure genre for adults while remaining accessible to the whole family.

'It's not a Merlin or Atlantis,' insisted Hodges, creator of ITV1's Primeval. 'It has adult themes and a realistic basis.'

No Game of Thrones

There's violence, including a hanging and a burning, and sex. 'It's stuffed with sex,' Hodges concurred, 'but obviously not explicitly so. It's not Game of Thrones… we're not dragging you into the bedroom and rubbing your nose in it.'

It's packed with fun and adventure, but retains a degree of resonance and sophistication, he argued.

Start Quote

If you go too far, too slapstick, nothing matters. You don't care about the characters.”

End Quote Adrian Hodges Lead Writer and Executive Producer

'If you go too far, too slapstick, nothing matters,' said Hodges, who featured a D'Artagnan in drag in one early - and rejected - draft. 'You don't care about the characters.'

The writer - who penned four of the 10 scripts - has endeavoured to stay faithful to French history under the watchful eye of the programme's historical advisor, but admitted that 'whenever it gets in the way of a good story we kind of elbow it aside.'

While marking out 'fresh territory', The Musketeers remains a familiar brand to audiences around the world who have embraced numerous screen versions of the Dumas book.

When you're making so many episodes, this can be a 'comfort blanket', said Pope, knowing that people like the premise.

It should also offer reassurance to BBC Worldwide, which put up the lion's share of the funding, and have worked on the series as genuine co-producers.

They discussed everything from casting to tone, said Pope.

'It just seemed to be a natural, collaborative thing.'

The Musketeers, BBC One, early 2014

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