Netflix enjoyed a massive hit with royal docudrama series ‘The Crown‘ back in 2016. The show was hailed by audiences and critics alike. So it was no surprise when the streaming service announced it was making series based on the true story of last Czar of Russia. If any Royal household could upstage the opulence and splendour of the British monarchy, it was the Romanov dynasty. The family was so wealthy, it's estimated at today's values their fortune would be worth more than $300 billion.
All that wealth gives ample opportunity for the costume department and set designers to shine, and ‘The Last Czars' does not disappoint on that front. Stunning sets and beautiful period costumes help bring this drama to life. Just like ‘The Crown' this series has exceptionally high production values.
Where the two shows differ is their storytelling method. ‘The Crown' does not offer historical analysis on top of the unfolding drama on screen. In ‘The Last Czar' characters and important events are given exposition from historians, authors and experts. While these explanations clarify the relationships and political intricacy of the period, they can interrupt the flow of the drama. Although, without them, it would be impossible to fully understand the complexities of the time period and the political forces at work.
Robert Jack plays Czar Nicholas II, and Susanna Herbert plays Alexandra Feodorovna, the wife of Czar; this German-born princess was a Granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She and Nicholas had five children together, including Alexei, the heir to the Russian throne. Unfortunately, young Alexei was born with Haemophilia and required constant medical attention. When doctors failed to alleviate his suffering, Alexandra turns to a mystic monk with healing powers for help.
Ben Cartwright plays Rasputin, the infamous ‘Mad Monk' who cleverly positions himself at the heart of the Romanov family. Rasputin's relationship with Alexandra becomes the focus of a scandal in Russia high society and sets the scene for the downfall of the monarchy. Ben is excellent as Rasputin, a role which can all too often lend itself to hammy performances. If truth be told, the whole cast does well to avoid the potential clichés in portraying period characters.
The story of the Romanovs' is extraordinary; from tragic personal loss and world-shattering political upheaval to sex scandals and assassination, it has it all. Striking the right balance between history and entertainment is a difficult task. Nevertheless, Netflix has done a great job in bringing this to the small screen. Each of the six episodes are approximately 40 minutes long, making it perfectly bingeable. If you enjoyed ‘The Crown' or other historical dramas such as ‘Rome', then you'll love this too.