Tut, TV review: Incest, intrigue and Sir Ben Kingsley in heavy eyeliner – this is a triumph

Tut is one of Channel 5’s most promising acquisitions since Gotham

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The Independent Culture

If any era is crying out to be the subject of a big, sexy historical drama, along the lines of The Tudors, Rome or Vikings, then clearly it’s Ancient Egypt’s 18th dynasty. Channel 5’s new mini-series Tut, which began on 1 August, has it all: scheming courtiers, incestuous royal marriage and Sir Ben Kingsley in heavy kohl eyeliner.

Avan Jogia stars as Tutankhamun, the boy pharaoh who grows up and seeks a more active role in the governance of his kingdom. Tut transformed himself almost overnight into a competent and wise ruler, after dressing as a commoner and venturing out alone on to the dangerous streets  of Thebes – but would he ever actually  be allowed to rule? His inner circle, including Grand Vizier Ay (Kingsley), General Horemheb (Nonso Anozie) and sister-wife Ankhesenamun (Sibylla Deen), had other ideas.

 

Speaking of sister-wives, Jogia’s pharaoh is much more heroic and handsome that the mutant product of royal family intermarriage we were introduced to in last year’s BBC archeology documentary Tutankhamun: the Truth Uncovered. Fortunately, the large gaps in our knowledge about the day-to-day lives of Ancient Egyptians can easily accommodate some dramatic licence.

Tut isn’t quite as spectacular as the DeMille/Mankiewicz epics of yore, but it still has enough colourful costumes, large-scale battles and exotic harem-set scenes to make it one of Channel 5’s most promising acquisitions since Gotham. It’s only a shame they opted for two, stamina-testing, 125 minute episodes, rather than spreading it out over a more manageable four weeks.

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