Penelope Taberner finds herself back in Tudor times – embroiled in the Babington Plot…
The Babington Plot – one of the many and various ways in which Mary Queen of Scots was meant to be released from captivity and placed on the throne of England following the assassination of Elizabeth I – is one of those corners of history that is probably only vaguely remembered by most people from lessons at school, but it was important because it was Mary’s ill-advised letters to the conspirators that led to her trial and execution. Alison Uttley’s novel about the plot was first published in 1939, and at times reads like a (very child-friendly) version of Outlander!
The 1978 five-part adaptation for the BBC starred Sophie Thompson (now perhaps best known as Phil Mitchell’s child-abusing lover on EastEnders) as the young Penelope, whose visit to elderly relatives in the country leads to a trip back to 1586, and an attempt to change the course of history. It’s not got the appeal of Moondial, and does often feel as if it’s more of a BBC Schools series with the educational historical element to the fore much of the time, but there are a number of enjoyable moments.
If you remember the series from its original broadcast, you’ll probably get more out of this than most – coming to it fresh, it feels as if 90 minutes’ worth of story has been extended over the five episodes, but all power to Simply Media for rescuing another “lost” genre tale from the vaults.
Verdict: An intriguing, if talky, trip back to an often-forgotten piece of history. 6/10