The Once and Future King: Review: 5: The Lengthening Shadow

Once 5Radio 4, December 7/13 and on iPlayer

Things start to fall apart as the ideals of Camelot come face to face with the frailties of men…

Once again, there’s plenty to cram into this episode, although adaptor Brian Sibley wisely makes some large excisions (giving Merlyn a suitably wry comment to cover it) and keeps the focus firmly on Arthur and his “family” – Guenever, Lancelot, and of course his bastard son, Mordred. Incidents are taken both from The Ill-Made Knight and The Candle in the Wind, leading to perhaps the best end of episode of the entire adaptation.

Some of the worst secrets are revealed in this episode between the characters – Arthur’s reaction to the news of Morgause’s pregnancy is one of the most shocking moments that White presents in The Once and Future King, and I’m pleased that this wasn’t glossed over in this version. It’s not just those around him who are betraying or who have betrayed the high ideals which Arthur proposes – he himself has committed one of the worst crimes of all and losing it would undermine Arthur’s reasons for his treatment of Morgause’s killer.

Lancelot and Mordred are both far from the physical ideal that knights are often portrayed as, and the radio version ensures that we never are allowed to forget their physical deformities. Nor do we ever lose sight of the complex relationships between the various knights.

Verdict: Cantering towards a conclusion, this is high quality human drama. 9/10

Paul Simpson

Our behind-the-scenes features on The Once and Future King continue later this week.

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