Kings and Queens (2002)

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Released 6-Jan-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 280:17 (Case: 276)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Marion Milne

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Nigel Spivey
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $39.95 Music James McConnel

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The twelve short episodes in this 2002 BBC series each detail the reign and impact of a different English monarch, from William the Conqueror to the present Queen. The series combines a direct-to-camera narration with mute re-enactments with actors and on-location filming. In fact, seeing the actual castles and buildings (ruined and otherwise) and the sites of battles in England, Scotland, France and the USA was one of the fascinating highlights of these programmes.

    I found myself enjoying this series immensely despite reservations over the abbreviated running time and the now clichéd use of grainy re-enactments. Perhaps that is due to the enthusiastic but not overdone presentation by Cambridge University historian Dr Nigel Spivey. His droll deadpan delivery is just right for the intelligently-written script, and each of these episodes holds some fascination. It is also good that there is just one speaker, and that he delivers direct to camera rather than looking at some invisible interviewer as in other recent documentaries I have seen. It makes the material more immediate, especially given his enthusiasm for the material.

    The only other unhappy note is that most of the good stories have been told, so there seems to be no prospect of a follow-up series. The individual episodes are as follows:

William the Conqueror 1066-1087 (23:21)

    This episode tells the story of Guillaime from his birth in Normandy, through his selection and then rejection as heir by Edward the Confessor and his subsequent invasion of England and defeat of Harold at Hastings in 1066. Much of this is seen through the Bayeux Tapestry.

Henry the Second 1154-1189 (23:22)

    Henry's marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine and his problems with Thomas A'Becket are detailed in this episode. There is little about his sons, who included Richard I and John.

Edward the First 1272-1307 (23:27)

    Well, if you've seen Braveheart you have seen Edward Longshanks as he was known, portrayed as an evil git by Patrick McGoohan. And that seems to be pretty much how he would have been seen by the Scots. Here we see his efforts to bring the Welsh and then the Scots under heel.

Henry the Fifth 1413-1422 (23:05)

    Henry conquered much of France after his victory at the battle of Agincourt. Like certain current world leaders, he was convinced that God was on his side despite a bad haircut.

Richard the Third 1483-1485 (23:22)

    Though not the hunchback that Shakespeare portrayed him as, Richard was determined to win the crown by fair means or foul. He seems to have been a competent ruler but his legitimacy was questioned, and he was betrayed on the battlefield.

Henry the Eighth 1509-1547 (23:22)

    Legend has it that Henry was an obese glutton with little regard for the Catholic Church, but it seems the bit about the Church was wrong. And the young Henry was a fine figure of a man. This episode dwells on his marriages and his battles with the Roman Church.

Elizabeth the First 1558-1603 (23:22)

    Although a woman and a virgin, Elizabeth was more of a man than most men, and was feared across Europe. I keep picturing her as Katharine Hepburn. This episode covers most aspects of her life.

Charles the First 1625-1649 (23:23)

    The only King of England to have been relieved of his head. Charles thought he had a divine right to rule, but his conflicts with Parliament led to civil war.

Charles the Second 1660-1685 (23:27)

    Charles II seems to have been addicted to sex. This caused him grief when he became King of Presbyterian Scotland. But eventually he reclaimed the throne of England. And Nell Gwynn.

George the Third 1760-1820 (23:25)

    Mad King George was at times the most popular and at others the most unpopular monarch. During his 60-year reign he went mad and recovered several times, lost the American colonies and fathered 15 children.

Victoria 1837-1901 (23:24)

    A lot of this episode deals with Victoria's depression after the death of her husband Albert, and the attempts by the Government to snap her out of it.

Elizabeth the Second 1952-present (23:17)

    The main thrust of this episode is the changing relationship of the Royal Family with the media, and concentrates on the present monarch's gaffes.

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Transfer Quality


    The series is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a quite sharp and clear transfer, with a good level of detail visible, probably very close in quality to the original digital television broadcast. Contrast levels are mostly satisfactory, although when shadows appear there is very little of the way of detail in them.

    Colour is also good, with most primary colours being vivid and lifelike. Flesh tones are well rendered. Black levels are not so good, with blacks often seeming dark blue in colour.

    There are no film artefacts, but there are some problems in the transfer. Firstly, aliasing is often visible on straight edges. Occasionally diagonal edges show jaggedness. The effect is mild when it appears but it is noticeable, and may be annoying on large displays. There is also a great deal of digital noise. Gibb effect is often present, and pixelization is visible throughout to some extent.

    It should also be noted that the makers of this series have decided to make the re-enactment scenes much grainer than the rest of the footage. Sometimes this looks almost laughable, with big blocks of noise visible.

    Optional subtitles are provided in small white font. There is a good match to the dialogue and the subtitles are well presented, though on smaller displays they may be difficult to read.

    Both discs are dual layered but each episode is wholly contained on one layer, so there is no layer break unless you select the Play All option.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The sole audio track is English Dolby Digital 2.0 without surround encoding.

    This is a good audio track. Dialogue is very clear and distinct, and I had no trouble understanding any of it. The sound is satisfactory without being exceptional, and there is nothing to distract the viewer from the content of the programme.

    The music is by James McConnel and is used with restraint, to fill in the gaps rather than to overwhelm the material.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio

    Some of the theme music from the series is heard when the static menu is displayed.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The UK Region 2 release seems to be identical in content. There does not appear to be a Region 1 equivalent at the time of writing.


    An interesting series and a good introduction to British history.

    The video quality has some minor problems.

    The audio quality is good.

    No extras of any significance.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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