First thing I want to say- how wonderful it is to have a populist show which is (thus far at least) stocked mostly with people of colour! What a refreshing change! It’s not a preachy, worthy, story, it’s just a simple escapist tale made all the more interesting for the ethnic diversity on show. Whilst the central character of Sinbad is firmly Arabic it could have been easy for the producers to whitewash the surrounding characters with lazy casting. Instead they’ve taken a punt on PoC with few prior credits between them, all of whom hold their own, and the show is better for it. It feels like the new normal, long may it continue!
From the outset I can say this show looks pretty good. Elliot Knight, in his first ever role, appears to have landed square on his feet and comes across as someone who has been at this acting lark for a while. Not awards-worthy yet, but pretty seamless nonetheless. Shame Naveen Andrews couldn’t have done the same- overacting in his few scenes, he’s the shouty bad man of the piece. Thank goodness he wont be around all the time.
Pacing is an issue for this episode. No doubt there is much exposition and character development to pull together but at times it did feel like an episode of Dr Who with a bad case of ‘running through corridors’. Too much back and forth. And a little pruning of the script wouldn’t have gone astray- did we really need a scene where someone we don’t yet care about is in danger of drowning due to a trapped foot? Zero tension or character exposition in those moments. Should have saved that for the backend guys!
Hopefully future episodes will be a little more streamlined as the story settles in.
There also appears to be something of a tonal flaw. One minute Sinbad is up to family-friendly shenanigans, the next he is in prison watching his brother get his throat cut, in some detail. Too much detail. I think it would have been enough for the brother to have died off-screen and seen Sinbad’s anguish at witnessing the event. The story would still be served and the little kiddies watching can keep being kids another day longer.
The special effects are of the Merlin/Dr Who/Primeval variety- your mileage may vary. I thought the water demons were served quite well but the wide-shots of the boat adrift in the storm were a little lacking. Don’t be cheap on the establishing shots SKY1, you can always re-use them! Water being one of the hardest things to animate hopefully means we can only expect a rise in quality on less difficult subjects. The cityscapes of ancient Basra (the show is filmed in Malta) looked beautiful but a few sneaky shots appear to have dropped in from Gladiator, not sure about the legitimacy of Roman architecture in ancient Iraq (but maybe it’s just a Maltese moment, idk)!
Despite all these complaints I stand by my initial assessment- Sinbad is worth a watch. Its got a certain charisma, some pizzazz, to it! And there’s just something about the golden sunlight that infuses every scene that makes me want to tune in again- the whole story looks like it’s wrapped up in Ferrero!
Score: 3.5 Rochers out of 5