leave a comment --Robert Pardi
This capital entry in A&E's Horatio Hornblower series recaptures the excitement of the original mini-series, which won an Emmy in 1999. The time is the early 1800s: Horatio Hornblower (Ioan Gruffud) receives his commission to serve under Captain Sawyer (David Warner) on the ship Renown, a mariner's dream come true. But war hero Sawyer suffers paranoid delusions that are scarcely masked by the laudanum administered to him by Dr. Clive (David Rintoul), his ship's physician of fifteen years. Horatio's doubts about Sawyer's fitness for service escalate after the Captain countermands Horatio's order to cut sail, and flogs an innocent young sailor named Welland (Terence Corrigan). By the time Second Lieutenant Bush (Paul McGann) comes aboard, Sawyer has won over a number of sympathetic seamen with liquor. Instead of focusing on their Napoleonic War enemy, the crew of this Royal Navy craft is embroiled in petty disputes. Although Horatio forestalls disaster by scaring away two French vessels, Sawyer smells conspiracy everywhere. Meanwhile, Petty Officer Hobbs (Philip Glenister) so resents Horatio's expertise that he feeds Sawyer's suspicions and seizes upon opportunities to undermine Horatio. Insurrection is imminent after Sawyer threatens to cane Welland again and assigns Horatio to a 36-hour-straight watch. Horatio, Bush and fellow fellow officers Kennedy (Jamie Bamber) and Buckland (Nicholas Jones) consider their options while Dr. Clive vacillates should he declare Sawyer incompetent, or remains loyal to his commanding officer? Then Sawyer takes a tumble into the hold while scouring the ship for mutineers: Who will suffer as a result of this alleged attempt on Captain Sawyer's life? Drawn from C. S. Forester's classic novels, this seaworthy saga plunges viewers into the claustrophobic existence of 19th-century midshipmen. The comparison to 21st-century office politics is irresistible: Incompetent middle management (Captain Buckland) coupled with over-the-hill leadership (Captain Sawyer) transforms a successful enterprise into a wreck waiting to happen.