Sky has shared a new trailer and a release date for its forthcoming Downing Street drama This England. The series stars Kenneth Branagh as Prime Minister Boris Johnson who is navigating all the drama that took place in the early days of his premiership.
It covers the spectacle we know so well: there’s the election, the announcement of the pandemic, the three lecterns lined up with the medical officers standing either side of the PM, Rishi Sunak and furlough, Dominic Cummings and Barnard Castle, wife Carrie, clapping for carers, Boris in the ICU, the parties...
By the looks of the trailer, these scenes have been recreated almost exactly in This England, with Branagh as a strange face-melt version of Johnson, Andrew Buchan (Broadchurch) as Matt Hancock, Ophelia Lovibond (Rocketman) as Carrie Symonds, Tim Goodman (Jane Eyre) as Stanley Johnson and Simon Paisley Day (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) as Dominic Cummings.
And in fact, it’s a little triggering: the events of 2020 are scorched into our minds forever, and the pandemic and its repercussions are far from over.
First announced in June 2020 as This Sceptred Isle, the six-part series has changed its name but continues to play into the famous John of Gaunt speech from Shakespeare’s Richard II.
The lines go: “This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle... This earth of majesty... This other Eden, demi-paradise... This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,” and are read by various narrators throughout the trailer. The patriotic words make an interesting choice, both in the trailer and as a title, because, as many viewers know, they are followed in Shakespeare’s play by an incredibly damning verse.
In Richard II Gaunt then says: “Dear for her reputation through the world, Is now leased out... That England... Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.” Could these lines also be applied to another political drama? Perhaps one taking place 623 years later?
The show has been written by Michael Winterbottom, who directed Welcome to Sarajevo, Wonderland and 24 Hour Party People alongside Kieron Quirke who wrote the BBC sitcom Defending the Guilty. The political editor of The Sunday Times, Tim Shipman, has also been onboard as a consultant, as he was for the HBO film Brexit: The Uncivil War.
As it dropped the teaser, Sky also shared a release date for This England: audiences can look forward to the show landing on Sky Atlantic and Now on September 21.
In a statement about the forthcoming series, Sky said: “This England, based on Boris Johnson’s tumultuous first months as Prime Minister, traces the impact on the country of the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic. The drama takes us inside the halls of power, as Johnson (Branagh) grapples with Covid-19, Brexit, and a controversial personal and political life.
“The events in government are interwoven with stories from around the country, from the experts and scientists racing against time to understand the virus; the doctors, nurses and care-home workers on the frontline working tirelessly and heroically to contain and overcome it; and ordinary people whose lives were thrown into turmoil.”
All six episodes of This England will be available on Sky Atlantic and Now on September 21.