06th May2014

‘Klondike’ Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Richard Madden, Abbie Cornish, Tim Roth, Marton Csokas, Ian Hart, Tim Blake Nelson, Sam Shepard | Directed by Simon Cellan Jones


The Discovery Channel is (or at least used to be) a place you would find documentaries. This is why adding Klondike to their schedule would seem to be a strange occurrence. You would think that with the show being on this channel then there would be a focus on historical accuracy and a focus on the lives of the miners working the mines of the Yukon in the late 1800s. The truth is though it may be based on real people who existed, the focus is more on the drama and relationships which in turn becomes more about fiction, rather than accuracy. Once you get past that realisation though, you’ll find a show that is enjoyable and, somewhat, interesting.

When two childhood friends travel to the Yukon Territory in the late 1890s to be a part of the gold rush they soon find that the task is anything but easy. With unpredictable weather, harsh conditions and a lawlessness rife within the population one is soon dead, and Bill Haskell (Madden) is left alone with only a claim on land to mine and a murderer somewhere close. With a desire to hunt down the killer he soon finds help from Belinda Mulrooney (Cornish), who warns him his best bet is to just leave. With characters like The Count (Roth) willing to kill for gold and land, Haskell finds it may be best to heed the warning but his desire for revenge makes him stay.

However much Klondike tries to stay historically accurate it can’t help but try to be Deadwood. In trying to be a gritty drama Klondike focuses on the darker side of humanity, though it never reaches that darkness that we saw in Deadwood. Tim Roth seems to relish his character of The Count, a landowner who will do all he can to make a profit and doesn’t give a second thought about killing. In fact for the most part Roth steals the show. His battle of wills against Belinda is one of the main focuses of the show but we never actually see an explanation as to why these two characters hate each other so much, which is a shame.

Richard Madden plays his role well, but I did find the character of Haskell annoying. In a situation where there are plenty of people willing to steal away his claim on land he seems to spend most of his time close to death, the fact he keeps his mine seems a miracle at times. His stubborn desire to find the killer of his friend is understandable, but it may have been better to shorten that storyline and focus more on Roth, who would have made a better nemesis.

Along with the characters an interesting element is the environment the people worked in, which you would hope is where the historical accuracy should be. With smallpox rife in Dawson City, poor hygiene and the dangers of nature there is a feel that death is something that is always close.  If Klondike had more time to focus on this there may have been time to actually investigate the true hardships the people put up with, but just like Dawson City there was only a finite time that it exists, Klondike doesn’t seem to be a show that wanted to be anything other than five episodes long.

Though there are weaknesses in the show and there is that feel that it doesn’t reach the potential that it could have achieved Klondike will still be remembered for its memorable characters and Tim Roth’s performance. Abbie Cornish, Richard Madden and Tim Blake Nelson also put in good performances but in truth maybe it’s just Dawson City that just wasn’t that interesting in the first place.

Klondike is available on DVD now, courtesy of Entertainment One

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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