Tom Weston-Jones as Hector and Louis Hunter as Paris in 'Troy: Fall of a City'
Tom Weston-Jones as Hector and Louis Hunter as Paris in 'Troy: Fall of a City' © Graham Bartholomew

“I’m sorry I’m late,” are the first words we hear from Helen of Sparta in Troy: Fall of a City (Saturday, BBC1, 9.10pm). “How did you two get together?” enquires prince Paris of her boorish husband Menelaus, as if they’re at a suburban drinks party. Playing the most beautiful woman in the world is always a tall order, but Bella Dayne acquits herself with great poise and half the costume budget: John Galliano seems to have been spirited back three millennia just to make her neckwear.

The overall look is familiar, all flaming torches and gloomy corridors, filmy dresses and billowing drapes. The exterior scenes, mostly involving bearded men wrestling or racing each other, have a downbeat realism that makes the brief irruption of the supernatural feel odd.

The trouble begins when Paris encounters three alluring but vaguely threatening women in a grove and is ordered by their two equally odd male companions to present one of them with a golden apple. Britannia (Sky Atlantic), which this rather resembles, manages the switch between the mundane and the otherworldly with rather more style.

Still, this new eight-part series begins to grip as the various pieces interlock: poor, disbelieved Cassandra, always waking up with a start after a terrible dream; David Threlfall as a guyliner-wearing King Priam; muscleman Hector, dumb as a stump but destined like them all for a terrible end.

★★★★☆

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