Recently added to Amazon’s Prime Instant Video streaming service, Black Sails is a prequel to Treasure Island which originally aired on the US cable channel Starz.
The cast is headed by Toby Stephens as Captain Flint and includes Luke Arnold as John Silver, Hannah New and, of interest of 1980’s action series fans, Robin of Sherwood’s Mark Ryan as quartermaster Gates.
Episode one delivers the explosions, fights and action you might be expecting from a pirate drama, but the action set-pieces quickly make way for some embarrassingly rendered CGI ships and a talky, unconvincing tale of mutiny among Flint’s crew.
As with many of these shows, the producers seem on a mission to stretch a relatively small budget as far possible so the story soon becomes land-based, with Flint and his crew taking up berth on a pirate trading post.
At this point the show becomes fairly generic ‘iffy deals behind other people’s backs’ kind of fare.
Its portrayal of women is trite in the extreme – the female cast members are repeatedly required to get their tits and asses out to reward the more sexually immature members of the audience for putting up with the poor plotting.
We even get a pair of lipstick lesbians and a character nicknamed ‘black beard’ for a generous amount of hair located somewhere other than her face which is revealed in extreme close-up just in case you don’t get the ‘gag’.
Even Hannah New, who plays the show’s supposedly empowered, liberated trading boss is required to repeatedly strip down and drape herself over her male and, at times female, co-stars whenever the writers run out of inspiration.
Given the above, many of you won’t be surprised by the presence of Michael Bay among the show’s list of executive producers.
Black Sails has some beautiful scenery – thanks to the South Africa location filming – and the costumes and replica ships look great, but the visuals is where the production team’s efforts seem to have ended.
The whole thing is utterly superficial.
The series lacks any sense of danger or menace and is blighted by obvious, telegraphed dialogue and sleepy, languid performances, especially from Toby Stephens who looks he’s suffering from an advance case of heat exhaustion.
After three episodes of this nonsense, I’m jumping ship.