Horatio Hornblower

Season 3 Episode 1


Aired Wednesday 8:00 PM Jan 05, 2003 on ITV
out of 10
User Rating
20 votes

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Episode Summary

Finally promoted to Captain and given command of HMS Hotspur, Hornblower is sent to France to determine the status of Napoleon's pledge of peace. Instead of peace, he discovers Napoleon is preparing to invade. He also begins a romantic relationship with the young Maria Mason.

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  • A classic with all the best elements of Hornblower.

    This is one of my favourite Hornblower episodes, mainly because it's got the lot in just the right proportions. There's lovable rogue Styles getting unfairly punished (as Hornblower shows his tough disciplinarian side) but still remaining loyal. There's an arrogant French officer who turns out to be a good guy (unlike the arrogant French officer who turned out to be a really bad guy in Frogs and Lobsters). There's plenty of unfurling of the topsails (i.e. sailing stuff), and plenty of land action too with a couple of great explosions. There are some dastardly traitors who get their comeuppance, and Admiral Pellew (Robert Linsday, looking increasingly like Gryff Rhys Jones) visibly having to resist the tempation to give Hornblower a big hug when he gets home safely. The secret weapons of the Hornblower series, which touch something buried deep in the British collective psyche, are its themes of simple loyalty and duty. This episode has them in big helpings.

    And, for the first time, there's some love interest for Horny (and no, I don't mean the ever-devoted Lt. Bush, although they do seem very pleased to see each other). She comes in the shape of landlady's daughter Maria, played sweetly by Julia Sawalha, with the ever-excellent Barbara Flynn as her gin-soaked, scheming mother. This turned out to be the penultimate episode of Hornblower and, sweet though she is, Maria represents the final, slightly darker, message of the series, presumably sent as a warning to all the male viewers enjoying a bit of cannon-fire and flogging with a few cans afer a hard afternoon at the match. The expression on Horny's face as an ecstatic Maria hugs him in response to his proposal of marriage says it all - he's been shot at, blown up, hung from the rigging and locked in a French toilet, but in the end he's been trapped, inescapably, by a woman. Isn't it always the way?moreless
  • This first part of the Loyalty/Duty two-part miniseries is much better than the second.

    The story opens in 1802 with the recently promoted Commander Hornblower captaining his ship through another victorious battle only to find at the end that the war with France is over. All are thrilled at the time, but when we jump to one year later, we see that Horatio has lost both his ship and his promotion due to a reduction in need for naval officers during peace-time. Living on half-pay he stays in a cheap roominghouse he can't afford. If it wasn't for the affections of his landlady's daughter, he would have been out out on the street weeks ago.

    After pawning both his coat and his sword, luck would have it that he runs into his good friend Lt. William Bush (Paul McGann) who is also on half-pay with no ship. Happy to be reunited again they go to the Naval officer's club to play cards with Admiral Pellew. Horatio's relationship with the Admiral isa sting as every and through these card games (which they usually win) Horatio is able to barely get by. Soon Horatio has his command back, with Lt. Bush at his side as they go on a secret spy mission with a French nobleman who is loyal to the king.

    Of course things go horribly wrong and they find that the peace with Bonaparte is really just a ruse to give "Boney" time to raise and train a huge army to invade England. There are a couple of spies for the French that have infiltrated the British Navy and even Hornblower's ship. Will they be able to warn the Admiral in time?

    Ioan Gruffudd adds another dimension to Hornblower as a man who has spent so much time at sea, he does not know how to recognize when his plain-jane landlady's daughter (played simperingly by Julia Swahaila of Ab Fab fame) has a huge crush on him. And even though he knows he does not return her affections, he is completely unable to tell her the truth.

    Paul McGann's Lt. Bush shows more of his softer side as he takes care of his new Captain while trying to run a battleship with his by-the-book precision.

    I wished to see more interaction between Lt. Bush and the arrogant French nobleman/spy (Sense and Sensibility's Greg Wise) they are taking to rendezvoux in France. Their animosity toward each other is fun and should have been explored much more. Robert Lindsay, again, is wonderful as Pellew, who loves Hornblower as a son and even thinks of his as such.

    The story doesn't do these terrific actors justice, probably because they have strayed far from the books on which this series is based.moreless

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