Sinbad Review: “Sky’s Best Original Drama Series To Date”

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Premiering this Sunday night at 7pm on Sky1 HD is Sinbad, a retelling of the well known legend and Sky’s latest stab at an original drama series. The series hails from Impossible Pictures and features a large cast which includes newcomer Elliot Knight, Marama Corlett (The Devil’s Double) and Naveen Andrews (Lost). The overall premise of the series is that Sinbad, destined to wander the seas, teams up with an eclectic crew and they sail off and encounter magical creatures and supernatural occurrences as Sinbad attempts to rid himself of the curse that that won’t allow him to set foot on land.

The opening episode of the show is used to lay the groundwork for the series proper. In that episode, airing this coming Sunday, the eponymous character (played by newcomer Elliot Knight), while rigging a fight to get his “big score”, accidentally kills his opponent who turns out to be next in line to become the Emir of the city of Basra and is the son of the current Emir’s brother, Lord Akbari (Naveen Andrews). From there the situation soon spirals out of control and sees Sinbad and his brother (and partner in crime) arrested by the city guards and brought before Lord Akbari, who decides the best way to avenge his son’s death is to make Sinbad watch as he executes his brother. Sinbad then escapes custody and returns home where his own grandmother, heartbroken by the choices Sinbad made which led to the death of his brother, places a cursed amulet around his neck which will kill him if he remains on land for more than one day at a time. Sinbad, with the help of an old friend, quickly flees the city and sneaks on board a merchant ship, The Providence.

Sinbad is then introduced to the eclectic band of characters on the ship: Gunnar, the Norwegian sailor; Rina, the ship’s resident thief; Nala, the daughter of an African diplomat; and Anwar, a doctor from a privileged family. Alas, Sinbad is quickly discovered and locked up below decks. But when a massive storm hits, he is quickly released and proves instrumental in saving the ship, and most of his crew-mates, from said storm and some form of “water spirit/demon” that appears on the ship. While The Providence makes it through the storm, it is only our main characters and the ship’s cook that survives. Nevertheless, Sinbad’s actions have earned him some good will and the team bands together as a crew and sets sail, not knowing what awaits them.

The show’s first episode is good, in its own way, but its feels like a prologue. It certainly does set the groundwork for future episodes, but it is lacking in the respect that all it does is set the groundwork. It introduces Sinbad, show’s him being cursed and why, being forced to sail the seas for all eternity, but it fails to coherently establish if or why his ship mates will remain part of the journey. But the episode reminded me of another series which had a less than overwhelming first episode: 24. And that is down to potential. Sinbad exhibits a lot of potential and the show’s first episode, while not perfect, certainly leaves you wanting more.

Fortunately, Sky sent over the first 4 episodes for us to screen. That potential is certainly not dashed, but fulfilled, in the following three hours of the show. Sinbad is an action adventure series that has it all. High stakes (Sinbad’s life), a convincing recurring bad guy (in the form of Lord Akbari) and satisfying week-to-week stories that all contribute to the series arc as a whole. Sure, the series has its growing pains. There is one line uttered by the grandmother in the opening episode that lends to some confusion (perhaps that’s just me though?). She, while cursing Sinbad, says “you will be unable to set foot on land for more than one cycle of the sun.” While it’s been sometime since I was in a classroom, I translated that as “you have been cursed for one year.” It was only when watching episode two that is was made clear that the ACTUAL meaning was Sinbad’s curse was that he could not remain on land for more that one DAY.

That said, those growing pains are few and Sky1 really has their hands on a hit. There are a number of flawless, if not breathtaking CGI elements used in the series. The writing, overall, is solid. And to top it all off, the series has a very strong cast. Elliot Knight’s debut role is sure to earn him at least a BAFTA nomination (if not a win) for best leading actor, Marama Corlett plays the role of the ever enigmatic Rina flawlessly and Naveen Andrews is wonderfully adept at playing such a duplicitous and sinister character as Lord Akbari. All combined, the series is a great family drama and one that really should not be missed. Viewers will fall in love with the characters and the adventures, because Sinbad is, without a shadow of a doubt, Sky’s best original drama series to date.

Sinbad premieres on Sunday July 8th at 7pm on Sky1 HD.