22 of the best new British TV period drama series of 2018

It’s already been another wonderful year for period dramas on British television – and we’re only halfway through!

Let’s take a look at the best of 2018 so far, in alphabetical order:

 

The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco – Season 1

What’s it about?

Julie Graham and Rachael Stirling return in this new San Francisco-based Bletchley Circle spin-off series, four years after the original British series was cancelled. Their characters are joined by two American codebreakers to investigate a string of new murder cases in the mid-1950s.

The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco captures the lives of four remarkable women gifted with extraordinary intelligence, breathtaking capacity for pattern recognition, and a genius for decryption. Years after secretly serving during WWII as code-breakers, they turn their skills to solving murders overlooked by the police.

What did the reviews say?

The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco begins on Britbox in the US and on ITV in the UK in July.

 

Britannia – Season 1

What’s it about?

Set in 43AD, the first season of Sky and Amazon’s British historical fantasy series followed the Roman army as they returned to crush the Celtic heart of Britannia, a mysterious land led by warrior women and powerful Druids who claim to channel the powerful forces of the underworld.

Starring David Morrissey, Kelly Reilly, Zoë Wanamaker and Mackenzie Crook, Britannia has already been recommissioned for a second season, set to air in 2019.

What did the reviews say?

“…Britannia clearly has enough in common with Game of Thrones to be aimed at replacing that sprawling brilliance in people’s hearts and on watchlists when.” – The Guardian

“Sky’s historical romp set in ancient Britain may be smaller in scale than US giant Thrones but it has a mad, earthy charm all its own.” – Radio Times

 

Call the Midwife – Season 7

What’s it about?

The BBC’s hugely popular period drama returned for a seventh season, introducing Black Mirror actress Leonie Elliott as Nurse Lucille Anderson, the show’s first West Indian midwife.

The eight new episodes saw our beloved Nonnatus House team stretched to the limit, as they faced a series of medical, social and emotional challenges, including Leprosy, Tokophobia, Stroke, Huntingdon’s Chorea and Cataracts.

What did the reviews say?

Call the Midwife remains a flagship drama for the BBC. It has now returned for a seventh series brighter, fresher, stronger, and still with much to say.” – The Telegraph

“My God, but that Call the Midwife is one ruthlessly efficient emotion-harvesting machine, is it not?” – The Guardian

 

The Durrells – Season 3

What’s it about?

The Durrell family returned to ITV with more adventures in 1930s Corfu.

The eight-part third season finds Louisa (Keeley Hawes) having made the decision to give up searching for love, choosing instead to focus on her family. However, with Larry struggling to write his third novel, Margo in search of a new vocation, Gerry continuing to grow his menagerie and Leslie juggling three different girls, Louisa has her work cut out.

What did the reviews say?

“If such a sedate pace is to succeed, however, the cast and the script needs to be exceptional. Both continue to deliver in spades.” – The Telegraph

“Keeley Hawes is bloody marvellous … The Durrells is easy, sunny and nostalgic, and rolls along charmingly.” – The Guardian

 

Endeavour – Season 5

What’s it about?

Set in 1968, the six new mysteries begin with Morse having finally passed his Sergeant’s exams just as Oxford City Police merges into Thames Valley Constabulary creating uncertainty for everyone at Cowley CID.

The fifth season of of ITV’s period crime drama introduces Poldark actor Lewis Peek as new recruit Detective Constable George Fancy, whom Morse is reluctantly tasked with mentoring.

What did the reviews say?

“Russell Lewis’s Inspector Morse prequel – a clever, well-crafted whodunnit oozing with period detail – gets better and better.” – The Guardian

Endeavour returns for its fifth series with grisly murders, amusing developments and more romantic turmoil.” – Den of Geek

 

Father Brown – Season 6

What’s it about?

Set in the Cotswolds in the early 1950s and based on the stories by GK Chesterton, Father Brown stars Harry Potter actor Mark Williams as a crime-solving Roman Catholic priest.

The sixth season of BBC One’s hit daytime drama series saw Father Brown struggle to protect those closest to him when old foe Katherine Corven (Kate O’Flynn) is unexpectedly released from prison, thirsty for revenge.

What did the reviews say?

“With its Cotswold settings, witty scripts and undercurrents of religious philosophy, Father Brown is crying out for a Sunday evening berth. Mark Williams … gives Father Brown stern principles, endless patience and lashings of common sense.” – Daily Mail

 

Harlots – Season 2

What’s it about?

Set in 18th century Georgian London, Harlots is inspired by true stories and follows Margaret Wells and her daughters as she struggles to reconcile her roles as mother and brothel owner.

ITV and Hulu’s period drama stars Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey), Samantha Morton (Fantastic Beasts) and Lesley Manville (Maleficent), with Hollywood star Liv Tyler joining the cast in Season 2 as wealthy socialite Lady Fitz.

What did the reviews say?

“[Season 2] wasted absolutely no time throwing us all back into the angst, hardship, and tough decisions of period working class life — this time with 100% more Liv Tyler.” – Den of Geek

“[Harlots] provides a still-relevant battle cry of resistance and a reminder of the resilience of the human spirit, which in itself makes for worthy viewing.” – IndieWire

 

In the Long Run – Season 1

What’s it about?

Created by and starring Idris Elba, semi-autobiographical comedy series In the Long Run is based on the Luther star’s childhood in 1980s London.

The cast also includes comedian Bill Bailey as Bagpipes, the neighbour of Elba’s character Walter.

What did the reviews say?

“…it’s a broadly celebratory period piece, complete with jokes about microwaves and a relentless soundtrack of Eighties music (relentlessly good, if you like Eighties music, which I do).” – The Telegraph

“Full of lovingly recreated period detail and with a great, bouncy soundtrack, In the Long Run has benefited from being directed by Irish comedy veteran Declan Lowney, who made the first two series of Father Ted…” – Evening Standard

 

Jamestown – Season 2

What’s it about?

Set in 17th century America, Sky 1’s Jamestown is written and created by Bill Gallagher (Lark Rise to Candleford, The Paradise) and made by the team behind Downton Abbey.

The series follows the first English settlers as they establish a community in the New World. Amongst those landing onshore are a group of women destined to be married to the men of Jamestown, including three spirited women from England.

What did the reviews say?

“Look at the storylines and the attitudes, and what you see is modern-day soap opera dressed in period costume with a sailing ship parked up at the quay. Once you accept that, it’s actually quite fun.” – The Guardian

“The first season certainly had its moments but was lacking something … the new season, however, is a totally different kettle of fish.” – Yahoo

 

King Lear (TV movie)

What’s it about?

Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs) and Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility) lead the cast of this two-hour modern retelling of Shakespeare’s play. They’re joined by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey), Jim Broadbent (Game of Thrones), Andrew Scott (Sherlock), Emily Watson (The Theory Of Everything) and Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth).

Set in a fictional present, BBC Two’s King Lear finds the eponymous ruler presiding over a totalitarian military dictatorship in England.

What did the reviews say?

“Anthony Hopkins is shouty, vulnerable and absolutely mesmerising.” – The Guardian

“…while there are some imperious performances and superb moments of interpretation, overall the programme also feels pretty untempting for viewers new to Shakespeare … What is most fresh but coherent is Eyre’s interpretation of the three sisters as women absolutely at the end of their tether.” – The Independent

 

The Little Drummer Girl (mini-series)

What’s it about?

The makers of 2016’s The Night Manager have re-teamed to produce another six-part thriller based on a hit John le Carré novel. Acclaimed director Park Chan-wook (Old Boy) makes his television debut with his adaptation of The Little Drummer Girl, set in the late 1970s against the background of rising tensions in the Middle East.

The starry cast includes Alexander Skarsgård (Big Little Lies), Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water), Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth) and Charles Dance (Game of Thrones).

What did the reviews say?

The Little Drummer Girl is expected to air this autumn on BBC One in the UK and on AMC in the US.

 

Ordeal By Innocence (mini-series)

What’s it about?

From the makers of 2016’s The Witness for the Prosecution and 2015’s And Then There Were Nonethe BBC’s new adaptation of Christie’s 1958 detective novel stars Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey), Bill Nighy (Love Actually), Catherine Keener (Get Out) and Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark).

Christmas 1954. Wealthy philanthropist Rachel Argyll is murdered at her family estate Sunny Point. Her adopted son Jack Argyll, a young delinquent, is arrested for her murder. He vehemently protests his innocence.

What did the reviews say?

“Purists won’t like the liberties taken with Agatha Christie’s book, but they revitalised and thrilled up a story we thought we knew.” – The Times

“Careful choreography is the backbone of this Agatha Christie adaptation, which features a uniformly brilliant cast.” – The Guardian

 

Outlander – Season 4

What’s it about?

Adapted from the historical time travel series of novels by Diana Gabaldon, Outlander returns for a new season, based on the fourth novel in the series, The Drums of Autumn.

Star Caitriona Balfe has hinted: “It’s interesting to watch how all of these characters embrace the new land and all of the trials and tribulations that come along with that as well as the excitement, and that kind of new beginning is really exciting to get on board with.”

What did the reviews say?

Season 4 is expected to air on Starz this autumn.

 

Patrick Melrose (mini-series)

What’s it about?

Based on the acclaimed semi-autobiographical novels by Edward St Aubyn, the five-part decade-spanning TV saga skewers the upper class as it tracks its protagonist’s outrageous journey, from a deeply traumatic childhood through to adult substance abuse and, ultimately, towards recovery.

Set in the South of France in the 60s, New York in the 80s and Britain in the early 2000s,  Patrick Melrose boasts an all-star cast led by Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch.

What did the reviews say?

“Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a captivating performance as Patrick Melrose … Sky Atlantic’s gripping new drama is fantastically funny, deeply tragic and incredibly intense.” – Radio Times

“Cumberbatch is his usual convincing self as the druggy Patrick Melrose, meaning he’s often slimy, contorted in agony, and at points, looks as if he smells rather gamy. Yet when he’s onscreen … you can’t turn away for a second.” – Variety

 

Picnic At Hanging Rock (mini-series)

What’s it about?

Based on Joan Lindsay’s classic 1967 novel, Picnic At Hanging Rock is the story of three adolescent girls and their governess who mysteriously go missing in the Australian bush after a sunny Valentine’s Day picnic in 1900.

The six-part mini-series stars Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones, The Tudors) as the enigmatic Headmistress of Appleyard College.

What did the reviews say?

“The base premise is familiar to fans of crime series, but this is no ordinary drama; it’s eerie and haunting.” – Variety

“It’s a decadent yet oddly heartfelt feast for the senses, and one of the best surprises of the year … It’s hard to understate the excellence of the Game of Thrones veteran Dormer…” – Vulture

 

Poldark – Season 4

What’s it about?

Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson return as Ross Poldark and his wife Demelza for eight new episodes of the BBC’s Cornish saga.

Set in 1796, the fourth season sees Ross defend Cornwall from an empowered George Warleggan, while Demelza finds her loyalties torn and Elizabeth tries to strengthen her marriage.

What did the reviews say?

“The return of Poldark is fast becoming an annual cause for early-summer celebration. It’s as sure a sign as a budding rose that something ridiculously romantic is about to unfold. And good fun, too.” – The Telegraph

“More eventful than Downton, less reverently nostalgic than Victoria or The Crown, Poldark is establishing itself as one of the best period dramas of recent years, largely avoiding the danger of slipping into unconscious self-parody.” – iNews

 

Troy: Fall Of A City (mini-series)

What’s it about?

Created by The Night Manager writer David Farr, the BBC and Netflix’s eight-part drama series goes back to the Troy story’s origins: to the judgement of Paris, his scandalous love affair with Helen, and the ill-starred prophecy surrounding his birth.

Told from the perspective of the Trojan family at the heart of the siege, Troy: Fall Of A City is a story of a love that threatens to bring an empire to its knees.

What did the reviews say?

“The inevitable dose of sex and violence does arrive albeit in far less gratuitous form than one has grown accustomed to with shows such as these.” – The Independent

“A fast and funny thriller hidden inside a historical epic.” – Digital Spy

 

Vanity Fair (mini-series)

What’s it about?

Adapted from English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel by the makers of Victoria and PoldarkITV’s seven-part period drama stars Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) as heroine Becky Sharp and Johnny Flynn (Genius) as Dobbin.

Gwyneth Hughes’ adaptation of Thackeray’s literary classic is set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, and follows Becky Sharp as she attempts to claw her way out of poverty and scale the heights of English Society.

The cast also includes Martin Clunes (Doc Martin), Frances de La Tour (The History Boys), Suranne Jones (Doctor Foster), Michael Palin (Monty Python) and Claire Skinner (Outnumbered).

What did the reviews say?

Vanity Fair will air later this year on ITV in the UK and as an Amazon Prime Exclusive in the US.

 

Versailles – Season 3

What’s it about?

Set in 17th Century France, the historical fiction drama series returns for a third and final season.

What did the reviews say?

Season 3 airs in the UK this summer on BBC Two and in the US later this year.

 

A Very English Scandal (mini-series)

What’s it about?

Written by Russell T Davies (Doctor WhoThe Grand), the BBC’s new three-part mini-series tells the shocking true story of the first British politician to stand trial for conspiracy and incitement to murder.

In his first TV role in 20 years, Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral) plays disgraced MP Jeremy Thorpe, alongside Ben Whishaw (Spectre) as Norman Scott.

What did the reviews say?

“Hugh Grant plays Thorpe and – clearly having the time of his actorly life – is revelatory. Charming, sly, duplicitous, forthright, manipulative, sometimes by turns, sometimes all at once, he is never less than wholly convincing and compelling.” – The Guardian

“Gripping and superbly executed drama, as professionally and carefully wrought as Thorpe’s own life was chaotic and risky.” – The Independent

 

The War of the Worlds (mini-series)

What’s it about?

Wallander writer Peter Harness’s upcoming drama series is the first ever British television adaptation of H. G. Wells’s classic sci-fi novel – and the first to be set in the book’s original Victorian time period.

Horsell Common in Surrey is struck by a huge meteor, and the inhabitants of Earth slowly fall victim to a vicious invasion. The three-part drama follows one man’s attempt to escape the ruthless Martians – but they are determined to destroy all human life as they attempt to conquer the earth…

What did the reviews say?

The War of the Worlds is expected to air on BBC One in the UK later this year.

 

The Woman in White (mini-series)

What’s it about?

Based on Wilkie Collins’ 1859 psychological thriller novel, the BBC’s new five-part adaptation stars Ben Hardy (X-MenEastEnders) as Walter Hartright and Jessie Buckley (War and PeaceTaboo) as Marian Halcombe.

After Walter Hartright encounters a ghostly woman dressed in all white on a moonlit road, he soon finds himself drawn into a mysterious and disturbing world.

What did the reviews say?

“Though it would have been commissioned long before Harvey Weinstein was exposed, the latest version was swift to position itself as a timely proto-feminist battle-cry for the #MeToo generation.” – The Telegraph

“This latest Wilkie Collins adaptation strikes a very modern note while hanging on to the original’s gothic creepiness.” – The Guardian

 

Take a look at our list of the best of 2017 here.