26 new British period drama TV series to watch in 2021

It’s been another wonderful year for fans of British period drama series.

Here, in alphabetical order, is our complete list of every British historical and period drama series from 2021!

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(You can also find out what’s coming up in 2022 here.)

 

All Creatures Great and Small – Season 2

What’s it about?

Based on author James Herriot’s much-loved collection of stories, this series from the makers of Downton Abbey stars Callum Woodhouse (The Durrells), Samuel West (Mr Selfridge), Anna Madeley (Patrick Melrose), and Rachel Shenton (White Gold).

Returning for a second seasonAll Creatures Great and Small chronicles the heartwarming and humorous adventures of a young country vet in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1930s.

What did the reviews say?

“There are few dramas these days that could be described as gentle. This proves that gentleness doesn’t have to be dull. It is a delight … Is there anything more gloriously British?” ★★★★★ – The Telegraph

“The reboot of the Yorkshire vet drama is a gentle back-rub of a show, and proved the perfect answer to lockdown woes. As it returns, its winning formula looks even more charming.” – The Guardian

The first season of All Creatures Great and Small is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Anne Boleyn

What’s is about?

Dramatising the final months of Anne Boleyn’s life, this three-part psychological thriller stars British model and actress Jodie Turner-Smith (Queen & Slim) as the second wife of King Henry VIII.

Anne Boleyn explores the final months of the eponymous Queen’s life in 1536, as she struggles to secure a future for her daughter and to challenge the powerful patriarchy closing in around her.

The cast also includes Amanda Burton (Silent Witness), Paapa Essiedu (Gangs of London), Thalissa Teixeira (Trigonometry), Barry Ward (Des), and Jamael Westman (Hamilton).

What did the reviews say?

“While this female-led storytelling is fresh and intuitive, Anne Boleyn‘s real strength is in its cast. Jodie Turner-Smith is captivating as the titular lead, evoking the regality you’d expect from this role while still keeping an approachability and vulnerability that allowed for a build-up of empathy with the audience.” ★★★★ – Digital Spy

Anne Boleyn proves that a modern spin on a historical milestone doesn’t have to be radical to make its mark. A dazzling showcase of talent, that cements Turner-Smith as one of the finest emerging actors working today.” ★★★★ – Empire

 

Britannia – Season 3

What’s it about?

Starring David Morrissey (The Walking Dead), Sophie Okonedo (Death on the Nile), and Mackenzie Crook (The Office), Sky’s British historical fantasy series is set in 43AD.

The third season of Britannia sees a radical transformation in Cait’s journey as the Chosen One with a decision that will tie her to the future of her war-torn people and their ravaged land, while Aulus will come under pressure from a new and dark force.

What did the reviews say?

“A sweary historical romp not to be taken too seriously … There’s fighting, jokes, epic landscapes, swearing – it’s a wonder Jez Butterworth’s series isn’t more popular.” ★★★★ – iNews

“Jez Butterworth’s psychedelic romp plays out like Game of Thrones meets a grotty Glastonbury LSD trip – it’s delirious good fun.” ★★★★ – The Telegraph

Britannia is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

 

Call the Midwife – Season 10

What’s is about?

The BBC’s long-running period drama series about a group of nurse midwives working in the East End of London returns for a tenth season – although one major cast member isn’t returning.

Slightly shorter than usual due to the difficulties of filming in 2020, the new season features seven one-hour episodes set in 1966.

What did the reviews say?

Call the Midwife continues to be a solid drama that spins its many plates with expert skill. It is often seen as cosy television, and, in many respects, that is a fair assessment … But, as always, it is steely, too, with a strong moral backbone. It rarely shies away from asking difficult questions, even if it asks them in a quiet, sweet voice.” ★★★★ – The Guardian

“Tough subject matter tackled with immense compassion.” ★★★★ – iNews

Season 10 is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Dalgliesh – Season 1

What’s it about?

Acorn TV and Channel 5’s 1970s-set crime drama series from the makers of Des and Indian Summers is based on the Dalgliesh stories by P.D. James.

Bertie Carvel (Doctor Foster) leads the cast as the show’s titular Detective Chief Inspector, solving unusual murders and revealing buried secrets.

What did the reviews say?

“Modern cop dramas could learn from this dour detective … In a crowded field of police procedurals, Channel 5’s PD James adaptation is a sharp, cerebral update for a classic character.” ★★★★ – The Telegraph

“Carvel makes his mark as this old detective-poet.” ★★★ – The Times

Dalgliesh is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

 

Deceit

What’s is about?

Channel 4’s true crime drama Deceit (formerly titled My Name is Lizzie) examines the high-pressure investigation into the devastating murder of Rachel Nickell nearly thirty years ago.

Starring Irish actress Niamh Algar (The Virtues) as a female undercover officer who is asked to become bait for a suspected killer, the four-part series explores the complicated and toxic sexual politics of the early ‘90s and the police’s obsession with the wrong man.

What did the reviews say?

“A gripping portrayal of a real-life undercover operation.” ★★★★ – The Independent

“Niamh Algar puts in a phenomenal performance in this four-parter about the controversial undercover police operation which followed Nickell’s death, and events that beggar belief.” ★★★★ – The Guardian

 

Doctor Who – Season 13

What’s is about?

The BBC’s long-running time travel drama series is back, with Broadchurch star Jodie Whitaker returning as the Thirteenth Doctor, and Game of Thrones star Jacob Anderson joining the cast.

Telling one epic story, the six new episodes see the TARDIS travel through time and space once more, with historical settings including early 19th century Liverpool, the Crimean War, and Devon in the 1960s.

What did the reviews say?

“Perfect mix of old and new makes for promising start to Chibnall’s most ambitious series yet.” – Metro

“Moody and mysterious – a promising start to the end of the Jodie Whittaker era.” ★★★★ – iNews

Season 13 is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

 

Domina – Season 1

What’s it about?

From the director of The Luminaries, Sky’s epic upcoming historical drama is set in Ancient Rome and follows the life and the extraordinary rise of Livia Drusilla, who overcame adversity to become the most powerful woman in the world.

The eight-part series stars Kasia Smutniak (Perfect Strangers), Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones), Colette Tchantcho (The Witcher), and Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet).

What did the reviews say?

“Cramming Livia’s long, fascinating life into just eight episodes is an ambitious undertaking, so while Domina’s shifts in tone are relentless and sometimes jarring, it’s never boring. The combination of high drama and even higher production values is always an appealing one, making this an entertaining spin on ancient Rome, given depth by its compelling heroine.” ★★★ – Evening Standard

“The show has a great cast, a big budget and is full of carnage and backstabbing. Plus people say ‘My liege!’ a lot. What’s not to like?” – The Guardian

 

Endeavour – Season 8

What’s is about?

Shaun Evans returns as DS Endeavour Morse, alongside Roger Allam as DI Fred Thursday, in an eighth season of ITV’s Inspector Morse prequel series.

The three new feature-length episodes are set in 1971.

What did the reviews say?

“Period detective dramas are ten-a-penny but Endeavour is a class apart, isn’t it? The acting, the character studies, the set design – it all adds up to an immensely satisfying whole. It is clearly made with great care and attention…” ★★★★ – The Telegraph

Endeavour is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

 

Grantchester – Season 6

What’s is about?

Outlander actor Tom Brittney is back as clergyman Will Davenport, alongside Robson Green (Soldier Soldier) as DI Geordie Keating, in a sixth season of ITV’s crime drama based on James Runcie’s novels.

Set in 1958, the first of eight new episodes sees Geordie, Cathy and their family, Will, Leonard and Mrs C take a much needed holiday together.

What did the reviews say?

“At last, Grantchester took off the rose-tinted glasses to show us what England in 1958 was really like.” – The Guardian

“Darkness simmers under this twee series, but it fails to ever rise to the surface.” – iNews

Season 6 is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

The Great – Season 2

What’s is about?

Elle Fanning (Ginger & Rosa) and Nicholas Hoult (The Favourite) are back for a second season of Hulu’s satirical, comedic drama about the rise of Catherine the Great.

Created by the Oscar-nominated writer of The Favourite and featuring “only occasional historical facts,” The Great follows Catherine’s rise from outsider to the longest-reigning female ruler in Russia’s history.

What did the reviews say?

“Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult continue to be incredible in this Hulu comedy that seizes Russian history for its own outrageous and poignant purposes.” – Indie Wire

“Oh, it’s a strange old show, The Great. Oscillating between irritating, touching, funny and depressing, it is an uncategorisable drama that gleefully and obscenely takes liberties with Russian history … fans of season one’s anachronistic comedy likely to be pleased with more of the same, and others rather more impatient with the show’s progression.” – NME

The Great is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

 

The Irregulars – Season 1

What’s it about?

Netflix’s eight-part series set in Victorian London stars Indian Summers actor Henry Lloyd-Hughes as Sherlock Holmes and Royce Pierreson (Judy) as Watson.

However, The Irregulars follows a gang of troubled delinquent teens who are manipulated into solving crimes for the sinister Doctor Watson and his mysterious business partner. As the crimes take on a horrifying supernatural edge and a dark power emerges, it’ll be up to the Irregulars to come together to save London, each other, and potentially the entire world.

What did the reviews say?

“Netflix’s latest drama is a Victorian mixture of Sherlock HolmesStranger Things and Bridgerton.” – The Hollywood Reporter

“Tom Bidwell’s spin-off of Arthur Conan Doyle’s London will upset Sherlock purists, but this giddy vision for Netflix is perfectly watchable… The Irregulars is a thunderingly competent re-imagining.” ★★★ – The Telegraph

 

It’s a Sin

What’s it about?

Opening in London, 1981, Channel 4’s five-part mini-series follows the story of the eighties, the story of the AIDS epidemic, and the story of three young men, Ritchie, Roscoe and Colin, across the decade.

Award-winning Welsh screenwriter Russell T Davies (A Very English Scandal) commented: “I lived through those times, and it’s taken me decades to build up to this. And as time marches on, there’s a danger the story will be forgotten. So it’s an honour to write this for the ones we lost, and the ones who survived.”

What did the reviews say?

It’s A Sin reaches in so deep and hits with such traumatic force that even recollections of certain scenes find your tears and implode your heart. It’s a remarkable, upsetting, funny, and frightening achievement in television.” ★★★★★ – Culture Whisperer

“The prolific Russell T Davies returns with his best series yet, a moving and entertaining exploration of the 1980s AIDS pandemic, which always remembers the human beings at its heart … It’s a Sin is arguably Davies’ masterpiece – an involving, devastating and often very funny piece of TV.” ★★★★★ – Empire

It’s a Sin is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

The Larkins – Season 1

What’s is about?

Based on the novels by H.E. Bates and previously adapted for TV as The Darling Buds of May in the early ’90s, The Larkins follows the comedic adventures of the Larkin family on a farm in rural 1950s Kent.

The Durrells creator Simon Nye has written this new version, which stars Bradley Walsh (Doctor Who) and Joanna Scanlan (The Thick of It) as Pop Larkin and his wife Ma.

What did the reviews say?

“As the nights draw in after what’s been a difficult 18 months for many, actually a sleepy drama set in the Garden of England is just right. a joyous, comforting and homely show which feels like you’re getting a big old hug … After the 18 months we’ve all had, The Larkins is exactly what we all deserve… perfick.” ★★★★ – Radio Times

“I found [this] an absolute delight, and cannot recommend it highly enough… Bradley Walsh and Joanna Scanlan are pitch-perfect as Pa and Ma Larkin.” – Saga

The Larkins is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

 

Leonardo – Season 1

What’s it about?

Poldark star Aidan Turner plays Italian inventor Leonardo da Vinci in this eight-part historical series from Sherlock writer Steve Thompson and The X-Files writer Frank Spotnitz.

Born in Vinci, in Tuscany, da Vinci displayed mastery in arts, science and technology. Leonardo attempts to unlock his enigmatic personality through an untold story.

What did the reviews say?

“A biopic-style study of genius, a period potboiler, even a murder mystery – the show tries out all of these guises and more, but never quite convinces as any of them.” ★★★ – Evening Standard

“A stonkingly chaste Aidan Turner in Horrible Histories minus the laughs … the Poldark star keeps buttoned up in this quick sketch of the life and times of artist Leonardo da Vinci.” ★★★ – The Telegraph

 

Malory Towers – Season 2

What’s it about?

Based on the classic novels by English author Enid BlytonMalory Towers follows the adventures of Darrell Rivers as she leaves home for the first time to attend an all girls’ boarding school.

Set in post-war Britain on the sun-drenched cliffs of the Cornish coast, the children’s series returns with another 13 episodes to explores a nostalgic world of midnight feasts, lacrosse, pranks, a mystery ghost and lasting friendships.

When will it air?

“The CBBC adaptation of Enid Blyton’s boarding-school classic bowls along so smoothly and sweetly, it’s hard not to love it.” ★★★★ – The Guardian

Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers books are available on Amazon.

 

The Nevers – Season 1

What’s is about?

HBO’s The Nevers is an epic science-fiction drama about a gang of Victorian women in 1890s London who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that might change the world.

The cast includes James Norton (Grantchester), Olivia Williams (Miss Austen Regrets), Tom Riley (Dark Heart), Pip Torrens (The Crown), and Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark).

What did the reviews say?

“If you can keep track of who’s who and what’s what amid the confusion and the corsets, there’s a lot of fun in the adventures of these extraordinary women … After a rocky pilot the show begins to feel like it’s finding its feet, and it may yet become a gripping comic-book-style epic.” – Empire

“As the vast story unfolds and origin stories are slowly revealed, it becomes clear that The Nevers is much more than standard superhero fare, encompassing science-fiction, horror (expect a lot of violence and gore) dark humour and a gorgeous steampunk aesthetic…” ★★★★ – The Age

The Nevers is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

 

The North Water

What’s it about?

Colin Farrell (Saving Mr Banks) and Jack O’Connell (Godless) lead the cast of BBC Two’s adaptation of Ian McGuire’s The North Water.

Set in the UK and the ice floes of the Arctic in the late 1850s, the four-part mini-series tells the story of a disgraced ex-army surgeon who signs up on a whaling expedition to the Arctic. Hoping to escape the horrors of his past, he finds himself on an ill-fated journey with a murderous psychopath.

What did the reviews say?

“While slow to start off with, The North Water develops into a gripping watch as the characters are dealt one misfortune after another. Not for the faint of heart, the series is undoubtedly grim and gory…” ★★★★ – Radio Times

The North Water is mostly gripping, exquisitely made, cinematic TV, consolidating writer-director Andrew Haigh as a major talent. Watch wearing your thickest jumper.” ★★★★ – Empire

The North Water is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

 

The Pembrokeshire Murders

What’s it about?

From the creators of Line of Duty and BodyguardITV’s three-part mini-series tells the true story of the pursuit for a cold-blooded serial killer.

The Pembrokeshire Murders is based on the true crime book Catching the Bullseye Killer and stars Welsh actor Luke Evans (Beauty and the BeastThe Alienist).

What did the reviews say?

“Viewers seem to devour dramas about true-life killings … The Pembrokeshire Murders is a perfect example of how to do it well. It is sensitive when it needs to be, and never loses sight of who suffered. Ultimately, it is about how the victims were given justice, no matter how long it took, and of the painstaking, precise detective work involved.” ★★★★ – The Guardian

“If you have to make true-crime drama, this is the way to do it.” – The Times

The Pembrokeshire Murders is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

 

The Pursuit of Love

What’s is about?

Lily James stars in the BBC’s new adaptation of The Pursuit of Love, written by English actress and screenwriter Emily Mortimer (HugoMary Poppins Returns).

Nancy Mitford’s classic 1945 novel is the first in her comedic trilogy of books about an upper-class English family between the First and Second World Wars.

The three-part drama’s cast also includes Dominic West (The Wire), Dolly Wells (Dracula), and Andrew Scott (Sherlock).

What did the reviews say?

“Lily James is a heroine for the ages in this mischievous Mitfordian delight … Emily Mortimer’s adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s greatest novel is the best period drama we’ve had in years.” ★★★★★ – Evening Standard

“[Lily James] delivers one of her finest performances to date … The Pursuit of Love is a romp from start to finish. From Mortimer’s direction to the dazzling performances of its stars, it is an all-consuming delight.” – Digital Spy

The Pursuit of Love is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

 

Ridley Road

What’s it about?

From the makers of Happy Valley, BBC One’s four-part romantic spy thriller is based on the critically acclaimed novel by Jo Bloom.

Ridley Road is a thriller set against the backdrop of a swinging sixties London we haven’t seen: an East End world where far right fascism is on the rise. When Vivien Epstein follows her lover into danger and he is caught between life and death, Vivien finds herself going undercover with the fascists, not only for him but for the sake of her country.

What did the reviews say?

“A taut period thriller that maintains a vice-like grip throughout and boasts a standout first performance from O’Casey.” ★★★★ – Empire

“A tense story of anti-fascist rebellion disguised as a cosy Sunday night drama … the groundwork was more than effectively laid for what should be a gripping and exceedingly tense series.” ★★★★ – iNews

Jo Bloom’s novel is available on Amazon.

 

The Serpent

What’s it about?

From the makers of Poldark and Endeavour, this eight-part crime thriller set in the 1970s is based on the phenomenal true story of how one of the most elusive criminals of the 20th century was caught and brought to trial.

The Serpent is written by Ripper Street creator Richard Warlow, with a cast that includes Victoria star Jenna Coleman.

What did the reviews say?

“The first great drama of the year … and a slow-burn triumph … it’s a sprawling and astonishing eight-part story, but one that you might want to concentrate on.” – The Guardian

“That distinctive 1970s mixture of fading idealism, early onset nihilism and aesthetic naffness – from the cars to the sunglasses and the wallpaper, this world is a symphony of ugliness – is powerfully conjured.” – The Irish Times

 

Spy City

What’s is about?

Dominic Cooper (Mamma Mia) leads this BritBox espionage drama as secret agent Fielding Scott, who has been sent to 1961 Berlin by a clandestine division within the Secret Intelligence Service of Great Britain.

The cast of Spy City also includes Leonie Benesch (The White Ribbon), Adrian Lukis (Pride and Prejudice), Johanna Wokalek (The Baader Meinhof Complex), and Romane Portail (A Kid).

What did the reviews say?

Spy City is a sort of compromise between a smart le Carré dramatisation and a knockabout Bond caper. It works because it means you can keep up with all the twists and it’s more involving than a succession of car chases and overacting evil masterminds.” ★★★ – The Independent

 

Stephen

What’s is about?

Stephen is a three-part follow-up to ITV’s acclaimed 1999 drama The Murder of Stephen Lawrence, starring Hugh Quarshie (Holby City), Sharlene Whyte (Small Axe), and Steve Coogan (Stan & Ollie).

Executive produced by Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio, the new mini-series portrays events from 2006, thirteen years after Stephen Lawrence’s death on the evening of 22 April 1993 in a racially motivated attack whilst waiting for a bus in Well Hall Road, Eltham.

What did the reviews say?

“Carefully constructed fact-based drama should be seen by as many people as possible … unputdownable telly, and offers a scathing critique of the institutional failings of the British police.” ★★★★ – The Independent

Stephen is a powerful and important watch, showing not only how new evidence into Stephen’s murder came to light over a decade after his death, but also stressing how many question marks still remain over the racist attack.” ★★★★ – Metro

 

A Very British Scandal

What’s it about?

The BBC’s three-part follow-up to 2018 hit A Very English Scandal focuses on the divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, one of the most notorious, extraordinary and brutal legal cases of the 20th century.

Written by Sarah Phelps (The Pale Horse), A Very British Scandal stars Claire Foy (The Crown) and Paul Bettany (The Da Vinci Code).

What did the reviews say?

A Very British Scandal, with its lean, mean script and its refusal to reinvent the duchess as an icon of the movement, is the very best and fairest tribute that could be given her.” ★★★★★ – The Guardian

“Claire Foy shines in the saddest and most stylish drama this year … Foy and Paul Bettany take on an aristocratic sex scandal that is just as compelling as A Very English Scandal.” ★★★★★ – The Independent

A Very English Scandal is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

 

Vienna Blood – Season 2

What’s is about?

Set in 1900s Austria, this BBC period crime drama is adapted from the best-selling Liebermann novels by Frank Tallis by Sherlock writer Steve Thompson.

Returning for a second season are Matthew Beard (The Imitation Game), Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones), Charlene McKenna (Ripper Street), and Amelia Bullmore (Gentleman Jack).

What did the reviews say?

“This fin de siècle murder mystery about a maverick detective and his doctor sidekick is laughably Holmesian – but enjoyably absurd.” ★★★ – The Guardian

“Campy delights are spiked with psychoanalysis in the BBC’s enjoyable vintage romp, where the city – and a lusty camel – are the real stars.” ★★★★ – The Telegraph

Vienna Blood is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Take a look at our list of 2020’s best British TV period dramas here.