‘Catherine the Great’ reviews round-up: ‘The historical drama I’ve been waiting for’

The first reviews are in for Helen Mirren’s new Catherine the Great series and it sounds, well, great!

Set against the lavish backdrop of the politically ruthless 18th century Russian court, the epic four-part period drama is written by Nigel Williams (Elizabeth I) and directed by Philip Martin (The Crown).

Catherine the Great stars Helen Mirren (The Queen) as the titular Empress of Russia, who wielded supreme power throughout Russia for nearly half a century.

The cast also includes Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) as Catherine’s military commander and lover Potemkin, alongside Gina McKee (Bodyguard) and Rory Kinnear (Skyfall).

The official synopsis for Catherine the Great reads: “The mini-series will follow Catherine towards the end of her reign and her passionate affair with Grigory Potemkin.

“Amid scandal, intrigue and immense conflict, this is a story of obsessive love. Unable to publicly marry and famously promiscuous, they develop a unique and devoted relationship, overcoming their adversaries and together shaping Russia as we know it today.”

We’ve rounded up a selection of reviews to help you decide if you’d like to watch it:


Catherine the Great is the historical drama series I’ve been waiting for; massive, lush, beautiful, and with an element that’s so often missing in big dramas about major figures: incredibly human.” ★★★★ – The Telegraph


Catherine the Great has a satisfying intricacy throughout, while the beauty and grandeur of its history certainly looks impressive – though battle scenes actually feel quite modest by comparison with some equivalent fare – but it’s the courageous truth at the heart of Mirren’s performance that sets it apart.” – The Arts Desk


“Helen Mirren is fabulous in this sumptuous, spicy portrait of an empress … If the dialogue is occasionally over-expository, that’s understandable, and on the whole the starry team makes cantering over all this historical turf look surprisingly intimate.” ★★★★ – The Independent


“The lavish new costume drama Catherine the Great stars Helen Mirren, who is marvellous in the title role, and now you’ll be expecting me to say more, so I will, even if that’s all you really need to know. Stars Helen Mirren, who is marvellous … But as I must expand, I shall also tell you it’s fun, it’s sexy, has a clever script and covers a period in history that hasn’t been done to death.” ★★★★★ – The Daily Mail


“The perfect actor [Helen Mirren] gives a magnificent performance … and yet the show around her falls flat … The parts are all good – the scenery, the performances, the script – but they add up to slightly less than their sum. Perhaps it is the extra exposition that makes it feel too ponderous and prevents it from taking flight.” ★★★ – The Guardian


“Helen Mirren, rather terrifically, almost pulls it off … It is gloriously shot, the landscapes a wash of crimson and gold, the interiors burnished, every luxurious plate of food a glistening still life.” – The Guardian


“Helen Mirren’s sexy Catherine the Great is game-changing television … Mirren, fierce-eyed and flirty, looks magnificent.” – New Statesman


“A bawdy rom-com with top-notch costumes and tantrums.” ★★★★ – The Times


“This series isn’t just a vehicle for her, it’s a golden carriage. She is sumptuously dressed and adoringly, luminously photographed in great palaces in Russia. It’s an amazing spectacle but Mirren easily dominates it.” – Evening Standard


All four episodes of Catherine the Great are now available in the UK on streaming service NOW TV, with each episode airing weekly on Thursday nights at 9pm on Sky Atlantic.

The series premieres in the US and Canada on Monday 21st October on HBO.

The Queen is available on DVD on Amazon.