In this month’s K7 Scriptlist, one of our favourite shows is Klondike from Discovery Channel.
Discovery Channel’s three-part historical miniseries launched Monday 20 January 2014. Adapted from Charlotte Gray’s novel ‘Gold Diggers,’ the drama follows two friends, Bill Haskell and Byron Epstein, as they head to Yukon in Canada during the gold rush of the late 1890s. Once there, their dreams of easy riches are shattered by hard conditions and a lawless society, but they are aided by a friendly female mill owner and aspiring novelist Jack London.
Klondike is Discovery’s first venture into scripted content, but it doesn’t find the channel straying too far from its factual roots.
Klondike is Discovery’s first venture into scripted content, but it doesn’t find the channel straying too far from its factual roots. The show has been meticulously researched, and is based on real characters and real events; weaving the character of Jack London into the narrative, for example, explicitly connects it to such wilderness classics as White Fang. The scheduling also intensified this, with Discovery premiering the series straight after a new episode of successful factual series Gold Rush, creating a tangible connection between the channel’s traditional output and this new venture.
Discovery certainly isn’t cutting any corners. The cast is both credible and marketable, headed as it is by Game of Thrones star Richard Madden and RoboCop star Abby Cornish, with support from respected actors such as Tim Roth, Ian Hart and Sam Shepard. From this aspect alone, it’s clear that Discovery is serious about its future as a producer of drama.
The talent behind the camera is no less impressive. Executive produced by Ridley Scott, via his Scott Free Productions company, and shot on location in Alberta, the look of the show is suitably cinematic, with sumptuous establishing and scenic shots that add an epic sweep to the already ambitious story. Director Simon Cellan Jones also has a knack for historical detail and ensemble casts, having previously worked on dramas including The Borgias, Treme and Boardwalk Empire.
It makes for a confident and impressive change of format for Discovery, and shows that with the right vision a channel can expand its market and reinvent its output without alienating its audience.
On the digital side, Klondike is accompanied by a robust online companion, The Golden Stairs: History of the Klondike Gold Rush, which allows users to explore the history of the gold rush through a combination of text, archive photos and specially shot videos. The superb online resource adds a level of academic rigour that Discovery viewers have come to expect.
It all makes for a confident and impressive change of format for Discovery, and shows that with the right vision a channel can expand its market and reinvent its output without alienating its audience.