I keep wishing that I was a good enough writer to make this happen — or at least had the money, power and connections to make it happen as a producer or something.
I would love to see a deep, powerful, exciting television (well, premium cable anyway) show of the Trojan War. One that was totally accurate to the myths, made the characters as deep and insightful as they are in the Iliad, and where the visual design was entirely accurate to archaeological knowledge of the Late Bronze Age. All the names would, of course, be thoroughly accurate to the Greek ones, correctly pronounced and everything. With one major exception –I think everyone, me included, would rather have Achilles than Achilleus — and some minor ones. (So, you know, Ganymede instead of Ganymedes, Bellerophon instead of Bellerophontes, that kind of thing. Names that are little changed, and don’t come up much.) Most importantly (on the name front), it would feature Aias not “Ajax”. And preferably the pretty yet cowardly prince of Troy would be called Alexandros (or Alexander, I’d allow that much) more often than Paris. Oh, and one that allowed the gods their proper, Homeric role in the story. Involved, but not so as the humans are usually aware of their presence.
I see it as starting around year five of the war, and then running for five seasons, one per remaining year of the war. (Or possibly two seasons for the tenth year, as that’s where most of the pre-existing story is.) There would only be two or three major pitched battles per year, with the rest of the year being taken up by funerary truces and minor raids by both sides. The Achaian forces would resolutely be hounding all the supply lines into Troy, trying to keep the city from replenishing its food stores — and at the same time thus bolstering their own — and the Trojans would be going to extreme lengths to find new, safer routes for food to enter the city, not to mention more allies! There could be exciting chase sequences where a Trojan messenger is trying to ride to Hattusa to request aid from the Hittites, and the Achaians are chasing him down to stop him…which would lead to considerable soul-searching and anguish if they end up killing him, because heralds are sacred to the gods, and it’s forbidden to harm them.
And, of course, there would also be lots of sex, because outside of raids, they wouldn’t have any other physical outlet during the periods of truce. (Hence the reason it would need to be on a premium cable channel.) In addition to having time to invent appropriate characters for the concubines of the other kings and princes (I bet the ones belonging to Diomedes and Odysseus didn’t complain of their masters’ attentions (‘specially not in Odysseus’ case, given the way Circe and Calypso didn’t want to let him go) but what about the lesser Aias? I bet his concubine was miserable!) we would also have a long time to see the warm, tender relations between Aias and Tecmessa, giving his death even more sense of tragedy. As to Achilles, well…that would be where it would get complicated. Because, obviously, he would definitely have sex scenes with Briseis. (And possibly other slave girls, like Diomede.) And if I was involved in the making of such a program, it would never ignore the love between Achilles and Patroclos! But there’s a lot of different levels that love could explore. Were they actively lovers while Achilles was at the eromenos age, but dutifully stopped when society told them they should, even though they would have preferred to remain lovers? Or maybe Patroclos lost interest after Achilles’s chin was first roughened by a beard, and now it’s only friendship on his end, even though Achilles is still in love? Or are they still actively having sex, despite that it might no longer be acceptable to their comrades? (It’s unclear just how frowned upon that really was in ancient times (conflicting evidence and scholarship on the subject) and no one knows how it was viewed in the Bronze Age, not among the Mycenaeans.) Or maybe they’re still in love, but restrict their affection to kisses and occasional fondling? Obviously, a show that was going to depict hot-n-steamy sex between a man and a woman is unlikely to also show hot-n-steam sex between two men, so even if they were still actively lovers, the show wouldn’t go as far in showing it. But there’d be a lot of potential for genuine, heartfelt drama (rather than canned angstodrama) no matter which route it took, if the writer was skilled. (Also, I would want to show Patroclos’ tender relationship with his own not-quite-concubine Iphis. Because Patroclos is my favorite of the Achaians, and I want him to get a lot of love. In every possible sense.) Hey, and I didn’t even mention the sex in the city, did I? After all, you’ve got Hector and Andromache (Astyanax has to get fathered, after all!), and since Paris prefers Helen’s bed to the battlefield, there’s obviously a lot going on in that bedchamber as well. And it could even go dark and grim late in the final season, with Deiphobos forcing Helen to accept her new role as “his” wife.
And, naturally, let us not forget the planning, plotting, scheming and power-struggles, both within the Achaian camp and within the city. There are factions inside both groups whose desires would lead to all kinds of back-biting and other nastiness, and a writer would have a fairly free hand, since there’s so much left untold about what happened in the ten years of the war.
Of course, most of the cast would have to be gorgeous, and in excellent physical shape. (They didn’t wear as much clothing back then, after all. And Mycenaean men often went around in kilt-like breechcloths, rather than the tunics and chitons that one usually thinks of the classical Greeks as wearing.) But the show wouldn’t ignore the dirty, grimy reality that would plague a camp like that one; there would be dirt, mud and offal from the flocks, and people and clothing would sometimes be splattered with blood from some unexplained source.
As to the gods, I imagine that the show would open with narration from Zeus, talking about the quarrel between the goddesses that has led to this conflict. During this narration, a single shot of a golden apple arcing through the air would be interspersed with various scenes (most of them flashbacks) that would be shown throughout the course of the season. And in the very first episode, at the end of the narration, the camera would pull back from the conflict on the fields of Troy to show Zeus and the other gods sitting on the slopes of Mt. Ida to watch the battle. In my imagination, Zeus is being played by Sir Anthony Hopkins, because who else could it be? (That’s the beauty of imagining a show: I can cast whoever I want, regardless of the fact that if this was really being made, no way the show’s budget would allow it to spring for someone that big-league, even if the character was only going to show up one or two times a season.)
[EDIT: despite how many plans I had for the character’s role on the show, when I wrote this, I left out Penthesileia, the Queen of the Amazons. So I had to write a follow-up post to share that part. Click here to read it.]