The BBC's new version of The Musketeers (BBC One, Sunday, 9pm) is a reminder of how much more elegant and dramatic sending a message was in the 17th century.
These days, we type on a mobile screen, insert a smiley face and press send. Back then, you had to write the message on a scroll and send it by horseback, and a good thing too; it created a sense of theatre about communication and a feeling that you should get it right. Maybe if we still had to send a horse galloping through the night to get in touch, we might send messages more interesting that "how r u?" or "lol".
The makers of The Musketeers have clearly grasped all of this and had horses galloping furiously from the opening seconds of the first episode and throughout, even when it wasn't clear why they were galloping, or to where. I think it was something to do with a message from the King. But who cares? There were horses! Galloping!
There was also lots of sword-fighting of all kinds. There was sword-fighting down steps, and sword-fighting up steps; there was three-against-one sword-fighting, sword-fighting with forks and spoons, and even sword-fighting with a hangover because these musketeers are hard-drinking and hard-loving types.
They are also hard to tell apart, partly because they appear to take the "one for all and all for one" motto literally and wear one samey brown outfit between all of them. And they're all played by one kind of actor: the vaguely pretty and generic kind that play anaesthetists on Holby City. Some kind of colour coding would have helped: red for Aramis, blue for Athos and so on.
Other than that, this version of Dumas's classic story is pretty solid because it largely resists the temptation to put contemporary dialogue in the mouths of historical characters while still managing to get a few good jokes in.
At one point, one of the female characters posed as a prostitute to try to wangle her way past the palace guards. "I'll take you to heaven," she said. "Are you one of those religious nutcases?" "It's a metaphor," she said.
Cardinal Richelieu, the King's right-hand man, also had some sharp pieces of dialogue. Particularly good was the moment when one of the musketeers' mistresses told Richelieu he would burn in hell. "I have work to do here first," he said.
The cardinal was played by Peter Capaldi, who just about managed to restrain himself from doing pantomime-bad in a role that almost demands it. Capaldi is about to be Doctor Who, the goodest of good, but here he was baddest of bad, a poker-thin Scottish body with eyes glowing red with the worst of intents.
The only slight mis-step is the time The Musketeers is being shown: 9pm. Why not take out the sexy bits - which aren't that sexy anyway - and show it at 7pm? At least that way the boys, and the men-who-are-boys, for whom this old, familiar, unsophisticated and fun story was written, could all sit down and watch it together.