Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Ekaterina: The Rise of Catherine the Great

Friday, October 13th, 2017

Recommended Television Series:

When Ron’s away I tend to surf Amazon Fire TV for something new, something different. A few nights ago I decided to check out a series called Ekaterina: The Rise of Catherine the Great which I’d seen advertised in a recent Amazon Prime email. I was stunned to find this was a Russian production in the Russian language, with English subtitles. I was just as surprised to find it riveting.

The production is gorgeous, the actors are incredibly talented, and the subtitles are very well done. The latter makes the story easy to follow, though I did need to keep the remote control close at hand as I had to occasionally jump back or pause to read all the dialogue.

If you’ve got Amazon Prime, give this series a try. I’d like to know what you think.

I’ve been pondering the question of why Ekaterina seemed like more than just another costume drama, and I think that a large part of the reason is the way women are represented. The story starts with Catharine’s (Ekaterina in Russian) arrival at St. Petersburg, there to marry the heir to a throne presently held by a woman, Elizaveta.

The character of Elizaveta is fascinating — a powerful woman who is quite firmly in charge and ruthless in many ways, but not a stereotype of an evil queen by any means.

Ekaterina is similarly complex. She is presented in a very positive light as a brilliant young woman. Just sixteen years old at the start, she is naive but determined to make her new role in the world work. Ultimately she finds that task to be impossible, and along the way adapts new strategies.

Despite the beauty of the setting, the women, their lovers, their clothing, the story is very blunt about the one real purpose of a “princess bride” — she exists to bear a child who will inherit the throne. I like that this is not glossed over.

The story also engages with the incessant conflicts among the European powers, the careful political decisions in how potential heirs are treated, and rivalries at court. But this is strictly a story of the aristocracy, with only occasional mentions of the Russian people.

If Amazon Prime eventually hosts season two, I’ll be watching.