Examination for Lieutenant

99 minutes

Rating: 90%

By Richard Moore

In the Royal Navy of the 1790s, the most feared figure was the famous Captain "Dreadnought" Foster - a fire-eating officer who makes the heroic Horatio Nelson look like a desk-bound, pen pusher.

When given the chance of saving the crew of a supply ship or have them die denying the food to the enemy, he chooses for them to die.

This doesn't exactly enamour him with considerate captains such as Sir Edward Pellew - Horatio Hornblower's boss.

In this second adventure in the Hornblower series, the duplicitous Spaniards have just changed their political stance from being anti-French to neutral. This means Pellew's frigate, the Indefatigable, has to leave port quickly without taking on new supplies to ease the food shortage on the British fleet.

In fact, things are much worse than that as the Spaniards are now secretly attacking smaller British supply ships and capturing the badly needed food. The losses are hitting the British fleet badly and strict rationing causes major discipline problems.

On top of trying to keep his sailors occupied, Hornblower is trying to study for his lieutenant's examination, which will take him out of the midshipman's ranks.

Given the chance to take a small vessel to Oran to pick up live cattle and fresh food, Hornblower unknowingly sails into a plague-infested city and has to work out how to not only get supplies to the starving fleet, but also prevent the possibility of the disease getting aboard.

This, unfortunately, means getting offside with Dreadnought Foster - who just so happens to be on his examination board.

Once again, the money put into making this series look so good - and genuine - has been very well spent. There is plenty of action, the ships are magnificent, there are plentiful numbers of extras and key characters, and the scripting is excellent.

Again the relationship between Ioan Gruffudd and Robert Lindsay is very well stated and both Dennis Lawson, as Foster, and Ian McNiece - doing his now regular role of a pompous bureacrat - are superb.

This series gets better and better.

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