Discovery Channel heads into uncharted territory with its new miniseries “Klondike.” As the network’s first scripted series, it’s fitting that the project is about the Gold Rush exploration in the Yukon during the late 1890s.
As this is Discovery, some of the exposition in “Klondike” leans heavily on being informative. Expect to get a pretty good idea of what suffering from typhus, walking pneumonia and dysentery felt like during the Klondike gold rush. The series also reveals how the cutthroat nature of those who made it to the Yukon determined the social hierarchy there, and how the bad conditions in the town of Dawson lead to the spread of disease in the cold, rainy environment.
But the performers Discovery pulled together for the show make learning about those facets much more interesting than they would be otherwise. Led by Richard Madden (fresh off his “Game of Thrones” run), his Bill Haskell is more than just a gold-hungry adventurer. His need for revenge after an unfortunate incident in the Yukon makes him more than your typical gold rush hero.
Balancing Madden’s character is Abbie Cornish, whose Belinda Mulrooney (a woman whose real-life story is pretty incredible even in today’s world) is a “strong female character” who has strength in many of the ways Bill doesn’t. Cornish is the perfect woman for this role, and she also has a great foil in the form of Conor Leslie‘s prostitute character Sabine.
Rounding out the killer cast are Tim Roth‘s villain The Count and Sam Shepard‘s Father Judge. This is just the type of ensemble Discovery needed to make a great outing in the dramatic television landscape, and everyone in it is top notch.
It helps that so much of “Klondike” was shot on location and without CGI. That makes the series feel especially real and lived, which is key in making a project like this one work. The avalanche scene in Part 1 of the miniseries in particular is effective primarily because it was actually real.
“Klondike” premieres the first of its three episodes on Discovery Channel at 9 p.m. ET/PT Monday (Jan. 20).