With the final incarnation of Starz's hit series Spartacus having ended earlier in 2013, the premium cable network appears to be attempting to draw in some of their rival HBO's Game of Thrones audience with their swashbuckling pirate series, Black Sails, presented as a prequel to the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel Treasure Island.
The show's first trailer promised loads of pirate-y action and adventure, not to mention an array of sexuality perhaps designed to cater to the GoT crowd, who have become accustomed to the frequently bare bodies of Westeros. We now have a second trailer, which is shorter than the first, yet still provides some new footage. You can watch it above.
The new trailer is once again short on overall plot specifics, but here is the show's official synopsis:
“The eight-episode first season of the pirate adventure centers on the tales of Captain Flint and his men, and takes place twenty years prior to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island. Toby Stephens (Die Another Day) stars as Flint, the most brilliant and most feared pirate captain of his day, takes on a fast-talking young addition to his crew who goes by the name John Silver. Threatened with extinction on all sides, they fight for the survival of New Providence Island, the most notorious criminal haven of its day – a debauched paradise teeming with pirates,prostitutes, thieves and fortune seekers, a place defined by both its enlightened ideals and its stunning brutality.”
One interesting feature of the new trailer is how it slightly softens the first trailer's semi-deviant overtones. This second trailer makes Black Sails feel much more like a high-seas drama than the lurid, hyper-violent and sexual pirate story we're likely to end up with.
The real question is whether or not audiences will take to such a "gritty" rendering of a genre known primarily at this point for the live-action cartoon antics of Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Also, in the long tradition of Hollywood synchronicity, Black Sails will have direct competition in the form of NBC's own pirate series, Crossbones, starring John Malkovich as the infamous Edward Teach (AKA Blackbeard, previously played by Deadwood's Ian McShane in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides).
Still, Black Sails has plenty of potential aces up its sleeve. Not least is the presence of director Neil Marshall (The Descent), who helmed the pilot and who directed the “Blackwater” episode of Game of Thrones - which is still considered one of that show's finest hours. Shows like this need to start off with a bang, and Marshall's action chops and considerable experience - especially with the sea-faring aspects of the Battle of Blackwater Bay - definitely hold promise for a strong debut impression.
Even more interesting is how much the initial plot actually does have in common with Treasure Island - which is where all our essential modern pirates tropes originated. Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) was an infamous pirate in that book, and a map to his lost treasure is what draws young Jim Hawkins into conflict - and eventually into cahoots - with the fearsome Long John Silver (played by Aussie Luke Arnold as a young man). A show tracking the events leading up to one of the most celebrated novels of all time is sure to attract a cross-section of viewers - at least in the beginning. We'll see if the show maintains what is sure to be a strong pilot.
Black Sails will debut on Starz in 2014.