A complete cast refresh is almost like a new series for the third season of The Crown.
Kicking off in 1964 with the clever device of a new-look stamp for Her Majesty, we meet a 40-something monarch in the form of Olivia Colman (in the role previously played by Claire Foy).
While it may be a somewhat-sluggish first episode, the series is still full of poignant, powerful moments that humanise the Royals fulfilling a life charter none of them asked for.
Across the season Her Majesty is more staid and set in her ways than the young princess who became ruler. Season 3 is keen to impress upon us that there is no room for public displays of emotion. This is never more clear than the third episode (also one of the stronger this season) when a national tragedy befalls the UK and she is reluctant to publicly mourn.
“The Crown doesn’t attend tragedies,” she insists.
But public opinion begins to move against her. Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson (excellently portrayed by Jason Watkins) becomes a reluctant royalist and, in doing so, a major PR abettor.
Tobias Menzies (Outlander) is a standout as Prince Philip (succeeding Matt Smith) and finding himself frustrated from a lack of adequate duties. His biggest challenge this season arrives when his estranged mother Princess Alice of Battenberg (Jane Lapotaire) is brought to Buckingham Palace, but her presence risks embarrassing him.
Helena Bonham-Carter takes up the role of Princess Margaret (previously Vanessa Kirby), constantly living the ‘wild’ life at society parties, with men, drinking and dancing. In Season 3 those attributes will surprisingly break through an international impasse.
Josh O’Connor (God’s Own Country, The Durrells) makes his debut as Prince Charles in one of the season highlights. He is drawn to a young Camilla Shand (Emerald Fennell) in a relationship that is doomed and will be forced to make all kinds of sacrifices for the firm, that constantly frustrate him. Erin Doherty as Princess Anne, a supporting role, is hilariously droll.
Charles Dance also debuts as Louis Mountbatten, the favourite family uncle, who wields great power behind the scenes, occasionally in partnership with the Queen Mother (Marion Bailey). Also appearing this season are Derek Jacobi as the King who gave it all up for Wallis Simpson (Geraldine Chaplin).
Once again the locations are impeccable and you’d swear they had full Buckingham Palace access. Aside from tense family relationships worthy of Dallas or Dynasty, it is political and news events -up to 1977- that shape this family Windsor. Even at her most vulnerable the Queen is painfully reminded there are no cracks in the monarchy so long as she shows none…..
There is no appearance by Lady Diana Spencer this season and Princes Andrew and Edward are mere background extras. That leaves plenty in store for Season 4, with Fergie for good measure.
Elizabeth may have lost her fresh exuberance, but The Crown doesn’t disappoint.
The Crown returns Sunday November 17 on Netflix.