Mary, Queen of Scots

In Our Time has not been enjoying a particularly good series. Melvyn Bragg seems more interested in arguing with his guests than bringing out their best, and when he isn’t arguing, he’s barely interested at all. But this week’s episode on Mary, Queen of Scots brought the show back in all its glory.

It’s unsurprising, I suppose, that a very British topic would revived both Melvyn and the show. Not only is it the sort of thing that gets him going, but the guests are exactly what fans of the show want. There’s the Cambridge don who stammers when he gets excited talking about the plot to kill Darnley, and the curator from a Scottish museum whose accent is so thick you expect him to burst out with an “Och, laddy!” What could be better?

I’ll tell you what could be better. The third guest, from the University of Edinburgh, while introducing us to Mary’s second husband, the Earl of Bothwell, says he’s “a hard man from the borders” and “not keen on the English.” I nearly drove off the road.

And yet, despite how fun this episode was, it’s still only the second best BBC radio show on Mary, Queen of Scots.