All For One, And None For Dogtanian

As if the indignity of having previously been forcibly wrangled into both a dull-as-ditchwater eight million episode canine-anthropomorphic cartoon series that gets unaccountably feted on account of having a memorable theme song (that's 'memorable' in the same way that a bird chirruping off-key harmonies to a ringtone version of The Promise You Made by Cock Robin at 4am is memorable) and a big-budget bandwagon-jumping big-screen underachiever that proved considerably less successful than its overwrought theme song (as performed by an Axis Of Evil-like triumvirate of Sting, Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart) hadn't quite been indignity enough, Alexandre Dumas' most celebrated literary creations The Three Musketeers (well, possibly most celebrated; nobody's ever been quite sure where The Count Of Monte Cristo lands on the Celebrat-o-meter) are the latest fictional heroes of yesteryear to get a post-Doctor Who Saturday evening makeover (well technically it's a Sunday evening makeover, but you get the general idea, and anyway that's more than enough brackets for now). Though they've cunningly given it a Simon The Dog-style retitling as The Musketeers, presumably to avert the inevitable deluge of "how come it's The Three Musketeers when there's four of them, eh eh?" drollery, to which the answer should always in fact be "well read the book and you might find out, then, smartarse".

To be fair, it might well prove to be somewhat more substantial than many other similar Saturday evening 'reboots' have done; the de facto 'showrunner' is Primeval creator Adrian Hodges which at least guarantees some visual thrills and spills, while the cast includes both Peter Capaldi and Santiago Cabrera, TV 'Isaac' (Heroes), so some bar-raising is in evidence already. Whether it will ever come to be seen as the definitive adaptation is pure conjecture at this point, but, well, what is the definitive adaptation?

Some would doubtless point towards the swashbuckling Gene Kelly-led 1948 MGM take on the source novel, and others with more esoteric tastes towards Richard Lester's early seventies two-parter, with its jaw-droppingly of-its-time cast list taking in Frank Finlay, Oliver Reed, Michael York, Richard Chamberlin, Charlton Heston, Faye Dunaway, Christopher Lee, Raquel Welch and, erm, Spike Milligan (and we'd better at least mention the Douglas Fairbanks Snr-equipped silent to avoid the inevitable flood of GRR GRR emails). The wilfully absurd may even point towards early nineties animated CBBC filler extraordinaire Albert The Fifth Musketeer. But for a certain generation, any mention of the name The Three Musketeers can surely only call one thing to mind. And no it's not sodding Dogtanian.

Along with the corrupt-dictatorship-trounced-by-whimsy slapstick of The Arabian Knights and the making-learning-learning space-age-car-driving 'soldier ant'-fleeing miniaturised family at the centre of Micro Ventures, The Three Musketeers were the stars of one of the animated inserts in The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, that famed Hanna Barbera live action venture presented by four retina-infuriating collisions of brightly-dyed fabric masquerading as huge cartoony animals with a penchant for inter-cartoon absurdist sight gags and dreadful puns and a neat sideline in churning out bubblegum/garage punk hybrid numbers. It's fair to say that the canonicity of their barrel-split-with-sword-centric adventures was at best debatable - despite the title D'Artagnan was a fully paid-up Musketeer from the outset AND their ranks were further swelled by irritating juvenile plot-facilitation-prone wannabe Tooly, while they were somewhat less likely to run up against clandestine church-meets-state power plays than they were sinister money-lenders assisted by 'communicative' crows - but then Hanna Barbera did always tend to play fast and loose with established constructs in the name of cartoon action. It'd be nice to think that Godzilla fans consider Brock to be 'canon', though.

True, it's hardly 'definitive' in the accepted sense, nor indeed in the tedious broadsheet rock critic sense. Neither was it a faithful adaptation, nor one that fully exploited the sociopolitical potential of the characters, nor even one that was particularly likely to feature a noticeably different storyline from one week to the next. But it was one that, despite a lack of grandstanding high concept promotional fanfare (or perhaps because of it), still managed to indelibly attach itself to the name of The Three Musketeers through cheap and cheerful comedy-adventure fun delivered via the medium of endlessly BBC-repeated alarmingly washed out film prints with whopping great damage-related edits in them. Plus if you watch it, it'll make you more 'clever' than anyone who hasn't. Well, be fair, that argument's worked for a few columnists this week...