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To Play the King 1 Season 1993

Season 1
4.6 out of 5 stars (56) IMDb 8.5/10

Ian Richardson returns as conspirator extraordinaire, Francis Urquhart. Urquhart is pitched into Government with a fantastically slim majority and a hatred of his King who is far too liberal. But the King fights back and dirty...

Starring:
Ian Richardson, Michael Kitchen
Original air date:
December 12, 1993

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Season 1

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1. To Play the King Episode 1

Although he has been installed as Prime Minister, Urquhart's past crimes haunt him, and he faces criticism from an unexpected source the electorate who agrees with the newly appointed liberal King.

CC TV-Y November 21, 1993 53 minutes
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2. To Play the King Episode 2

For appearances sake, Urquhart pretends to take a more temperate stance towards the King's attack on his policies.

CC TV-Y November 28, 1993 53 minutes
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3. To Play the King Episode 3

Urquhart accuses the King of trying to organize a bloodless coup against the Government.

CC TV-Y December 5, 1993 54 minutes
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4. To Play the King Episode 4

Urquhart makes a bold move that could change history.

CC TV-Y December 12, 1993 55 minutes
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Product Details

Genres Drama, International
Starring Ian Richardson, Michael Kitchen
Supporting actors Kitty Aldridge, Colin Jeavons, Diane Fletcher, Nicholas Farrell, Rowena King, Leonard Preston, Erika Hoffman, Jack Fortune, Nick Brimble, Bernice Stegers, David Ryall, Pip Torrens, Frederick Treves, Tom Beasley, Don Warrington, Paula Tilbrook, John Bird, Kate Ricketts
Season year 1993
Network BBC
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Other Formats

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
This is the best of the three- the first two are great, the third is to be missed. The viewer is drawn into the villainy of an evil PM with Shakespeareian ease and expertise. I disagree with a comment of a prior reviewer that there is "no redeeming social value." In fact, the point - power corrupts, often irredeemably so- is probably too obvious to mention. Any failure of the subplots to tie together completely at the end is far outweighed by the brilliantly protrayed spectacle of evil.
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Format: VHS Tape
Ian Richardson returns as the ruthless yet compelling Francis Urquhart, a fictional albeit realistic (and relevant) Prime Minister of England. In this episode, Urquhart finds himself in a royal battle with a newly appointed King. The King (portrayed with finesse by actor Michael Kitchen) launches an assault on Urquhart's "hard line" policies and enlists the aid of Urquhart's political enemies to gather against him. Adding to the balance of forces is Mrs. Sarah Harding (played by Kitty Aldrige), a young and attractive media pollster who becomes Urquhart's "personal political consultant" and, eventually, his mistress. Sarah soon uncovers incriminating information that can destroy Urquhart. Will she use it against him? Or will she end up like Mattie Storin, Urquhart's previous mistress who died under mysterious circumstances?

Giving the entire episode a strong allusion to 'Macbeth' is Urquhart's occasional remorse for the brutality of his past, and the brutality he must inflict to gain/hold power. Speaking directly to the camera (and us, the viewer), he provides insight into his cunning yet tortured thought process. Diane Fletcher's role as Urquhart's wife, Elizabeth, completes the 'Macbeth' allusion. Elizabeth exhibits a Lady Macbeth ruthlessness that matches Urquhart's ambitions. Of the King, she tells her husband, "Bring him down, Francis. Make him fall."

But can Urquhart really bring down a king? Find out and be entertained along the way.
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Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
This is the predecessor to the Netflix series with Kevin Spacey, but darker. The British series from the early 90's is almost like a Greek tragedy. Reviews of the Netflix series generally do not credit this earlier series, which pioneered the direct to the audience commentary and has characters and plot line very similar.
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Format: VHS Tape
This is the second part of the "House of Cards" trilogy by Michael Dobbs and the continuing story of Francis Urquhart who, now Prime Minister, is engaged in a political struggle with the newly crowned king, a thinly disguised version of Prince Charles, and in a romantic liaison with a woman whom his wife chose for him and who is almost his equal in cold-bloodedness though not in utter and absolute villainy. In this second work we are no longer taken in by the superficial charm of Urquhart. His cleverness has given way to brutality, rage and deceit, and he has lost our sympathy. We look with a certain coldness even on his moments of remorse and hauntings of conscience. He begins, for all his political triumphs, to show his essential weakness, and his wife is now emerging as the strength of their partnership. The work is well worth seeing despite some weakness of plot and is fascinating because of the unusual conflict between HRH and the PM though most of all because of the continued stupendous acting of Ian Richardson. It is, however, not quite up to the same level as "House of Cards," the first part of the trilogy.
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Format: VHS Tape
To enjoy this series, you need to like subtle, stabbing humor, a phenomenal cast, unique camera perspectives, and a great script. I saw this series when it first aired (more years ago than I care to remember!) and never forgot it. Now my whole family is hooked too, and we re-watch every few months just because it is so incredibly well done. I love the way the cast plays to each other, and it seems as though they chose the perfect person for each role. I just wish the BBC would release it on DVD before my tapes fail!
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Format: VHS Tape
Second in a trilogy, TO PLAY THE KING continues the story from HOUSE OF CARDS and lays vital groundwork for THE FINAL CUT, but it lacks the cohesion of those other entrants into this series. One of TPTK's subplots-that of the King's newly-out homosexual press secretary-is a well-written, well-acted part of the story, but it just fizzles uselessly at the end, having had little impact.. Likewise, other plots which seem dreadfully important when introduced simply disappear. We're told, for instance, that the publication of the secrets of the King's sister will assuredly bring down the monarchy. Urquart orders this publication, yet the monarchy does not fall. Why? We're not told. Worse, the main plot-that of a confrontation between elected prime minister and hereditary monarch-- is itself resolved in ways that aren't even shown on-screen.
This is not to say that TO PLAY THE KING is uninteresting or in any way unwatchable. The acting is phenomenal, the dialogue sparkling, and the conclusions bold. The battle between Francis Urquart and the King of England is mesmerizing stuff. But this is clearly not the best entrant in the series, perhaps because it's hard to write about what hasn't happened in modern times. With the exception of love, there has been no issue which has publicly separated a British monarch from his Prime Minister in the twentieth century, so the film is largely theoretical. Oddly, the film's denouement really closes out the two main subplots, not the main storyline. Consequently, we're left wondering why exactly the chosen ending is happening.
Having said all this, it's still a phenomenal ride. If you like political intrigue at all, the only better films are the other parts of this trilogy.
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