Theodosia is based on a popular book series that took place in 1906 England, but the backdrop doesn’t mean as much as that its main character is a daring 14-year-old adventurer, who isn’t afraid of dark tombs or even darker magic. Read on for more.
THEODOSIA: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: A desert landscape. “EGYPT – VALLEY OF THE KINGS – 1906.” A dig site is active.
The Gist: This dig is being run by archaeologists Alistair Throckmorton (Rik Young) and his wife Henrietta (Elisa Doughty). They have brought along their kids, as they usually do: 14-year-old Theodosia (Eloise Little) is the adventurer, while her younger brother Henry (Frankie Minchella) would rather not be there.
Theodosia asks her parents if she can explore a temple that’s not actively part of the dig. They trust their daughter to handle herself, but they still want her to bring Henry with her, mainly so he’s got something to do; he’s been trying to build an electric flashlight that catches things on fire more than light things up.
During their search, they find a glowing amulet, which Theodosia has studied up on; she knows it’s called the Eye of Horus. She also finds a cat statue, which she puts in her satchel. A snake comes out of the tomb, and Theo and Henry first think it’s there to attack them. Turns out, the snake is there to protect them and lead them outside after some of the walls crumbled and blocked their path.
Once they get out and go back to the dig site, they learn from their parents that the federal government in Cairo has not renewed their permit, so they have to go back to London, where they run and live in a big antiquities museum.
At the train station, Theo meets a street magician named Will (Nana Agyeman-Bediako), but their meeting is cut short when a thief breaks into one of their suitcases and grabs the amulet. He gets chased off when the amulet starts transmitting a green light through his body. When Theo grabs it, she hears and sees a princess calling her name. She also starts seeing the eyes of her cat statue, which she named Ra, glow the same shade of green.
Henry persuades Theo to go to the arcade with him, where she runs into Will again. But before Will can get her name, Theo thinks she sees the man who tried to steal the amulet. He appears once again, late at night at her house, right at the same time that Ra turns into a real cat.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Theodosia, based on a popular kids’ book series by R.L. LaFevers, does a good job of crossing the adventure vibe of The Adventures Of Young Indiana Jones with the dark magic aspects of the Harry Potter movies.
Our Take: Theodosia is definitely geared towards kids — well, preteens and teens — but there’s enough adventure and magic elements that should satisfy any fan of the genre.
Most of the charm of the show comes down to Eloise Little as the title character. She plays Theo as the daring, strong, leader that she’s supposed to be, which is enhanced by the show’s time early 20th century time period. She’s truly wise beyond her years, and it’s fun when she busts the chops of her brother Henry or has banter with Will.
The idea is that the three of them, along with an Egyptian princess named Safiya (Yasmina El-Abd) will team up to battle the people who want to steal the dark magic from the amulet for themselves. Because the first season is 26 half-hour episodes — the first 13 of which were released in one go — that aspect of the story might take a few episodes to get going. But watching Theo and her friends making her way through this world should be entertaining.
One of the aspects of the show that may irritate the more, um, mature viewers is the modern language, music and other aspects. Theo uses the phrase “I’m just messing with you” when she talks to her dad about the myths behind the amulet’s legend; Henry greets a friend who works at an arcade with backhand slaps and high fives. We do get that the writers want the show to connect to its young audiences, but those anachronisms can be distracting. It’s up to the viewer how distracting they are.
What Age Group Is This For?: There are some scary scenes that may frighten kids younger than 8. But, then again, some younger kids like the dark and scary stuff.
Parting Shot: After the intruder escapes, Theo’s dad picks up the amulet without gloves, and the green glow goes through his hand. “What have you done?” Theo says into the amulet, and we see her from its world’s perspective.
Sleeper Star: Jethro Skinner plays Clive, the museum’s curator and part of the family staff. When he sees Theo on the family’s return, he lets loose with a juicily resentful, “Oh… it’s you.”
Most Pilot-y Line: While some of the modern language can be excused, the hand slaps Henry gives his friend at the arcade took us completely out of the show’s time period, which is too bad, since the costumes and sets are so well done.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Theodosia works mainly because of Eloise Little’s performance as Theo, and the chemistry that’s building between her character and the group that will fight the forces of dark magic.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.