When Downton Abbey went off the air in 2015 in the U.K., it left a hole in the TV schedule that the broadcaster needed to fill. In looking for its next hit, the channel aimed for something that would fill the gap of an expensive historical period piece set in a time that appealed to the British public. It needed to be an Upstairs/Downstairs type show with upper-class residents and helpful servants. With Netflix's The Crown already underway and drawing lots of public attention, ITV landed on a show from Daisy Goodwin that would split the difference: Victoria. Set during the height of empire, starring the recently departed Doctor Who companion Jenna Coleman, the series seemed like a no-brainer hit.
But Victoria never really managed to stick the landing the way the broadcaster hoped. Though the love triangle of Coleman, Tom Hughes as Prince Consort Albert, and Rufus Sewell as Lord Melbourne drove most of the first season, the downstairs stories never gelled outside of Nell Hudson as Nancy Skerrett. Once Sewell departed in Season 2, Coleman and Hughes' chemistry kept the series afloat, along with a few notable guest stars like the late Dame Diana Rigg. But the reality that to stay even relatively historically accurate, Albert would die within a season or two was a looming problem.
Season 3, which aired in early 2019, ended in 1851, leaving the series with ten years to cover at best before Albert died. But with flagging ratings (Season 3's finale brought in 4 million viewers, down from the show's 6.1 million Season 1 peak.) and other projects for Coleman and Hughes, ITV put Season 4 on hold. Now it seems the series will remain there, at least for the time being.
With no movement on producing a new season after a year and a half, rumors began to float that the series was being canceled. While ITV did not directly use the word, the statement from the network suggested these rumors were pretty much correct:
"There are no plans presently to film Victoria, but that's not to say we won't revisit the series with the production team at a later date."
Coleman, who recently starred in the rating smash The Serpent, has been forthright that the series isn't sure where to go from here. She initially said the show was debating jumping to The Crimean War for an early 1850s start, or perhaps accepting it only had one more season with Hughes and starting later. More recently, she told The Mirror, "We are in the process of discussing it at the moment and timelines. Effectively I could play this part until I am well into my sixties. But obviously, at the moment, there is only a certain age that I could take it up to – unless I am in prosthetics every day for hours on end."
For all that The Crown has taken years off to complete recastings, Coleman's note about the reality of old-age makeup is the issue it anticipated from the start. Victoria, on the other hand, being a bit looser (both with history and series length), doesn't have a good answer for it. That doesn't mean the series won't come back eventually. One of the things about U.K. shows is that they can sometimes take several years off before coming back. But for now, it seems that Victoria is one historical drama that will stay in our rearview.
Victoria Seasons 1-3 are streaming on PBS Passport.