The Crown season 3: 'Tobias Menzies' brilliant portrayal of Prince Philip is the best thing in this series'

  • Video report by ITV News Arts Editor Nina Nannar

Trouble with Europe, a weak pound and royal sibling rivalry.

It could be 2019, but this is The Crown in the 1960s.

Taking in the years from the arrival of the "cold wind of socialism", as John Lithgow’s Winston Churchill puts it, to the 1977 Silver Jubilee celebrations, series three is back with a new cast and a lot of politics.

It’s a reminder of just what a mess Britain was in economically in the late 60s and early 70s - rejection from the EEC (oh, the irony), miners strikes, blackouts, Buckingham Palace lit by candles, a monarchy losing its popularity, Charles and Camilla, Princess Margaret and Roddy Llewellyn (remember him?), the Queen’s close friendship with her racing manager Lord Porchester, it’s all there.

Of course we can never know for sure, what is said in private between members of the royal family, there is no doubt plenty of dramatic licence at play, but writer Peter Morgan knows how to create a compelling drama.

He’s already run into controversy over certain storylines like Prince Charles' early relationship with Camilla and the suggestion it was brought to an end by other family members staging a sort of intervention - but what this really is, is a lavish soap opera, and in that it succeeds.

There is a totally new cast, and for me, the best line up so far.

Olivia Colman is of course very good, well she’s Olivia Colman, but in truth she’s not that prominent in the series.

That would be a huge shame, were it not for her supporting cast who are superb and even outshine her.

It was reported that Paul Bettany was earmarked to play Prince Philip, taking over from Matt Smith who did the honours in the first and second series.

But the casting of Tobias Menzies in the role, for me is inspired.

He is the best thing in this series, brilliantly portraying the Duke of Edinburgh, he both looks and sounds like the real deal.

He steals the show. Awards must follow.

Helena Bonham Carter has fun playing Princess Margaret, the most soap opera character of them all, a sort of posh Elsie Tanner.

She’s the family celebrity, wooing the Americans, wowing the press, but miserably unhappy in her home life with Lord Snowdon (Ben Daniels).

Many cigarettes are elegantly smoked, and drinks drunk.

Josh O’Connor is a grown up Prince Charles, all angst and deep thinking, and Erin Doherty is Princess Anne, out for no strings attached fun, and she gets many of the best lines.

The Prime Ministerial audiences with the Queen feature strongly, which means there is plenty of screen time for the magnificent Jason Watkins who plays Harold Wilson.

Exorcising all the Mike Yarwood demons (THE Harold Wilson impersonator) Watkins is superb, warming into the role, portraying a relationship that begins as prickly and full of mistrust and ends up in a friendship.

And then there is Aberfan.

The episode featuring the disaster of 1966, in which 144 people died when a colliery tip collapsed, is as moving and powerful as anything you will see on screen, big or small, this year - it will reduce you to tears.

This series was shot back to back with the fourth series.

And series three is a build up to HER arrival. Diana.

You can feel her waiting in the wings. I am longing for the next episodes already. I could watch this cast on screen all day.