Ka Badin, which takes place in the era of King Nang Klao, the third reign (after King Rama II). The story sets around the period when England (known as Wilat at the time) enters into a commercial partnership role with Thailand, and this historical fact plays as a backbone to the plot of this drama.
Because Haym is a good looking, well-mannered and bright boy, he is known as “Phor Haym Roop Thong” meaning “Phor Haym the Golden”. He has a knack for English and sneaks around to further his skills with an English teacher, however once his father finds out (he who doesn't trust foreigners) decides to send his son to study at the monastery. There, Haym picks up sword wielding skills. Unfortunately, accused of killing an Englishman, he is relegated to being an elephant keeper. He then masters the science of ailing elephants and becomes quite the vet and elephant keeper. Therein he meets Lamduan who is the leading actress of a dance play in Amphawa. He had already met her when they were younger, and this propels them to fall in love. However due to their status differences, as well as interference from another man who wants Lamduan for himself, Haym pursues the military forces so that he can improve his status. With his brilliance and capability, Haym climbs the military rung (so to speak) and also becomes the national pride and bravery of Badin. Add Synopsis In Spanish
Cast & Credits
Kha Badin, being a historical drama, has less of the typical Thai drama tropes (hip, hip, hurray). It's supposedly about a man's fall from grace and his comeback. The protagonist is a nationalistic, loyal "servant of the King" who is willing to put national interests above personal gains. Very noble of him, of course. To me though, this drama is just a love story. If I were to write the synopsis myself, it'll be about a man being wrongly stripped of his ranks and a woman who stood by him, and how their relationship evolved from family (siblings-like) to lovers. It's not because I'm specifically looking out for romance, but I think the drama wasn't as successful in delivering its main theme as opposed to portraying the love between the leads.
Initially, I was really perplexed why they chose two leads who are not Thai-looking at all. I guess there's probably a lot of Thai Chinese/Chinese Thai (?) even back in the days so casting James Ma isn't that much of a stretch, but in spite of my adoration for Matt Peranee I can't fathom why they'd choose someone who won't even look out of place in a US TV series to act in a historical drama. It's also a little weird that Haym is supposed to be older than Lamduan, but she looks more like the elder sister (I guess James Ma just has a baby face since he looked younger than everyone except for teen Lamduan). Disregarding their appearances though, I think they did a decent job acting wise and had unexpected chemistry (especially after their reunion and in the last couple of episodes, so cute). Except... that James Ma always looked more creepy than romantic when speaking his "mushy" lines. He really needs to work on that. Matt Peranee is brilliant as always. I think she was filming a couple of dramas at the same time, so sometimes you could see the lethargy on her face. She did a great job with her character though, even though she may not look the part. I think it must be a testament to her acting that I don't find her jarring in a historical drama at all. On the other hand, Bua (played by Samai Maneerat) is interesting in that I'm not sure if the general unpleasant vibes I got from her character were deliberate or because of her stiffness. In any case, I guess she got the point across.
There are quite a lot of production flaws I spotted while watching the drama. The fighting scenes were especially lackluster. I wonder if it's because I'm used to watching Chinese dramas which tend to hire really famous martial arts directors to choreograph their fight scenes. Part of what contributed to the weak fighting was also the lack of power. They looked like they were just swinging their blades, but not using force. It doesn't help that the swords looked like (poorly-made) paper mache. The "blades" were so blunt that I wouldn't mind if any of the hits landed on me; they won't even leave a scratch. Moreover, there were no blood splatters initially, so the first couple of fighting scenes looked like rehearsals rather than the real thing.
However, the drama was entertaining throughout and funny at times. The plot wasn't very complicated and hence not as convoluted like other Thai dramas. The interactions between the lead characters were also enjoyable to watch. It's a drama I don't have many complaints about, which makes it better than 99% of Thai dramas already lol. I think 8.5 is slightly overrating it, but I don't mind going along with the flow once in a while.
-- Footnotes --
 For those who are interested in watching the drama with English subtitles, I believe a subbing team has recently taken on the project, and episode 1 is available already.
STORY (No spoilers)
This show is a mix of action (fight and battle scenes), politics (plotting, backstabbing, betrayals), history (it is set in ancient history aka 'boran' period), and romance (not a lot of it though).
The show's primary focus is on Por Haym, our main male lead. It practically acts as a story of his life as it charts his life-history: from his privileged lifestyle as a son of a noble aristocrat; to his fall from grace as his father was betrayed and framed; and to his eventual rise back into the ranks. There are also side-plots as the Siamese kingdom during that period (the Rattanakosin period) was in conflict with the Yuan kingdom (now Vietnam) so this show also has a war setting and features several war-related issues.
While I am not a person generally interested in such a premise (i.e. war and politics), I still found this show to be insightful in showing us the culture and history of the times. We get insights into various parts of Siamese culture such as their dance troops, their royal court patronage system, their army, and (the most interesting aspect for me) the elephant troop. I find it interesting that there is a 'Elephant Corps' or 'Ministry of Elephant Care' in their government administration - shows how much importance this particular animal has within the culture and as a fighting force for the country. It was fascinating for me to see this aspect via Por Haym's reduction as an elephant keeper (i.e. 'mahout'), and I have to admit that I personally enjoyed this part of the drama the most.
Concerning the romance, well, I personally don't consider this show to be primarily romance-centered and felt that the romance was treated more as a side-story against the overall war backdrop and tale of redemption. The romance is slow and conservative with quite a good foundation for its development hence not unrealistic, but not the main focus of this show either.
Also, this show does descend into typical lakorn territory towards the last one-third with all the antagonists coming out of the woodwork like maggots and causing all manner of disruption. You have your evil villains hell-bound in exacting revenge or in wrecking havoc; your second leads (both male and female) going insane from jealousy and cooking up all sorts of horrible schemes; and you have our main couple falling into their trap and being led around. I personally found it frustrating and was disappointed with the lakorn's direction in this later one-third as I felt that it was unnecessary drama and inconsistent character portrayal on our main female lead's part. The only positive thing out of this unnecessary drama is the relative quickness in which our main couple overcame these trials.
Cinematography-wise, this lakorn has been pretty faultless. Great period sets and costumes, and the forest shots and the aerial scenes of the country were pretty spectacular. It brings to mind Discovery Channel or National Geographic-style panoramic frames. Lovely.
The pacing of this show is a bit weird, at least for me. Perhaps because it is a focused life-story of an individual hence the emphasis is on his growth and maturity over time - this leads to quite a bit of time spent on his trials and training and relationship-building. But sometimes, key moments in his life or key events in the story are glossed over in a narrative - we are just told that so-and-so happened and the scenes move on. Such abruptness sometimes makes the pacing and emphasis on scenes a little lop-sided but this is a minor gripe.
Overall, for a period lakorn, this is quite well done, and if you're a person who's interested in history, warfare, zero-to-hero life stories with a side-helping of romance and some crazy drama sprinkled in, you should definitely consider watching this show.
For me, personally, this show's overall genre is not exactly my cup of tea hence my less-than-enthusiastic rating, but I can't deny that for its genre, it is a well-done show.
The supporting cast of characters playing our leads' families are well-portrayed and well-developed. There is more than enough screen-time for us to get to know them and their various personalities/ characters. Even the various antagonists and villains in this show are not completely one-dimensional. They may be very single-minded in their own personal agendas but script and the actors and actresses portraying them also gave us viewers enough insights into their personal motives behind their schemes. So, while this show may occasionally descend into crazy drama at times, it is never really because of too much over-exaggerated acting or over-the-top portrayal of characters (unlike other crazier lakorns). So, acting-wise, this show is actually one of those better lakorns out there.
MATT PEERANEE - as Lamduan, our main female lead. She doesn't have half as much screen time as our main male lead (no surprise as this is not a show centered around her), and she only comes in as her adult self after 3 episodes. As another reviewer commented, she did look tired in this show, and she also did look older than her male lead (who was supposed to be much older than her). So, from a visual perspective, I would say that she was probably not as suited for this role as perhaps other younger and more ethically-looking actresses might have done. She was serviceable in her role and in her acting, but not outstanding nor particularly memorable, unfortunately. And her chemistry with the main male lead was neither here nor there. Perhaps she was too tired (she apparently was filming multiple shows at the same time) so the lack of zest and energy may have undermined her performance.
JAMES MA - as Por Haym, our main male lead. As the show's main character and frontman, James had to work very hard here, and I think he really did try his very best. This lakorn is his second lakorn after 'Khun Chai Ronapee', therefore it's not really a surprise if he came across still a little green and raw in the acting department, but one can't fault his energy and dedication to his role here. He had a lot of action scenes as well as elephant-management scenes to do, and I thought he did them as well as anyone else could have done so credit where credit is due. The only place I felt he needed improving on was his emotional scenes or his conflicted scenes as they could be more impactful or nuanced in the hands of a more experienced actor. A serviceable acting performance, considering his age and experience, so kudos on that front.
Lovely music score and background music in this lakorn. Very fitting for the premise and setting of this show and considering its topic and genre.
As mentioned before, this show is not my genre of choice so while I generally did like chunks of it, it would not be a show that I would eagerly or voluntarily return to watch again as there was nothing particularly memorable that stood out for me. As a romance-junkie, even the romance was too understated to entice me back. Hence, this show scores a low re-watch value from me because of personal preferences.
However, as mentioned, if you are a viewer who enjoys history, warfare, zero-to-hero life stories with a side-helping of romance and some crazy drama sprinkled in, this would definitely be the show for you.