[Season 1 !Season 2 !Season 3 ]
This starts with a bookend sequence, of young Leonardo Da Vinci smoking dope with his new mentor, The Turk (Alexander Siddig - Star Trek: DS9 ).
Leonardo is a happy-go-lucky artisan, painting topless women and dangling his tweenage assistant (Nicco Machiavelli) under home-made parasails. Unfortunately the evil Pope Sixtus is using assassination as a tool of politics, and upsets the balance of power in Italy. The Medici family, controllers of the city-state of Florence, need Leo's services for their vanity projects.
The story goal that Leo is given is to locate the Book of Leaves, a compendium of knowledge from a secret society called the Sons of Mithras. His first clue is that a Jew who was allied with the Turk has been arrested in Florence.
Like all nerds, Leo stalks the object of his affection. His is Leucrezia Donati ( Laura Haddock ), mistress of Lorenzo, the head of the Medicis. Will she return Leo's affections, and can they avoid making her lover (AKA Leo's patron) insanely jealous?
MacGuyver moments: well, this episode is choc-full of Da Vinci goodness. Stand-out moments include when Leo realises that war is the handmaiden of progress, and that he must sell his projects to the Medicis in the guise of defending the city.
Leo displays his pipe-organ musket for the Medicis. Unfortunately he did not bother to test it first. He now has until the end of the week to perfect the weapon.
The wicked Count Riario has plans of his own. He has his men kidnap Leo's sidekick so they can steal Leo's greatest secret. Unfortunately for them, Leo has taken steps to defend his property from intruders.
Leo is heavily distracted by another quest - to find the item hidden by the Jew who was allied to the Turk (Alexander Siddig – Star Trek: DS9 ).
Leo's weapons are now in mass-production. He even has the blind man from the previous episode doing quality-control, detecting imperfections in the casting process.
The Medicis' spycatcher starts to interview suspects. Unfortunately for him, the spy is smart enough to plant evidence on a patsy.
There is an outbreak of demonic possession in the local convent. Leo's topless model was a convent girl once, so she returns to visit her friendly nuns. Now Leo has to cure the nuns before they are given a lethal exorcism. The wicked Count Riario is back in Rome, playing board-games with a secret prisoner in the Vatican dungeon. He sends the Vatican archivist to deal with the nuns.
Lorenzo De Medici's younger brother Guliano, an arrogant git whose primary job has been to criticise and mock Leo at every opportunity, now gets the chance to shine. He sees dangers which Lorenzo overlooks, and he cares for innocent people who might get hurt.
MacGuyver moments: Leo uses a process of elimination to rule out potential causes for the outbreak. He did not invent Occam's Razor, but he is certainly smart enough to employ it.
Lorenzo De Medici becomes paranoid and vengeful. His younger brother Guliano, revealed last episode to be more thoughtful than previously depicted, is now the voice of reason in the family. Leo has a sudden attack of pacifism when he realises that he is starting a new arms race, but Lorenzo only punishes him with threats rather than being broken on the wheel.
The evil Count Riario brings his army of mercenaries, hired by the Vatican, to the gates of Florence. Can Leo devise a weapon that can defeat an entire army?
MacGuyver moments: Leo designs a cluster-bomb based on a pomegranate fruit, while to launch the bombs he creates the largest crossbow in the world.
Leo has been arrested for sodomy. The Prosecutor is Pazzi, the main rival of the Medicis, Lorenzo De Medici is busy winning and dining his new clients, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, so he can not intervene directly. Instead he sends his lawyer – Leo’s estranged father.
Ferdinand and Isabella brought with them Tomas De Torquemada, Founder of the Spanish Inquisition, who appears at Leo’s trial as an expert witness to denounce Florence as a city of heretics. Lorenzo assigns his own brother Guliano to organise a stage-play that will hopefully entertain the Spanish visitors. Guliano, aided by Leo’s nude model, selects the bawdiest comedy he can find.
Leo has a cunning plan to clear his name. It involves modifying the concept of the camera obscura. Blackadder himself would be proud! Pity the poor Magistrate who faces Leo’s wrath, while Pazzi (the real instigator) escapes Leo’s attention entirely!
This is the one episode that deals directly with the allegations of Leo’s homosexual tendencies. The show has been accused of straight-washing the character, because his main love interest is Leucrezia ( Laura Haddock ).
The Turk (Alexander Siddig – Star Trek: DS9 ) sends Leo on a quest to rescue the cartographer who created the Jew’s map. The man is being held prisoner by a bloodthirsty warlord in the land beyond the forest. He is Leo’s most impressive adversary yet, and this is one of the few episodes where there is blatantly magical forces at work.
Leo and his team are in Rome, keeping the Count Riario under surveillance. Luckily Leo has invented a telescope, which he evidently never bothered to write about in his notebooks. He wants to find the second key to the Vault of Heavens, So he infiltrates the Vatican (using a diving suit) and confronts the wicked Pope. He also encounters the Spear of Destiny (which should be in a Habsburg castle in Austria) and the mysterious prisoner.
Back in Florence, Lorenzo’s brother Guliano closes in on the traitor. The Night Watch keep a dossier of the curfew-breakers, so he will be able to work out who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Of course, we all know who the traitor is so there is no real suspense.
This episode, the climax of the Season, is based on a true historical incident known as the Pazzi Conspiracy. The Pazzis seek to assassinate Lorenzo and his wife ( Lara Pulver ) while they are at Mass in the cathedral, under Brunalesci's dome.
The Turk (Alexander Siddig – Star Trek: DS9 ) sends Leo to Pisa, where he can catch a ship to the mysterious land across the Atlantic. Will Leo choose his loyalty to the Medicis over his desire to find his mother?
The show's second Season has a few changes. Leo's MacGuyver moments are fewer, and no longer dominate every episode. Leucrezia Donati ( Laura Haddock ) is primarily a spy as opposed to a love interest, so she does not do topless love scenes any more.
Da Vinci and Lorenzo escape through the sewers, pursued by Count Riario. Menawhile, the Pope's army of mercenaries besieges Florence.
McGuyver moments: Leo works out the weak point in an arch, so he can collapse it on his pursuers.
This takes place well over a century (closer to 150 years) before Sir William Harvey officially discovers the circulation of the blood. Leo claims to have read a text by an Arabic surgeon who believed in circulation. This allows Leo to perform the world’s first blood transfusion. Surgical hygiene and blood-typing are as yet unknown, but he can blunder through regardless for the sake of the plot.
Leo’s sidekicks, Zoroaster and Nicco, make it to the ship at Pisa. Unfortunately Count Riario has similar plans. He has a soft spot for Nicco, but he has no use for Zoroaster or Leucrezia.
The Pazzis orchestrate mob violence, as looting and rioting break out across the city. Leo realises that if he improves the main square’s acoustics, he can help Lorenzo make a rousing speech to inspire the rabble.
Lorenzo’s wife, Clarice Orsini ( Lara Pulver ) orders a campaign of revenge against the Pazzi conspirators. The rioters who were enthusiastic about murdering the Medicis are equally happy to kill some Pazzis instead. Count Riario is well out of harm’s way, en route to the unknown land illustrated in the Jew’s map.
Da Vinci and his friend Zoroaster team up with a sailor named Amerigo Vespucci. They try to hire a slave-ship to the (as yet officially undiscovered) New World. Unfortunately, it has already been hired by the Prince of Naples. However, Leo has a plan: design and build a wooden submarine, paddle it out to the slave-ship, then emancipate the Circassian slaves and steal the ship.
In Florence, Clarice Orsini ( Lara Pulver ) is in charge now. Her husband Lorenzo goes off to negotiate a peace treaty with Naples. Then a Moorish-looking fellow arrives, claiming to be his long-lost cousin.
In Rome, the Pope excommunicates the city of Florence for executing the Orsini Cardinal. Then the Vatican archivist gets ambushed by Leucrezia ( Laura Haddock ) who now has a Chinese assassin friend to help her. They are not exactly low-key, operating in broad daylight, but the peasants of Rome ignore the sight of a Chinaman using a fancy crossbow to kill the Cardinal's uniformed guards ...
In Rome, the Vatican archivist gets Leucrezia ( Laura Haddock ) into the Castel St Angelo. We get a flashback to explain how this Man in the Iron Mask subplot started. But the prisoner has used his years in prison to devise a strategy. He sends her on a mission ...
En route to Naples, Medici and his travelling companion (Leo's dad) fall foul of some bandit types.
The Cardinal is at sea, being pursued by of Leo's ship.
Leo himself is having trouble with the Circassians. They have no skill at seacraft, so he should have left them in the Cape Verde islands. Instead, all they do is indulge in superstition and plot mutiny. Should he throw them overboard or clap them in chains? After all, there are lots of spare manacles on a slave-ship.
McGuyver moments: Leo has a telescope (his own invention) and a zodiac chart, so he can navigate by the stars. But when he realises that Venus does not orbit the Earth, he discovers the universe is heliocentric!
Leo and his crew get to the New World. They discover the wreck of the Cardinal's ship, but no sign of the crew. Leo, his henchman and a couple of redshirts go exploring, and end up being taken to Machu Piccu for public execution.
Meanwhile, Leo's dad is in a dungeon in Naples. The King of Naples is portrayed as even more barbaric than the Incan Sun king. The Incas merely murder their defenceless prisoners, whereas the Neapolitan King guts and embalms his.
In Florence, Clarice ( Lara Pulver ) has trouble with the Medici Bankers. Can she trust her husband's Moorish cousin?
McGuyver moments: Leo deduces the Incan language just by listening to the natives talking.
DaVinci undergoes a test - if he and the Cardinal fail, they will be brutally executed. His part of the test is to consume a peyote-type compound known as The Rope of the Dead. He halucinates about seeing his future self, an old man on his deathbed. He also sees his future works - including the Mona Lisa.
Cardinal Riario's role is to cross a maize field at night and fight three warriors who guard it. There is another test he must face, far worse than killing a stranger or an enemy.
The ruler of Florence is still in prison in Naples. Like DaVinci, he faces a horrible execution - and similarly he has one slim chance. All he has to do is shoot a galloping horse in the back of the head before it can tighten a noose that is around his neck. Luckily, he has visions of his deceased brother who gives him a few helpful tips.
Leucrezia ( Laura Haddock ) arrives at Constantinople. Her travel took about the same amount of time as DaVinci took to get from the Eastern coast to Macchu Piccu. She meets the Turk (Alexander Siddig - Star Trek: DS9 ), who somehow managed to drug her Chinese assassin companion. Luckily, he has some good words of advice for her.
Leo and his team try to enter the Vault of Heaven. But to get in, they must pass a series of Indiana Jones style tests and boobytraps.
Leucrezia ( Laura Haddock ) gains audience with the eldest son of the Sultan. She tells him that she is a peace emmisary from the Pope. He takes her up on a deal - he can have the Chinaman as his guide to Rome, but she must remain a hostage in Constantinople until his return.
The Vatican Archivist becomes obsessed with the Book of Leaves. The false Pope forbids him from further access to it.
McGuyver moments: Leo builds a self-powered clockwork cart (using bow-strings instead of coiled springs) to cross a weight-sensitive floor.
DaVinci and the Cardinal face execution. Can our hero escape from the Vault and then discover his mother's fate?
In Naples, the Florentine banker falls foul of a French pirate. Luckily, he has an ally.
The Ottoman Sultan's son arrives at Rome. The Neapolitian Prince is at the Vatican, giving support to the villainous Pope. This will not end well.
McGuyver moments: Leo builds a parachute!
Leo returns home. The most important events in Florence have taken place, but he missed it all while he was away in the New World. Clarice ( Lara Pulver ) has been enslaved by the Duke of Urbino.
The Cardinal seeks absolution from the True Pope. But will he be allowed to redeem himself?
The Ottomans uncover the Pope's true intentions. Their secret weapon is a mysterious woman who wears manacles and can read body language to an incredible degree.
McGuyver moments: DaVinci builds a weapon that can incapacitate a room full of opponents. Then he wins a sword-fight by taking advantage of a one-eyed opponent's lack of depth perception.
Leo sets off in pursuit of the murderer. They ride south from Florence, past Rome, all the way to the port of Otranto in the kingdom of Naples. The murderer makes for a ship – can Leo catch up in time?
En route, Leo meets his other mentor - the Turk (Alexander Siddig - Star Trek: DS9 ). There is some brief exposition.
All the plot threads come together. The Pope and the new Duke of Naples are in the castle of Otranto, still trying to coerce the ruler of Florence into handing over his gold. Then the Pope’s victim from last ep comes to visit. Yes, Beyazid and the Ottoman fleet blockade the port!
Elsewhere, the Cardinal is being tortured by the Enemies of Man. They use the old how many X can you see? that originated in 1984 but was also used by the Cardassian who interrogated Picard in Star Trek: TNG .
Back in Florence, Clarice ( Lara Pulver ) discovers that the murderer made her reign untenable. She has to secure the future of her dynasty, but a young Machiavelli has his own plans.
McGuyver moments: Leo builds a four-barrelled turret with an adjustable trajectory and aim. It even has a telescopic sight, a century before Gallileo perfected the spyglass.
Leo masterminds the defence of the port of Otranto, the Ottoman Empire's gateway into Italy. He blocks the entrance to the harbour, but he knows that this was a terrible cost. As a result he rejects a reward offered by the Neapolitan thug whose respect he has earned. Lorenzo points out that the Ottomans managed to capture the walled city of Constantinople a few decades previously. It was the most heavily defended city in Europe at the time, so Otranto in comparison is nothing to boast about. But nobody points out HOW the Ottomans took it - they moved their ships across dry land so they could attack the unprotected shore. Anyone who knew what happened in real life would be unsurprised at what the Ottomans' next strategy is in this anachronistic scifi version.
Leucrezia Donati ( Laura Haddock ) meets her father, who gives some exposition. He is using the Ottomans as pawns to further his endgame. Back in the Vatican, the villains have recruited the Count and are using the Pontiff as their pawn. Someone assassinates a Cardinal ...
MacGuyver moments: Leo builds an improvised explosive device to wipe out an enemy armoured cart.
The Ottomans have captured the town of Otranto, and now they are combing the ruins for survivors. The women, children and VIPs will be kept for ransom. The men are given a choice – conversion to Islam, or death by beheading.
The Pontiff decides to launch a Crusade against the invading Ottomans. He needs the help of the Venetians, the only City-State with a fleet large enough to face the invaders. Luckily the dead Cardinal was a Venetian, and his influential sister is in town to collect his body.
MacGuyver moments: Leo cannot fight the Ottoman weapons, because they are improved versions of his own designs. Instead he makes a rope-slide from the church tower to a safe-house nearby.
Clarice Orsini ( Lara Pulver ) has followed the traitor to Rome. Will she uncover the Labyrinth before they get to her?
Leo wants revenge for Otranto, so he goes straight to the Vatican. His arch-enemy, Pope Sixtus, should jump at the chance to recruit the greatest engineer in the world to his Crusade. Instead he orders Leo to help the Count Riario to find the Cardinal's assassin. Just as well, as it turns out, because the bodies start to pile up. He blames Carlo, and seeks to hunt down the secret society known as The Labyrinth.
Leucrezia Donati ( Laura Haddock ) crashes in Rome, and takes up a new hobby - milk of the poppy (AKA opium).
Back in Florence, Nicco has to find a new source of revenue to finance the city's defence. He realises that the high-priced whore-houses do not pay taxes, although they do pay bribes ...
Leo was last seen in the hands of his most devious enemies - The Labyrinth. They are experts at brainwashing, with skill at psychotropic drugs. Now he finds that ten years have passed, and he is living in seclusion with Leucrezia Donati ( Laura Haddock ) and their son. Yes, finally they get their happy-ever-after ending.
Unfortunately the Labyrinth is the sharp end of the Inquisition, and they spend their time murdering anyone they define as a Heretic. Leo's old friends pay him a visit. They are rebels on the run from Carlo and his Inquisitors.
Back in the dungeon, Carlo and the Architect (Paul Freeman - Raiders of the Lost Ark ) want to convert Da Vinci or kill him. The Count has his own take on things.
The Turk (Alexander Siddig – Star Trek: DS9 ) and Leucrezia's father are allied with the Turkish invaders. They try to recruit Lorenzo to the Sons of Mithras, but he is too incensed at the destruction the invasion has wrought.
Leo returns to Florence, and starts building a new weapon. He has done a 180 turn from his pacifist stance in Season One, when he was opposed to a new arms race. Now he realises that the Turks must be stopped by any means necessary, and that Pope Sixtus has the only force capable of doing this. He must develop anti-tank weaponry.
Leucrezia ( Laura Haddock ) goes looking for the page of the Book of Leaves that was once in the Vatican's secret archives. She visits the Cardinal who was formerly the secret archivist. He is now living alone in a remote farmstead. When she questions him about the page, he becomes evasive. She is far too trusting.
Count Riario and the Venetian Princess visit Florence to promote their Crusade. Will they get Florence on their side? Florence is bankrupt, and while willing to sell supplies to the Army of Rome they are unwilling to commit any forces of their own. Machiavelli and the Medici baby-mama think Leo and the other survivors are exaggerating the danger!
Leo has the serial killer, the Monster of Italy, chained up. Our hero invents the science of psychology. He also fakes an incident so Nicco can be confirmed as new Chief of the Night Watch. How he got hold of an Ottoman Assassin, dead or alive, is not explained.
Leucrezia ( Laura Haddock ) is being held prisoner. Will she manage to escape, girl-power style, or will she have to be rescued?
Leucrezia ( Laura Haddock ) is still being held prisoner, by her own father and his Sons of Mithras comrades. They use Leo's mother to interrogate her.
Lorenzo makes it home to Florence, which is a hell of a walk from Ottoman-occupied Otranto. However, he hates Rome more than he hates the murderous Ottomans. As a result, he withdraws Florence from the Crusade and he confiscates Leo's designs. In other words, he helps the Ottomans and the Sons of Mithras more than he could imagine.
Leo tests his anti-tank rocket against the Ottomans' armour. Unfortunately the armour wins. Zoroaster realises the reason - it was stolen from the Order of the Dragon!
Zoroaster and Nicco go to Wallachia to meet their old friend, Dracula. Since he is unlikely to forget how they abused his hospitality the last time they visited, they can expect a warm welcome.
Leo goes to meet his sister. Unfortunately he gets ambushed by his old foes, the Labyrinth. However, at least he gets a climactic battle against the man who killed his Maestro.
The Monster of Italy confesses to Lorenzo. Unfortunately, Lorenzo is anything but forgiving.
Leo and his sister examine the page of the Book of Leaves. It gives them an idea for an unusual creation. However, it may be as deadly to his own side as to the enemy.
The Pope sends his Crusaders out to fight the invaders. However, the Turks are set up to ambush them.
Leo and Nicco set out to destroy the Turkist tanks. All the backup they have is Dracula and his eleven men. But sometimes a little is enough.
Leo's sister teams up with Zoroaster.
Lorenzo plans to execute the Monster of Italy. However, the Architect (Paul Freeman - Raiders of the Lost Ark ) has other plans.
Leucrezia ( Laura Haddock ) is still being held prisoner, by the Sultan's son. He does not do the smart thing and have her put in a metal bikini.
The two armies face off against each other for the climactic battle. The question is not can Dracula out-fight his brother, but rather can Da Vinci out-think the Turk?
This is the end of the series. It is nice to see a show that was tied up and concluded, rather than forced to drag on forever.