The Crown Creator's 2006 Biopic The Queen Gives Us A Sneak Peak At Season 6

Season 5 of "The Crown" leaves its audience caught between dread and anticipation. There is no question about what the sixth season will bring, at least not in its opening episodes: the time has finally come for Peter Morgan's royal series to grapple with a defining moment for our modern perception of the British monarchy. With its final season, the gilded Netflix series will cover the tragic death of Princess Diana.

But first, we've got twelve months of waiting to do.

On the bright side, this hiatus won't be nearly as long as the last; the final season is slated to arrive in November 2023. But knowing when it ends doesn't make the wait any easier. So if like me, you're already wallowing in impatience, then here's some good news: "The Crown" creator and mastermind Peter Morgan has already made a pseudo-sequel to the Netflix show's latest season. His long history of writing about the royals happens to include a 2006 movie that covers the aftermath of Princess Diana's death. Meaning that if you want a sneak peek at what's to come in "The Crown," then you can simply tune into HBO Max and enjoy Helen Mirren's Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen."

Morgan's first Queen

Let it be known that there is never a bad time to watch the performance that won Helen Mirren her Oscar. But there has also never been a better time to watch "The Queen" than directly after finishing the fifth season of "The Crown."

Morgan cruelly left us hanging by closing out the finale in July 1997, a month before Diana's death. The Princess (Elizabeth Debicki) is last seen packing for the yacht trip where she will begin a romance with Dodi Fayed. Even more ominous is the final shot of Queen Elizabeth: Imelda Staunton's version of the monarch stares into a mirror, painfully aware that a new era is upon her. Little does she know that change is just around the corner. It's grand and foreboding because we've always known where this would lead them. And if you're aching for some catharsis, then "The Queen" is the perfect place to turn. The film traces the reaction of the Queen and country in the seven days following Diana's death.

A love letter to Queen Elizabeth II

Morgan penned the 2006 biopic a decade before production would begin on "The Crown," so it only makes sense that they feel so linked. They're both love letters to Queen Elizabeth, after all, grappling with many of the same questions while taking on the impossible task of trying to understand the inscrutable woman at the head of Britain's monarchy.

For all the obvious reasons, this is bound to fill the royal void left behind by the Netflix series hiatus. "The Queen" is an intimate look at royal life during a critical moment in history. It's everything that we already like about "The Crown." Morgan is in top form with his biting dialogue, Prince Philip (played by James Cromwell) is absolutely detestable, Mirren's Elizabeth is a nuanced monarch put under a microscope and the film deftly balances castle life with the inner workings of the government as both scramble to handle a national crisis. Also Martin Sheen stars as Prime Minister Tony Blair! (That has nothing to do with "The Crown," but it bears mentioning because Sheen is wonderful in the role.)

Will The Crown rehash the ideas of The Queen?

What exactly is the point of The Royal Family? That has always been the question at the heart of "The Crown," but it's especially prominent as the series comes to a close, catching up to present-day circumstances when the monarchy is more controversial than ever.

The question becomes much more pressing in the wake of Diana's death, as people choose to hold the monarchy accountable for the loss. It puts the warmth of the "People's Princess" in direct contrast with the stiff Queen — which is further exacerbated by the family's refusal to grieve alongside the public. In "The Queen" this doesn't so much lead to a breakthrough as it does a realization. After much prodding from the British public and many frantic calls from Blair, the Queen eventually accepts that a stiff upper lip is no longer what the public requires from her.

Naturally, this is ground that "The Crown" has already covered: a reticent, tradition-bund Elizabeth struggling to be emotionally open in public? There are entire episodes dedicated to that dilemma, most memorably season 3's "Aberfan." So it's reasonable to assume that Morgan won't retell this story exactly as he once did: why tread familiar ground when he could approach the aftermath from a different angle? But "The Queen" still tells us a lot about Morgan's approach to this point in time.

Where the two Queens will collide

"The Queen" features a lot of sentiments that Morgan later revisited when penning "The Crown." Hilariously, both versions see Prince Charles making a frenzied grab for the throne by meeting secretly with Blair to throw his mother under the bus. (Neither are successful.) There's also the looming question of where the monarchy fits into the modern world, a question that is front and center in the series' fifth season and sneaks up on Elizabeth throughout the film. A lot of these little details hint at the finality of the upcoming season: though "The Crown" has no plans to actually collide with the present-day, it will end with Elizabeth confronting a world that's changed tremendously from when she first began her reign. The death of Diana will likely be the catalyst for finally understanding that.

But speaking of Diana, that's also the part of the film that worries me.

In "The Queen," Tony Blair's big climactic moment is snapping at his staff for being too harsh on Elizabeth, which he says is, "All because she's struggling to lead the world in mourning for someone who... who threw everything she offered back in her face. And who, for the last few years, seemed committed 24/7 to destroying everything she holds most dear!" It's a great moment for Martin Sheen and an effective climax for his character, but coming out of the fifth season of "The Crown," it left me feeling nervous.

The Princess and the Queen

In the film, Diana is like a shadow on the wall: she's only portrayed in brief glimpses, archival footage, and news reports. As the title indicates, Elizabeth is the film's focus and Diana is just the most recent dilemma she's grappling with. Grieving the loss is part of her struggle but the rest of the family recalls Diana with disdain, making jokes about the recently deceased and pointing out that the public didn't know her as they did. It's meant to make them seem crass, but Blair's monologue seems to vindicate them.

In its fifth season, "The Crown" paints a similarly disappointing portrait of Diana. Debicki is incredible in the role and bears an uncanny resemblance to the Princess in her looks and speech. But even while she captures the spirit of the woman who won over the entire world, the season seems to reposition the Princess as a vengeful, immature, and frivolous woman. Between that and Blair's thesis about her in "The Queen," I wonder if that's all that lies ahead.

Debicki can't have much longer as Diana, whose death will likely be covered in the first two episodes of the season (how long could they possibly stretch a month?) Hopefully, that's time enough for a sendoff that paints a suitably complex portrait of the Princess rather than one that feels reductive. After all, Morgan has always done that and more for the Queen.