Dickensian is BBC One’s bumper Christmas show this year. The 19-part series promises to be a hugely entertaining “mash-up” of Charles Dickens’ novels.
It brings together favourite characters—such as Little Nell, Scrooge, Fagin and Miss Havisham—to live alongside each other.
And quite audaciously, it changes the storylines of some of Dickens’ best loved works.
The first episode, a startling take on A Christmas Carol, will be shown on Boxing Day.
In the original, Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s business partner, is already dead. But in this series he’s alive and operating as a much despised moneylender until he meets a mysterious death.
Inspector Bucket is drafted in from the novel Bleak House to find the killer.
It seems the killer could be one of the other 25 characters borrowed from some of Dickens’ most read books.
There is even a suggestion that Scrooge, who is famously haunted by Marley’s ghost, may have carried out the killing. Or could it be Bob Cratchit?
He’s Scrooge’s abused and underpaid clerk and the father of Tiny Tim—and one of Dickens’ most memorable symbols of social inequality. Surely not.
As one character impoverished by Marley says to Inspector Bucket, “Your problem will not be discovering who hated Jacob Marley enough to kill him, but rather finding someone who didn’t.”
Much money has been spent on the fantastic set, which in the first episode is white with snow but dark in content.
The cobbled London dockside street where most of the characters live include buildings familiar from Dickens’ works side by side.
They include The Three Cripples Pub and Fagin’s Den from Oliver Twist and Mantalini’s dress shop from Nicholas Nickleby.
Then there’s Garraway’s coffee shop, which features in stories such as Martin Chuzzlewit, Little Dorrit and The Pickwick Papers. Fagin and Scrooge are close acquaintances.
The half-hour episodes, each ending with a cliff hanger, have been written by former EastEnders scriptwriter Tony Jordan.
He says they will be a departure from the “reverential and faithful” way Dickens has been treated in previous TV adaptations.
Used to writing cliff-hanging
episodes himself Jordan is indeed following in the footsteps of Dickens.
He was the master of the cliff-hanger, who released many of his works in serial form.
The acting is first class.
Caroline Quentin fills the screen as the highly unpleasant Mrs Bumble, wife of the workhouse manager in Oliver Twist.
And the first episode offers enough tantalising changes to the original storylines to keep us guessing and wanting more.
From 26 December, 9pm