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The daughter of a country doctor copes with an unwanted stepmother, an impetuous stepsister, burdensome secrets, the town gossips, and the tug on her own heartstrings for a man who thinks of her only as a friend.
It's odd to find myself criticizing a production that stars Diana Rigg and Denholm Elliott, but I have no choice. Not only is this miniseries often dull and slow-moving, but it's very hard to follow the story. After watching episode one, I was so confused that I set it aside, and waited until I'd watched the much superior 2005 production with Gillian Anderson.
I picked this up again after seeing the more recent series, so at least I can follow the story. But it's still not that coherent. I haven't read the novel yet, so this production may be more faithful, but it's certainly not very good television. All the interior scenes are so dark (as are the street scenes) that it's sometimes difficult to see clearly. Much of this (in the street scenes, anyway) was apparently done to convey the filth and fog of London --- but they overdid it.
Diana Rigg is a splendid actress, but she has very few scenes in this production, and as she plays the role with any icy hauteur, betraying almost no hint of her vulnerability, it's hard to empathize with her. The rest of the cast tries its best, but this is just not a good script. It's slow and hard to follow.
If you're not familiar with the plot, I recommend the 2005 series with Gillian Anderson as the one to start with. This is one is worthwhile but misfires on many levels. Below par for BBC productions of this vintage.
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