Masterpiece Classic: Season 36, Episode 10

The Ruby in the Smoke (4 Feb. 2007)
"Masterpiece Theatre" The Ruby in the Smoke (original title)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 724 users  
Reviews: 20 user | 2 critic

In Victorian England, Sally Lockhart receives an anonymous note sending her on a mysterious quest. Her father has recently died and feeling suffocated living with her elderly aunt moves in ... See full summary »



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Sian Thomas ...
Mrs. Rees
Kay Lyon ...
Robert Putt ...
Trevor Cooper ...
Mr. Higgs
Samuel Selby
Major Marchbanks
Tilly Vosburgh ...
Mrs. Thorpe
Chloe Walker ...
Mrs. Holland
Matthew Cureton ...
Young Marchbanks


In Victorian England, Sally Lockhart receives an anonymous note sending her on a mysterious quest. Her father has recently died and feeling suffocated living with her elderly aunt moves in with newfound friends, a photographer and his sister. She is soon made aware that the mysterious Mrs. Holland is out to kill her. In the end, she realizes the solution to the mystery is rooted in events that occurred long ago when she lived with her father in India and a recurring dream she has had ever since. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

based on novel | See All (1) »





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Release Date:

4 February 2007 (USA)  »

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Technical Specs



Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


[Mr Berry has just stolen the clue to the treasure from Sally]
Mrs. Holland: Oooh, Mr Berry. This calls for a celebration. There's gin in the cupboard.
Mr Berry: I signed the Pledge in Dartmoor, Mrs Holland. Alcohol is the cause of madness, hallucinations, softness of the brain and moral decay.
Mrs. Holland: I think the damage is already done in your case.
Mr Berry: Yeah, I was *formerly* very wicked - but I intend to lead a good life from now on.
Mrs. Holland: Always excepting the odd murder or two.
See more »


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User Reviews

Entertaining enough I suppose but not strong enough to really grip me or make me eager to learn more about the characters
24 February 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Sally Lockhart is left orphaned when her seafaring father goes down with his ship. Left with only her father's journal to remember him by, Sally is sent to the home of a stiff Aunt. Here she receives a letter that brings her to the offices of her father's employers but the contents of the note are sufficient to kill the man she shows it to. The mystery of "the seven blessings" continues as Major Marchbanks warns Sally of a dangerous enemy called Mrs Holland. Sally flees on his warning and finds herself pursued by Mrs Holland as both seek the whereabouts of a ruby, hidden by her father and protected by riddles and clues.

I have never read the books by Phillip Pullman so I can't really comment on how this film compares with the character as written, however this may also be a good thing as I don't have to worry myself about making comparisons across media. This film was screened at New Years and represented a big part of the BBC's festive line-up and was pushed as a result. I wasn't sure what to expect from it but found it relatively enjoyable as a bit of a period mystery. It doesn't really hang together though as the mystery tends to have peaks and troughs even across the comparatively short running time. The central thread concerning Mrs Holland and the ruby is engaging but the rest is not so good and seems to ask the audience just to go along with it.

A part of this failing can be laid at the feet of the cast. Piper in particular seems very bland and uninteresting throughout. She had a bit of something about her in Dr Who but here she seems to be restraining it as part of her character – which is an approach that doesn't work. In the words of a far less kind commentator – she appears to spend more time focusing on keeping her upper lip pulled down over her big teeth! Walters is much better in her role and her parts of the film are easily the strongest and more enjoyable. Smith is a bit too cheeky-chappie for my liking, while Field, Anderson, Gilet, Maudsley and others are all solid enough in their roles. Atwell was a nice find though, but her good looks and easy performance only served to highlight the weaknesses in Piper's performance.

The direction is good though and the whole film looks good with strong sets and costumes, however none of these make up for the rather disjointed delivery and flow. Entertaining enough I suppose but not strong enough to really grip me or make me eager to learn more about the characters.

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