Our Mutual Friend (1998– )
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Episode #1.1 

A body pulled from the Thames is identified as young John Harmon, heir to a fortune made in dust-contracting. Bella Wilfer, his wife-to-be by terms of old Harmon's will, goes into mourning though she has never met her fiancé.


Julian Farino


Charles Dickens (novel), Sandy Welch

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Paul McGann ... Eugene Wrayburn
Keeley Hawes ... Lizzie Hexam
David Schofield ... Gaffer Hexam
David Bradley ... Rogue Riderhood
Dominic Mafham ... Mortimer Lightwood
Michael Culkin ... Mr. Veneering
Rose English Rose English ... Mrs. Veneering
Margaret Tyzack ... Lady Tippins
Sarah Crowden ... First Guest
Cate Fowler ... Second Guest
John Dallimore John Dallimore ... Third Guest
Peter Howell ... Fourth Guest
Ray Gardner Ray Gardner ... Fifth Guest
Robert Lang ... Mr. Tremlow
Doon Mackichan ... Sophronia Lammle


Bella is adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Boffin, inheritors of the dust business in default of young Harmon. The Boffins also hire a very capable but mysterious young man as secretary, John Rokesmith, whose keen interest in Bella holds the secret to his true identity.

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Release Date:

9 March 1998 (UK) See more »

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User Reviews

Mystery amidst mourning
16 October 2018 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Have always had an adoration for period dramas and adaptations. Have said more than once before that there are adaptations that underwhelm as an adaptation and some disappoint on their own terms but there are many classic ones out there.

Both this adaptation of 'Our Mutual Friend' and the one from 1976 do justice to Dickens' final novel, and are truly excellent on their own. Talking about preferences though, that is a very hard one as both are so good, for now from this viewer they're about equal in quality with this one getting the slight edge. The book is a mammoth one, very complex with lots of story lines, emotions and characters, a really great piece of literature if like a lot of Charles Dickens difficult to adapt. Excellent is not enough to describe this adaptation as it is one of the best Dickens adaptations personally seen and almost certainly ever been too. Not just that, but also one of the best period dramas of the past 25-30 years or so. This is apparent in this first episode, which sets things up but does so more than compellingly.

It is a very opulent production, beautifully shot and from the grim streets to the rich aristocracy and waterfront the period detail is rich and stunning to watch. It is not quite as atmospheric as the earlier adaptation but the contrast of the poor and rich is more convincingly done here (just look at the teeth of the poor for example). The haunting music score is noteworthy as well, and the dialogue is sophisticated, funny, whimsical, thoughtful and foreboding and mostly Dickensian flavour.

'Our Mutual Friend' (1998) does a terrific job adapting such a complex and layered story, in this first episode it is always engrossing and never dull. The pacing is beautifully measured, and perhaps more accessible than the 1976 version, which was much more deliberate, effectively so from personal perspective. Though a lot of 1970s-80s Dickens-adapted serials have been criticised for being tedious, don't share this myself. The telling of it is very suspenseful with hope, some nice comic moments, whimsy and heart-breaking tragedy complete with an evocative atmosphere. Even with omissions it's also fairly faithful and maintains the spirit of Dickens' writing.

The acting is exceptional all round, and helped by the smart direction and the rich, detailed way the characters are handled. Particularly good are Steven Mackintosh and David Morissey (the latter applying to the adaptation as a whole, he doesn't appear in this part), Mackintosh's performance is restrained, nuanced and assertive- much more convincing age-wise than the Rokesmith in the earlier adaptation- while Morrissey isn't just chilling and tormented but brings tremendous depth to the besotted schoolteacher who descends into obsessive madness.

Paul McGann has some great lines, a few among the best of the entire adaptation, and manages to be amusing and dashing. Keeley Hawes is positively luminous and plays Lizzie with great charm and dignity, Lesley Dunlop's interpretation is a little more mature but Hawes is hardly fresh-out-of-finishing-school-type as described in a positive Amazon review of the 1976 adaptation.

Anna Friel is very beautiful as well as witty and charming, Bella is not the most pleasant of characters but Friel brings that across while also making her attractive too. Timothy Spall is humble and appealingly oddball and Peter Vaughan (a sinister Mr Tulkinghorn in the superb 1985 adaptation of 'Bleak House') and Pam Ferris play the Boffins with great character and gusto.

Kenneth Cranham plays Silas Wegg with real ferocity with touches of humour, while David Bradley's Riderhood is cool and calculating and Margaret Tyzack is a formidable presence.

Overall, outstanding and among the best Dickens adaptations and period dramas there's been in the past 25-30 years. 10/10 Bethany Cox

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