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The idea of bringing together into one narrative different fictional characters has been done recently and brilliantly in the likes of "Penny Dreadful" but this new BBC series takes it up a few notches more, not only in the number of disparate characters but of course that they are all from the world of Charles Dickens.
I must admit I was concerned when I read that the series was devised by the producer of the Beeb's dreadful soap opera "Eastenders" but, five episodes in, these Londoners I can stand. It is slightly confusing to see some resurrected characters walking about like Nancy from "Oliver Twist", Little Nell from "The Old Curiosity Shop" and Miss Haversham from "Great Expectations" and one wonders if they are going to meet the same end as before, also in my reading of the former, I didn't have Nancy pegged as a call-girl as here and attending, shall we say, to Jacob Marley too.
The show is set up along the same lines as the channel's previously successful adaptation of "Bleak House", i.e. in thirty minute programmes, usually with a kind of cliff- hanging climax at the end of each episode, which of course ties in well with the weekly publication method that Dickens himself worked to. The main story of the many plot strands appears to be the death of Jacob Marley from "A Christmas Carol", with Inspector Bucket of "Bleak House" on the trail, but a close second appears to be the anticipated jilting of Miss Haversham too.
As you'd expect, the production values are high, the settings are superb, interiors and exteriors, the latter especially played out in the winter snow. I'd imagine the eyes of the various agencies for actors in the UK all lit up when they got wind of this production, so many of them are employed here, although not too many big names that I can see, perhaps Stephen Rea in another mannered portrayal of Bucket, Caroline Quentin as the domineering Mrs Bumble and Pauline Collins having fun as that old soak Mrs Gamp being the most identifiable. There's also a smattering of new characters too just to help the plots develop and to date these creations are fitting in seamlessly well.
Anyway, I'm thoroughly enjoying it now that I'm familiar with the main characters and can see the plot coming nicely to the boil. I'm just wondering if some of the best known nicer characters like Pip from "Great Expectations", Nicholas Nickleby or David Copperfield might yet show up, but really there's more than enough to be going in with. With another fifteen episodes to go, there's plenty of time for surprises yet.
Some might see this interpretation of Dickens as manipulative or even sacrilegious but with modern writers devising authorised use of characters by say Charlotte Bronte and Ian Fleming to give two very different examples, personally I'm finding it fun and rather enjoying it so far.
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