TV review: Dickensian, BBC One (4 stars)

An addictive mash-up of characters for Dickens obsessives and casual admirers alike

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TV review: Dickensian, BBC One

Stephen Rea as Inspector Bucket (Bleak House)

You can easily imagine the ideas meeting when the BBC decided to throw another Charles Dickens epic at a Christmas audience. The usual suspects would have been bandied about: how about yet another Great Expectations or maybe revisit Martin Chuzzlewit? But wait, how about we throw together a whole heap of characters from different books and have them interact with one another in ye olde London-town of the 19th century?

Like some weird televisual version of those animated adventures where characters from other comic strips meet up or (worse yet) supergroups like the Travelling Wilburys and the Dead Weather, this idea smacked of some dodgy one-hit wonder novelty record. And yet against every conceivable odd, Dickensian works like a dream. For one thing, why should it be so outrageous to have the fictionally disparate likes of Fagin, Nell Trent, Scrooge, Amelia Havisham rubbing shoulders along the city’s fog-filled cobbled streets given that they all emerged in the same era and location?

And given that creator Tony Jordan’s main aim was to breathe a little fresh life into the stories, he’s entirely justified to indulge in his most audacious twist by putting flesh on the carcasses of some back stories. We all know that Miss Havisham never recovered from being jilted on her wedding day, but what led up to that traumatic event has never been fully told. And Scrooge’s debt-collecting partner Jacob Marley is in our psyche as a ghost who died several years before the action begins in A Christmas Carol, so wouldn’t it be fun to speculate further on how he died? Especially if he is found coshed to bloody death with a line of potential suspects for the dastardly deed lengthier than the long arm of Inspector Bucket’s law.

Naturally, much of the show’s success lies in the performances and there are sterling turns from Stephen Rea as Bucket, Anton Lesser as Fagin, Pauline Collins as Mrs Gamp, Tuppence Middleton as Miss Havisham and Ned Dennehy as Scrooge. And so a stupendously entertaining series of 20 half-hour episodes of Dickens-inspired drama (how very soap-ish from Jordan, the man who was behind some of EastEnders’ more successful storylines) propels us into 2016 with a flourish.

Dickensian starts on BBC One, Saturday 26 December, 7pm.


1. siobhan heigold19 Feb 2016, 11:19pm Report

what a fabulous series Dickensen is, how much I have enjoyed it!! What a nice change its made watching something that's easy watching but yet very enjoyable, full of little twists, little funny remarks just nicely slipped in to bring humour and drama together. Well done to all those people involved in the making of a fantastic program. Please lets have more programs like this and soon!!!!!!!

2. Sue Parker21 Feb 2016, 1:31pm Report

What a wonderful idea of blending one authors work together to make a truly enthralling series of programmes. For those of us who know Dickens work we have been able to immediately recognise the characters with only a few slight alterations, while others have been introduced to characters who demonstrate total trust, those to be feared, those in love, as well as the general hardships of those times. The whole thing has been exciting to watch and look forward to. I keep my fingers crossed for another series.

3. Virginia Snooks21 Feb 2016, 7:25pm Report

Brilliant Production. A great idea to combine so many of Dickens' amazing characters. The last episode was particularly heart rending.

There has to be more, so much has yet to be told and explored.

Well done all concerned.

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