Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Delightful Dickensian

*photo - BBC

Dickensian, a delightful TV mash up of most of Dickens' characters which centers around the investigation of the death of Mr. "Ghost of Christmas Past" himself, Jacob Marley ( a character from "A Christmas Carol").  It is enjoyable for one to watch and recall which character comes from what book of Dickens' and go, “Ah, so that’s what may have happened as to why Miss Havisham of 'Great Expectations' lost her mind,” for example.

In this spin off, Fagin (the ringleader in "Oliver Twist"), Jaggers (the furtive lawyer from "Great Expectations") and Scrooge and Marley (both from "A Christmas Carol") interlocks in their business affairs, and the inquest of the latter's murder is the common denominator. The investigation is being conducted by one Inspector Buckett, the capable copper from "Bleak House". One sinister but commanding presence here in Dickensian is that of Meriwether Compeyson, the black-hearted extortioner of the Havishams. Though in "Great Expectations," his character was mostly annotated, he is pivotal to the whole story because were it not for his malevolence, the main characters' complexities in that book would not revolve as such. As it is in the book, Compeyson is significant but this time he is conspicuous here in the BBC drama; like all soaps though, the culmination of his ignominy is long in coming.

On a brighter note, we are treated to a sound-minded Amelia Havisham and a non-bleak Honoria Barbary, (soon to be Lady Honoria Dedlock of "Bleak House"); both are depicted as bosom friends here and what a sight for sore eyes to see such youthful buoyancy in these two. Capt. James Hawdon of the British Navy who is also an annotation in "Bleak House" is cheerful and full of romantic dreams for Honoria but alas in the future, he becomes "Nemo." *Spoiler.

Most everyone from the Dickens realm meets and passes through this Main Street in Victorian London and both benign and malignant characters hang and/or schemes at the default public called "The Three Cripples" (featured in "Oliver Twist"). At the pub, Mr. and Mrs. Bumble, Bill Sikes and Nancy (all from "Oliver Twist"); Mrs. Gamp, the gin-loving nurse from "Martin Chuzzlewit,” Bob Crachit, the honest clerk from "A Christmas Carol" and of course Fagin et. al. chill and conglomerate. The pub is owned by wooden leg Silas Wegg from “Our Mutual Friend,” and his diseased non-amputated leg  is being nursed by Mrs. Gamp. In “Our Mutual Friend" taxidermist Mr. Venus was featured as Silas Wegg’s would be cohort but in this universe of Charles Dickens, he becomes a confidant and forensic man of sorts to Inspector Buckett. Also found in the streets of Victorian London is “The Old Curiosity Shop,” and pretty, little Nell (still not quite fourteen) is being wooed by one of the Crachit kids.

The story lines here predates that of the main protagonists of the famous Charles Dickens books as it in fact lays a foundation for them. Example, Estella and Pip ("Great Expectations"), Esther Summerson ("Bleak House") do not exist yet, but I've read that Oliver Twist himself will materialize in the second season. The "street urchins" as Dickens fondly referred to them like Artful Dodger and others are used as couriers by baddies and goodies alike. Characters which I’d like to see but are absent from the show (so far, as I’m only in episode 7) are characters from Nickolas Nickleby, Barnaby Rudge and Little Dorrit, unless I missed them. I will not pretend to have read all of Dickens’ books but as it stands, this is a very clever and exciting amalgamation and innovation of the classic characters already.

Actors in the show include, Stephen Rea (Crying Game, Interview w/ a Vampire), Anton Lesser (GOT, POTC - On Stranger Tides), Tuppence Middleton (Countess Bezukhova in War and Peace, the recent one), Sophie Rundle (the sweet one in Bletchley Circle), Pauline Collins (Queen Victoria in Doctor Who), Tom Weston-Jones of BBC America's "Copper," who plays Compeyson and many more. Give this a tumble won't you? Because even if one doesn’t know their Dickens intimately, the plot twists and turns stand on their own, not to mention, the period design and costume and skillful acting of veteran and young actors are worthy.

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