BBC1’s new twenty-part series, created and co-written by Tony Jordan, may seek to revive some of the most iconic literary characters of Dickens into a contemporary screen. The series ‘Dickensian’ collaborates characters across Dickens novels from Ebenezer Scrooge to Miss Havisham into one Victorian London neighbourhood, exploring the passing away investigation of Ebenezer Scrooge’s business partner Jacob Marley. It is expected to feature familiar names from Great Expectations to Bleak House, in what may offer an imaginative insight into the lives of the most monumental characters in fiction.
The ‘Dickensian’ sequel which begun on BBC1 this Boxing day and aims to continue throughout January, may have the ability to build on Dickens as an international brand, reflecting the sheer popularity and engagement contemporary society continues to have with the Dickensian era. Charlotte Moore, BBC1 Controller, commented on the way in which the series may “take the audiences to places they [may scarcely have] been before” suggesting this adaptation may have the ability to contribute to the show’s overall aim in creating fresh and cutting-edge ways to keep Dickens current and engaging to audiences of all ages; and familiarity with Literature. The sequel’s ability to create a backstory for the characters of Dickens, whilst also presenting a world in which characters intertwine may also see the show offering a privileged insight into figures such as Miss Havisham, which may have the ability to provide answers to what may have been left unanswered within the novel.
However, with the challenges which may come with representing, or in this case re-representing Dickens characters, BBC producer Tony Jordan assured the public “[Dickens] [quite possibly may] have loved it, I [believe he’d oblige], because I am faithful to his characters and I have explored them and enjoyed them for a popular audience, which is who he wrote for,” he says. “It’s a real celebration of Dickens where I am able to bring Dickens to a new audience.” This may suggest, it is the platform of a television series that enables the reinvention of the Victorian characters, as well as providing a multi-dimensional depiction of their lives. This may be further helped by the structure of a sequel in particular, where the show may also have the ability to follow the characters’ growth and development beyond the novel or film forms’ capability, building on readers’ previous understandings of characters whilst also offering something innovative and unique to their story.
Stylistically the series is quite visibly set in the Victorian era, with a blend of the East End’s coarse charm and high society order taking centre stage. London is encrusted with snow, which may be interpreted as the underlying ambience as the audience is took on several journeys of cold calculated cut and thrust plots whilst following many different characters. Several storylines encapsulate the narrative: a homicide investigation is the backbone of the series so far, a spat of inheritance and honour between half-siblings, love and poverty, greed and an introverted temperament and the questionable moral fibre of the Victorian social construct; to name a few.
The series which stars Stephen Rea and Tuppence Middleton, may through its originality draw audiences whom are yet to be familiar with Dickens, proving it may be enjoyed by all. In turn this may have a larger impact on popular engagement with Dickens, which may expand to new audiences, engaging new generations to the characters of his literary classics. On a broader scale, the format of collaborating fictional characters beyond the stories they exist may also be adapted amongst a spectrum of other authors such as Emily Bronte and Virginia Woolf and may have the ability to create engaging and unique material for a 21st century audience. Young adults may also find ‘Dickensian’ an opportunity to embark on other series adaptations of novels as alternative ways to engage in literary classics, as well as providing existing for Dickens fans across the nation with a fresh interpretation of his creations.
How may BBC1’s Dickensian engage new audiences to classic literature?