The BBC 1 Controller Charlotte Moore has described the new flagship drama commissioned by the BBC for its Autumn and Winter schedule as “breaking the mould”. The 20 part drama series takes characters from various novels by Dickens including Martin Chuzzlewit, Bleak House, The Old Curiosity Shop and Oliver Twist and presents them together in a new story.
Of course, Trollopians will find nothing ground-breaking in this. Trollope was doing precisely the same thing – think of Lady Glencora’s cameos in the non-series novels The American Senator and Miss Mackenzie, or indeed the appearance of Elias Gotobed, the eponymous American Senator, in the series novel The Duke’s Children. Trollope preceded the BBC in the creation of a larger world in which his fictional stories played out by some 150 years.
Nevertheless, the return to BBC1 of a lavishly funded costume drama is very welcome. This was always one of the great strengths of the BBC and has been sadly neglected in recent years. One cannot help but feel that it is a response to the success of ITV’s Downton Abbey. Let’s hope it lives up to the pre-publicity.