Having brought Downton Abbey to a close a few months ago, it was to be expected Julian Fellowes would soon turn his hand to a new period drama.

And though this three-part adaptation of the popular Anthony Trollope novel is an entirely different kettle of fish from Downton, fans will be satiated by the familiar themes, costumes, and setting.

Turning the clock back to 1855, Doctor Thorne tells a reasonably cheerful tale of social mores, marriage proposals, illegitimate children, inheritance, duty, and love.

Doctor Thorne (Tom Hollander, also currently starring in The Night Manager) is a pillar of the community - an upright, steadfast, and occasionally grumpy fellow, who many wealthy residents call on not just for medicinal advice but also guidance in business and personal affairs.


The story revolves around his penniless niece Mary, Thorne's only blood relative, for whom he has great affection and is very protective.

Mary falls in love with a lovely young man named Frank, the heir to Greshamsbury Estate, and he with her. The only problem is Frank's mother would much rather he married a wealthy American in order to save their family from financial ruin.

There are plenty of other characters, like drunken railway millionaire Sir Roger Scatcherd (Ian McShane), and the snobbish Countess de Courcy, who get among proceedings and complicate matters, and what results is a great comedy of manners, within the confines of an everyday story.

"I was fiercely drawn to the challenge set by Trollope's ambiguity, to bring his wonderfully modern-seeming characters, who are neither all good or all bad, to the screen," explains Fellowes.

He was also drawn to Trollope's combination of comedy and generosity in his characters, and in particular to the straightforward nature of his hero.

"At the centre of them all, Doctor Thorne, played here so brilliantly by Tom Hollander, is probably one of the most uncomplicated heroic figures that Trollope ever wrote. But his heroism, if we may so define it, is of the modest and self-effacing type."

Along with Hollander, who last worked with Fellowes on Gosford Park, the cast includes Mad Men's Alison Brie, Stefanie Martini, Harry Richardson, and Rebecca Front.