The world has not lacked for screen adaptations of the works of Charles Dickens.

There's been movies since the silent era, musicals, Muppets, and regular mini-series from the BBC in past decades.

But even if they kept all those bonnets and top hats from the likes of Bleak House and Great Expectations in recent years, the Beeb's costume department would have been working overtime for Dickensian - a mash-up series in which dozens of the novelist's characters share a neighbourhood and storylines with each other across 13 episodes.

Some are characters from earlier stages in their lives than the books. When we meet Jacob Marley from A Christmas Carol he is, well, alive rather than a ghost.


Miss Havisham from Great Expectations is young and in mourning black rather than old and still wearing her white wedding dress in her mansion, decades after having been jilted at the altar.

Likewise, some of the novels' famous locations are within cooee. Miss Havisham's Satis House, The Three Cripples pub from Oliver Twist and The Old Curiosity Shop itself are just along the cobbled street from one other.

The melange is the work of Tony Jordan, formerly the lead writer on EastEnders, and the series comes with an impressive cast including Stephen Rea as Inspector Bucket, Peter Firth as Marley, Pauline Collins as Gamp, Tuppence Middleton as Miss Havisham, and Caroline Quentin as Mrs Bumble.

"I am not a Dickens scholar. I haven't read all the books," says Jordan

"But I do love the adaptations ... I love the world of Dickens and the characters who inhabit it.

"The key for me was not to simply do another adaptation of the novels, but to take the characters we all love from those novels and mash them up to make something new and original."

The series got a mixed-to-good critical reaction when it starting screening in the UK at Christmas.

It's screening here in 13 hour-long episodes rather than 20 half-hour instalments as it did in Britain.

That might feel like it's a Christmas special stretched out for weeks -- but at least it's a nice break from all that Shakespeare.

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