26th/27th/28th December 2013
Starring: Anna Maxwell Martin, Matthew Rhys, Matthew Goode, Trevor Eve, Jenna Coleman
This three-part ‘sequel’ to possibly the most famous romance novel of all time, Pride and Prejudice, surpassed all expectations. Adapted from the novel by P.D. James, it was a welcome addition to the small screen as relief from the rest of the dreary Christmas schedule this year, but this is not what made it a stand-out mini-series. The narrative was rich with a mix of tension, drama and sentimentality that carried us and our best loved characters through a murder mystery.
The centre piece of this drama was the trial of George Wickham, who stood accused of the murder of Captain Denny, his best friend. Those who have read or seen ‘Pride and Prejudice’ in any form will of course remember the infamous Captain Wickham, and Matthew Goode gave a seductively charming performance as our favourite villain alongside Jenna Coleman as Lydia Wickham, whose animation faithfully brought with it all the irritating qualities of her character, which we wish would remain on the page. Yet this is not a criticism, for both Coleman and Rebecca Front, who played Mrs Bennett, were tasteful in their representations. In short, they did what Austen wrote on the page and we can ask no more of them.
Often considered with grand romance plots is how the characters shall fare beyond the end of the novel, namely after marriage, and this mini-series privileged us with access to the wonderful world of Elizabeth and Darcy six years on. Anna Maxwell Martin and Matthew Rhys tenderly took up the roles in a manner remarkably consistent with Austen’s novel; due credit should be given to P.D. James and the screenwriter Julia Towhidi. Their chemistry was undeniable, although the sex scene seemed a bit distasteful and unnecessary for my liking, the beauty of their love comes from the emotional, not the sexual connection between them. The BBC should reconsider the broadcasting of such scenes when the murder scene, essential to plot, was not shown.
Having said that, it really is worth seeing or reading, simply to encounter the ingenuity of P.D. James, who uses her superior creativity to weave her narrative, intertwining it with Austen’s in a playful but respectful way. Adding this to the elegance of costume, fluency of language and the magnificence of Chatsworth house, which shall henceforth be known as Pemberley, there is little else to say without becoming too revealing…
Don’t you want to know if Wickham is guilty or not?