In the second instalment of our celebration of Charles Dickens’ bicentenary, the Mediatheque looks at television adaptations of his work. Dickens’ novels have been a cornerstone of quality British television drama for more than 50 years, their intricate plots and vivid characterisation lending themselves particularly well to the serial format. This collection allows you to sample episodes from a rich variety of adaptations, several of which cannot be found on DVD. Compare the 1985 Bleak House with the 2005 hit starring Gillian Anderson, and one of the earliest surviving TV adaptations of Great Expectations – broadcast in 1959 – with the lavish 1999 two-parter. Meanwhile, immerse yourself in the Victorian milieu with the three-part drama-documentary Dickens (2002), presented by Peter Ackroyd and featuring Timothy West, Prunella Scales and Miriam Margolyes.
Ten to try
Great Expectations (1959)
An early adaptation of the Dickens favourite directed by children’s TV pioneer Dorothea Brooking.
Barnaby Rudge (1960)
Dickens’ historical novel has not been adapted for film or TV since this 1960 BBC serial.
David Copperfield (1966)
Look out for Doctor Who-in-waiting Patrick Troughton in this surviving episode from the BBC’s 13-part adaptation.
Our Mutual Friend (1976)
One-time Artful Dodger Jack Wild stars in the first of a 13-part version of Dickens’ last completed novel.
A Christmas Carol (1977)
Michael Hordern makes a mean Scrooge, ably haunted by John le Mesurier’s Marley.
Hard Times (1977)
Unusual in Dickens’ oeuvre for its northern mill town setting, Hard Times also saw Granada TV stepping in to produce this 70s four-parter.
Dombey and Son (1983)
Julian Glover takes the lead as the eponymous shipping company owner.
Bleak House (1985)
The BBC tackled one of Dickens’ most complex narratives with this classy 80s mini-series. Diana Rigg and Denholm Elliott star.
Great Expectations (1999)
Charlotte Rampling as Miss Havisham and Ioan Gruffudd as Pip lead an all-star cast in this sumptuous two-part adaptation.
Bleak House (2005)
The opening episode of the BBC’s award-winning 15-part triumph, with Gillian Anderson on top form as Lady Dedlock.