Andrew Davies's adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens tale of hardship and struggle in 1820s London. The Dorrit family has spent years in a debtors' prison due to the financial mess in which father William (Tom Courtenay) managed to land himself as a youth. Youngest daughter Amy (Claire Foy), known as Little Dorrit, finds work with the wealthy Mrs Clenham (Judy Parfitt) but knows that her father will, in all probability, spend the remainder of his life in gaol. However, when Arthur Clenham (Matthew Macfadyen), recently returned from abroad, comes to suspect that his late father was in part responsible for the Dorrits' plight, he becomes determined to make amends. But as he continues to delve into the mysteries of the Dorrits' and his parents' shared past, he is unaware that his own mother's house has been placed in peril by the arrival of a sinister stranger.
It’s fair to say that the BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit managed to attract quite a cast. Led by the excellent Claire Foy and Matthew Macfadyen, you’ll happily talent spot as the likes of Eddie Marsan, Andy Serkis, Alun Armstrong and Tom Courtney take their places in the production. And what’s more, making more fleeting appearances are the likes of Sue Johnston, Amanda Redman, Pam Ferris and Freema Agyeman. Star-studded doesn’t begin to describe it.
Perhaps the real star of Little Dorrit though is writer Andrew Davies, who once more manages to skilfully wrangle a classic text into a cracking TV adaptation. Across fourteen episodes, he weaves Dickens’ tale of 1820s London into life, and it’s not the easiest text to adapt. Davies, however, does sterling work here, and cements his position as one of the best in the business.
He’s matched toe-to-toe by the production team, though. Little Dorrit is the latest to further enhance the BBC’s pedigree where costume drama is concerned, and the production is simply sumptuous. Perhaps, on the downside, the casting gets a little star-focused, and it does require a little more effort than you’d normally expect on the part of the viewer to get into. But it’s richly rewarded effort, and we can’t be the only ones eagerly wondering what Andrew Davies will tackle next. For Little Dorrit really is something quite special. --Jon Foster