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on 28 November 2007
I have watched "The Missing Years" three times in the past two weeks and found myself enjoying it more each time. At first I was sceptical. I could not see how a new writer and new cast,apart from Richard Chamberlain as Archbishop de Bricassart,could possibly follow Colleen McCullough's much loved book "The Thorn Birds" and the mini series of the same name. But I was pleasantly surprised to find myself watching the "new" Meggie,Luke, Justine and Dane without comparison. Simon Westaway's Luke has a much bigger part this time and he played it with a mixture of deviousness and thuggery. Olivia Burnette as Justine, always believing herself to be unloved,brings subtle intellect to her part. Her brother Dane,played by Zach English,plays his part well too, but I would have liked him to have more of the physical characteristics of his father. More of the young Ralph's physical and spiritual beauty.

I have to say though, that I thought that Maximilian Schell in the role of Cardinal Vittorio and Julia Blake as Fee were interpreted very differently. Those who watched the mini series would have enjoyed Christopher Plummer's Vittorio. He would not have berated Ralph over the refugee finances as Maxmilian Schell's Vittorio did, but would have sat him down beside him and gently purred "my dear Ralph, we would like you to continue your good work with the refugees. They will need to be resettled in other countries, and as Australia has shown an interest we would like you to go there and negotiate with their government. And while you are there I think that you should perhaps call at Drogheda and see what problems are being caused by the severe drought".

In the same way it was hard to reconcile the two Fees. Jean Simmons was brilliant as the careworn wife and mother in the mini series. Julia Blake gives us a brisker and more attractive Fee, and dare I say it, an interfering and meddling one. She goes as far as telling Ralph that she has known all about him and Meggie, and later, when Luke wins custody of Dane, she lets him easily guess who really is Dane's father. They make a pact not to tell Ralph, but Luke picks a fight with him. Despite being a priest and a non-fighter, Ralph summons strength and brings Dane home to Drogheda.

"The Missing Years" is obviously about the continuing relationship between Meggie and Ralph. She is a mother of two children now and he is an Archbishop. Meggie has just gone back to Luke and the O'Neills seem set to become a family for the first time. But, as readers of the book will know, Ralph has a tendency to turn up at crucial times in Meggie's life. He had no choice but to return to Drogheda, but was hoping to keep some distance between them. But that was not to be. When they meet again for the first time after ten years, we have the wonderful scene at the railway platform. Ralph has just alighted from the train and when the smoke and steam dissipate he sees Meggie a short distance ahead of him. She had been seeing her mother Fee off to Sydney. They just stand and stare. This is the first time that Ralph has met the "new" Meggie. I do believe that Amanda Donohoe has taken on the challenging part extremely well. She brings compassion and maturity to the part and I have no difficulty in accepting her as Meggie.

The remainder of the film takes place at Drogheda, and this gives Ralph and Meggie opportunities to meet and talk. They rekindle their passion in a remote shack during a fierce storm. Ralph offers to give up the priesthood, and although Meggie has waited all her life to hear him say this, she tells him that this is not what he really wants. In the end, he goes back to Sydney and the refugee negotiations renewed in their love. He sees it as a blessing and not a burden. Richard Chamberlain continues to play his part to perfection. Although he is older now, he is as charismatic and professional as ever.

I can recommend "The Missing Years" to all who have enjoyed the book and mini series. Don't be put off by the fact that it has a different writer and cast. This can take some getting used to but maybe like me, a second or third viewing is need to appreciate the development of the story and the characters. I did enjoy it!
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on 14 June 2017
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on 17 May 2008
It's always difficult to follow up a classic and this sadly fails on almost all counts. Forget that the cast is almost completely different, it's the writing, format and oddly enough music that gives this a Hallmark TV feel compared to the classic drama of the origonal mini series.

The story concentrates on one single visit to Drogheda (which according to the origonal series did not happen) The relationship between Richard Chamberlain and the new, more action girl style Meggie (Amanda Donohoe) never gets close to that he had with the far more vunerable Rachel Ward.
The supporting cast just don't seem as convincing as before either.

It's not that this is bad, just it does no justice to what went before.
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on 19 June 2007
If you want more of The Thornbirds then buy this DVD. It shows the years between the birth of Dane and when he is 10 years old - not featured in the original mini series.

Having not read the book, I'm not sure if this part is included, but it is enjoyable. It tells the story of Luke coming back to claim Dane as his son and a fierce court battle with Meggie for custody - no-one knows the true identity of Dane's father, except Meggie and her mother! There are more love scenes between Father Ralph and Meggie - wow, but somehow it's not quite the same! This is because most of the characters are different from the mini series. Only Richard Chamberlain remains and the chemistry with Amanda Donohoe, as Meggie, isn't as romantic as with Rachel Ward. What a pity the original actors couldn't have been employed again! Richard's obviously aged, 13 years after filming the first series, but he still looks good, considering!

If you're an avid Thornbirds fan, then it's worth a look at.
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on 5 June 2009
I remember watching the original Thorn Birds mini-series when I was 13yrs old; after having read the book several times beforehand. Finally decided to give the Missing Years a try because Richard Chamberlain is a magnificent actor. I was really disappointed and found it to be absolute drivel. Richard Chamberlain is the only actor to reprise his role of Ralph de Bricassart from the original series, and it shows. The new cast are nothing like the characters portrayed in the original and the storyline is completely alien to anyone who knows the Thorn Birds - Meggie would never ever have gone back to Luke after being with Ralph; and Ralph, although he clearly loved Meggie, would never have given up the priesthood for her. Overall, this film almost ruined the original Thorn Birds for me but thankfully my faith was restored after watching it again and re-reading the book for the hundredth time. Richard Chamberlain is as excellent as ever but even he says in his memoirs, Shattered Love, that he has never been able to bring himself to watch the finished article The Thorn Birds - The Missing Years. I don't blame him.
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on 25 November 2009
I first watched the original Thorn Birds when it aired on uk television when I was a little girl, and back then I remember thinking how very special it was. Fast forward years later, I decided to give The Missing Years a try. To say I was disappointed is such an understatement! Richard Chamberlain is the only original cast member, and, despite very comfortably settling back into his role as Ralph De Bricassart, the lack of chemistry and raw emotion between himself and new Meggie, (Amanda Donohoe) is incredibly painful to watch, and quite sad really, as that was the main ingredient needed to make this work. To me, so much else didn't work either, such as the relationship between Meggie and her mother Fee. For those of you who adore the original like myself, you will know just how strained their relationship was, how unloved Meggie always felt. Yet at times in this film, Meggie and Fee would be seen laughing together, such as the scene where they are driving to Gillanbone Station, and they laugh as Fee does battle with the gears. Jean Simmons gave the performance of her life portraying Fee in the original, whereas Julia Blake just could not get it right. What really gets to me though more than anything is the fact that none of the main story in this film actually happened in the book. There was no bitter court case to decide whether Dane should stay with Meggie or Luke, and, as one reviewer quite rightly said, Meggie would NEVER have gone back to Luke after being with Ralph. Its almost like the writers have turned an absolute classic tv series into a massive soap opera, from the way the camera sweeps across Drogheda at full speed ( which, to me looks so much like the start of Emmerdale!) to the way the music, beautiful in the original, has been adapted and, at times sounds pretty much like Dallas! I so much wanted to enjoy this follow up, but alas, it left me cold.
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on 15 September 2010
If you have read the book and/or seen the original TV series or DVD, this follow-up is a big disappointment. The relationships between some of the characters (particularly Justine and Luke) is very different from that which would seem credible from the original story. The original series made quite a lot of changes from the book, but they did not detract from the general portrayal of the characters. I think The Missing Years does, and would rather I had left those years to my imagination.
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on 28 August 2011
If you've loved like this....in the past or now....you'll love this DVD and not compare it with the original. I didn't worry that most of the cast had changed, that the wonderful Jean Simmons no longer played Fee or that Rachel Ward wasn't Meggie. I didn't bother that Dane had red hair. No, I just wallowed in watching what could have happened in those intervening years. This was fast-moving, full of action as well as of emotion. The renewal of love between Meggie and Ralph swept me away. I think only Catholic women will really appreciate this film and especially Catholic women who know what it is to love a priest. Of course the love is unspoken and unrequited; it has to be. That's why watching a film where it is actually mutual is such a comfort. Watch this and the original and read the book over and over again. I loved it and I'm sure many more will do so. I don't think it's a man's film. I'll add that, for me,the new Luke O'Neill was very attractive and more so in appearance than the ageing Richard Chamberlain. But that was only a transitory feeling on the part of this Catholic woman. In the end the love between the priest and the girl he had fallen in love with, hopelessly, helplessly, all those years ago, was central to my emotions. Buy and watch this DVD!
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on 9 May 2013
I loved (and still love) the original series and when I bought the boxed DVDs was delighted that this came too as I'd never seen it before but I hated it with a passion!
It was interesting to see Ralph's work during the war years as they were mentioned in the novel as the time he met and befriended Rainer (Justine's boyfriend) but it makes a complete nonsense of the later years of the original series when Meggie's adult children don't know Ralph when he returns to Drogheda and he says that the last time he met Justine she wet on him. Also Meggie says that she was upset that Ralph could have thought that she could ever go back to Luke after the time they spent together on Matlock Island and yet in this series they are not only back together but trying to build a new home and have another child. As for the casting of Vittorio and Fi, I agree with other reviewers - the actors have taken their own interpretation of the characters and it doesn't fit with the way they were in the original. Destined for the charity shop I'm afraid - I'll never watch it again.
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The missing years is supposed to fill in the gaps in the original tale, but when you have different actors and actresses playing the significant parts, it is hard to watch this following the original series. Add to that a few plot holes and the major plot screw-up (in the original, the cardinal does not know Dane till the end of the series, in this one Dane is his protege....for years....) and you have something that could have been a disaster, yet it seems to work in an odd way, hence it earns a few stars. Not the best series to watch, and if you never saw it, you would not have missed much, but if you are deeply concerned with what happened in the years Dane grew up, then get this as you will find out one version of the story..
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