‘A Tale of Two Cities’ (1980) (TV)

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Please feel free to comment on my review.

Two Cities with Paul Shelley

This is the 1980 TV adaptation of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. I didn’t know much about this story by Charles Dickens, but this was an intriguing take by the author on the French Revolution in the 1700s.

This drama serial is divided into eight episodes. ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ was dramatised by Pieter Harding and was produced by Barry Letts, former producer of the Jon Pertwee era of ‘Doctor Who’.

Surprisingly, this serial was not script-edited by Terrance Dicks but by Alistair Bell. This is unusual, considering that Barry Letts worked with Terrance Dicks during the Jon Pertwee era of ‘Doctor Who’.

‘A Tale of Two Cities’ was directed by Michael E. Briant, who also directed a number of ‘Doctor Who’ stories during the 1970s. I’ve met Michael E. Briant at the ‘Pandorica 2015’ convention and he worked with Barry Letts.

Now I admit, I found the first half of this drama serial a little confusing. I couldn’t get into the story or understand what was going on. But I was able to get into it and the characters by the second half.

The story is set in two cities as indicated by the title. The cities are London in England and Paris in France. The story highlights the relationship between England and France in the French Revolution.

The French Revolution is what many would call it ‘The Reign of Terror’ as depicted in the ‘Doctor Who’ story. It was a time when the peasantry took charge and had the aristocrats’ heads guillotined.

It’s interesting that Charles Dickens did a story about the French Revolution set before his time and when he wasn’t there himself. Dickens’ ‘tale of two cities’ highlights those horrors of that revolution.


Paul Shelley stars as two characters in this drama. He stars as Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton. For me, Paul Shelley played Persuasion in the ‘Doctor Who’ tale ‘Four To Doomsday’ with Peter Davison.

I enjoyed Paul Shelley’s performances as the two characters he played in this story. Both are uncannily similar in appearance, but Charles Darnay is nobler and less cynical than Sydney Carton is.

Nigel Stock stars as Jarvis Lorry, a friendly bank manager in the story. I was pleased to see Nigel Stock in this, since he was in the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘Time-Flight’ and also appeared in ‘The Pickwick Papers’.

Ralph Michael stars as Dr. Manette, a prisoner in France who gets released by his daughter Lucie and Jarvis Lorry. I’ve seen Ralph Michael before, since he would later play Tom Travers in ‘Jeeves & Wooster’.

Sally Osborn stars as Lucie Manette, Dr. Manette’s daughter in the story. Lucie is a lovely character who finds her father at last in his prison in France and she soon falls in love with and marries Darnay.

Vivien Merchant stars as Miss Pross, Lucie’s governess in the story. She starts as rather silly-talking but is fiercely loyal to Lucie. I did like it when she tackles Judy Parfitt’s Madame Defrage in the story.

Judy Parfitt stars as Madame Defrage, a vengeful French revolutionary. For me, Judy Parfitt starred in ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ with Sarah Sutton in 1973 as well as ‘Little Dorrit’ in 2008 and ‘Call the Midwife’.

Stephen Yardley stars as Defrage, a revolutionary leader and husband to Madame Defrage. I’ve seen Stephen Yardley in the two ‘Doctor Who’ stories, ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ and ‘Vengeance on Varos’.

There’s David Collings, who I’ve seen in three ‘Doctor Who’ stories, as John Barsad. And there’s also Morris Perry, who I’ve seen in the ‘Doctor Who’ story, ‘Colony in Space’, as Marquis St. Evremonde.

This TV production of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ has been very interesting and enjoyable indeed. It was confusing to start with, but I got into the story later on. The story’s end was a little depressing though.

‘A Tale of Two Cities’ (1980) rating – 6/10

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2 thoughts on “‘A Tale of Two Cities’ (1980) (TV)

  1. Peter Quah

    This is an admirable dramatisation of Dickens’ novel. Well done! I enjoyed the DVD production. The characters are well played out by Paul Shelley (Charles Darnay & Carton) especially and Ralph Michael (Dr Manette). The Seamstress character was also outstanding. The ending brought tears of enlightenment to viewers, for though it was tragic to see the Seamstress and Carton meet their end, they died ‘happily’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Peter.

      Thanks for leaving a comment on my review for ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. Glad you enjoyed the dramatisation and production of Dickens’ novel and very interesting insight you have on the story’s ending.

      Tim. 🙂



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