‘The Pickwick Papers’ (1985) (TV)

the-charles-dickens-dvd-collection1 the-charles-dickens-dvd-collection2

‘THE PICKWICK PAPERS’ (1985)

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Pickwick Papers with Nigel Stock

“What the Dickens?!”

‘The Charles Dickens Collection’ DVD box set is a collection of BBC adaptations on the classic works by Charles Dickens. I enjoy seeing some classic dramas from time to time and a Charles Dickens classic is worth seeing, as the stories themselves are well-written and constructed plots by the man!

These BBC adaptations featured in this DVD box set have been made over the years by various production teams and from various visions. Most of the dramas were made in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. All these classic adaptations of Charles Dickens’ works are so unique in their manners and styles.

‘The Charles Dickens Collection’ is a 12-disc DVD set. The stories included are as follows. There’s ‘The Pickwick Papers’, ‘Oliver Twist’, ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’, ‘David Copperfield’, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘Our Mutual Friend’. Something for everyone in this box set!

‘The Pickwick Papers’ is a Charles Dickens classic that I knew the least about! This BBC adaptation of the novel was made in 1985 and was produced by Barry Letts and script-edited by Terrance Dicks. Those two were the producer and script-editor of ‘Doctor Who’ from the early 70s with Jon Pertwee.

This was a nice ‘Doctor Who’ connection for me whilst watching ‘The Pickwick Papers’ and there were some faces I recognised in the cast of this production of the Charles Dickens classic. This is a 12-episode epic, based on the original novel by Mr. Dickens and one I thoroughly enjoyed watching.

‘The Pickwick Papers’ is quite an unusual period drama that I’ve come across from the world of Charles Dickens. It’s certainly lighter in tone compared to other Charles Dickens classics and it is certainly one I found really intriguing with various plot developments and array of quirky characters.

The story was dramatised by Jack Davies and was directed by Brian Lighthill. I felt in safe hands with Barry Letts producing and Terrance Dicks script-editing this classic drama serial. They did quite a number of classical dramas after doing ‘Doctor Who’ and they’ve been faithful to the original novels.

This drama focuses on the mishaps and misadventures of Mr. Samuel Pickwick with his friends Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass. I must admit it took me a while to get into the story when watching the first episode of the serial. But I watched more, I found this drama interesting later on.

There was a lot going on in terms of how Mr. Pickwick has his misadventures in the story. These included things like his dealings with the roguish Mr. Jingle; the trial over a misunderstanding with his landlady Mrs. Bardell, his time in prison following the trial and to help Mr. Winkle in his marriage.

I probably will need to re-watch ‘The Pickwick Papers’ again in order to gain a clearer understanding of the story. But I’m very pleased that I watched ‘The Pickwick Papers’ properly and I enjoyed seeing the cast who deliver wonderful performances as their characters and how they progressed the story.

Nigel Stock stars as Mr. Samuel Pickwick. I’d seen Nigel Stock beforehand as he guest starred in the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘Time-Flight’ with Peter Davison. Pickwick is the founder of the Pickwick Club in London. He has very strong moral views in life and has this very kind heart to his friends around him.

Clive Swift stars as Mr. Tracy Tupman, one of Pickwick’s friends in the story. For me, Clive Swift is well-known as Richard from the BBC sitcom ‘Keeping Up Appearances’. Tupman is a very flirtatious man and there’s an interesting story for him where he falls in love with one of Mr. Wardle’s sisters.

Jeremy Nicholas stars as Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, another of Pickwick’s friends in the story. I like Winkle’s character, as he is a reluctant sportsman who makes mistakes when out shooting with friends. He falls in love during the story and he blunders things when defending Pickwick as his trial.

Alan Parnaby stars as Mr. Augustus Snodgrass, another of Pickwick’s friends in the story. Snodgrass is supposed to be an amiable poet, but I didn’t find he stood out for me as a character in this. Pickwick, Tupman and Winkle had standout roles in it, but I’m afraid Snodgrass had that short straw.

There’s Phil Daniels who stars as Sam Weller, who becomes Mr. Pickwick’s valet. I liked Sam Weller as a character. Sam is a down-to-earth cockney character that Pickwick meets and he becomes loyal to his master during the story. Sam also has an eye for the ladies and can talk a good talk anywhere.

There’s Patrick Malahide who stars as Mr. Alfred Jingle. I’ve seen Patrick Malahide before in a BBC production of ‘Middlemarch’. Mr. Jingle starts off trying to mingle in with Pickwick’s company. But it turns out he’s an actor and a charlatan. Pickwick becomes determined to have justice brought to him.

‘The Pickwick Papers’ is narrated by Ray Brooks, who for me played David in the ‘Doctor Who’ movie, ‘Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 AD’, with Peter Cushing. I enjoyed Ray Brook’s narration of ‘The Pickwick Papers’, as he sets up with the beginning of the episode and closes each episode before the credits.

The rest of the cast are as follows. There’s Howard Lang, who I’ve seen before in the first ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘An Unearthly Child’, as Tony Weller, Sam’s father. There’s also Colin Douglas, who I’ve seen in ‘A Family at War’ and in ‘Doctor Who’, as Mr. Wardle, a friend of Pickwick’s in the countryside.

There’s Milton Johns, who was in ‘The Good Life’, ‘Ever Decreasing Circles’ and ‘Doctor Who’, as Mr. Perker, Pickwick’s layer. There’s also Pip Donaghy, who’d later star in ‘Oliver Twist’ produced by Terrance Dicks, as Trotter, Jingle’s servant as well as Jo Kendall as Mrs. Bardell, Pickwick’s landlady.

Other faces I recognise in this drama serial are as follows. There’s John Woodnutt from ‘Jeeves & Wooster’ as Sergeant Snubbin; Hugh Ross from ‘Counter-Measures’ by Big Finish as Jackson; Jerome Willis who was in the ‘Doctor Who’ story, ‘The Green Death’, as Mr. Pott and James Cossins who was in the ‘Fawlty Towers’ episode, ‘The Hotel Inspectors’, as Nupkins.

In the story, there’s a special Christmas episode in ‘Episode 8’ where Pickwick and his friends celebrate Christmas at Mr. Wardle’s house with his family. This was something I greatly enjoyed watching in the run-up to Christmas. It felt appropriate to see the Christmas episode at the time.

The courtroom trial in ‘The Pickwick Papers’ mostly takes up ‘Episode 9’. I enjoyed how the trial of Pickwick took place and things became worse when Winkle says something that he shouldn’t have said in defence of his friend. Also the women by Mrs. Bardell’s side in the trial were so over-the-top indeed.

Eventually, Pickwick ends up going to prison to which he chooses of his own accord since he refuses to pay any damages to Mrs. Bardell. It was interesting to see Pickwick in prison and it brings a darker element to the story which is quite a contrast compared to the lighter tones that happened before.

The humour of ‘The Pickwick Papers’ clearly stands out for me from this drama serial. It’s quite subtle and quirky humour especially with Pickwick and his friends during the story. I found it funny when Pickwick and his friends couldn’t control the horses and carriage when getting to somewhere.

There’s also a moment when Pickwick and his friends with Mr. Wardle are out on a picnic somewhere and Pickwick soon falls asleep. Eventually Pickwick gets captured and finds himself wakened by having people throwing food and fruit at him. It was quite a shock for Pickwick indeed.

As well as humour, there is also an element of 18th century politics thrown into the story. This is especially true when Pickwick is getting legal advice from Mr. Perker to help him during his trial and also to help his friends. It was very interesting and Dickens was well-versed in that side of his stories.

I like how the drama serial ends with everybody happy and raising a toast to Mr. Pickwick, after he makes his speech to everybody about the future for him and his friends. It was very reassuring and it helps the audience to appreciate the richness of the characters that’ve gone on different journeys.

‘The Pickwick Papers’ has been a great drama serial to watch from ‘The Charles Dickens Collection’ on DVD. I liked the performances of the cast led by Nigel Stock as Mr. Pickwick. I will have to watch this drama serial again, as it was interesting and certainly unlike any Dickens classic I’ve seen before.

‘The Pickwick Papers’ (1985) rating – 8/10


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7 thoughts on “‘The Pickwick Papers’ (1985) (TV)

  1. dyingclown

    Hi – A good review, and interesting to see the connections with Doctor Who. I am actually the author of the novel Death and Mr Pickwick, which tells the story behind the creation of The Pickwick Papers, and on the novel’s facebook page Iast year I did a post about other connections between The Pickwick Papers and Doctor Who, as you can see here: https://www.facebook.com/deathandmrpickwick/posts/931763166957536 And, strangely enough, in today’s facebook post, I have covered another adaptation of The Pickwick Papers which appeared at roughly the same time as the BBC version, the Australian animated version. Here is the link to that post. https://www.facebook.com/deathandmrpickwick/posts/1046302868836898 Incidentally, if you are interested, you can find out more about my novel at http://www.deathandmrpickwick.com Best wishes Stephen Jarvis.

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  2. Tim Bradley Post author

    Hi Stephen.

    Glad you enjoyed my review for ‘The Pickwick Papers’ TV serial by the BBC. Glad you enjoyed the ‘Doctor Who’ connections in my review.

    Thanks for letting me know about your book ‘Death and Mr. Pickwick’. That sounds really good and interesting. Thanks for sharing the links with me about the book. I will need to re-watch the TV serial again and then read the book ‘The Pickwick Papers’ to review it on my blog. I hope to get into reading your book as well someday.

    I’ve checked out your Facebook post about the connections between ‘The Pickwick Papers’ and ‘Doctor Who’. I find it difficult to avoid recognising actors I’ve seen in ‘Doctor Who’ stories in the BBC period dramas I’ve watched, whenever I see Charles Dickens and Jane Austen adaptations. I’ve even written my own ‘Doctor Who’ fan-fiction story with Jane Austen in it called ‘The Austen Code’.

    Interesting you mentioned in your Facebook post that ‘The Death of Art’ book featured Charles Dickens in it. I hadn’t realised that before, but then I haven’t read the book yet.

    Thanks for posting and sharing your thoughts on my blog today, Stephen. Glad you enjoyed my ‘Pickwick Papers’ review.

    Tim. 🙂

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  3. dyingclown

    How interesting that you have written Doctor Who fan-fic featuring Jane Austen! That sounds like something that Doctor Who’s producers might be interested in. I actually had the unusual experience of one of the Death and Mr Pickwick fans writing a little piece of fanfic about me, imagining me as an embittered man who never finished the novel. But thankfully I DID finish it! I do hope you will manage to take a look at Death and Mr Pickwick – the fan who wrote that fan-fic actually said that probably no other novel has such a facebook presence as Death and Mr Pickwick, and I think he could be right. There have now been literally hundreds of posts, exploring all sorts of connections, and historical avenues, of which Doctor Who was just one. For instance, Nigel Stock, whom of course you mention in your Pickwick review, appeared in The Prisoner, and there was a post about the influence of that show on Death and Mr Pickwick. All the best Stephen

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  4. Tim Bradley Post author

    Hi Stephen

    ‘The Austen Code’ is available to read on my blog in ‘The Fifth Doctor by Tim Bradley’ series, which you can find here if you’re interested – https://bradleybasement.wordpress.com/the-fifth-doctor-by-tim-bradley/the-austen-code/

    That’s interesting about Nigel Stock appearing in an episode of ‘The Prisoner’, even though I’ve not seen that series yet. Thanks for sharing that with me, Stephen. I enjoyed Nigel’s performance as Mr. Pickwick in this 1980 TV version of ‘Pickwick Papers’. He was also in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, another BBC production which I’ve also reviewed here on my blog – https://bradleybasement.wordpress.com/the-world-of-charles-dickens/a-tale-of-two-cities-1980-tv/.

    My favourite TV productions from the BBC’s Charles Dickens collection include
    * ‘Oliver Twist’ – https://bradleybasement.wordpress.com/the-world-of-charles-dickens/oliver-twist-1985-tv/
    * ‘David Copperfield’ – https://bradleybasement.wordpress.com/the-world-of-charles-dickens/david-copperfield-1999-tv/
    * and ‘Our Mutual Friend’ – https://bradleybasement.wordpress.com/the-world-of-charles-dickens/our-mutual-friend-1998-tv/

    ‘Oliver Twist’ from 1985 was produced by Terrance Dicks, script editor of ‘Doctor Who’ in the 1970s; ‘David Copperfield’ from 1999 featured a very young Daniel Radcliffe before he became ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Our Mutual Friend’ from 1998 featured Paul McGann who also played the Eighth Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’.

    I look forward to reading ‘The Pickwick Papers’ by Mr. Dickens and ‘Death and Mr. Pickwick’ by you soon when I get a chance. I’m sure it’ll be worth reading and very enjoyable and interesting. I’ll download it via Kindle and read it when I can.

    Thanks for posting on my blog.

    Best wishes
    Tim. 🙂

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  5. dyingclown

    Hi Tim – Wow! I have just visited your blog, and I was impressed that are so many chapters. To be honest I just don’t have the time to read it at the moment – I am currently working on my second novel, and have a tight deadline to meet, and unfortunately I don’t do much reading outside of novel-related research at the moment. I did see that parts are set in Bath – not surprising when Austen is concerned – and actually Bath features in Death and Mr Pickwick.

    Nigel Stock appeared in a single, very unusual episode of The Prisoner. (Though it could be said that ALL episodes of that series were unusual.) In this episode the main character’s mind was placed in Nigel Stock’s body – so for just that episode, Stock was the main character.

    All the best

    Stephen

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  6. Tim Bradley Post author

    Hi Stephen

    I’m glad I impressed you with my page for ‘The Austen Code’ and its chapters. I have happy memories writing that story and it was fun to research with Bath, Jane Austen and the Roman Baths in it.

    That’s alright. I’m not expecting you to read the story straight away. The links are there when you want to read the story. I can understand how busy you are. I’m sure you’ll enjoy ‘The Austen Code’ when you read it. The inspiration came from wanting to write a story set in Bath after having many holiday trips to the city with my parents. Having Jane Austen and the Roman Baths in it helped to enhance the story. I also took inspiration from using ‘Northanger Abbey’ as a plot device for what goes on in the story.

    Oh! Bath features in your ‘Death and Mr. Pickwick’, does it? That is interesting! I find that Bath is mostly featured in many classic works of fiction by eighteenth century and nineteenth century authors as well as Miss Austen. Bath must have been a popular city in those times.

    Thanks for sharing Nigel Stock’s appearance in ‘The Prisoner’ episode. It sounds pretty interesting and I’m sure it must have been tense and unusual to watch with the character he played.

    Many thanks.

    Tim. 🙂

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  7. dyingclown

    Hi Tim – Yes, Bath features in several scenes. One big scene concerns the spillover of the Bristol Riots of 1831, when a famous coaching inn in Bath, The White Hart, was attacked by rioters. All the best Stephen

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