‘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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