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I have just watched this Christmas’ BBC production of the PD James murder-mystery ‘sequel’ to Pride and Prejudice (I own the novel but have yet to read it).

The first episode starts with a terrified Lydia appearing at Pemberley just before the annual ball, Denny being found dead in the grounds and Wickham arrested.  During the three episodes the expected characters put in an appearance including Mr and Mrs Bennett. Georgiana and Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Darcy and Elizabeth at first appear to be on the best of terms and the chatter between the couple is spirited and in keeping with what would be expected of these best known of fictional characters – however, cracks soon appear.  Darcy is well played by Matthew Rhys (he who was Byron in the Hugh Bonneville/James Purefoy film Beau Brummel: This Charming Man) whilst Anna Maxwell Martin was a rather lack-lustre Lizzie (presumably being mistress of Pemberley and motherhood has taken its toll).

There is a dark sub-plot around the mysterious soldier who bedded a local, innocent servant girl leaving her pregnant and some surprises such as the fact that the Colonel isn’t quite the nice, honourable man that those familiar with Jane Austen’s classic tale will know.  Then there is the revelation of who Mrs Young really is (don’t worry I won’t spoil this!)

Trevor Eve puts in the usual excellent performance as the local magistrate, Sir Selwyn Hardcastle … is he the baddie or not?!  Penelope Keith appears, all too briefly, as Lady Catherine who, to be honest is the only performance that can be seen as deriving from the original novel.

The trial scenes in the third episode are rather well played.  Anyone who is familiar with Garrow’s Law will see similarities.

I was particularly looking forward to it as so much if it was filmed in York and I was fortunate to see some of the scenes being recorded at St Williams College (the venue for the inn and the inquest mainly).  I also know Castle Museum well so was pleased to see it appearing as the courthouse and place of execution.

Did I enjoy it?  That’s a difficult question – I didn’t not enjoy it and I know that those playing the characters from Jane Austen’s novel must have had a difficult time due to the burden of carrying past performances on their shoulders.  Did I really care if Wickham was guilty or not … no I can’t say that I was.  I think the main failing was because the BBC should have made this a one episode programme (albeit an episode longer than one hour in length) which would have maintained a better pace.  Probably best to wait for it to come out on DVD so that all three episodes can be watched in one go.

012   Filming at St Williams College, York

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