“It was a good thing to have a couple of thousand people all rigid and frozen together, in the palm of one’s hand,” Dickens once wrote about books. Now his own rigid, frozen characters are getting a new life on the TV screen in BBC’s 20-part series Dickensian, which started filming this week in a West London studio. The show takes various Dickens characters from different stories and plunks them together in Victoria-era London; think the Avengers gang visiting Penny Dreadful. Ebenezer Scrooge, Fagin, and Miss Havisham consort on an elaborate set mimicking a cobbled London high street, complete with The Old Curiosity Shop, the fully functional Three Cripples Pub, and Fagin’s Den down an alley.
Stephen Rea plays Inspector Bucket (Bleak House), Pauline Collins gets her face ruddied for Mrs. Gamp (Martin Chuzzlewit), and Caroline Quentin takes on the domineering Mrs. Bumble (Oliver Twist). Peter Firth, Tuppence Middleton, Sophie Rundle, and Ellie Haddington will also make appearances.“You don’t need to know Dickens’ novels to fall in love with the stories we’re telling,” Collins said, addressing what must be a widespread fear that a television adaptation of several Dickens stories will out as frauds the many who simply pretend to remember reading those books—this writer included.