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Series / Dickensian

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Dickensian is a 2015 drama on The BBC based on the conceit that all Charles Dickens's characters lived in the same area of London at around the same time, which is at some point before the novels.

Created and co-written by former EastEnders writer Tony Jordan, it takes a Soap Opera approach of multiple plot strands interacting, of which the main ones are the investigation of Jacob Marley's murder by Inspector Bucket and Meriweather Compeyson's seduction of Amelia Havisham. Other major characters include the Cratchits, the Barbarys, and Fagin's gang. A full character guide can be found here.


  • Abhorrent Admirer: Silas Wegg to Mrs Gamp.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the book Jacob Marley was just as miserly as Scrooge up until his death, but here he takes sadistic pleasure in hurting people and sells orphans alongside Fagin. Also, he tries to rape Emily Cratchit, resulting in her murdering him.
  • The Alcoholic: Mrs Gamp's entire character is based around wanting gin.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Arthur Havisham is noticeably flustered by Compeyson's handsomeness.
  • Artful Dodger: The trope namer appears as part of the main cast.
  • Attempted Rape: Jacob Marley on Emily Cratchit who kills him in self defence.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: In the final episode, when Nancy is singing a romantic song, Mrs Bumble takes Mr Bumble's hand.
  • Broad Strokes: In the last episode, several events from the actual books happen, but not quite the way they did in the books.
    • Mr. and Mrs. Bumble are already married before the events of Oliver Twist.
    • Instead of sending a letter breaking the wedding off, Compeyson delivers it in person at the duress of Arthur and Jaggers.
    • Oliver goes straight from the workhouse to the streets where he meets Dodger, without the apprenticeship to an undertaker. He'd also come from one of Fagin's people trafficking cells (as opposed to growing up in the workhouse) and had tehrefore known Fagin already.
    • Scrooge first hears Marley's ghost long before Christmas, and long before seven years have passed. With Tiny Tim already about seven years old, if ten years did pass he would be a teenager by the events of the book.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Inspector Bucket, at least to the extent that there even is a book at the time.
  • Canon Foreigner:
    • Fanny Biggetywitch is entirely original, though she may be based on Mrs. Prig, Mrs. Gamp's fellow nurse and drinking companion in Martin Chuzzlewit.
    • Edward Barbary doesn't actually appear in Bleak House, although his existence can be deduced from that of his daughters.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Bill Sikes never goes anywhere without his cudgel.
  • Composite Character: The ending rather implies that, in this version, Esther from Bleak House and Estella from Great Expectations are the same person.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: At dinner with the Bumbles, Mr Gradgrind describes everything with a variant of "not unpleasant", which Mr Bumble rather desperately interprets as great praise.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Scrooge, particularly in the final episode.
  • Defiant Captive: Sikes, when Bucket briefly arrests him on suspicion of murdering Marley.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: When Nancy is questioned about Marley's murder she points out that there would be no police investigation if she were the victim and that the police do nothing when other prostitutes are regularly found murdered. Ironic, considering that in the book she comes from, Oliver Twist, there is a manhunt that goes out for Sikes after he murders her.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off!: A non-parental version. When a drunken Arthur nearly reveals his and Compeyson's schemes to Amelia, Compeyson escorts him off to their bedroom, removes his belt, and whips him with it until he cries, frustrated by Arthur's Alcohol-Induced Idiocy.
  • Driven to Suicide: Arthur at the end. Having lost his home, all his money and his sister's love and with no other family to turn to, he's last seen standing on a rooftop contemplating jumping. As there was no second series, we didn't find out whether he went through with it or not.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Amelia's dog doesn't like Compeyson at all. Which is why he drowns her.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: He's more of a Jerkass than Evil, but Mr. Bumble speaks with the deep, resonant voice of Richard Ridings.
  • Fat Bastard: The Bumbles, Jacob Marley.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Played with, as while what happens to certain characters is common knowledge, the details often differ. Jacob Marley died on Christmas Eve in the book, but in Dickensian he was murdered.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Between Frances (the smart one) and Honoria (the beautiful one).
  • Happily Married: Bob and Emily Cratchit, despite their poverty, live as happy as can be.
  • Hate Sink: Jacob Marley had zero redeeming qualities and was hated by everyone in town, making finding his killer much more difficult than it should be since everyone had a motive to kill him.
    • Which is probably good practice for the murder Bucket must later solve in Bleak House. Everyone hates Tulkinghorn too.
    • Everyone except Amelia hates Compeyson. And even she takes a while to warm to him.
  • Hen Pecked Husband: Mr Bumble, the Bumbles providing much of the comic relief.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Nancy.
  • I Have No Son!: More like I Have No Brother, which is Amelia Havisham's response to learning that her brother was complicit in Compeyson's plan to cheat her out of her money.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Many various plot threads from many Dickens novels all play out at the same time, leading to scenes jumping back and forth as new information is withheld or revealed.
  • Kick the Dog: Compeyson dumps Miss Havisham's dog in the river.
    • Just as Frances starts to soften towards Honoria after the incident with her baby, her father essentially tells her that unless she marries Sir Leicester he'll be forced back into debtor's prisoner and they'll all be destitute.
  • Kosher Nostra: As per canon, Fagin, who's not only Jewish and a criminal, but working with Marley in a child trafficking ring operating from the London docks.
  • Let Off by the Detective: Considering Marley's murder by Emily Cratchit was self defence, he threatened her children and tried to rape her, she wasn't intending to kill him and she has a family to look after. Bucket lets her walk free and the murder is attributed to a violent thug with several other deaths on his hands who was going to hang anyway.
  • Lysistrata Gambit: A variant is used by Mrs Bumble; rather than withholding sex, she promises Mr Bumble he can finally have some if he behaves himself at a dinner party. Then she reneges on it.
  • Malaproper: Mrs Gamp.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Compeyson, playing Amelia and Arthur off of each other and Amelia off of Honoria.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Of all Dickens's works, interacting in unexpected ways. For instance...
  • May–December Romance: Not reciprocated, but Honoria is courted by the much older Sir Leicester Dedlock.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Arthur suffers from this almost once an episode as Compeyson keeps revealing the new lengths he'll go to.
    • Mrs Cratchit understandably has this when Mr Bucket discovers the truth about Marley's murder.
  • My Local: The Three Cripples is a pub frequented by many major characters.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Amelia Havisham, Meriweather Compeyson, and Frances Barbary are all provided with first names.
  • No Name Given: The messenger boy is only listed in the cast list as "Boy". Likewise Little Nell's grandfather, who was never named in the book either. The orphan befriended by Bucket is just credited as "Little Boy" in his first appearance, but is later revealed to be Oliver Twist.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The flashback to the murder of Jacob Marley include several scenes from the first episode, showing how it all fitted together.
  • Open Heart Dentistry: Apparently, being a taxidermist qualifies Mr Venus as both forensic scientist and masseuse.
  • Prequel: To the novels, most obviously in the way it works in the backstories to Bleak House and Great Expectations.
  • Public Domain Canon Welding: The premise of the series is to show the lives of various Charles Dickens characters prior to their novels, all taking place in the same setting.
  • Race Lift: The Artful Dodger and Nell are black.
  • Redemption Rejection: Sorry, Arthur Havisham, but even if you felt guilty about it and ultimately turned on Compeyson, did you really think that your sister was going to forgive you after finding out that you were assisting a man who planned on cheating her of her money and leaving her at the altar? HA HA HA—No.
  • Replacement Goldfish: After kidnapping and drowning Amelia Havisham's dog, Compeyson buys a puppy (of a different breed) to replace it. She is initially appalled at his insensitivity since her dog had only been gone one day, so he quickly claims the puppy is for his godchild, but is then able to con her into keeping it.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Honoria Barbary is in love with the poor soldier Captain Hawdon, but her sister disapproves and would rather she married the rich and respectable Sir Leicester Dedlock.
  • Sarcastic Confession: Compeyson outright tells Pocket that he plans to steal Miss Havisham's fortune, but passes it off as a joke.
  • Secret Other Family: Episode 12 introduces Mrs Compeyson.
  • Shipper with an Agenda: Frances for Honoria and Sir Leicester Dedlock, the family is bankrupt and Honoria marrying the wealthy Sir Leicester would solve this. A rather tragic example as what Frances really wanted was to marry him herself and he isn't Honoria's type at all but it turned out he fell for Honoria and only saw Frances as a friend.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Little Nell dies in The Old Curiosity Shop, but survives until the end of the series.
  • The Starscream: Jacob Marley was planning to leave his partnership with Scrooge, but never got the chance.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: This is roughly what Arthur Havisham believes his sister should do. Although, given their class, it's more Stay in the Drawing Room.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Emily Cratchit. Jacob Marley did try to rape her, after all.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Inspector Bucket hates that he can't do anything about young children being shipped off to coal mines. He chooses Lawful, but he's not happy about it. He later chooses Good when he discovers Emily Cratchit killed Jacob Marley, and decides that he'd rather an unrepentant murderer of others hang for it than a woman acting in desperation and self defence.
  • Unseen Character: Mrs Bucket (no, not that one). Also Mr Pickwick, who uses the upstairs function room of the Three Cripples pub.
  • Victorian London: The series is set in an area of London at some point, probably quite early, in the Victorian era.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Fagin and Marley's orphan selling business.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole: Scrooge warns Bucket that the difficulty in his investigation will be finding someone who didn't want Jacob Marley dead.