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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.



  • 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.
  • 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.
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    • Oliver goes straight from the workhouse to the streets where he meets Dodger, without the apprenticeship to an undertaker.
    • Scrooge first hears Marley's ghost long before Christmas, and long before seven years have passed.
  • 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.
  • Composite Character: The ending rather implies that, in this version, Esther from Bleak House and Estella from Great Expectations are the same person.
  • Continuity Lockout: If you don't know your Dickens, the first few episodes in particular will be very confusing.
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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hen Pecked Husband: Mr Bumble, the Bumbles providing much of the comic relief.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Nancy.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: There are over thirty named characters drawn from the books, plus original character Miss Biggitywitch and an unnamed messenger boy.
  • 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, Silas Wegg from Our Mutual Friend is running the Three Cripples pub from Oliver Twist, Amelia Havisham and Honoria Barbary are best friends, and so on.
  • 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.
  • Race Lift: The Artful Dodger and Nell are black.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


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