The BBC’s latest unprovoked assault involving classic literature literally opens by taking the piss, surely a record when it comes to metatextual fourth-wall breaking.
Surely we can all agree that what Charles a dickens’ classic tale of regret and redemption has been missing is a padded-out prequel detailing a Jacob Marley’s journey through purgatory which then fundamentally alters the moral of the story from one of epiphany shared and souls saved to a selfish ‘scare the bugger straight’ agenda to enable Marley to pass through purgatory.
The half-hearted reforming of Scrooge as some sort of fiscal savant, bereft of obvious empathy, unable to relate to his fellow man and obsessively driven to record patterns and numbers also thumbs its nose in the face of Dickens prose, pushing the hauntings perilously close to being punishment for being – shall we say – neurologically atypical rathe than a purgatorial attempt to warn and enlighten.
The production values are excellent but the production itself rather less than the sum of its parts. Guy Pearce may provide something for the mums but seems disengaged as the ‘tight-fisted hand at the grindstone…the squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner’, but then he’s never seemed that comfortable in period roles adapted from classic literature, really. The rest of the cast are satisfactory in a workmanlike way in their flat stroll through Dickens’ parable but beyond the unnecessarily expanded role for Marley, nobody yet gets a great deal to do.
Even as Jacob Marley inadvertently (one assumes) echoes Jacob Rees-Mogg’s comments on the Grenfell tragedy it becomes achingly apparent how much this archly grimdark retelling has potentially missed its mark. With Dickensian literature becoming more and more relevant to so-called modern Britain with every passing day, it takes some effort to make this story seem disconnected from the all too contemporary evils of ignorance and want but there we have it.
Of course, it’s harsh to judge definitively after only the first visitation but this interpretation is undeniably haunted by the ghosts of adaptations past and we’re in for a long three nights if this is anything to go by. Redemption has never seemed further out of reach. God help us, everyone!