This story was first published on The Reading Room.
It’s only been about half a year since audiences said goodbye to the Crawley Family, but us lovers of British period dramas miss them dearly. We also miss their extended family, everyone who works for them, and the drama of their lives. Luck has come our way; Downton Abbey writer and producer Julian Fellowes, an expert in British-history-dramas, created the TV adaptation of Doctor Thorne, by Anthony Trollope. The very binge-able mini-series, directed by Niall MacCormick, is now available on Amazon and is getting excellent reviews.
Doctor Thorne has familiar themes of class clashing with romance, of what should and what shouldn’t be in Victorian Britain, of family dysfunction, and, for added thrill, murder. The story revolves around Doctor Thorne, played by Tom Hollander, and his niece Mary, played by Stefanie Martini. Impoverished Mary, possibly an illegitimate child although her true background is a mystery, is romantically involved with Frank Gresham (Harry Richardson). In a classic Downton Abbey meets Romeo & Juliet manner, Frank’s family detests their love. There are secrets behind Mary that only her loving Uncle knows, and watching all the drama (including high-class meltdowns) unfold is exceedingly fun.
“Mr. Fellowes packs a lot of charm and amusement into its 160 minutes,” Mike Hale wrote in his review of Doctor Thorne for the New York Times. Most reviewers agree that lovers of Downton Abbey will appreciate this new series, and the Daily Mail has gone so far as to claim that Doctor Thorne is even better. “There was more plot for a start, with storylines that whilst not dissimilar [to Downton Abbey] were more intriguing, more subtlety, and were more juicy,” they wrote. Looks like Fellowes has made a hit out of Trollope’s Victorian novel!
Featured still from "Doctor Thorne" via Hat Trick Productions