Having just transmitted this past week on BBC Two, yet another classic drama makes its way to PBS’ Masterpiece series in April 2012. Currently in the middle of the long-awaited second series of Downton Abbey, the Masterpiece series is already flush with greatness and experiencing an abundance of riches in 2012 what with the upcoming presentations of Great Expectations, Birdsong and, the obvious game-changer, Sherlock which premieres May 6. And that only takes us to the middle of May.
Now comes The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Set to premiere on PBS on April 15, the one-off special, along with the April 1 premiere of Great Expectations, will be a part of the 2012 celebration of the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth. IN a nutshell, Drood is the story of a missing boy and an opium-addicted choir master. But, that’s only half the story….literally. The Mystery of Edwin Drood was only half-written when its author, Charles Dickens, died. The new BBC drama imagines how it might have ended.
The series revolves around John Jasper (Matthew Rhys), a choirmaster that simultaneously possesses the voice of an angel and a heart as black as his perfect pitch, tends to enjoy an opium-fueled fantasy of strangling his nephew Edwin Drood (Freddie Fox). That’s where the fun begins.
Dickens himself actually considered “Dead? Or Alive?” as a title when he started to plan the novel in 1869. Was Drood going to escape from his seemingly inevitable doom or was the author more interested in exploring the mind of a murderer? Unfortunately, the answer to that question will never be known.
It was June 8, 1870 when Dickens suffered a massive stroke only halfway through his current efforts. Dickens died the next day, leaving behind no rough drafts and no clues other than those already contained in what he had published. The second half of the story was like a painters blank canvas.
Screenwriter, Gwyneth Hughes, was quite candid about the difficult task of coming up with a new ending: “…trying to satisfy Dickens’s readers, as well as viewers of modern thrillers who are terrifyingly expert in spotting any flaws was real headbanger of a challenge”.
Hughes is not the first person to take on the challenge to finish this Dickens story that was published in the year of his death. Unfortunately, mostly all failed attempts in print, on the stage and on the big screen. While successfully tying up all the loose ends and getting into the head of Charles Dickens to determine where he might have gone with the piece is a monumental undertanking, zccording to reports in the UK, Hughes, at least, kept the unfinished work remarkably true to the original Dickens characters.