Sunday, January 19, 2014

Death Comes To Pemberley (2013 Miniseries)

This new murder mystery sequel to Pride and Prejudice aired December 26-28, 2013 on BBC in three episodes. I received the book by P.D. James for Christmas and had hoped to read it first, but the opportunity to view this miniseries proved too tempting to resist! While there is a murder theme and a part of the plot includes and adulterous theme, there is only one scene that is a bit inappropriate. If you decide to watch it on YouTube like I did then I can tell you exactly where in the video the bad scene(s) are. Although not capturing the real P&P in some ways, this was a very fun period drama and is a very hopefully sign that Jane Austen related films will continue to be made! I did really enjoy Death Comes To Pemberley (2013) and it will be added to my DVD collection as soon as it is made available in the USA.

Story: In their six years of marriage, Elizabeth and Darcy have forged a peaceful, happy life for their family at Pemberley, Darcy’s impressive estate. Her father is a regular visitor; her sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; the marriage prospects for Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, are favorable. And preparations for their annual autumn ball are proceeding apace. But on the eve of the ball, chaos descends. Lydia Wickham, Elizabeth’s disgraced sister who, with her husband, has been barred from the estate, arrives in a hysterical state—shrieking that Wickham has been murdered. Plunged into frightening mystery and a lurid murder trial, the lives of Pemberley’s owners and servants alike may never be the same.

Costumes: Mostly correct for the Regency time period although older characters like Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourgh wear older more Georgian styles even though they probably would have long updated their styles  (Mrs. Bennet at least loved new fashions!). Most characters are shown in the same outfits or colors multiple times, even main characters like Elizabeth who always wears teal. There are some lovely gowns though, especially Lydia's red v-neck gown.

Music: Fits moods of scenes - pensive, mysterious, happy, hopeful. There is one English Country Dance but is doesn't last long. Main theme is pretty but not easily identifiable. Music good for a period drama.

Scenery: Pemberley House and the surrounding lands are beautiful and perfect for filming. The house used for the exterior shots at Pemberley is Chatsworth House in Derbyshire just as in Pride & Prejudice (2005) so the outdoor and indoor shots are very lovely and somewhat familiar! A lot of the indoor scenes at Pemberley were shot at Castle Howard in York, England (they have an excellent page that tells which scenes were shot in which rooms!) where a lot of the main rooms run into each other instead of having a central hallway. The room into room conversations are used frequently for overhearing conversations and picking up clues, although it did bug me sometimes but maybe just because Lydia featured in many of those scenes. Also in the miniseries you will find a sweet little cottage, old abbey ruins, mysterious woods, a country village, busy town, a jail, a historic courthouse and a cozy little church! The locations are particularly excellent!

Questionable Scenes: The main inappropriate scene is in Episode Three and is a love making scene between Elizabeth and Darcy. It doesn't last very long and doesn't get R rated as it is mostly kissing and undressing. In the scene that follows a bare chested Darcy and Elizabeth in her undergarments lay in bed and discuss the case. These scenes are not necessary to the miniseries and can be easily skipped. Besides these two scenes there is a mother briefly shown breast feeding her baby. The murder/attack is shown in full toward the end of the miniseries with some slight violence. Besides those there is also themes of adultery, unwed mothers, hanging, blackmail and scandal throughout this miniseries. Although this is a murder mystery it is very tastefully done and inappropriate things are not shown even if they are mentioned.

Historical & Austen Accuracy: There are no drastically different changes from Jane Austen's original novel as the events in Death Comes To Pemberley happen six years after Pride and Prejudice ends. Mary Bennet and her husband are mentioned but Kitty Bennet never is, which is a bit disappointing. A few characters appear harsher or more secretive in the context of this murder mystery than they did in the original book. As far as I have read the story is faithful to Regency law and investigation proceedings. There are a few new characters added and some matches between existing and new characters are a bit unrealistic but they are fun.
One thing that was a bit harder to like was some scenes that flashed back to happenings from Pride and Prejudice; the costumes and hairstyles used in those were more Georgian and they didn't use direct quotes all the time. It was a bit of a miss for me because direct quotes could have easily been used. These scenes are easier to take if you think of them as perhaps the characters' faulty memories of previous events.

Actors & Characters: Many familiar faces! But were they well cast?
--Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth Bennet Darcy - Because this is a more serious themed story there is not as much opportunity for Elizabeth's wit to come out but it does on a few glorious occasions. Her quick opinion, sharp mind and love of walking through mud are very evident. Anna Maxwell Martin is not the Elizabeth we all want but she is such a remarkable actress that she is fascinating to watch on screen and I couldn't help cheering over seeing her finally portray a Jane Austen heroine. Next stop Anne Elliot!

--Matthew Rhys as Fitzwilliam Darcy - Very fatherly and kind, honorable, gentlemanly, noble. But as the same time the murder investigation makes him overprotective of Pemberley and the Darcy reputation. He becomes distant to Elizabeth and the viewer as he slips back into being the prideful and rather secretive Darcy from the beginning of P&P and not the changed, more open Darcy of the novel's end. Matthew Rhys actually looks better as Darcy than I had expected, and is definitely worlds better than the dark and evil Mr. Jasper he was in The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012). And this Darcy does smile quite a bit!

--Matthew Goode as George Wickham - A perfect choice for Wickham with his dark good looks and charm but also capturing Wickham's greed and selfishness. Matthew Goode captured Wickham amazingly well and was so believeable that you really do start to hate Wickham all over again. In the story Mr. Wickham is not only accused of murder but a good deal of other misconducts too, the trick is finding out which ones are true! It was great to see this period drama actor in another similar role and one that took a great deal of skill to pull off exceedingly well.

--Jenna Coleman as Lydia Bennet Wickham - Finally, Doctor Who meets Jane Austen! Well, not really but having a Doctor Who companion play an Austen character may be the closest the Whovian-Janeites get. ;)  In a word Jenna Coleman was horrid as Lydia, absolutely horrid! And by horrid I mean that she so perfectly captured Lydia that I found her as absolutely irritating as in P&P! Her pretty looks, annoying voice and total careless attitude to what anyone else thinks were perfect for Elizabeth's wild younger sister. Jenna was perfectly horrid! :)

--Eleanor Tomlinson as Georgiana Darcy - Although not quite as pretty as some might expect, this Georgiana is noble, kind and sweet. She has grown wiser and a bit bolder perhaps but still retains her strength of character. In this story she finds two suitors vying for her hand and a little romance story ensues. She is truly a good friend and help to Elizabeth and Darcy. Her story ends not quite how we Janeites might expect but overall it is a very interesting part of the miniseries.

--Rebecca Front as Mrs. Bennet - She doesn't quite look like Mrs. Bennet, especially as the style she wears are more Georgian in looks, but in all other respects Rebecca Front completely captures Mrs. Bennet. Nervy, gossipy, hypochondriac, selfish, careless of scandal, all these are the Mrs. Bennet we expect and recieve. Like the Lydia and Wickham actors, Rebecca Front is so perfect in her role that you can't help but find her highly irritating!

--James Fleetwood as Mr. Bennet - Wonderful to see this actor in another period drama role but unfortunately he stutters and seems weak next to his wife, instead of being the dry witted critical thinker of the book. There are a few excellent scenes of him enjoying Pemberley's library or joking with Elizabeth, but overall he is too much like Frederick Dorrit and doesn't stand out as boldly as Mr. Bennet should.  

--Tom Ward as Colonel Fitzwilliam - Though noble, kind and gentlemanly this version of Colonel Fitzwilliam is also prideful, aristocratic, abrupt, overprotective and secretive. The portrayal of this character was the biggest fail of the miniseries for me. I really like the friendly, witty, kind, upbeat Colonel Fitzwilliam of the book and while I understand how this very different version fits into this story it was difficult to see him so much changed. Also Tom Ward didn't look much like the Colonel to me. It might have been better to have him be a different Fitzwilliam brother because he certainly wasn't the Colonel from the book.

--Joanna Scanlan as Mrs. Reynolds - She was surprisingly a bit younger looking that would seem right for a the Pemberley housekeeper who is supposed to have known Mr. Darcy since he was born. She keeps the household running quite smoothly and is Elizabeth's right hand woman on every occasion. Mrs. Reynolds is a very likeable character although she could have been a bit more talkative and a bit older.

--Penelope Keith as Lady Catherine de Bourgh - Perfectly aristocratic, haughty and prideful of the family name. Penelope Keith looked and talked the part but she has the uncanny ability to make Elizabeth look a bit childish and Lady Catherine seem to speak complete sense. Given her lines from P&P I think she would have been perfect but here the scene is short and goes by very quickly.

--Tom Canton as Captain Denny - The murder victim and there's some question as to whether he is a good guy or a bad guy. It is interesting to see this character come back from the novel and still be friends with the Wickhams. The actor did a good job of adding life (and death) to a fairly faceless character.

--Alexandra Moen as Jane Bennet Bingley - When Elizabeth needs a little bit of gentle counsel Jane is on hand to give some sisterly advice. She is blond, sweet and sensible but perhaps does not think so well of people as she does in the book. She does help get Lydia and Mrs. Bennet away from Pemberley for a while for which we and Elizabeth both heartily thank her! Mr. Bingley does not make an appearance and little if anything is said of their having any children.

--Trevor Eve as Sir Selwyn Hardcastle - The magistrate and investigator in the case who has some bad feelings toward the Darcy family. He is a rough and rather hard man but he gets to the truth in the end. His character is often disheveled and shows the gritty side of the Regency period.

--James Norton as Henry Alverston - A friend of the Darcy family who is a lawyer and a bit of a radical thinker. Henry's interest in Georgiana is very sweet but it is hard to tell whether he is always acting in the family's best interest.

--Philip Martin Brown as Mr. Bidwell - The proud old coachman who must make way for new younger men to take his place. His family has served the Darcys for generations and he is very disappointed that his son Will is too sick to take his place as coachman.

--Jennifer Hennessey as Mrs. Bidwell - His wife, a kind and gentle woman.

--Lewis Rainer as Will Bidwell - Mr. Bidwell's son who is very ill and nearing his last. Elizabeth visits their cottage to lend Will books like Robinson Crusoe!

--Nichola Burley as Louisa Bidwell - Mr. Bidwell's daughter who is pretty and sweet. She and her mother care for her sister's young son George.

--Kevin Eldon as Doctor McFee - A physician of great courage who besides examining the victim must tend to the hard task of settling Mrs. Bennet's and Lydia's nerves! There are a few rather funny scenes involving him, a very clever actor!

--Little Fitzwilliam Darcy - Darcy and Elizabeth's son who is spirited and all boy. His parents both adore him even though they find themselves at odds from time to time.

--Mariah Gale as Mysterious Lady - A phantom lurks in Pemberley woods - is she the ghost of a disgruntled employee, the murderer's assistant or something worse?

--Stephen Casey as Reverend Oliphant - Local minister who assists the Darcys when scandal threatens their family name. I found him to be quite a funny character but also a brave one as he helps uncover who the true murderer is.

My Thoughts: Although there are a few discrepancies to the original book there are a lot of things that match very well. From the first episode I found myself really enjoying the story and the actors too. It was really a lot of fun to see this world beyond the novel and a story set at Pemberley. I really enjoy mystery stories too so having that type of period drama mystery was quite intriguing! The miniseries reminded me a bit of the Jane Austen mysteries by Stephanie Baron that I have read and it would be neat to see some of those stories brought to the screen someday. As I said at the beginning of my review a DVD copy of this miniseries will definitely be added to my Jane Austen collection in the future. It was a very well done miniseries and should be enjoyed by all Janeites! I look forward to reading my copy of Death Comes To Pemberley in the near future and finding out what was included and excluded from P.D. James' book.

Recommendations: This miniseries was made for TV but I would give it almost a PG-13 rating but only for the questionable scene and themes mentioned above. There is mild profanity used but no really bad language. I'd recommend Death Comes To Pemberley (2013) to teens and adults who enjoy Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen and murder mysteries. Janeites, you may just love it!

Have you seen Death Comes To Pemberley (2013)

Based on my review would you like to watch it if you haven't already? 

P.S. If you plan to watch Death Comes To Pemberley on YouTube I can give you specifics on where the questionable scenes are.

P.P.S. I am organizing some lovely screencaps I downloaded from sns_red_curtain and hope to update this post with a bunch of different pictures including photos of each character!


  1. Really eager to watch this one. It looks SO good. Thanks for reviewing it, Laurie.

    ...and I adore your header image. It's gorgeous. :)

  2. Thank you for the review! I wasn't really interested in seeing this, but now I am!

  3. Thanks for the review of this series. My husband enjoys PD James, and in fact we met her when he taught at Harlaxton in 1995. She was very unlike the dust cover photos of her books--she looked very much like "Jessica Fletcher" in the early seasons! A very gracious lady.

  4. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this! (especially since the book wasn't my favorite). Jenna-Louise Coleman as Lydia was hilarious- I liked her, Georgiana, and Wickham's casting the best. I love Anna Maxwell Martin, but I just had a hard time getting her as Elizabeth, although Matthew Rhys was much better as Mr. Darcy than I expected. Didn't care overmuch for Colonel Fitzwilliam, though.

    Oh, and the actress who played Jane Bennet was also in Doctor Who...she played The Master's Wife, Lucy Saxon.

  5. Thank you for reviewing this Miss Laurie!
    I will probably watch this on youtube sometime soon, since it is easy to skip bad scens on youtube.

    I hope you have a great day!

  6. How trippy that I've never heard of this! Thanks so for sharing. Your reviews ever do help me in deciding to view or not to view (in this case, I'll be watching, and let you know what I THINK!)

  7. I watched DCtP last week and enjoyed it very much. I was warned in a comment of the inappropriate scene(s), so I was able to skip them. Overall, very good and would definitely recommend it to older teens and adults as well.

  8. Lovely! I'll add this to my to-watch list.
    If you'd like another Doctor Who-Jane Austen connection, watch the 2007 version of Manfield Park. Billie Piper, who plays Fanny, was a companion of the Doctor's.

  9. What a great and in-depth review! I agree with by far the most things you say about this series and with you I also hope this opens the way to adaptations of other Jane Austen-inspired books!

  10. Great review! If I ever find the time, I do want to see this. I keep hearing that people liked it better than the book, which I didn't like a lot. And it's so good to read one of your thought-ful and detailed reviews again!

  11. Hello Laurie,
    Thank you for your review of Death Comes to Pemberley and the heads up that the miniseries is on YouTube! I watched the first part the other evening, and I'm about to watch part 2. I'm really enjoying it. I love your blog! :)

  12. I think I may try watching this on youtube, if you tell me which part to skip so I don't have to be on the alert through the whole thing. ha

  13. Hello, thanks for this nice review! When I'm able I'm going to watch it. I noticed actress Eleanor Tomlinson is in this series. I would like to know what you thought about her performance in Poldark (2015) Season 1? I loved her as Demelza! :D


I love to hear what my readers are thinking! Please do not use bad language when commenting as my blog is here to encourage readers, not to tear them down. Thanks! :)