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Great Expectations: Falling in love with Miss Havisham

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Gillian Anderson Gillian Anderson | 10:00 UK time, Tuesday, 27 December 2011

I wanted to play Miss Havisham because she's an iconic character who pervades our world in various forms. So many people have written about her or based other characters on her over many decades.

I was interested in what it was that was so appealing about her, what it is that seems to get under people's skin.

Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations

Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations

We're talking about a woman who is deeply, almost psychotically manipulative and potentially really psychologically damaging to Pip and Estella, the two children that we see her have this direct impact on.

There was a curiosity there for me. Also reading the scripts and appreciating the adaptation but then also going back and reading Great Expectations and kind of falling in love with her complexities.

I don't know how much of that was about falling in love with my interpretation of her, or what I was getting off the page of the script.

I've tried to remember what my innocent reader's eyes were picking up on when I first took a look at Great Expectations when I was younger and whether she still held that position for me in terms of awe, as she does now.

I have a feeling it was probably different, a very uncomfortable take I had on her really early on.

I don't know whether my ideas are based on other people's ideas of how she's been built up over time.

The bottom line was knowing that the BBC would do a spectacular production.

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Trailer: 'Your eyes have been opened... and now you cannot close them'

I think probably my favourite room on the set was the drawing room of Satis House because of the depth of it, the depth of the history, the muted colours, the butterflies, the birds and then the decay on top of all of that, the vastness, the height of the ceilings and the shafts of light just barely peeking through the windows... all of that.

I also really admired Sarah Phelps' adaptation and felt this was the one I wanted to be involved in.

Great Expectations is my favourite Charles Dickens book, because I feel like it has a humanity to it that has always moved me.

That starts at the very beginning with Magwitch being moved by Pip's bravery, of identifying the fact that this young boy is going to save a stranger by stealing the file from the one person he loves, and the person who loves him.

The heartbreak of Pip deciding to do that act and then at the last minute, grabbing a piece of pie for Magwitch.

It's recognised in that moment as Pip hands the pie over, that it also breaks Magwitch's heart.

That moment of pure innocence and humanity not only transforms Pip's life - unfortunately also in a negative way - but transforms those two human beings.

It opens Magwitch's heart in a way it has not been opened up before. It also carries you through the rest of the book, because it's a pure moment of one human being's kindness to another against everything he knows, up until that point.

I think Dickens' novels endure because there are common recognisable themes.

His characters are so complex, so multifaceted, painful and tragically human. But also he draws such interesting stories - he is a wonderful storyteller.

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Miss Havisham interrogates Pip

I am sure it also matters when somebody read the book and what their situation was at that particular time.

A lot of people I know who said Great Expectations is their favourite book are men.

Did they read it when they were pre-pubescent and feeling lost and misunderstood? Pip is feeling the awe of the wider world, the world beyond, and how Miss Havisham draws him into that, and opens his eyes and his heart, ultimately to crush it.

I can imagine being a young man, and reading Pip's journey, falling in love in a mysterious way in this magical house where you have come from the hardship of working in a forge and having lost all of your brothers and sisters save one.

And here's hope, here is a door to the rest of the world - and then having that shut and then reopened.

I can imagine that journey as a young kid, especially a young boy, must be unbelievably exciting.

It was the journey pre-Harry Potter. Of course it was longer ago, but I can imagine young people having the same kind of magical response to Great Expectations that we did when Harry Potter books first started to come out.

That's if it does get introduced at an early age, in school or through a parent or whatever and the child is able to crack the density of it.

This wasn't my experience of it. My experience of it was dipping into it here and there and probably reading most of it in my late 20s.

I can only imagine the magic of it and the immersion in that world at a younger age.

Gillian Anderson plays Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.

Great Expectations starts on BBC One and BBC One HD on Tuesday, 27 December at 9pm.

For further programme times, please visit the upcoming episodes page.

Watch Gillian (in costume) talking further about the Great Expectations script and set.

Read an article by Mike Osborn on the 'youthful' air of Gillian Anderson's Miss Havisham.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Your choice to use a modern foot crossing for Pip to run over at the start of this epic, totally destroyed destroyed the authenticity of the story. Was it supplied by Jewsons?

  • Comment number 2.

    I was looking forward to Great Expectations, but despite the good casting, acting and brilliant visual production - where are Dickens' words? I can't watch someone else's ideas of what he might have meant to say when he said it perfectly himself: eg the convict (who is not named at the beginning of the book) says "Hold your Noise", not "Shut up" and is chased across the marshes. He never comes to the forge. There is no servant at Satis House ("Miss Havisham up town"), Estella lets Pip in. Why have these things been changed? I love the book but I can't watch this. Such a pity when it looks so good.

  • Comment number 3.

    almost nothing in this has anything to do with the novel, in letter or spirit. apparently dickens's caricature is an embarrassment. the sophisticated modern viewer demands the moral seriousness of twilight.

  • Comment number 4.

    What a truly brilliant adaptation of a great Dickens novel. In this world of garbage soap operas, reality television and acid mouthed comedians, this was a joy to watch. I agree it is not to the original, but then that has been done before in 1946, this is 2011 and i thought it exceeded my Great Expectations.

  • Comment number 5.

    Firstly, Gillians acting is spellbinding...she recreates Miss Havisham anew: isn't ths the point of all good acting? Secondly, the photography of this new series is superb...I sat enthralled from beginning to end. Lastly, I usually read academic texts and the odd novel here and there but I really don't think it matters one jot that Dickens is not followed word for word: there are going to be many people out there who have never read Dickens, or perhaps never read Great Expectations. It is an adaptation - and has Phelps' own artistry enmeshed within. If this series provokes peoples' curiosity about the author, the actors, the producer, or literature in general - then all the better. The richness of Dickens legacy means it lends itself to the retelling and it is our interpretations (or new readings) of his brilliant, entertaining style that enable such work to live on. No one does costume drama like the BBC. :)

  • Comment number 6.

    I find this adaptation bewildering as it can have no meaning without the character of Biddy the antithesis of Estella. She is Pip's conscience, it's like watching Pinocchio without the cricket!!!! All you do now is tell a story and miss out Dickens' moral, I think he would be appalled. Shame as Miss Haversham finally seems to be made into her proper context.

  • Comment number 7.

    Amazing setting, cinematography and acting but the dialogue has been watered down so far as to remove any depth from the characters involved. Sorry cannot watch this. Great shame, an opportunity missed here... will cue up the Muppet’s Christmas Carol for a higher brow Dickens’ adaption.

  • Comment number 8.

    This is one of the most enjoyable BBC production I have seen for a while. The moment it started I was spell-bound till the end. WELL DONE BBC: 10/10 !!

  • Comment number 9.

    It is a shame when they got the setting right for the graveyard (in Cooling in Kent) and then decided to miss out all the great dialogue. Pip didn't look scared enough and they turned Uncle Pumblechook into a dirty old man. It didn't surprise me when I heard the written wrote for Eastenders. Dumbing down for the masses doesn't do well for TV. Gillian Anderson is so miscast it is unbelievable. I see in the 2012 film of Great Expectations this part is played by Helena Bonham Carter. An inspired choice. If the Beeb wants to put on a celebration of an authors work, at least let see his original words, characterisation, and plot. Very poor Aunty.

  • Comment number 10.

    Just to add to the comments about the absence of the vital cog Biddy and the lack of depth to the characters of Joe and Mrs Joe their Norfolk, rather than Kentish, accents were infuriating to a 'Man of Kent'

  • Comment number 11.

    Soooo,has the word adaptation been completely lost here,interpretation of Dickens works is wholesale,many editions of his written works are far removed from the original,im trying to understand the ire within these comments?,different parlance would surely appeal to younger members of the viewing audience,and in NO way is this dumbing down,if it speaks in terms that people who are not familier with Dickens can grasp and interpret on their own and understand,then i feel this "adaptation" is as concise as any of its contemporaries.
    As for the jewson wooden bridge comment,if this is your only input,you cannot be taken seriously at all for this very short sighted viewpoint.
    Gillian Anderson absolutely nails it for me,she is completely how i imagined Miss Haversham to be when i first read the book as a young man,but dont take my word for it,its just my "Interpretation",looking forward to the rest of the series.

  • Comment number 12.

    12. At 15:33 28th Dec 2011, Top Banana wrote:

    Unlike previous versions, Anderson's Havisham goes beyond tragically sad and unbalanced to psychotically evil. No wonder her fiancé did a runner.

  • Comment number 13.

    Sorry, DaveyD39, as a 'man of Norfolk', those are NOT accents I recognise as being from home. TV rarely manages Norfolk, usually ends up very West Country...and does it really matter, move on from the last production you saw of this classic, and appreciate this one. Like the Borrowers, this is an 'adaptation', not a slavish remake of another version.

  • Comment number 14.

    Here we go again with sloppy casting.
    There must be 100's of actors out there - SURELY they could have got two to play Estella that looked at least a bit similar? The two actresses looked absolutely nothing like each other, just as the two actors who played the main character in Roots didn't bear the slightest likeness, and there are many others.

    Sloppy, careless.

  • Comment number 15.

    An exquisite & extraordinarily moving performance from Gillian Anderson.

  • Comment number 16.

    Wonderful. I've been waiting all day for episode two. This production, so far, is the best programme I've ever seen on tv and the opening scene alone is worth my tv licence. I love it!

  • Comment number 17.

    A travesty of the the great author's work

  • Comment number 18.

    The performances are fantastic. Really really good i'm enjoying watching it. However, the adaptation is a hack-and-slash with absolutely no justification whatsoever. Biddy is missing, scenes are added in and taken out (of what in my opinion was a book that could have had some of the padding taken out and it would've been even better). and then there is Joe. I'm sorry, but the way Joe is portrayed almost made me turn it off.

  • Comment number 19.

    I too have missed much of Dickens' own dialogue etc, but the depth of feeling and electricity that exist between Pip, Miss Haversham and Estelle is giving me much to think on when I re-read the novel. For the first time Pip and Estelle have a real relationship despite all that Miss H. has tried to do to her, and Miss H is deteriorating before our eyes instead of being already in her psychosis. I don't know what Dickens would have thought [any more than anyone else] but this short adaptation is the most interesting I've ever watched. And if you're going to be put off bya simple bridge then for goodness sake, it says more about you than the adaptation. For goodness saake, look at what it IS, not what your precopnceptions say it ought to be!

  • Comment number 20.

    I can understand the purists wanting this adaptation to be loyal to the book. However, this production struck a balance for those like myself who have read the book and those who will want to. I loved the two episodes I have watched thus far. Gillian Anderson's performance had me sitting on the edge of my seat. I only hope that we see her in more BBC drama to come. It's the best drama on TV this year. Well done BBC.
    Chris. N. Ireland.

  • Comment number 21.

    I'm at a total loss as to understanding the point of this remake. It is obviously not intended to be a particularly faithful adaptation but neither is it especially good drama in its own right. The dialogue and performances are bland and two-dimensional; Ray Winstone as Magwitch is spectacularly lame. Douglas Booth's Pip is plain dull. There is absolutely no hint of the close relationship between Pip and his brother in law Joe (admittedly, rather unattractively portrayed by Shaun Dooley), which renders Pip's later disowning of him neither here nor there. The key character of Biddy has been dispensed with altogether, it would appear; the portrayals of Wemmick and Orlick render them surplus to requirements as well - at least insofar as serving any real dramatic effect. As for Estella being a "breaker of men's hearts" I find it hard to believe that any man would be that interested in her in the first place; she's not exactly alluring, is she? The only positive thing that I can say is that, technically, it is very well produced, as one would expect from the BBC, and I'm sure that given a different writer, director and cast it would be a pleasure to view.

  • Comment number 22.

    I never normally watch drama on the TV but this has hooked me me comepletely and even though I know the rest of the story I don't know what I am going to do with myself for the next 13 hours whilst waiting for episode three. Truly excellent.

  • Comment number 23.

    This is another superb BBC Costume drama. The unfortunate issue is that it should be called something else, not "Great Expectations". There are so many inaccuracies and plot issues that they become distractions. The acting is excellent and the ambience, fed by the wonderful colours is masterly. Pip's brown hat amongst the black hats is a lovely touch. Though why did he have to have his lips "Botoxed"? It looks silly.

  • Comment number 24.

    Why did the book's essential pork pie become a 'mutton pie'? I think we know the answer.

  • Comment number 25.

    Fully accept that (within reason) there will be different adaptations and interpretations etc but here I think it is a case of -what larks arty farty bbc, what larks!

  • Comment number 26.

    Is it only me that finds this adptation so slow it is almost going backwards. Spreading it over three nights seems pointless. The characters seem dull as opposed to the book. Nothing about it is gripping and more or less sends me to sleep. Please speed it up.

  • Comment number 27.

    Isn't it called a TV adaptation for a reason? It's an interpretation of Dicken's novel. Well done BBC. A great production...

  • Comment number 28.

    Comments seem to be divided between those who don't know the book and take the adaptation on its own terms, those who do know the book and are happy to accept the distortions and omissions of a different interpretation and those whose knowledge of the book impels them to reject this adaptation while commending the production values and cinematography. I'll keep watching but I'm with the latter camp.

    Ray Winstone's Magwitch is powerful but the dramatic effect of his first appearance to Pip is thrown away, not least because Pip shows little fear and, as has been pointed out, the writer seems to believe that her words are an improvement on the original. No doubt some sacrifices have to be made in a 3-hour adaptation but again, as pointed out above, the omission of Biddy is a serious one. Gillian Anderson's Miss Havisham is interesting but I have to agree that the grown-up Estella is decidedly unalluring. Joe's visit to Pip in London is completely misconceived. Part of the problem derives from the fact that the novel is a first-person narrative and we don't have Pip's thoughts in voice-over, so everything has to be laboriously spelled out for the viewer by the characters themselves. Tom Sutcliffe was spot on in yesterday's Independent when he noted that this was a script "without an eye for the comedy of human behaviour". I'm afraid that does sound like an Eastenders writer!

  • Comment number 29.

    The filming was superb but many scene settings I felt were too dark - I thought my set needed adjusting. Granted the story has a dark beginning but....
    With the exception of the young Pip, who I thought excellent,the supporting roles of Joe Gargery, Mr Jaggers, Mr Wemmick, and Mr Pocket totally outshone the leading characters.
    Gillian Anderson was simply wrong for the part. I doubt she had read the book.I thought her characterisation woeful, shallow and irritating.
    Unlike the young Pip, the older Pip lacked character and substance. Hardly a young man hardened by poverty, the reality of life and work in a blacksmith's forge. He was too foppish and self consciously pretty.
    The production has many good moments but the main characters are totally unconvincing.
    I cannot recall such wincingly bad acting as Gillian Anderson's portrayal of the unhappy, eccentric and malevolent Miss Favarshamtions.
    Some years ago I read Peter Ackroyds superb biography of Dickens and began re-reading the books of my childhood. Dickens is an enthralling novellist for any age and time. My daughter bought me Claire Tomalin's biography of CD for Christmas I am looking forward to begining that.
    But oh no! The programme was not Charles Dickens. It was by someone much inferior without regard for the beautiful language and detail of Dickens, merely using watered down characters and pieces of his novel. Why?
    A friend watching with me, thought, that after watching this, any viewers unfamiliar with Dicken's, will now never read his books. If so, that would be sad. Her opinion of the elder Pip was, 'He was totally vacuous'. And I agree with her.

  • Comment number 30.

    Really Really Good.

    Does anyone whow where it was filmed ? (The Gravesend bit I mean)

  • Comment number 31.

    Agree with BSB2007 and Nachtigall-re bbc blogs why cant we just thums up/down comments rather than having to leave our own?

  • Comment number 32.

    Is there any additional information about the locations usd in this series?

  • Comment number 33.

    Gillian Anderson is amazing! I have always thought Miss Havisham is more frightening than Magwich - this performance confirms that opinion. Also loved Ms. Anderson in The Crimson Petal and the White.

  • Comment number 34.

    I too feel Dickens has been left out of this adaptation (i.e. his words) I feel I have to agree with some of Gillian Anderson's comments and want to add that Miss Havisham was not born that way she was made that way, I have a friend that has been a victim of terrible abuse off a man and is severely-psychologically effected many years later. Dicken's was ahead of his time when writing about the torture some women had to endure -- David Copperfield's Aunty Betsy was another case in point.

  • Comment number 35.

    I haven't read the book in a long time, probably since GCSE so I have easily forgotten all the extact content of the famous book (I know, naughty me). Therefore my judgement of this TV adaption is purely just going to be on the visual aspect and the story that has been constructed for this specific medium (whether completely true or not to the original soure material). And as a visual production I REALLY like it! (won't say love until I've seen it all). Big ticks for the cast, setting/scenery and actual filming in itself. I think its been lovely viewing, as good (personally) for me as Downton (in terms of costume, sets etc). It is actually thanks to this production that my appetite has been wetted again for this story and the New Year aim to pick up the book once again. So well done BBC from me.

  • Comment number 36.

    Gosh isn't everyone grumpy! No it's not a true to the book interpretation but then every person's impression is different, isn't it? I've enjoyed it for what it is and think that Gillian Anderson is a great Miss Haversham, very atmospheric and compelling to watch. The photography is fantastic, production superb and great viewing from the Beeb in what has been terrible telly for the Christmas season. I am sure that it will encourage viewers to read or ew-visit the book for themselves which will surely be a good thing?

  • Comment number 37.

    I've given some thought to the whole notion of Miss H being played by someone so young. Actually I think if doesn't matter and this is the most memorable production I've seen in many years. Miss H and Joe are the stand-outs for me for reasons I've explained here.

  • Comment number 38.

    Having being greatly disappointed at the current state of BBC drama (Sherlock excepted - Moffat and Gatiss) I was looking forward to this production because it tended to play toward the company's strengths. Unfortunately the misery that pervades BBC drama has again eradicated any hope of Dickensian humour. Doubly unfortunate in that the lead,without any depth to his character, is so insipid as a tragic lovelorn figure he is at once unsympathetic and dull. One can only hope that the writers will depart from the book's ending and find their own; Pip will drown and Magwitch escape back to Australia, thankful that he didn't waste all of his money on such a dullard

  • Comment number 39.

    Simply sublime! Such a fantastic adaptation of a great classic with truly powerful performances from all. Delectable!

  • Comment number 40.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 41.

    There seems to have been a great deal of disappointment with the Dramatisation of Great Expectations, much of it from people who seemed to want a word for word reproduction in film of the book. Everyone has a personal view of the appearance and attitudes of the characters in any novel and to expect that ones own imaginings will be followed to the letter is beyond arrogance.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this interpretation of a Dickens novel and can't wait for the next.

  • Comment number 42.

    Wow, there's a lot of bitter literary purists hanging round the BBC blogs aren't there? For my money this is up there with the best of Dickens adaptations, and I've seen a good few having been studying them since September.

  • Comment number 43.

    Great Expectations is a complex novel about complex issues. Whilst I absolutely loved all the casting and the stunning visuals, I believe that a modern audience can also cope without a 'happy ending' and think for itself. This is not a fairy tale, it's called Great Expectations for a reason and they remain unresolved.. a bit like real life.

  • Comment number 44.

    What a wonderful adaptation of this amazing piece of writing. I love the book but I also love this interpretation or adaptation equally. Brilliant writing by Sarah Phelps. Gillian Anderson's portrayal of Miss Havisham is a BAFTA award winning performance if I have ever seen one. The perfect balance of madness, melancholy, malevolence and misanthropy. The sets, the costumes, the lighting, the direction and camera work showed why the BBC has an enviable reputation world wide for producing this quality of work. David Suchet's performance as Jaggers and Ray Winston's Magwitch were also impressive.

  • Comment number 45.

    The outdoor marsh scenes, including the forge, were filmed at Tollesbury on the River Blackwater in Essex. The opening shot of Magwitch rising from the waters by the line of sunken trees, compelling though it was, was somewhat anachronistic as this is land only recently flooded as part of a 'managed retreat'. We locals had the pleasure of watching most of the filming - damn decent guy was Ray Winstone, chatting and signing autographs between shots. Hats off to him for full on acting - those waters are as dirty, muddy and as cold in reality as they appear on screen.

  • Comment number 46.

    Why oh Why is good drama spoilt by loud music drowning out the dialog, don't they do a run first before transmission to get the right balance?

  • Comment number 47.

    Gillian Anderson was fantastic in her portrayal of a central character to the novel. Well done. the adaptation itself was beautifully directed and produced. many children in the society that we live in today fail to read, understand or appreciate the classic novels unless directed to read at school. The BBC have done an excellent job in actually commission a program in griping the audience in either watching the programme or even reminding them of what great authors this country has produced and how their words still stand the test of time. For those who complain about how the story is told. Read the book. You do not need a true replica of what was already written in order to appreciate the meanings of the character or stories.
    I was so impressed I went through the trouble of creating an account just to comment. Thank you for reminding me why I love the classics. Well done to the cast and crew.

  • Comment number 48.

    Like others above, I was initially put off by how far this adaptation had drifted from the book, which major changes to the events and chronology. I was particularly upset by the portrayals of Mrs Joe and Miss Havisham because, both in the book and other adaptations, they've always come across as strong women while here, they are more submissive or openly distraught than I envisaged. However, after watching the full three episodes, I came to enjoy Gillian's take on Miss Havisham as something different which brings her insanity more to the fore. The loss of Dickens' language was still annoying though, and it did feel on many occasions like we were being played down to.

  • Comment number 49.

    Also, just want to reiterate the comments of sxn above and thank the BBC for this wonderful production, one of the few things I've actually sat down and watched this Christmas time (the other being the BBC's reprise of Absolutely Fabulous). Gillian's portrayal, though different, was fantastic and deserving of a BAFTA in my opinion. Unlike other adaptations, I felt sorry for Miss Havisham, as she seemed truly sorry for what she'd done and unaware of the eventual consequences of her actions.

  • Comment number 50.

    Wow. A beautiful adaptation, which somehow gets under the skin of the book and distills it into something akin to magical realism. I adored Great Expectations growing up (much as Gillian suggests) and it was one my many set texts for O-level English Literature (showing my age there). Whilst not a transcript this version simply feels the most authentic I have seen. In particular, the hunt in the marshes and the looming external shots of Satis House with its gates and chimneys (Miss Haversham's house) are so precisely the same in my head as shown on screen it's giving me goose bumps just thinking about it!

  • Comment number 51.

    i really enjoyed this 3 part series i think gillian anderson was fabulous and the best scene was when she burns the letters then the flames engulf her my only gripe was estelle she just wasnt pretty enough for this role when pip says she beutiful u cant really connect with wot hes sayin and i think estelles voice was too harsh ,dos anyone feel the same way ? bafta for gillian ;)

  • Comment number 52.

    What an amazing end to a great year for British Television. The sublime plot and extraordinary characters in the novel are wonderfully and justly reimagined and a great deal more depth added, becoming a great pleasure to watch.
    I watched the series for a few reasons; The first being that I aspire to write screenplays or novels myself, when my education has finished, and the second being that I happened to read the cast list. And what a performance they gave. The actors and actresses who worked on the show are worthy of infinite praise, for each role was captured perfectly, and uniquely. For me, however, the star of the show was Gillian Anderson. The Miss Havisham in the novel was terrifiying, but Ms. Anderson opened my eyes to the true depth and emotion that a brilliant performance can give to the audience. Her portrayal of Miss Havisham shall be an inspiration to my own characters, for this is the way a role should be filled.
    Overall, an an amazing adaptation. Well done BBC!

  • Comment number 53.

    I've only seen the first 2 episodes so far and I may not bother with the 3rd.
    The hash made of Jaggers, Joe and Miss Haversham, wonderful key parts, is disastrous. And Estelle as a Plain Jane! And Pip as a poncy beauty!
    Why lose Biddy, who is needed as a key Dickens theme, the good plain sensible true friend/lover? (As opposed to the idealised unattainable romantic love).
    Why distort the wonderful comic fight with the Pale Young Gentleman, which was a superb comment on rising above the silliness of code of the "gentleman"? And no Wemmick's Aged P? Why is Clara his daughter????Why add that stupid scene of Pip and Estelle wading into the pond!!! And Drummle in the brothel!!!!!!!I suppose its meant to sex up Dickens. And the crude symbolism of the butterflies (Carla Lane did that long ago).
    However the acting of Mrs Jo, Orlick and Herbert rose above it all. And the coastal marshland setting is excellent.

  • Comment number 54.

    42. awkward91
    Wow, that seems rather a bitter remark!

    I am not a 'literary purist' and even less 'bitter'. I am pleased that you and others derived pleasure from this production. However, I think it not unreasonable for those of us who felt otherwise to be allowed to comment!
    I was mystified by the adaptation, in that many of the changes from the book seemed to have no purpose whatsoever. It is always interesting to have a new take on something which has been done before, perhaps told from a different character viewpoint or set in a different era or stressing an alternative perspective, but here there seemed to be small and pointless changes made purely for the sake of it. For me this rendered the whole neither faithful to the original or engagingly novel, just rather irritating!

  • Comment number 55.

    Gillian Anderson couldn't play Miss Havisham for toffee but did a superb impression of Blackadder's Queenie. Joe's portrayal was weak (I may have missed it, but did not hear "What larks...Pip" once.)
    Other than that, and Biddy going AWOL, it was pretty good.

  • Comment number 56.

    Boon1e, I appreciate your reply and comments like yours are of course perfectly valid. However, a lot posted here do seem to be from the "any changes from the novel are sacrilege" camp, and I wonder why such people would bother watching adaptations in the first place to be honest.

  • Comment number 57.

    It really isn't a question of changes to the plot - these have to be taken for granted as necessary evils in any adaptation. The problem with this series has been the nature of the changes and their adverse effect upon Dickens' original drama. A good adaptation should either enhance the original (very rare) or at the very least compel one to re-read and re-assess it. In either case, it should work as good drama in its own right; this achieves none of these - it is merely weak writing, for the most part poorly acted and directed to boot. Great Expectations is one of the truly great works of English literature and yet here it is watered down to a rudimentary plot played out by shallow characters who it is nigh on impossible to care about. Incidentally, I wouldn't consider myself a Dickens purist nor, indeed, an especial fan of his; I just see no excuse for the mediocrity of this adaptation. If Dickens original plot and characters had been this disengaging then I seriously doubt that the book would have been considered worthwhile "adapting" in the first place.

  • Comment number 58.

    What the dickens! After a brilliantly chosen cast (Bleak House),(Little Dorrit) whom all acted superbly,giving an excellent adaptation .My family and I were left,very disappointed after viewing the last nights final episode of Great Expectations.After recently watching John Mills (Great Expectations) which we all thoroughly enjoyed, i was looking forward to the remake. Miss Haversham should have been clearly played by a much older woman who could have been more convincing.Which i thought was a shame for(Gillian Anderson played a brilliantly acted lady Deadlock in, Bleak House).
    The lack of affection between Pip and Joe Gargery ?The beautiful Estella ?Where was Biddy?Where there any quotes or passages from the original dickens novel? Many more comments are spinning around in my head.Sorry but I think I will watch John Mills version again just to remind me of what a brilliant writer Dickens was.

  • Comment number 59.

    Watchable, but overall a disappointing adaptation.

    The boy Pip gave a good performance, but writing out Biddy was a major error. She plays an important part in Pip's life, and without her Pip's story lacked the depth and complexity it should have had. Joe Gargery, a wonderful character in the book, lost all traces of his humour and warmth. Adult Pip came across as vain and shallow. Estella and Miss Havisham also failed to convince.

    I liked Ray Winstone very much as Magwitch. And Harry Lloyd as Herbert Pocket was outstanding.

    In any adaptation some things will have to be left out or condensed. The question is whether the adaptation retains the essence of the characters and story I've known so well from the pages of the book. I don't think the script did them justice.

    I have enjoyed other Dickens adaptations much more. Bleak House was fantastic. I thought the previous BBC adaptation of Great Expectations (with Charlotte Rampling as Miss Havisham) was a lot better than this one, and it kept more of the spirit of Dickens's writing. I will now go back to the original book and remind myself of what the actual story is about.

  • Comment number 60.

    I found this adaptation of Great Expectations well cast, but especially the inspired choice of Gillian Anderson for the role of Miss Haversham. Her portrayal at the end evoked her character's utter despair, grief and loneliness and, for me, overrode any animosity towards her character's earlier malicious manipulation of Estella and Pip. It recalled her previous brilliant performance in The House of Mirth. Someone mentioned that Helena Bonham Carter could have been cast here but whilst Helena showed depth in The Wings of A Dove, I think this would have been far too predictable and safe. Comments have also been made about not sticking to details from the original novel but I think as an adaptation it was engrossing and well done within its limitations over 3 parts ... just wish it could have been stretched over more parts!

  • Comment number 61.

    I am astounded that so many see fit to complain. This was an adaptation of the story, a personal take on a classic tale. I myself enjoyed it very much which is why I am commenting! I do find that negative expression is very tiring, both to write and to read! These are surely the same people who moan to points of view.

  • Comment number 62.

    Forgive me if I am missing the point here... I am a mere foreigner after all, but I would like to ask all the people who have complained that this "adaptation" has nothing to do with the book have actually looked up the meaning of adaptation? If not, then perhaps you should. If so, then perhaps I should buy another dictionary.

    I have read the book and have watched other adaptation of it, including the appalling, irritating and boring American version with Gwyneth Palthrow. In my humble opinion, this was the best one of the lot. The BBC managed to bring the darkness out of the Dickens' world, the psychopathic sadness of heart break out of Miss Havisham's character, the sadness and hopes of the mentally manipulated children. I was thoroughly impressed with the opening with Ray Winstone coming out of the marshes. Maybe I just don't expect too much... I think the BBC should be really proud with this ADAPTATION (look the word up people). Well done the BBC! From an "ignorant" Capeverdian!

  • Comment number 63.

    I thought the adaptation was awful. I felt it was an unsubtle, dumbed down version. For example, how many times and how explicitly did we need to be told that Pip thought Miss Haversham was his benefactor? Did we need a visit to a brothel to find out that Bentley Drummle was not a very nice person? And who thought up that ridiculous fiery suicide of Miss Haversham?
    In response to agnesnutter, I am not at all astounded that so many people have complained and it is perfectly acceptable for them to do so. After the excellent productions of Bleak House and Little Dorrit, this Great Expectations is only a shadow of what it could have been. If you change the story line and change or omit important characters then the result can hardly be called Great Expectations. Better to write a completely new drama from scratch. A great disappointment!

  • Comment number 64.

    We loved everything about it. We were glued to our seats and could not wait for the next episode. The acting was awesome and the characters were the ideal actors / actress`s for the part they each played. Ray winston is amazing in all his films and plays the part well. I have recorded the series and will watch again and again. Truley Fantastic!!!! Well done.

  • Comment number 65.

    On the whole I enjoyed this adaptation. I've seen enough of them! I was disappointed though to find that it didn't use Dickens' original ending where Estella marries a doctor after the death of Bentley Drummle. It would have been nice if Biddy had appeared so that Pip could go to propose to her only to find she had married Joe.

  • Comment number 66.

    I would like to add a word of praise for the young pip - well done Oscar Kennedy!

    I like adaptations and original texts - my hope is that the former will send people to the latter and visa versa - although I have to admit I did miss a central character - Dickens's language. For me, language provides another insight into a lost world - a great tool for a director... but I imagine it might also prove a barrier for some so I guess this is why it was toned down.

    I found the interpretation of Miss Haversham refreshing.

  • Comment number 67.

    Well - I thoroughly enjoyed the production. The sort of thing I feel that the Beeb does so well not overstated and sensationalised. I would rather sit back and get immersed in the story that is being told than spend my time comparing to the original novel or scouring for anachronisms.

    Well done to all concerned. It was brilliant!

  • Comment number 68.

    I really enjoyd this production. Ray Winston as Magwitch, great casting. What the hell is going on with Gillian Anderson, a convincing younger Miss Haversham, but is she too big a star to be replaced by an older actress, as the characters of Pip and Estella were, as their characters aged.
    Also why didn't anyone play her a video of Mystic Meg, and explain why her delivery was sooooOO WrooooOOOoong. Sorry Gillian, nothing personal.

  • Comment number 69.

    I think this adaption did indeed take some liberties with the original, but I loved Gillian Andersons interpretation. Her slightly girlie-voiced psychotic dementia was truly palpable.
    The direction was not too over-wrought and wringing our every emotion. I thought the pie-moment masterly and Miss Havershams conflagration at her own hand was for want of a better words . . . awesome and unbelievably sad.
    I never thought Bleak House BBC-styling could be topped but it has been equalled.

  • Comment number 70.

    there seems to be two camps..you either liked or you did not like..this is no marmite people. it was good..more please :)

  • Comment number 71.

    I watched the 3rd episode after all, and it wasn't too bad, except for Miss Haversham's near comical firey version of the Wicked Witch of the West, and robbing the Jaggers/Mollie relationship of all its point (i.e. that Jaggers broke her wild spirit in some sinister cruel way that is never explained). Pip's vital contrition and moral growth was rather rushed and perfunctory, and a bit beyond the actor's capacity. The story of Pip's real education (as to what true nobility of character is) lost a lot from the omission of his illness and Jo's devotion to nursing him back to both physical and moral health.
    The characteristic of this production was the way that the film-makers inserted pointless details and lost vital ingredients ( e.g. they made Wemmick Clara's father, to no effect, wiping out his devotion to his Aged P, which showed a significant contrast to Pip's neglect of Jo. They omitted to show the joyous innocence of the love between Clara and Herbert, and Biddy and Jo, which heightened Pip's and Estelle's tortured experience.
    All in all, a forgettable version of one of the greatest novels ever written.

  • Comment number 72.

    I loved this adaptation of Great Expectations. It was visually stunning and the score was beautiful. It may have missed parts and detail, however I think it communicated the novel well. It could be enjoyed by an audience that wouldn't usually watch a costume drama, which I think is fantastic.
    I think Dickens would be honored that we still celebrate his work over a century after his death.

    Ray Winstone was brilliant as Magwitch
    Didn't love Gillian Anderson's Miss Haversham, didn't creep me out enough.

  • Comment number 73.

    61. agnesnutter
    I hope you will forgive my curiosity - it is quite genuine! Why is it that in every discussion such as this there are those who 'do' and those who 'don't', and then there are those who simply want to have a go at other posters whose views are different to their own? Just wondering!

  • Comment number 74.

    I really enjoyed this adaptation of the novel. It didn't matter to me that Dickens' words weren't used and some of the plot was changed. The cast was stellar and Gillian Anderson was wonderful as Miss Haversham although I was doubtful at first but she was fey and heartbreaking.

  • Comment number 75.

    I did not like this adaptation - miscast - a pouting Pip? - Shaun Dooley underused - where was the original story? - next time spend some money on a proper adaptation - at least 10 episodes - and get someone such as Andrew Davis to adapt it - Our Mutual Friend done some time ago by the BBC (Steven Mackintosh) should be used as a template

  • Comment number 76.

    I first read 'Great Expectations' when I was studying for my 'O" Levels in the late 'fifties, and immediately fell in love with it. I'm the first to agree that much is missing and that much has been changed, but I cannot agree that this is to the detriment of this adaptation. Adaptation is, of course, the key word. No film of two hours or so, or any TV adaptation can remain absolutely true to any book other than, perhaps, the most simple. Also, as has been said earlier, the fact that the novel is a first person narrative makes adaptation more difficult. This adaptation has the essence of this Dickens masterpiece and is, at times, quite electric. Gillian Anderson is, to my mind, quite superb as Miss Havisham, delivering to us in beautiful subtlety the psyche of this woman blighted by the carcass of a dead hope. She also impressed me in her portrayal of Lady Dedlock in 'Bleak House' a few years ago. It is totally unreasonable to expect a dramatisation of such a complex work to contain everything and to use dialogue verbatim. I consider that, given the constraints of a three hour timescale, the BBC have done a superb job and have already ordered my DVD. My only regret is that the BBC don't release such material on Blu Ray!! Oh, and the 'Jewson bridge' comment - nit picking at its worst!!

  • Comment number 77.

    I studied this for A level years ago, and ok, the adaptation is not ''true to the original'' but as others have stated, ''It is an ADAPTATION''..the more modern use of language didn't bother me, and Miss Haversham was just wonderful.
    When she self-immolates, I was really moved by the visual shock of it..yes, she is a cold and twisted personality, but her heart, deep within, is sensitive.
    the film was a visual delight, and it was one of the most enjoyable dramas i have watched for ages. the set designers did a great job, and even a more modern Magwich was believable, for me at least.
    I think had they tried to copy the iconic ''graveyard scene'' it would have fallen flat, and people just love to criticise and moan...all in all, a wonderful adaption, well done!

  • Comment number 78.

    How can Phelps even begin to believe that she could write Great Expectations better than Dickens did? Does she think she's improved it by missing out the major character of Biddy, distorting Joe, bigging up Orlick (who was only ever a sub-plot), changing the events and the dialogue, and even weakening Miss Havisham? And, what was all that with the lake? And Bentley Drummle and the prostitutes?
    What a pity. It's barely watchable.

  • Comment number 79.

    What a dire version of Great Expectations! It's hard to see how any film maker could waste such a great story packed with incident, tension, mystery, comic rusticity and sinister criminality. But this version offered a farragio of miscast actors each giving "performances"-- and some not very appealing ones. Pip was just silly posing and pouting like an airbrushed advert for aftershave! Miss Havisham as a mixture of lisping Violet Elizabeth Bott and simpering Mystic Meg was truly revolting. And the inserted sex scenes were pathetic. Adaptation is no excuse, it was just plain old bad production and direction.

  • Comment number 80.

    I loved the story and the acting...Gillian Anderson was brilliant again. Thanks for a great drama.

    Does anyone know what the music was in episode 2 at 45mins?

  • Comment number 81.

    The Jewson's bridge was a masterly bit of casting, just the right balance of value for money and comic woodenness. I just lapped up its performance - more and yet more I say!
    Seriously, it was all good. Miss Haversham's death was a beautiful portrayal of delayed consummation.
    Just have to read the book now.

  • Comment number 82.

    I know it is only a telly programmed but I so wanted to like and enjoy this adaptation. Tried to stay positive after episode one but I coudn't after the second. People get paid money for such things in these Hard Times it beggars belief

  • Comment number 83.

    Great Expectations is one of my favourite books and perhaps my favourite story. In three hours inevitably there would be ommissions so I watched this adaptation on its own terms and I loved it.

    It really nailed the dark heart of the story centred around Miss Havisham.

    The cast were superb. Oscar Kennedy as young Pip was wonderful. Ray Winstone perfectly cast as Magwitch - the wordless pie moment was sublime.
    Gillian Anderson's interpretation of Miss Havisham was fascinating. She gave real depth to her twisted psyche, even making her a sympathetic character. Her final scene when her despair, remorse, and defeat so overwhelm her that she just stands and lets herself burn was heartbreaking.

    And Gillian and Izzy Meikle-Small together were emotional cruelty personified. Izzy's scene humiliating young Pip was so painful to watch - for all the right reasons.

    Vanessa Kirby brought out Estella's complexity. The true Estella Miss Havisham had done her best to extinguishf was always visible beneath the surface, sometimes very deep but it was always visible. And how anyone can dismiss someone as lovely as Vanessa Kirby as 'a plain Jane' is beyond me.

    Where some characters and their personal relationships were only sketched in the writing was tight enough to tell us what we needed to know. The close bond between Pip and Joe was made abundantly clear with just a few lines and some shared looks. We saw and heard enough of Wemmick to know there were two of him.

    As for the bridge, didn't the Victorians build bridges and weren't they sometimes new?

  • Comment number 84.

    This was quite the worst adaptation of Great Expectations that I have seen. It showed a complete disregard for the story, characters and Dickens' themes. Indeed the adapter showed great arrogance in rewriting the end and so destroying the meaning of the novel. When Miss Havisham catches fire (excellent visual effect) Satis House (that symbol of hate and heartlessness) is burnt down. Pip meets Estella there, when she has lost all her money and has sold this her only remaining property. Dickens hints that they may build a new life together out of the ruins of the selfish past forced on them by Miss Havisham.. In this travesty of the novel Estella is allowed to keep two fortunes, and presumably Pip will live with her and off her! The adapter should try to write her own play instead of riding on the back of genius and dishonouring one the greatest novels of the nineteenth century in English.

  • Comment number 85.

    I've been quite surprised reading people's criticisms about this adaptation. I, and most of the people I know who have watched it, really enjoyed it. I've not read the book so I guess the purists have a point if this has veered off Dicken's original somewhat. But, at the end of the day, it's an adaptation which I found moving, beautifully filmed and acted.

  • Comment number 86.

    With todays rubbish of realitly and soaps this was bonus for Xmas, yes a tv adaption at its best, one has read the book when young and reads again when at college and sometimes when an adult will read again this story never tires and the bbc never fails to refresh the minds of those who have read Dickens novels. Gillian played Miss Haversham with conviction a brave move for the bbc to keep with todays modern viewer, will be waiting for the next adaption of a Dickens novel as for some of the bad comments here these are the same people who say that London cant put on a good show to the world for this years Olympics watch this space!

  • Comment number 87.

    I am one of those who say this was a bad adaptation. Whether London can put on a good show for the Olympics has nothing to do with my opinion of the TV adaptation. I expect they will put on a good show; we usually do that sort of thing very well.

  • Comment number 88.

    I do believe this adaptation of Great Expectations was absolutely appalling. The writing for this series was awful. It was basically Dickens' work wittled down to scenes of climax in the novel. The small details that Dickens used to create the bigger picture were wiped out to make an American style vision of Great Expectations. Gillian Anderson was fantastic in Bleak House, but she destroyed everything characteristic of Miss Havisham in this series. I do not think she is to blame, but we should blame the BBC. Since they got a foothold on American soil (BBC America), television quality has declined, by which the BBC has aimed to appeal more to Americans than English viewers in order to make larger amounts of money. That is why Gillian Anderson is playing Miss Havisham based on a poorly written script from a broadcasting company with lack of vision. It has provided British audiences with a vile adaptation of a fantastic novel by a great author who is probably rolling over in his grave right now, seeing how the BBC is turning quality work into a knock off Hollywoodesque series where the actors are chosen based on looks and world popularity (Douglas Booth, Gillian Anderson, Ray Winstone) and appealing more to American style values whilst ignoring Dickens' complex and moral English views.

  • Comment number 89.

    the whole production was fantastic, the actors, sceanery, script, really enjoyed it and will now be reading the book, weel done, more Dickens please

  • Comment number 90.

    Is Pip lodging in the same building that was used in Little Dorrit? I'm sure it looks the same.

  • Comment number 91.

    I thought the adaptation had it's strong points - Magwitch being one of them, but I found watching Gillian Anderson as Miss Haversham painful. She was like Bette Davis in 'Whatever happened to Baby Jane" channelling Johnny Depp in 'Edward Scissorhands'. Disappointing.

  • Comment number 92.

    This was such an amazing adaptation, brilliantly casted and scripted, I completely applaud the writer and the BBC. I cannot believe the dismissive, rude, small-minded, snobbish comments that some posters have made. If I was the script writer or any of the people involved in the production of Great Expectations, I would feel utterly depressed after reading those posts when in fact they should be congratulated. Perhaps those miserable reviewers should get together and make their own adaptation of Great Expectations and then we can all have a good laugh.

  • Comment number 93.

    We enjoyed the adaptation despite the anomalies and odd changes. Is the marsh church setting St Thomas a Beckett at Fairfield?

  • Comment number 94.

    Dear oh dear. What an incredible production, directions, sets amazing and costume work truly wonderful. However, the casting director has made an enourmous mistake casting a 43year old actress with such previous? She resembled a fawning ghost, ridiculously ham acting, pathetic physical interpretation of an aged beauty, she lacked no mystique or held any inner layers for the viewer to be remotely curious about. My big beef is that my daughters found this wonderful, but miss a great many points by the misinterpretation and 'LA' acting style of Miss H. Should have been cast as an unknown who can actually act or Helen Mirren. A generation of kids won't get it. Pip however was miraculous.

  • Comment number 95.

    What a brilliant production that had my wife and I rapt. I thought Gillian Anderson's performance was definitive and the licence taken with the text deftly judged. Pip was a bit watery but I suppose that conveyed his certain degree of ingenuousness. Bravo BBC!

  • Comment number 96.

    This was one of the worst productions of Great Expectations ever. All the key characters are mere shadows from the book and almost unrecognisable except by their name. The BBC, Phelps and all the fine actors involved should take a long hard look at themselves and wonder how they managed to get is so very wrong.

    I don't think Dickens is spinning in his grave at this feeble effort rather he would be laughing to himself that was the 'best effort' that modern writers and production could manage.

  • Comment number 97.

    Was really looking forward to this and i really enjoyed it,even though there were things missed out.I wish it had been longer,like Bleak House,which i thought was so well done.
    All the actors performed well in my opinion.Older Pip was rather beautiful,but i will not be rude about the actress who played Estella,unlike some,but she just was not striking enough to play opposite him.Missing Biddy was a bad idea too.
    Douglas Booth what a face though!!Beautiful.

  • Comment number 98.

    Ok, I concede the drastically rewritten ending with Estella not having been ruined but being in possession of, not one, but two fortunes did jar a bit. It did let a suggestion of opportunism in Pip's going back to Satis House mar the purity of his undying love for Estella. And it let Miss Havisham off the hook.

    I confess though that I was quite pleased when Drummel's horse kicked his head in. Perhaps Sarah Phelps loathes him as much as I do. But he could have suffered death by horse after he'd ruined himself and Estella and still have left the essence of the ending intact.

    Joe fetching up at Pip's club, I liked.
    Though it's a great piece of Dickens comedy I've never really liked the way in the book that Joe is made to look a fool when he sees Pip in London. Pip can be shown to be acting like an ungrateful jerk without the need for Joe to look silly. In her interpretaion Sarah Phelps was clearly referencing that scene from the book - Joe just chucking his hat on the table; he hadn't forgotten who he was just because he was in London, even if Pip had.

    To the people who loathed this adaptation of, yes, one of the best novels in English, I offer this observation. Several of the people who enjoyed this production but who hadn't read the book have said they are now going to read the book. Now that can't be a bad thing can it?

  • Comment number 99.

    I loved this it was almost majical exalant casting . i thourt gillian anderson was amasing. she even looked hot as miss haveshum. iv hever read the book but now im intrested in dickings work great job bbc.

  • Comment number 100.

    I really enjoyed this adaptation. The cinematography was stunning, and I thought the production really caught the spirit of Dickens' work.

    Unlike a lot of people I thought the casting was very well done. Oscar Kennedy was brilliant as the younger Pip. Yes, Douglas Booth is rather 'pretty' but I think it is silly to think that someone from a poor background could not have been blessed with good looks. Also, the producers commented that they picked Booth for his sensitivity and vulnerability, which I think really come through in his performance. Gillian Anderson is exactly who I would have picked to play Miss Havisham, having admired her performance in Bleak House. Also I thought Estella was very well cast, as although she might not be your typical beauty she possess the distant and ethereal quality Estella requires emphasised by those staring blue eyes.

    Sacrifices will always have to be made when adapting a novel for television, however, I do not feel that any of deviations from Dickens' work were unwarranted, or even that radical anyway. The main difference is the ending. I did at first wonder whether it was right to change this, however, this is not the first production to have done so, and I can understand why Sarah Phelps felt it was necessary.
    Overall another brilliant period drama, bravo BBC!


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