Doctor Thorne is a 2016 three-part television drama adaptation of the Trollope novel Doctor Thorne scripted by Julian Fellowes for ITVy . Mary Thorne, penniless and with undisclosed parentage grows up under the guardianship of her uncle Doctor Thorne. She spends much of her formative years in the company of the Gresham family at Greshamsbury Park estate. As they close on the world of adult cares and responsibilities, the past starts to impinge and the financial woes of the Gresham family threaten to tear relationships apart.
Tom Hollander as Doctor Thorne
Stefanie Martini as Mary Thorne
Harry Richardson as Frank Gresham
Rebecca Front as Lady Arabella Gresham
Richard McCabe as Frank Gresham Snr.
Ian McShane as Sir Roger Scatcherd
Alison Brie as Miss Dunstable
Janine Duvitski as Lady Scatcherd
Edward Franklin as Louis Scatcherd
Danny Kirrane as Mr. Moffatt
Nell Barlow as Beatrice Gresham
Gwyneth Keyworth as Augusta Gresham
Phoebe Nicholls as Countess de Courcy
Tim McMullan as Earl de Courcy
Kate O'Flynn as Lady Alexandrina de Courcy
Tom Bell as Lord Porlock
Nicholas Rowe as Mortimer Gazebee
Alex Price as Reverend Caleb Oriel
Cressida Bonas as Patience Oriel
Ben Moor as Cossett
Jane Guernier as Janet Thacker
Sean Cernow as Jonah
David Sterne as Mr. Romer
Ed Cartwright as Footman
Michael Grady-Hall as Scatcherd's FootmanMark Carter as Moffatt's Heckler
Doctor Thorne recap: episode one – want a carnival of cleavage? This is your show
Uncle Julian is back! And, just like Downton Abbey, his new period drama is awash with heaving-bosom action and cut-glass accents
Sunday 6 March 2016 22.00 GMT
Uncle Julian’s back! And he’s brought Lovejoy with him! If you’ve been missing Julian Fellowes’s Downton Abbey scripts (yes, I know you haven’t, no one has), here’s your chance to get more scheming aunts, rich heiresses, downtrodden husbands and country estates peeling around the edges ... They were all here. As was an awful lot of explanatory detail and very little action or depth of emotion.
Our plot is simple. Or is it? Actually, it’s not at all. The sister of Lovejoy (the always brilliant Ian McShane) got pregnant by Doctor Thorne’s brother. Then Lovejoy killed Doctor Thorne’s brother by hitting him too hard. The baby, Mary, was adopted by Doctor Thorne (AKA Rev). Lovejoy doesn’t know about this and has meanwhile become very rich because of the railways.
Mary grows up and falls in love with Frank. Frank’s family want him to marry an American lady for money. Frank wants to marry Mary but he can’t as Mary has no money. Except Lovejoy has left money “to his sister’s eldest child” and that child is Mary. So now Mary is rich. Or is she? Because Lovejoy’s son has to die before she gets anything. And we haven’t even met him yet. (Does he exist?) Meanwhile, Lovejoy has lent shedloads of cash to Frank’s family. Can you see where this might go as long as a certain person (Lovejoy’s son, as yet unseen) can be dispatched?
It’s all rather exhausting so far. There was beauty here, as there always is in any Fellowes costume drama. And with the Weinsteins producing, the cinematography, wardrobe and glossy details were fabulous. The Gresham sisters alone were a carnival of cleavage, freshly cut flowers and cut-glass accents. Very exportable, I’m sure. But what else is there here apart from surface and a long wait for Mary to inherit Scatcherd’s fortune?
It’s tricky for viewers to judge Doctor Thorne as so few will have read the original, the third novel in Anthony Trollope’s series The Chronicles of Barsetshire. (Full disclosure: your reviewer includes herself in this parade of ignoramuses, dear reader.) So it could be argued that any flaws are simply replicating those of the original. For example, I wonder if the whole piece is slightly ruined by the fact that we know the connection between Scatcherd (Lovejoy) and Doctor Thorne (Tom Hollander) from the beginning. (Which is also the case in the novel. I, like Uncle Julian, can use Wikipedia.) The suspense lies in how that 20-year-old connection will be revealed to everyone else. Maybe that works in a novel. I’m not sure it works as a plot device in a three-part TV series.
Fellowes’s biggest challenge in episode one is establishing the characters and the connections between them. Which means he has to make people say things such as this: “I thought it would fund me for 30 years or more. Ten years on and every penny is gone.” No one talks like this. This is a big problem, having to condense huge swathes of novelistic exposition into soundbite dialogue. I can see that we need this information. But there has to be a more subtle way of coming by it, surely? Characters seem to march into a scene, impart information, then go away again. But this happened for six years in Downton Abbey, and it doesn’t seem to have prevented it from becoming a multi-million-pound international cash cow. So it must just be me who finds this exceedingly frustrating. Verdict? Enjoyable enough, but too much exposition. Not enough emotion or comedy. All the flaws of Downton without the breathing space of six series.
The Rebecca Front fan club
It’s early days, but I think it’s safe to say that Rebecca Front (Lady Arabella) is going to come out of this best. She is the perfect casting and has the best lines, managing to wring some comedy out of a fairly stiff (and too fast-moving) script. Obviously, Tom Hollander and Lovejoy (sorry, Ian McShane) are both excellent. But Lady Arabella is a richer part. The listening at the door and running away bit was brilliant, as were her Dame Maggie-level one-liners: “She is called his niece. And that is all.” “There have been love-makings of a very advanced kind.”
If you want peachy heaving-bosom action, this is your series. I thought Lady Augusta’s mammaries might pop out of her dress at one point. If only there could be a little more space for the young women here, not only in terms of bosom but presence: Alexandrina (Kate O’Flynn), Beatrice (Nell Barlow), Augusta (Gwyneth Keyworth) and the American heiress Miss Dunstable (Alison Brie) were all superb and I could have watched a lot more of them. Especially Alexandrina’s wonderful line to porky beardy Mr Moffat: “At your first mistake, I shall rap you on the knuckles with my fan.” (I also liked: “I think you might call him Keith.” He is definitely a Keith. A beardy Mr Creosote kind of Keith.)
I love that pug. That is one heavy pug that Rebecca Front has to lug around. It’s almost bigger than her and the poor footman who took it off her almost winced with the effort. Worth watching for the pug alone. Give the pug an Oscar. Although the pug would sit on the Oscar and squash it.
Doctor Thorne review: Fellowes and Trollope is a happy marriage
BY Ceri Radford
7 MARCH 2016 • 7:58AM
How do you move forward after writing the world-conquering frock-fest that was Downton Abbey? Julian Fellowes seems to have found the answer: by going backwards. His latest series, which opened on ITV last night, is an adaptation of Anthony Trollope's much-loved novel, Doctor Thorne. Set in the middle of the 19th century in the fictional country of Barsetshire, it captures a version of England that would have been a gleam in the Earl of Grantham's eye: a honeyed land of foxhounds and ball gowns, squires and steeples.
While Trollope and Fellowes share a certain wry nostalgia and an interest in the fictional potential of crumbling dynasties, will the pairing work? In the language of the novel, it's a marriage between blood (Trollope's literary pedigree) and money (Fellowes's contemporary clout). Judging from the first episode, it looks set to be a happy one, helped along by a fine cast including Tom Hollander in the titular role, Rebecca Front and Ian McShane.
In an enjoyably brisk first instalment, Fellowes set the scene: Frank Gresham (Harry Richardson) had come of age. He was heir to a great estate. Everywhere you looked, pretty girls with outlandish hair ribbons (including a fleeting glimpse of Prince Harry’s ex Cressida Bonas, who plays family friend Patience Oriel) wanted to dance with him. But he was not happy. His father was hopelessly in debt, he was so poor he only had one new horse for his birthday, his snobby aunt was haranguing him to marry for money while he was in love with the lowly doctor's niece, Mary Thorne (Stefanie Martini).
Said niece, meanwhile, was having an even worse time of it. Pondering what rank she might marry (clue: not the heir to a great estate), she badgered Dr Thorne, her guardian, to tell her the truth about her origins. Shock one: her mother was an unmarried local girl, seduced by the good doctor's cad of a brother. Shock two: her mother's brother, Roger Scatcherd (McShane), then murdered the love-rat in revenge, which all sounds a bit like a Victorian version of Jeremy Kyle.
Inevitably, Fellowes has already departed from the novel; condensing the opening chapters and softening a brutal murder into more of a comical drunken blunder. But the feel of the novel – the perennial tensions between love and loyalty, and the benevolent eye watching over it all – was largely intact.
As the benevolent uncle, Tom Hollander immediately captured Dr Thorne's peculiar blend of moral uprightness, humour and professional busyness. Looking after the Gresham family's bruised finances, Thorne was a straight foil to McShane's wonderfully scabrous Scatcherd, a bed-ridden drunk. Having risen from murderous infamy to fortune as a railway tycoon, his pop-eyed tirades provided a welcome comic note.
And what of Fellowes' new Mary? She shared a first name and a fiery streak with her blue-blooded Downton counterpart, but little else. Newcomer Stefanie Martini – and if that isn't a stage name, she was born lucky – balanced spark with softness, while her close relationship with her uncle was particularly convincing. Sadly, it was more convincing than our first glimpse of her flirtation with Frank, which involved a lot of giggling but not much else. This was disappointing, given that she is a wit in the novel and Fellowes normally excels at eloquent barbs.
The fledgling romance faced obstacles beyond its plausibility. Frank's mother, Lady Arabella (Rebecca Front), was opposed. There is something so intrinsically sympathetic about Front, so reminiscent of a well-meaning geography teacher, that it was hard to see her as a haughty roadblock to romance, even though she played a similar role recently in the superlative War & Peace. Luckily, Lady Arabella's sister Countess De Courcy (Phoebe Nicholls) did enough disdaining for the whole family, oozing scorn as naturally as other characters put one foot in front of the other.
Whatever happens to Frank and Mary, will Fellowes and Trollope live happily ever after? The signs are positive. Adaptation plays to Fellowes's strength for dialogue while curbing his tendency to, say, have a war hero rise miraculously from his wheelchair only to bite it in a car accident. Though early for comparison, Doctor Thorne feels akin to the best TV adaptations of Trollope – The Barchester Chronicles (1982) and The Way We Live Now (2001). And those ball gowns alone are more than capacious enough to fill the Downton-shaped hole in our Sunday night viewing.