A Christmas Carol is a British fantasy miniseries based on the 1843 novella of the same name by Charles Dickens. It aired on FX in the United States on 19 December 2019 and it began airing on BBC One in the United Kingdom on the 22 and will conclude two days later on 24 December 2019. The three-part series is written by Steven Knight with actor Tom Hardy and Ridley Scott among the executive producers.
Filming locations include Rainham Hall in East London and Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick. Cast members include Guy Pearce, Andy Serkis, Stephen Graham, Charlotte Riley, Jason Flemyng, Vinette Robinson and Joe Alwyn.
Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter man, despises his fellow human beings, the Christmas holiday and what it represents. On Christmas Eve night, he is visited by the ghost of his dead partner Jacob Marley, who warns him that in order for both of them to be redeemed Scrooge will be visited by three spirits. Over the course of that night, Scrooge will be confronted by visions from his past, present and future in the hope that these experiences will help him to re-connect with humanity... especially his own.
In this version, Scrooge runs an investment firm, not a moneylenders.
It was announced in November 2017 that the BBC had commissioned a new telling of the Dickens tale, with Steven Knight writing the three-part series. Knight, Tom Hardy and Ridley Scott would serve as executive producers.
In January 2019, it was reported that Hardy was also to be starring in the series; however, the role he would be playing was not disclosed (with Hardy being cut from the final version). In May, Guy Pearce was revealed to be playing Scrooge, alongside the castings of Andy Serkis, Stephen Graham, Charlotte Riley, Joe Alwyn, Vinette Robinson and Kayvan Novak. Rutger Hauer, who was originally cast as Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, became too sick to film his scenes and was replaced by Jason Flemyng.
A Christmas Carol review – twee-free torment-fest is a tonic for our times
Children, go to your rooms! This is adults-only Dickens – a foul, funny and thrilling carve-up of festive flimflam that will leave you wondering if Scrooge is more seer than skinflint
Sun 22 Dec 2019 22.00 GMT
5 / 5 stars5 out of 5 stars.
Christmas is for kids, really, we all know that. But this version of A Christmas Carol, my friends, is for you. Three parts, BBC One, an hour long each, adults only. Not because there’s any sex (although there is a bit of swearing), but because it’s simply … so grownup.
We open on the eve of Christmas Eve, London 1843, as all good festive adaptations should. Our first sight is of the late Jacob Marley (Stephen Graham) being roused from his not-as-eternal-as-he-thought sleep. A boy is weeing on the “skinflint old bastard’s” grave, and the drops are seeping through the coffin and splashing on Marley’s face. God rest ye, tweeness, whimsy. Your day is done.
This is a take on Dickens’ tale that looks into the darkness of the season, the unhappy hearts thrown into relief by jollity, and asks who deserves their share of joy. It incorporates a trip to purgatory for Marley, via a blacksmith who shows him the links in the chains he has forged before he binds him – each one made from the soul of a man, woman or child who died as a result of his and his business partner Ebenezer Scrooge’s actions. Marley wanders through purgatory and meets a figure stoking a bonfire. “I burn memories and old affections,” he says. “I am the Ghost of Christmas Past, here to smoke out redemption.” He tells Marley that his and Scrooge’s fates are tied – one cannot be saved without the other – because “it was with him that you profaned the soul of humanity”. Marley will be returned to the world above to pave the way. “By the time this Christmas is ash,” says the ghost, “I must search the heart of Ebenezer Scrooge and find if there is a tender place there.”
Above ground, things continue in the same unblinking mood. Bustling, urchin-crammed exteriors are replaced by deserted Georgian streets, Victoriana-stuffed interiors with high-ceilinged rooms that are clutter-free and comfortless, and poverty-stricken ciphers with real people struggling to do their best in a world full of problems not of their own making. Tweeness and whimsy have made way for psychological realism. The result is A Christmas Carol for our times, and for many times to come.
Bob Cratchit is neither a cowed underling nor a diehard optimist; he is a man who can only push back so far against his boss if he wishes to keep his sorely needed job, and justly furious about it.
And what a boss he has. Guy Pearce is Scrooge, as tall, lean, elegant and austere as the townhouse to which he retires once another day of extracting work from others, tallying grievances and wrestling with ghosts (for now metaphorical only) is done.
His anti-Christmas sentiment is not a miserabilist pose nor an annual crystallisation of a naturally grumpy disposition but an outcropping of an entire philosophy. He gazes out at the street full of smiling passersby and says, almost to himself: “It makes me sad to see all the lies … how many ‘Merry Christmasses’ are meant? Why pretend on one day of the year that the human beast is not the human beast?” It would make more sense, he suggests, to do things the other way round and have one day of acknowledging all our worst impulses. They could call it Scroogeday, says Cratchit, and his desiccated employer is drily amused. He even lets Cratchit use his ink, as Bob’s own has frozen. “Sort of Christmas present, is it?” asks Cratchit. “If it were,” Scrooge replies, channelling the Ghost of Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham Yet to Come, “I would have wrapped it in paper and ribbons in order to artificially increase your anticipation.” The entire script is as luxuriant as the visuals are bleak.
There are hints that Scrooge nurses guilt and sorrow. He is assaulted by visions of what seem to be workers in cages, but his nephew – on a final, futile visit to invite him for Christmas lunch – tells him he comes anyway because his late mother, Ebenezer’s sister, assured him that he must forgive his uncle: “He is just in pain. A very old pain.”
Towards the end of the first episode, it is clear that there are deaths on Marley and Scrooge’s conscience, from a fire in one of their factories – the resonances with Grenfell surely deliberate – but in their other outposts, too, across the globe, all caused by their relentless attempts to keep costs down and profits up. “We vandalised the world for this,” says Marley, gesturing at Scrooge’s towering house, having found his way from purgatory. The system, says this rich, clever, funny and courageous adaptation, implicates us all. It’s not the kind we’re used to, but it’s as fine a distillation of the wider Christmas message – and the wider concerns that animated Dickens in his weightier tales – as you could hope to see.