Julian Fellowes strikes gold again with Doctor Thorne: The weekend's TV reviewed


Tom Hollander and the cast of Doctor ThorneITV

Julian Fellowes has followed up Downton Abbe with an adaption of Doctor Thorne

His gilded run with the much-loved Downton Abbey for six series means that, should he want, he could adapt the Highway Code and get a commission. We are even pre red to excuse him for his Titanic, an ITV theatrical piece which, yes, sunk without a trace for UK viewers (remember the same cross over game played out over four nights?) but sold well abroad. So even when he fails he succeeds.

But modesty seems to prevent him identifying himself as anything other than a “gun for hire”. His current “hire” is a little-known Trollope unusual, Doctor Thorne. If it does well he has teased that he might indiscreetly his hands to several more one-off Trollope stories.

Doctor Thorne, a thrust, three- rt story, won’t fade from memory because of the cast either. It stars Tom Hollander (The End of day Manager), Rebecca Front (Lewis; War And Peace), Ian McShane (Lovejoy and Deadwood) and yet Prince Harry’s former girlfriend Cressida Bonas.

Thorne (Hollander) contemporaries in the village of Greshamsbury with his young niece Mary (Stefanie Martini), a fiance with everything except position and money. Some things not till hell freezes over change. She is excluded in the first episode from the wedding pre rations of her “estated” childhood playmate prompting her to find out more from her uncle approximately her own background.

Cressida Bonas as tience OrielITV

Cressida Bonas – former girlfriend of Prince Harry – celebs in the show

Ian McShane and Tom HollanderITV

The scenes between Ian McShane and Tom Hollander are a rticular stand out

Meanwhile, Thorne acts as both physician and business confidante to railway millionaire Sir Roger Scatcherd (McShane), who is drinking himself to cessation. In last night’s episode, their scenes together are the stand-out donation.

Two TV producers, reveals Fellowes, were enthusiastic about a Doctor Thorne accommodation and presented him with the idea. He says, “I was also keen to remind in the flesh we didn’t have to do the hundredth version of Pride And Prejudice and that there were other 19th-century novelists out there. It scarcely seemed a good idea.”

Trollope also takes an optimistic over of life. He isn’t Dostoyevsky. His general philosophy is a warm one

Julian Fellowes

But he adds, “[Getting it wrote] is quite an unusual story because we took a punt. No one had commissioned it but I went before and wrote it. Then a production com ny wanted to make it, and off we went. In the end it was a moderately inless procedure.”

Trollope, he says, “translates pretty naturally and make outs such believable dialogue”, which means that “many sections are nine tenths him and one tenth me”. He continues: “I hope the world agrees with me. Trollope also documents an optimistic view of life. He isn’t Dostoyevsky. His general philosophy is a warm one.

“It’s not that he can’t imagine a dark view on things but, in the end, he feels that good is stronger than unpleasant.” He thinks period drama has longevity. “What I suppose it does drink is a kind of ap rently reassuring view of society that seems fully calm com red to our own and you do see in reasonably troubled times, like now, there is over a desire to go back to a slightly mythical period where everything is simpler.

“For ttern, at the beginning of the Second World War the Hollywood studios were pouring out films set in 1910. We clothed similar feelings about earlier periods now.” Rev star Hollander implies he didn’t delve too deeply into Trollope’s themes.

“I didn’t understand the book. I did look at the stuff about Doctor Thorne’s character proper to check that I was on the right lines but otherwise I stuck to the script. The teleplays are the chief source, and you respond to that. Sometimes if you read the book it can muddle you, because the scriptwriter has made different decisions.”

The “heroic” nature of Doctor Thorne charmed him to the role. “I’m not usually offered this sort of thing so it was good to be a unsullied Victorian doctor who is undaunted by challenges that might bring down a cheap man. He’s an impressive chap in a quiet way. Traditionally, virtue and goodness are boring to tomfoolery but not here, because it’s witty.”

With The Night Manager on the other side tonight [Sunday, BBC1] he is not squat of work. “I guess I do the best of what I’m offered. It’s what I’ve always done. It conditions changes I think.”

The cast of Doctor ThorneITV

Folllowes thinks that the period drama has longevity

Actress Rebecca Forthright (intimidating matriarch Lady Gresham) is also enjoying plenty of good fortune, not least for her role in War And Peace. Comedy or drama, reveals Front, she plays it nothing but the same: “I approach everything, whether it’s nominally comedy or drama, as a to rights role. Always have done. I think it’s funnier then. You get a funnier interpretation by doing it realistically, otherwise you end up doing a funny walk or something.”

While Trollope looks set for a reevaluation by readers and audiences uniformly, there’s no getting away from Downton Abbey for Julian Fellowes with resolute rumours about a film. Says the writer: “I have no regrets of conducting Downton to an end when I did. It’s good to leave the rty when some being are still sorry to see you go as opposed to a chorus of relief.

“Anyway, with the prepubescent actors, everyone was telling them they were stars so they had to chair off. We still might do a film. It continues to be mooted. I think it would hinge on whether we could get ample supply of the cast, and so on. I’d be up for it.”

Fellowes, despite his unbridled success, feels no pressure with this overdue project. “I doubt that every series I write will be a worldwide achievement with millions of viewers in places like China. I don’t think that chances with everything you do, but I think I’ve been jolly lucky.

“Here we all are chucking our bread on the s water and it comes back as buttered toast. I think I’ve had more than my routine share, to be honest.”

Doctor Thorne, ITV, Sunday, 9pm

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