Death Comes to Pemberley, BBC1, Anna Maxwell Martin, Matthew Rhys PREVIEW

Death Comes to Pemberley, BBC, Wickham (MATTHEW GOODE), Darcy (MATTHEW RHYS), Elizabeth Darcy (ANNA MAXWELL-MARTIN), Lydia Wickham (JENNA-LOUISE COLEMAN)
What happened next at Pemberley – Wickham, Darcy, Elizabeth and Lydia. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★ 

BBC1: Boxing Day, 8.15pm

Story: It’s six years since Elizabeth and Darcy married and they now have a young son, Fitzwilliam. On the eve of the magnificent annual ball at Pemberley, a scream calls everyone to the window as a hysterical Lydia – Elizabeth’s wayward youngest sister – tumbles out of a carriage screaming murder…

ALONG WITH Lucan and The Great Train Robbery, this is the best crime drama on this Christmas (before the genre starts firing on all gun cylinders again in January, when the likes of Sherlock and The Bridge will return).

Death Comes to Pemberley, outdoor scene of estate, BBC
Making a splash for the annual ball

This beautiful-looking three-parter is based on crime writer PD James’s inspired homage to that ever-green classic Pride and Prejudice (it’s the book’s 200th anniversary this year), giving the tale of Elizabeth (Anna Maxwell Martin) and Darcy (Matthew Rhys) a suspenseful and murderous twist.

It’s well cast and looks sumptuous. Often lavish costumes and settings cover feeble, fanciful storytelling, but here they perfectly match an intricate mystery that is set, of course, on Darcy’s grand estate. Death Comes to Pemberley‘s story and production lift it above your average chocolate box drama.

Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin

It’s been adapted by Juliette Towhidi (Calendar Girls) and directed with dash by Bafta-winner Daniel

Matthew Rhys stars as Darcy in Death Comes to Pemberley, BBC
Matthew Rhys as Darcy

Percival. Matthew Rhys carries off the stern countenance of the master with ease, and Anna Maxwell Martin is equally at home portraying the caring, inquisitive Elizabeth.

She doesn’t have Jennifer Ehle’s twinkle in the classic 1995 BBC serial, but she certainly plays the role like an impulsive young woman who has grown into her greater responsibilities.

It’s the eve of the annual Lady Anne ball at Pemberley and the huge stately home is abuzz with busy domestic staff, and Darcy and Elizabeth overseeing the preparations. Doctor Who‘s Jenna Coleman upsets the calm atmosphere as Elizabeth’s flighty youngest sister Lydia – who eloped with that blackguard Wickham, as you no doubt recall – spills out of a carriage screaming murder.

Murder and marriage

Georgiana (Eleanor Tomlinson) in Death Comes to Pemberley
Who should Georgiana marry?
Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth in Death Comes to Pemberley
Anna Maxwell Martin

George Wickham was planning to gatecrash Darcy’s do, but is discovered at night in the woods by the body of a dead man, Captain Denny, with blood on his hands. Sir Selwyn Hardcastle – a forbidding Trevor Eve – takes charge of the investigation and is soon convinced of Wickham’s wickedness. But did the scoundrel commit the deed?

There are plenty of twists to come, and the reputation of Pemberley is threatened, but there are also interesting subplots adding to the drama, such as the marriage of Darcy’s sister, Georgiana. Should she marry Colonel Fitzwilliam, through a sense of duty, as Darcy favours, or follow her heart and settle with dynamic young lawyer Alveston?

PD James’s story has a satisfying mix of romance and mystery, and will look gorgeous accompanying the Christmas tree lights by the telly.

Cast: Anna Maxwell Martin Elizabeth Bennet, Matthew Rhys Fitzwilliam Darcy, Matthew Goode George Wickham, Trevor Eve Sir Selwyn Hardcastle, Tom Ward Colonel Fitzwilliam, James Norton Henry Alveston, Eleanor Tomlinson Georgiana Darcy, Jenna Coleman Lydia Wickham, Joanna Scanlan Mrs Reynolds, Rebecca Front Mrs Bennet, James Fleet Mr Bennet, Jennifer Hennessy Mrs Bidwell, Lewis Rainer Will Bidwell, Nichola Burley Louisa Bidwell, Philip Martin Brown Bidwell, Tom Canton Captain Denny, Penelope Keith Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Alexandra Moen Jane Bingley

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