Steven Knight Continues His Charles Dickens Adaptations with ‘Great Expectations’ on FX, BBC

     May 13, 2020


Steven Knight darkened our holiday doorsteps in 2019 with a bleak and dour adaptation of Charles DickensA Christmas Carol. That limited series, which hailed from both the BBC and FX, embraced all of the small-minded, mean-spirited, and hard-hearted aspects that the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge (Guy Pearce) has become known for, but forgot to bring in the Christmas cheer, the optimistic change wrought by near-death experiences and a retrospective look on one’s life, and the hopeful nature of the human condition. But that’s just my opinion. Clearly the studios behind the production feel differently since they’ve greenlit another Dickens project from Knight.

As Variety reports, Knight is back for a six-part adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations; Tom Hardy and Ridley Scott are also on board to executive produce the new project from BBC and FX. Knight will once again write and executive produce the six hour-long episodes along with BBC EPs Dean Baker, David W. Zucker, Kate Crowe and Mona Qureshi That’s the same team from A Christmas Carol, so you should expect more of the same, for better or worse; the punny headlines really do write themselves from there on out.

great-expectations-book-cover-01Here’s what Knight had to say about the project:

“I chose ‘Great Expectations’ as the next work to bring to the screen not just because of the timeless characters, but also because of the very timely story. A story of class mobility and class intransigence, told through an intensely emotional and personal first person narrative. As the son of a blacksmith myself, Pip’s journey from the forge into society is a very special one to me.”

In an interview with our own Steven Weintraub for Serenity, Knight teased his plans to take on more Dickens in the future:

“What I’m planning to do is adapt five Dickens books—A Christmas Carol plus four novels—and do it over a period of six or seven years and have a repertory of actors, and I think we’ll get the best actors in the world, hopefully, to take part because the Dickens characters are so great. And just do like [David] Copperfield and Oliver Twist and Great Expectations and do them in a modern way. Not really in a Taboo way, but sort of like that.”

Great Expectations is the second in series of Dickens adaptations greenlit by BBC Drama’s Piers Wenger and BBC Content’s Charlotte Moore, with FX and FX Productions. His plans were to tackle “David Copperfield” next, but clearly those plans changed. Knight did share, however, his thoughts on Dickens if he were writing today:

“The idea is that when Dickens was writing, I mean he would’ve been a TV returning series writer I think. Because that’s how he works. When he wrote his novels he did it in installments and released them in magazines so that there were cliffhangers and people were waiting for the next episode. As far as he could, according to the sort of fashions of the time, he did deal with the darker side of London and poverty and things that were going on. He couldn’t really go into the detail in the way that we can now, so what I’m trying to do is things that are possibly implied in Dickens, we can actually express.”