Unmissable: Got the Downton blues? Well get ready for a bit of War and Peace to cheer you up

Paul Dano as Pierre Bezukhov in the BBC's upcoming adaptation of War and Peace - (C) BBC - Photograp

Paul Dano as Pierre Bezukhov in the BBC's upcoming adaptation of War and Peace - (C) BBC - Photographer: Laurie Sparham - Credit: BBC/Laurie Sparham

Fear a not, all those preparing for a winter wallowing in Downton withdrawals (until the Crimbo grand finale), another big costume romp is on the way.


Yes, there’s a sumptuous new adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, produced by the BBC and due on our screens at some point over the next few weeks.

It’s got a stellar cast, with the likes of Paul Dano (There will be Blood, 12 Years a Slave), Lily James (Downton, Cinderella) and James Norton (Happy Valley, Grantchester) in the lead roles.

Also appearing will be heavyweight drama stars Jim Broadbent, Greta Scacchi, Ken Stott and Brian Cox; The Thick of It’s Rebecca Front, The Fall’s Gillian Anderson, Ade Edmondson (Bottom), Stephen Rea (the Honourable Woman, The Crying game), Aneurin Barnard (Bobby in recent biopic Cilla).

It’s one of the most impressive casts assembled for a TV drama for quite some time, with a budget to match. From the looks of the trailer, it promises to be a truly epic version of a tale that hasn’t been told on primetime TV for quite a while.

All we know is that it is “coming soon” to BBC1 over the winter. Expect more details imminently and to be hooked from the first moment.

Quite how they’ve compacted the 1,000-plus pages into six episodes, goodness knows – and many will have fond memories of the 1970s adaptation, which starred Anthony Hokpins and was spread across 20 episodes (so no doubt more faithful to the beast of a book).

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Of course there’s much more on the way in terms of period drama, a staple of festive TV if ever there was one.

On January 1 we’ll be getting the long-awaited Sherlock special, The Abominable Bride, which will see Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman take their popular interpretations of Sherlock and Watson back to the 19th Century, where it all began.

Judging by the teaser trailers, the pictures and the general level of quality attached to the series, overseen by Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat.

Speaking about the special, Moffat said: “The special is its own thing. We wouldn’t have done the story we’re doing, and the way we’re doing it, if we didn’t have this special. It’s not part of the run of three episodes. So we had this to do it... It’s kind of in its own little bubble.”

For fans of the modern version, there is a new series on the way, although probably not until 2017!

Also set in the 1800s, and yet another BBC offering for the festive period, we have the ambitious Dickensian, which according to the Beeb is set within the fictional realms of Charles Dickens’ celebrated novels.

“Dickensian brings together some of literature’s most iconic characters, including Scrooge, Fagin and Miss Havisham, as their lives intertwine in 19th Century London.

“The Old Curiosity Shop sits next door to The Three Cripples Pub, while Fagin’s Den is hidden down a murky alley off a bustling Victorian street. With a wealth of back stories sourced from the novels, Dickensian delivers fast-paced storylines with surprising twists and turns.”

It’s a 20-part series with a top-notch cast including Stephen Rea (again), Pauline Collins, Caroline Quentin, Peter Firth and Tuppence Middleton and as at the very least as an experiment, it should be worth catching.

Written by EastEnders head honcho Tony Jordan, it could well succeed in being appreciated by Dickens fans and those more used to soapy dialogue and half-hour bursts of kitchen-sink drama.

What do you think? Email me at elliot.furniss@archant.co.uk or follow me on Twitter @Elliot_Furniss

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