Bleak House: Special Edition (2005)

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  • Acclaimed writer Andrew Davies turns his talents to one of Charles Dickens' most brilliant novels - arguably the greatest ever depiction of Victorian London. Fresh and imaginative, yet faithful to the original, this thrilling fast-paced adaptation is shot with a contemporary edge. At its heart is the story of the icily beautiful Lady Dedlock, who nurses a dark secret, and the merciless lawyer Tulkinghorn, who seeks to uncover it. The generous John Jarndyce, struggling with his own past, and his two young wards Richard and Ada, are all caught up, like Lady Dedlock, in the infamous case of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce, which will make one of them rich beyond imagination if it can ever be brought to a conclusion. As Tulkinghorn digs deeper into Lady Dedlock's past, he unearths a secret that will change their lives forever, and which is almost as astounding as the final outcome of the Jarndyce case..

    Young orphan Esther Summerson is brought to the High Court of Chancery, where she is thrown together with two Wards of the Court, Richard Carstone and Ada Clare. Both are caught up in the infamous suit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which brings nothing but ruin and despair to all it touches. The elegant life of another Jarndyce suitor, the beautiful Lady Dedlock, is turned upside-down when her husband’s lawyer, Tulkinghorn, gets wind of a scandalous secret in her past. Esther, Richard and Ada are sent to live at Bleak House, where they receive a friendly welcome from their rich guardian, John Jarndyce. Meanwhile, Tulkinghorn’s investigation leads him into the dark underbelly of London, where he searches for Nemo, the mysterious law-writer whose name literally means ‘no one’. But when Tulkinghorn decides to pay Nemo a visit, he receives a very nasty surprise…

    Despite the grim discovery of Nemo’s body, Tulkinghorn remains undeterred from his ruthless inquiry into Lady Dedlock’s past. As he edges closer to the truth, Lady Dedlock puts her reputation at risk when she pays an undercover visit to Nemo’s former haunts. Richard and Ada plan their engagement, but receive an unexpected setback. Esther meets an attractive young doctor called Allan Woodcourt, not realising that John Jarndyce is becoming increasingly attracted to her himself. And Woodcourt has news that comes as a terrible blow to Esther…

    A chance encounter in the country raises intriguing questions for Esther and Lady Dedlock. Richard’s inability to settle causes a rift with John Jarndyce, much to Ada’s dismay. Tulkinghorn finally unearths the identity of the mysterious Nemo. Nemo’s old friend, Sergeant George, has the evidence he needs to prove it and Tulkinghorn will stop at nothing to force George to hand it over. But George has even more problems when Gridley turns up on his doorstep, on the run from the law and infected with the fever…


    Esther falls sick with smallpox; she recovers but is left badly scarred. George has to make an impossible decision when Tulkinghorn instructs the evil moneylender Smallweed to turn up the heat on his debts. Legal clerk Guppy, still besotted with Esther, makes a discovery about his beloved which shocks Lady Dedlock to the core. Guppy’s quest for more information takes him to Krook’s shop, with explosive results. And Jarndyce is beside himself when tragedy strikes Bleak House…

    Richard’s obsession with the Jarndyce case has grown to worrying proportions. John Jarndyce agonises over whether to keep his feelings for Esther concealed. Meanwhile, Lady Dedlock tells Esther something that will change her life forever. Guppy puts himself at risk when he gets in the way of Tulkinghorn’s enquiries. And Tulkinghorn at last has cast-iron proof of Lady Dedlock’s guilt, and issues her with a terrible ultimatum…

    George’s anger knows no bounds when Tulkinghorn breaks his promise and leaves him in financial ruin. Richard is also in dire straits financially, but Ada and Esther may be too late to help him. A marriage proposal surprises Esther – but is it from the right man? Woodcourt returns to England to find Jo, the crossing sweeper, critically ill. Despite his best efforts, it is a matter of life and death. And Tulkinghorn thinks Lady Dedlock is in his power, but secretly she defies him, with disastrous consequences…

    Esther’s feelings for Woodcourt grow stronger, despite her best intentions. Richard and Ada’s news causes great concern for Esther and Jarndyce. As Inspector Bucket investigates Tulkinghorn’s murder; there is no shortage of suspects. An early arrest appears to wrap the case up quickly, but a spate of poison-pen letters suggests that all is not as it seems. As evidence mounts against Lady Dedlock, Bucket sets a trap for the killer, with astonishing results…

    The moneylender Smallweed has evidence of Lady Dedlock’s secret past and intends to use it against her. Cornered, Lady Dedlock makes a terrible decision. Esther and Bucket try desperately to reach her before it is too late. Richard’s obsession with Chancery leaves him dangerously ill. Ada is pregnant, but worries he will not live to see the birth of their child. Woodcourt proposes marriage to Esther, but she is torn between her love for him and her commitment to Jarndyce. And then the impossible happens – a result in Chancery. But it is one that will astound everyone….

    Gillian Anderson...Lady Dedlock
    Charles Dance...Mr Tulkinghorn
    Denis Lawson...John Jarndyce
    Pauline Collins...Miss Flite
    Alun Armstrong...Bucket
    Warren Clark...BoyThorn
    Johnny Vegas...Krook
    Liza Tarbuck...Mrs Jellyby

    Screenplay by Andrew Davies
    Produced by Nigel Stafford-Clark
    Executive Produced by Sally Haynes, Laura Mackie, Rebecca Eaton