So, BBC2’s two-part adaptation of The Mystery of Edwin Drood finished last night in a flurry of revelations. This was, of course, the ending scripted by TV writer Gwyneth Hughes – the novel itself is famously unfinished due to Dickens’s death in the course of writing it. We asked author and emeritus professor of modern English literature at University College London, John Sutherland, what he made of it:
‘Make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, make ’em wait’ was the Dickensian motto. Gwyneth Hughes did all three. And, with a dexterity that would have pleased the Great Inimitable himself, she solved all his posthumous puzzles.
Making the mysterious Datchery Hiram Grewgious’s cat’s-paw (some, even more daring than Hughes, have hypothesised it was Helena Landless in drag) was brilliant.
Having both Edwin Droods return from the dead was true to Dickens’s extravagant plot habits. Making Jasper, Edwin and the Landless twins all offspring of Edwin senior (a man who clearly had a little trouble doing up his trouser flies) slightly strained credulity – but it, too, worked.
Like every other viewer, I suspect, I was led up the garden path by all those opium-vision throttlings of Edwin Jr by Jasper. Not fratricide, but patricide. Surprise, surprise.
The wholly modern stress on the ethnic/racist theme added contemporary relevance. Give Ms Hughes the Boz Prize of the Year. Assuming, that is, Claire Tomalin hasn’t snaffled it first.
But was this the ending you would have chosen? If you have an idea for an alternative ending, let us know! Post your comments below.