I'd initially been interested in reading the P.D. James book when it first came out but I was put off after reading some very negative reviews. But I wanted to watch something over Christmas and I do love Jenna Coleman in Doctor Who so I thought I'd at least give its adaptation a try. Maybe it would be an improvement on the book? Well, even though it's very flawed I genuinely quite liked this miniseries! I still haven't read the P.D. James book yet and, to be honest, I'm not even sure if I will since many reviews of this miniseries that I've read have confirmed my suspicion that it's an improvement on the book.
Not everyone will enjoy this miniseries and I can understand why. Considering that Death Comes to Pemberley is supposed to be a murder-mystery there's actually very little active detective work going on in it. Essentially, Darcy goes to court and watches all of the proceedings there while Elizabeth aimlessly wanders around the Pemberley estate and finds a few random clues. Death Comes to Pemberley works better as a period drama. Also, Colonel Fitzwilliam! What did they do to him?! The colonel doesn't get a huge amount of page-time in Pride and Prejudice but he still seems nice and amiable. In this he's cold, manipulative, rude and deeply unpleasant. Why?! Has something happened to him over the years to justify this change? It's never explained :S
My other major issue with this miniseries was its lead actors. Matthew Rhys's performance as Darcy isn't anything special. As Darcy he's... competent. He's not brilliant, he's not horrible, he's just decent. Anna Maxwell Martin disappointed me even more. Martin is in North and South and I really like her in that but I think she was completely miscast in DCtP. This might sound harsh but I think she was too old and plain to be playing Elizabeth. Martin isn't unattractive but, whenever she happened to be stood next to the beautiful Eleanor Tomlinson or Jenna Coleman, all I could think was that she looked more like my idea of Mary Bennet or Charlotte Lucas than my idea of Elizabeth. Also, Elizabeth is supposed to be 20 in Pride and Prejudice which would make her 26 in a sequel set six years after the events of that book. Martin was 36 at the time this miniseries was filmed and I actually think that she looks older than Matthew Rhys! I didn't like Anna Maxwell Martin's acting in the role either. I saw none of Elizabeth's wit, liveliness, self-confidence or sarcasm coming from her performance. Her acting isn't bad but she never really managed to convince me that I was watching Elizabeth
It's a real shame that the lead actors couldn't have been better cast in this because its supporting actors are all terrific. Jenna Coleman, Eleanor Tomlinson, Matthew Goode, and James Fleetwood and Rebecca Front as Mr and Mrs Bennet are all perfectly cast! The production values in this are clearly high too. It's beautifully-shot and it was filmed on location at Chatsworth House. Fans of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film will be especially delighted by this! The romance between Georgiana and Mr Alveston is sweet and engaging. There's also a very nice and subtle reference to Emma! In Episode Two, I think, Mrs Reynolds mentions that she's heard of a good boarding school near Highbury. I managed to miss this reference during my first watch!
Death Comes to Pemberley is pretty good fanfiction. Of course it never manages to do Austen's original book or characters full justice, but it's very enjoyable and is far better-written and acted than all of the other Pride and Prejudice fanfiction that I've come across (Lost in Austen, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Austenland, Longbourn). Fans of the book who aren't strict canon purists will probably find a lot to enjoy in this version.
Viewer Certificate Rating: 12