Julian Fellowes Presents "Dr. Thorne"

Just as I was recovering from my "Downton Abbey" withdrawals, along comes another Julian Fellowes piece to satisfy the period junkie in me. And, it was not a moment too soon either. 

Set in 1850s England, "Dr. Thorne stars Tom Hollander (Pride & Prejudice - 2005) as a quiet country doctor who is raising his orphan niece Mary. She is a 20-year-old beauty and the soul of kindness, but penniless. Mary spent her childhood at the neighboring Greshamsbury Estate where she grew up with the local lord's children. She forges a close relationship with two of them, Beatrice and Frank.

 As the years pass she falls in love with Frank, but her poverty and questionable parentage renders her an unacceptable suitor. Nevertheless, a suitor is definitely wanted, because the estate's landowner, Lord Gresham is broke. What follows is the family's desperate attempts to marry off one of their children to money to save their impoverished estate that hovers on the brink of bankruptcy threatening to ruin them all.

The series also stars Stefani Martini who play Mary, Ian McShane (John Wick), and Harry Richardson as Frank, Mary's love interest. Based on the 1858 Anthony Trollope novel of the same name, it is a delightful, if not predictable stroll through the lives of Victorian English class snobbery, illegitimacy, fortune hunting, morality and lust. Filmed in 1 hour episodes, 

Dr. Thorne takes 4 hours to fill out the backstory and characters in a carefully drawn look at their straight-laced existences. But, it graciously ends before boredom sets in from the oh-so-familiar Victorian caricatures, which the players could so easily have become. Trollope's story feels like part Austen, part Dickens and part Gaskell, with just enough absurdity thrown in to give you a few laughs along the way.

Rebecca Front played Lady Arabella Gresham with all the humor of Mrs. Bennett and all the backbone of Lady Catherine Debourgh in "Pride & Prejudice." Front played a wealthy pariah of the first order hunting among high society's ranks in search of marriageable bank accounts to join with her offspring.  Stefani Martini gave us a beautiful, but sensible Mary, whose devotion to her Uncle, Dr. Thorne is only comparable to her self-sacrificing love for the estate owner's off limits son.

Ian McShane never disappoints, and played the filthy rich drunken Sir Roger Scatcherd to the hilt. Scatcherd dies leaving his considerable estate and assets to his even more pitiable son who is following hard in his father's drunken footsteps. Along the way there are few twists and turns to keep you engaged, and square-middle of the story is Dr. Thorne, who ties all the pieces together. Tom Hollander is one of England's most prolific actors and anchored the lead role dependably for all the other characters to revolve around. 

The series' talented cast reminds us once again what masters the British are at period dramas. 
Dr. Thorne was not a Masterpiece Theatre Classic, but it certainly belonged in those hallowed halls. In fact, it was part of Amazon Prime's original programming with all the episodes loaded simultaneously to a binge-watchers delight. I for one thoroughly enjoyed the series, which I lazily binge-watched over the Memorial Day weekend.

Dr. Thorne was an engaging, witty, delightful piece of period television - available on Amazon Prime and well worth the watch! 

See my other period piece reviews:
The Crown
Downton Abbey
Far from the Madding Crowd
Woman in Gold
The Butler


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