I have always been a big fan of period pieces and costume dramas, but my family and I have seen so many at this point it can often be a challenge to find one we haven’t seen. Recently, we sat down to watch Dr. Thorne, written by the inestimable Julian Fellowes on Amazon Prime, and we were quite delighted by this charming story! Trollope is actually one of the major Victorian authors whose work I still have yet to read, so I was completely unfamiliar with this story going into it. I feel that this actually enhanced the experience for me though, since I wasn’t able to predict or anticipate the events of the story, and it left me wanting to find out what happened next at the end of each of the four episodes.
I found it very interesting how similar viewing this felt to watching an Austen story! With the beautiful costumes and the gorgeous English gardens as well as the classic theme of love across class divisions, this story has all the elements that will surely entice any Austenite. It also has smatterings of Dickens as well, since one of the major elements of the story revolves around the mysterious origin of one of the major characters, and this goes on to further shape the plot; a familiar theme often employed by Dickens in his tales. This series has something for everyone to enjoy.
I thought the cast was very well-chosen. It was wonderful to see Harry Richardson in a series outside of Poldark, and I thought he did a wonderful job as the boyishly handsome Frank Gresham. Stephanie Martini (Crooked House) also made a very sweet-natured and graceful Mary Thorne, and Tom Hollander (Wives and Daughters) as Dr. Thorne himself was wonderful as always. I also thought the costumes were quite lovely. It was nice to see how light and airy this film was. Some people tend to think of period pieces as being rather somber and dreary in terms of the color palette, and this series definitely shows us a brighter side, reminiscent of the 2020 film adaptation of Emma by Autumn De Wilde. The ladies’ dresses and bonnets in particular feature a range of pastel shades, seeming to echo the beautiful blooms and soft, rolling, green, hills of the English countryside.
I enjoyed how the series also had substance, but was never overly heavy or particularly dark. Series with more serious and grittier themes have their place, but it was nice to see that the barbs here mainly lie in the satirical and witty dialogue, as well as the absurdities of the interactions between the wealth-preoccupied landed gentry and the provincial middle-class bourgeois, rather than the more explicit scenes found in other series. Overall, this series is a lot more family-friendly than a lot of recent period pieces being produced so that was nice. That being said, there was plenty of drama to go round, what with Mary and Frank’s seemingly impossible love, opposed and thwarted by Frank’s parents insistence that he marry rich to save their crumbling family estate, as well as the revelations of the past that threaten to infringe themselves onto the present and a host of smaller family squabbles. Nothing is quite as picturesque or charming as meets the eye, this series seems to imply.
I enjoyed watching this series. It was a nice, relaxing escape. Sometimes being able to sit back and enjoy watching a flirtatious dalliance in a garden or virtually saunter through the drawing room of a beautiful English home is just what we all need, and Dr. Thorne more than amply provides this. If you are looking for your next series to binge watch while seated comfortably with a cup of tea, this may be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Have you seen this series or any of Fellowes’ other works? Have you read the novel, and if so, how does this adaption hold up to it? Feel free to drop a comment!