Little Dorrit (TV series)

Little Dorrit
Cover of the BBC DVD release
GenrePeriod drama
Based onLittle Dorrit
by Charles Dickens
Written byAndrew Davies
Directed byAdam Smith (6 episodes)
Dearbhla Walsh (5 episodes)
Diarmuid Lawrence (3 episodes)
StarringClaire Foy
Matthew Macfadyen
Tom Courtenay
Judy Parfitt
Composer(s)John Lunn
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes14
Executive producer(s)Rebecca Eaton
Anne Pivcevic
Producer(s)Lisa Osborne
CinematographyLukas Strebel
Owen McPolin
Alan Almond
Editor(s)Nick Arthurs
Philip Kloss
David Head
Running time452 minutes
Production company(s)BBC
WGBH Boston
Original networkWebsite

Little Dorrit is a 2008 British miniseries based on Charles Dickens’s serial novel of the same title, originally published between 1855 and 1857. The screenplay is by Andrew Davies and the episodes were directed by Adam Smith, Dearbhla Walsh, and Diarmuid Lawrence.

The series was a joint production of the BBC and the American PBS member station WGBH Boston. It originally was broadcast by BBC One and BBC HD, beginning on 26 October 2008 with a 60-minute opening episode, followed by 12 half-hour episodes and a 60-minute finale. In the United States, it aired in five episodes as part of PBS's Masterpiece series between 29 March and 26 April 2009. In Australia, episodes were combined into seven-parts on ABC1 each Sunday at 8:30pm from 27 June 2010[1] and has since been repeated on UKTV.[2]

The series won seven Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Miniseries.


Since her birth, twenty one years prior in 1805, Amy Dorrit has lived in the Marshalsea Prison for Debt, where she cares for her father William, who, having lived there for two whole decades, enjoys a position of privileged seniority. To help her family, she works as a seamstress for Mrs. Clennam, a cranky, cold, forbidding semi-invalid who lives in a crumbling home with her servants, the sinister Jeremiah Flintwinch and his bumbling wife Affery.

Mr. Clennam is ill in China with his son, Arthur. His dying wish is that his son "Put it right about his mother." He gives Arthur a pocket watch to deliver to Mrs. Clennam; Arthur has no idea what this means. He returns to England and gives his mother the watch. She opens it and reads "Do not forget." Arthur is enamoured of the beautiful Minnie (Pet) Meagles, who favours ne'er-do-well aspiring artist Henry Gowan, much to the distress of her parents.

Arthur befriends Amy, whose affection grows into romance. John Chivery, who mans the prison gate with his father, watches in dismay. He loves Amy desperately, but in vain. Amy's brother, Tip, falls into debt and joins his father in prison. Arthur pays his debt anonymously. Tip is ungrateful but Amy's love grows.

Arthur, observing his mother's uncharacteristically benevolent attitude towards Amy, suspects his family may have been responsible for the Dorrits' misfortunes and imprisonment. He asks rent collector and amateur detective Mr. Pancks to investigate the situation.

John Chivery proposes to Amy, who gently declines. This upsets both fathers and threatens to affect Dorrit's favored position as the Father of the Marshalsea. Arthur, unaware of Amy's love, realizes Pet Meagles prefers the younger Henry Gowan to himself. Arthur proposes to Pet, who regretfully tells him she is to marry Gowan. He meets inventor-engineer Daniel Doyce, and they become business partners.

An ex-convict, Rigaud, meets Flintwinch's twin brother, Ephraim in a tavern. Ephraim has a box containing Mrs. Clennam's secret papers, which she had ordered Jeremiah to burn – but he had given to Ephraim instead. Rigaud gets Ephraim drunk, murders him, and takes the box.

Mr. Pancks has discovered William Dorrit is heir to a fortune. Dorrit leaves the Marshalsea as a very wealthy man but insists his family forget what he considers to be their shameful past and everyone who was a part of it. He hires the stiff and pretentious Mrs. Hortensia General to educate his daughters and prepare them for their new position in society. They all depart on a Grand Tour of Europe.

William Dorrit is continually upset with Amy, who cannot adapt to the family's new lifestyle.

At the suggestion of Mr. Pancks, Arthur invests in a seemingly successful bank run by a Mr. Merdle.

William Dorrit returns to England and meets Mr. Merdle and discreetly asks him for his advice as to the "prudent investment" of his capital. Mr. Merdle agrees to invest William Dorrit's fortune because he "could be considered one of the family now!" Mr. Dorrit is welcomed into some of London's finest homes but is tormented by his prison memories. He gradually begins to lose his grasp on sanity, and hastily returns to Italy to see his daughter Amy, where he dies in bed. Left alone, Amy returns to London, where she is welcomed in by her newly married sister Fanny.

Mr. Merdle ends his own life, his suicide note revealing that he was a swindler who had ruined thousands of investors. Among them is Arthur, who is forced into the Marshalsea debtors' prison. John Chivery angrily reveals to Arthur that Amy loves him. Arthur then runs a high fever. He is nursed back to health by Amy who offers to pay his debts; he refuses.

Rigaud returns to Mrs. Clennam and reveals what he knows from the stolen documents: Her unloving attitude drove her husband to infidelity, which resulted in a son Arthur, whom Mrs. Clennam raised as her own – albeit without any motherly feeling for him. When Arthur's birth mother died, his grandfather, anxious to help someone else who was disadvantaged, bequeathed money to Amy. Rigaud demands £2,000 to keep silent, but Mrs. Clennam leaves her house for the first time in years, finds Amy, reveals the truth, and begs her forgiveness. During Mrs. Clennam's absence, her dilapidated house literally falls apart and collapses, killing Rigaud. Returning to find her home a pile of rubble, Mrs. Clennam collapses and dies in the street.

The Dorrits learn their money had been invested with Mr. Merdle. Now that Amy is penniless, Arthur can accept her. Their mutual love is declared. Daniel Doyce returns from Russia, where he has made a fortune. He shares his wealth with Arthur. Arthur and Amy become happily wed.