25 May 2001 | hgallon
This was another historical series of novels, which the BBC faithfully adhered to (and they managed to run two unequally-sized volumes, "The Warden" and "Barchester Towers", together without the join showing).
Donald Pleasance, normally noted for playing Bond villains, played the modest and unctuous Septimus Harding brilliantly. Nigel Hawthorne, as his son-in-law Dr. Grantly, provided the perfect combative foil. However, Alan Rickman, in one of his first major roles as the scheming Obadiah Slope, may have stolen the show. Clive Swift, as the henpecked Bishop of Barchester, established and refined the character he was later to play as the husband of Hyacinth Bouquet in "real" comedy.
The location shots in cloisters give a very real impression of a withdrawn and contemplative clergy, obsessed with its own affairs and internal squabbles. The jarring note of the first two or three episodes, when John Bold questions whether a long-established tradition connected with a charitable bequest is indeed in the interests of the recipients of that charity, shows the how uneasy the various clerical characters are when dealing with the world outside.
Many of the shots in scenes in a flat countryside seemingly locked into August throughout the eight episodes which covered a span of several years, also give the impression of withdrawal from the day-to-day life of any activity but that of the church.
As an examination of the mores and attitudes of his period, Anthony Trollope produced a brilliant pair of novels. The BBC have produced an equally brilliant adaptation, although slow enough in pace to be almost soporific in parts.