1 November 2004 | Richard-Powell-2
Abridgement not adaptation; a lost opportunity
This was an adaptation that was almost bound to fail. Squeezing 12 novels into eight hours of television allows just 40 minutes per novel. 'The Valley of Bones' was condensed into just 17 minutes. If this had been done well it would truly have been a miracle of compression. However, it was achieved by eliminating about two-thirds of the book.
So it is really rather surprising that the adaptors should have created scenes which were only hinted at rather than described in the book. I counted four, all of which added unnecessary violence and gore. I think if Powell had wanted to make these scenes explicit he would have done so - but he preferred for them to happen offstage.
What is also hard to forgive was the decision to play fast and loose with the chronology towards the end of the series. For example, the launch of 'Fission' should have been immediately after the end of the war rather than somewhere in the mid 50s, while the award of the Magnus Donners prize took place in 1968 or 9 rather than 1963. Anyone who has any feel at all for the period would know that the difference is immense.
But there are good things about this too. The casting is excellent with no-one out of place; the atmosphere for the most part convincing and compelling. A pity that the cast did not have the chance to work through a real adaptation, rather than this drastic and unsatisfactory abridgement.