23 October 2006 | cosmic_quest
Period drama slanted to younger viewers
Period dramas are generally not to the liking of many young children but, despite the fact I was only nine years old when 'Little Sir Nicholas' aired on CBBC, there was something involving in the storyline that drew me in. I can still remember certain scenes quite vividly even though nearly two decades have passed and it's no doubt what kindled my mild interest in the Victorian era.
Based on the novel by CA Jones, the mini-series is centred on the illustrious Tremaines family who lose their Naval officer son at sea in a shipping accident that claims his wife and his small son Nicholas. A few years later, the Tremaine matriarch scours London in an attempt to find a new heir to inherit the family title and her search led her to the poverty-stricken ten-year-old Gerald Tremaine. But just as Gerald settles into his new wealthy life, with his scheming mother Joanna and kindly sister Margaret, Nicholas is discovered living in France where he has made a new life for himself after being adopted by a French family. As the boy is returned to England and named the Tremaine heir, Gerald and Joanna face losing the luxury they have quickly become accustomed to. Confusion, resentment and anger don't take long to bubble to the surface as Nicholas struggles to adapt to his family in England and Gerald refuses to accept someone else taking his place.
For a series aimed at children, 'Little Sir Nicholas' was a rather accurate portrayal of what life must have been like for wealthier British families during the Victorian era when titles, blood rights and heritage played a large part in family life. It also depicted how children had few rights and were almost like treated like property by the adults around them. We see Nicholas just taken from France and dumped into English life without a second thought given his own wishes or that he didn't even remember his early years in England, had forgotten how to speak English and that he loved his French family. And equally, we saw Gerald reaching tentatively out to befriend Nicholas only for the friendship to be soured by Joanna, whose main interest was securing the Tremaine title for her son regardless of the fact she was using children like pawns on a chess board.
'Little Sir Nicholas' was a nicely-made drama that covered loneliness, childhood jealousies, greed, cruelty and loss in a storyline that was easily understood by the young viewers in was aimed at despite the rather complex storyline. It was probably one of the best CBBC productions ever and it's a shame it's never been aired since or even put out on DVD.