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"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (120 minutes) premieres on PBS "Masterpiece Classic" at 9 p.m. Sunday, April 15th (check local listings). The film can also be watched online for a limited time beginning April 16th. It is also available on DVD.
When Charles Dickens died on June 9th, 1870, his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, was barely half-finished. Almost immediately, completing the novel became a kind of literary sport, as numerous authors took it upon themselves to finish Drood in a manner fitting with Dickens's own style and substance. Speculative attempts to complete the story continue to this day, and now we have a new PBS "Masterpiece Classic" version to discuss, debate and appreciate. Directed by Diarmuid Lawrence and adapted by British playwright and veteran TV writer Gwyneth Hughes (who previously penned the "Masterpiece Classic" drama Mrs. Austen Regrets), this two-hour version of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" dares to stretch credibility almost but not quite to the breaking point.
It's a delicate game being played here, so I'll avoid spoilers altogether. Suffice it to say that Hughes' solution to the mystery of Edwin Drood is in keeping with Dickens' intentions. We know from Dickens' own correspondence that it was Edwin's uncle, John Jasper, who would ultimately be held accountable for the alleged murder of his nephew. Not content to limit themselves to just this one historically well-established plot twist, Hughes and Lawrence have added a familial dimension to the story that qualifies, in this context, as a surprising (though not altogether shocking) revelation. Whether Dickens would've approved is yet another topic worthy of debate.