Doctor Who, Meet Jane AustenPosted: 28 January 2008
So, part 3 of “Jane Austen City Limits”: Mansfield Park. I was looking forward to this one because of Billie Piper’s starring role as Fanny Price. Despite a good performance, Piper as Fanny wasn’t given too much of a focus for much of this adaptation. Gillian Anderson, in her setup of Mansfield, emphasized Mary Crawford (played admirably by Hayley Atwell) as one whose wit and charm could be compared to Austen’s. I don’t know what that meant, but clearly almost all of the other characters are more interesting than Fanny.
I somehow managed to avoid, while watching this, comparing Billie’s performance here to that as Rose Tyler in Doctor Who, although I was half-expecting Fanny to tell Edmund that the planet of the Slitheen revolves around such-and-such star. I think from that scene, on the night of her birthday, the evolving chemistry between Fanny and Edmund was handled well. At least in the end, there’s no hesitation in their first kiss, unlike what we’ve seen previously.
I did notice that Fanny was not returned to Portsmouth after one of Henry Crawford’s proposals, which is probably another casualty of the sub-90-minute time limit imposed by Masterpiece Theatre. I’m sure there are edits from the original UK airing that make the PBS-aired version a slightly stilted affair. The weird fades to black (as if going to a commercial break) did not help either. 6/10
Changing gears slightly, an avid Doctor Who fan like myself would notice Billie Piper wasn’t the only one who has appeared in both the new series and in a recent Jane Austen adaptation. To wit:
- I’ve already mentioned Carey Mulligan (Isabella Thorpe in Northanger and Sally Sparrow in “Blink”)
- Julia Joyce, who played Billie’s younger selves in Mansfield and “Father’s Day”
- Anthony Head (Mr Elliot in Persuasion and the schoolmaster in “School Reunion”
- Penelope Wilton (Mrs Gardiner in Pride and Prejudice  and Prime Minister Harriet Jones)
- Mark Gatiss (John Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility and Lazarus in “The Lazarus Experiment”, not to mention writing two other episodes)
Now if I can get a copy of the Big Finish Companion Chronicle Frostfire, in which the 1st Doctor and his companions meet Miss Austen.