Jane Austen’s 'Emma' always sets me a problem, albeit a very nice one. I always think ‘Pride & Prejudice’ is my favourite Austen novel until I re-read ‘Emma’ – there are so many good things I discover in it which I have never noticed before.
Did BBC1's Emma come up to scratch? I thought the beginning was very dark – my jaw dropped when coffins appeared – do we really need the back-story of Emma’s childhood as an introduction? It might have been more imaginative to ‘flash back’ to it. As always, the costumes and settings looked stunning. At first I felt it was a rather lack-lustre ‘Emma’ – a pale imitation of the novel. Emma’s character was deeply annoying, but then she is supposed to be at the start of the book. Miss Bates (Tamsin Greig) was far too quiet – she is supposed to be a ‘great talker on small matters.’
As usual Austen’s dialogue stands out whenever used, so why not include more of it?
Mr Elton (Blake Ritson) was very good, just enough of a toady without turning into Mr Collins, but I had my doubts about Mr Knightley (Jonny Lee Miller) at first. Does he have enough gravitas for the part? However, I found myself warming to him by the end of the programme, especially when he tore a strip off Emma (Romola Garai) over Robert Martin’s romance. I will be watching part 2 at the weekend.
To the critics who ask whether we really need another Austen novel on screen, I would much rather watch an Austen adaptation than the likes of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ or ‘X Factor.’
Having said all that, a little imagination from the programme makers wouldn’t go amiss – how about an adaptation of Austen’s Lady Susan? Now that would be worth watching!