From the archive
What’s more, it was non-terrible in unusual ways for a high-end adaptation. Unlike last year’s movie of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and lots of British television dramas, it didn’t coast from scene to scene on set design while doling out plot points here and there; elliptical prettiness, when deployed, at least arose from the material. Stoppard’s script, as you’d expect, had its stage-comical moments, and it encouraged a lot of sitcom hamming around the surreal figure of Breakfast Duchemin (pronounced ‘Doucheman’ in this production). There were too many smug interpolations: a visit to one of Roger Fry’s Post-Impressionist exhibitions, ladies coming and going talking of Michelangelo etc. But the script did a heroic job of sculpting followable storylines while making some of the nuances TV-comprehensible. In the largely confected Episode 2, it even threw in some time-shifts of its own. I’m not sure how well it worked as an upmarket costume drama, but as a weird amalgam of would-be modernistic gestures and posh Blackadder moments, it wasn’t the sort of thing you see every day.