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Soundtrack review: Dickensian (Debbie Wiseman – 2016)


Soundtrack review: Dickensian (Debbie Wiseman – 2016)


Silva Screen Records continues their wonderful exploration of British TV with the score for “Dickensian”. “Dickensian” is a British drama television series that premiered on BBC One on 26 December 2015. The 20-part series, created and co-written by Tony Jordan, brings together iconic characters created by Charles Dickens in one Victorian London neighborhood as Inspector Bucket investigates the murder of Ebenezer Scrooge’s partner Jacob Marley. This is a brilliant idea. I am also surprised that this show has 20 episodes which is a lot for a British series. The score is written by Debbie Wiseman.

Here I am ready to welcome some truly Victorian music and I find myself faced with the ghost of Hans Zimmer’s “Sherlock Holmes” as the score starts with an Eastern European sounding moment. Even better, I love this sound, it hits close to home. Last time I heard something similar was in the score for “The cobbler” and I was just as happy. Once the initial euphoria wears of I realize that this violin sound is quite appropriate for the setting of the story. The composer uses the gypsy like sound to make the mood of the score a little lighter. It works.

I must admit I was surprised by how playful this score was. Usually British TV scores are elegant and serious with a cold and distant beauty. It’s not the case here. Debbie Wiseman lets her music play and enjoy itself and there’s always an unexpected joy coming to make the shadows fade away. If it were to make an impression just by the music I would say that “Dickensian” is a TV show in the Coen brother’s style, where drama goes hand in hand with the absurd that will make you laugh even if the subject is dead serious.

I like how a cue like “The old curiosity feels”. It’s as if with all the fun and games suddenly there is a moment when something clicks and things get serious very suddenly and very naturally, as if two imaginary characters gazed into each other’s eyes and what they found there melts away their smiles and touches their hearts.

The balance between playful and serious is just right and keeps the score fresh. I am always happy to find a pure piano theme like “I am Arthur Havisham” in a score. I couldn’t have imagined this score without the piano. “Ideas are dangerous” is another gorgeous piano piece. I love the heavy shadow “Cross to bear” brings and with every cue that passes I realize that this is the kind of score I will listen to again just to discover new nuances and subtleties. I recommend “Dickensian” with all my heart.

With every new score from Silva Screen Records I am getting more and more drawn to the British TV world. I love what this record label is doing and I am grateful to them for inviting me in this poignant and elegant musical world.

Cue rating: 88 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 29 / 66

Album excellence: 46%


5_a Game Of Dares

7_the Old Curiosity Shop

10_i Am Arthur Havisham

11_cross To Bear

13_ideas Are Dangerous

14_a Small Reward For A Small Favour

16_the Work Of Providence

18_no Murderer

20_market Street

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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