out on DVD
the BBCs adaptations
writer Phillip Pullmans The Ruby In The Smoke
and The Shadow In
BILLIE PIPER CONQUERED THE FUTURE with her role as Rose in the BBC television
sci-fi series Dr Who; now she has also conquered the past as gutsy young
Victorian heroine Sally Lockhart in the period dramas The Ruby In The Smoke
and Shadow In The North televised by the BBC and from the books
of Philip Pullman.
The Ruby In The Smoke is an introduction to the orphaned 20-year-old
Sally. Her father (the voice of Martin Jarvis), a captain of a ship owned by
Samuel Shelby Shipping Agents, died when his schooner Lavinia was believed
to have been lost with all hands in a tragic accident. Sally's mother was killed
during the siege of Lucknow some years earlier, while holding her two-year-old
daughter in her arms.
It is 1874 and Sally is now living with her uncharitable aunt, Mrs Carol-ine
Rees (Sian Thomas). Having received a badly-written message mentioning the name
of Marchbanks along with the town of Chatham and a warning to "beware of the
Seven Blessings", a puzzled Sally shows the note to Edmund Higgs at Samuel Shelby's.
Clearly shocked, Higgs promptly collapses and dies and Sally is aided by young
Jim Taylor (Matt Smith).
When Sally visits the home of Major Marchbanks (Miles Anderson), he thrusts
a package into her hand and tells her that her life is in danger from a Mrs
Holland (Julie Walters) who is in his home. Sally rushes
away with the woman in hot pursuit and is rescued by photographer Frederick
Garland (J J Field) who hides her in his tent outside The Turk's Head, telling
the woman that the girl took the Ramsgate coach.
Safe, she believes, on the train back to London, Sally opens the pack-age to
find a journal and with it a whole can of worms, starting with the theft
of the journal.
Sally is becoming increasingly suspicious of the events surrounding
the death of her father. What really happened on the Lavinia? Who is
the tragic Major Marchbanks and how is the sinister Mrs Holland involved? And
what of the Maharaja of Agrapoor's (Ramon Tikaram) magnificent ruby, stained
with the blood of a French adventurer?
What are the Seven Blessings and who is Ah Ling?
Sally leaves her aunt's home to work for the shop and photographic studio run
by Frederick and his Uncle Webster Garland (John Standing). Frederick and his
sister Rosa (Hayley Atwell) also run a private invest-igations agency and Sally
begins too look into the death of her father. Then a sailor addicted to opium,
Matthew Bedwell (David Harewood), turns up, claiming to be a survivor of the
Lavinia. Meanwhile, Jim Taylor is doing some investigating of his own…
There is a wonderful scene when Sally and Frederick visit an opium
den run by Madame Sheng (the enchanting Pik-Sen Lim). Sally faints and has an
odd experience in a dreamlike sequence similar to a dream she has had since
childhood. Madame Sheng insists: "What you saw was not a dream. It was a memory".
It is a fascinating tale of murder, greed, blackmail and treachery. Well acted
and well told, The Ruby In The Smoke leaves you wanting more…
And if it's more that you want, it's more you'll get! The second book in the
quartet by Philip Pullman is The Shadow In The North, which starts off
with a vision of a murder in a cold climate. It is a murder which is
to be picked up psychically on separate occasions by both a suspect medium and
a showman magician.
Sally is now a Financial Consultant with her own rooms. With Frederick and Jim,
who are now joined by Frederick's uncle and Rosa's new husband Nicholas Bedwell
(David Harewood), she becomes involved in unravelling the mystery surrounding
the murder and is drawn to the strange world of spiritualism when an elderly
lady asks her for help
a lady who believes she has been a victim of fraud with the collapse of the
shipping company Anglo Baltic due to the sinking of its ship, the Ingrid
One clever touch has Jim Taylor writing a play and approaching a theatre to
try to persuade Bram Stoker (Owen Roe) to read it, only to be told: "there is
no future in vampire stories"! Jim calls magician Alistair McKinnon (Julian
Rhind-Tutt) The Wizard of the North to the stage and, finding
him in the company of two rather unsavoury characters, whisks him off across
the rooftops to safety.
The men want to kill him because, McKinnon tells Sally and Frederick, he witnessed
a murder but he wasn't actually there when it hap-pened. On shaking hands
with a stranger at a house party at which he was performing, the magician had
a vision of dark pines and snow and the man walking with a companion by an icy
river. Suddenly the man drew his sword and killed his companion. The man seemed
that the magician had 'seen' his crime and he had known that the man intended
to kill him.
Sally, Frederick and Jim's search for the truth takes them into dealings with
the sinister Swedish industrialist Axel Bellmann (Jared Harris)
and into the world of spiritualism. When well-known medium Nellie Budd (Dona
Cross) starts her 'séance' in Streatham while Jim and Frederick are present,
Nellie suddenly goes into a trance, during which she utters: "One spark and
the ship is gone… Such a pretty ship and everyone is dead… Shadow in the North,
sword in the forest, blood on the snow… Glass coffin… North Star… packed with
death… death, death everywhere…" And when she comes round, she has no recollect-ion
of what has been said.
The investigation reveals a proposed marriage of convenience between Bellmann
and the reluctant Mary (Georgia King), the daughter of Lord Wytham (Crispin
Redman); the tragedy of a lacemaker who "adores" Alistair McKinnon and the dark
story of North Star Casting the hold-ing company behind Anglo Baltic
and its patented 'steam gun'. With all the ingredients of a good period
thriller murder, unrequited love and an avenging angel Shadow
In The North is thoroughly absorbing and entertaining.
But there is more tragedy to come for Sally and her life is about to be shattered
in a terrible, traumatic way.
Produced by Kate Bartlett and Directed by
Brian Percival (The Ruby In The Smoke) and John Alexander (The Shadow
In The North), with a Screenplay from BAFTA award-winning Adrian Hodges
(Charles II, Rome, The Lost World), The Ruby In The
Smoke and The Shadow In The North are now available to buy on DVD.
Release Date: 7 January (2008) | Producer Kate Bartlett; Director Brian Percival.