ⓘ Emma (2009 TV serial)

Emma (2009 TV serial)

ⓘ Emma (2009 TV serial)

Emma is a four-part BBC television drama serial adaptation of Jane Austens novel Emma, first published in 1815. The episodes were written by Sandy Welch, writer of previous BBC costume dramas Jane Eyre and North & South, and directed by Jim OHanlon. The serial stars Romola Garai as the titular heroine Emma Woodhouse, Jonny Lee Miller as her loyal lifelong friend Mr. Knightley, and Michael Gambon as Emmas father, Mr. Woodhouse. The serial originally ran weekly on Sunday nights on BBC One from 4 to 25 October 2009.


1. Plot

For a detailed account of the plot, see main article: Emma novel

Austens classic comic novel follows the story of the "handsome, clever and rich" Emma Woodhouse. Dominating the small provincial world of Highbury, Emma believes she is a skilled matchmaker and repeatedly attempts to pair up her friends and acquaintances. Nothing delights her more than meddling in the love lives of others. But when she takes protegee Harriet Smith under her wing, her interference has a detrimental effect.

Brought up sharply against the folly of her own immaturity, the consequent crisis and her bitter regrets are brought to a happy resolution in a comedy of self-deceit and self-discovery.


2.1. Cast and characters Main

  • Christina Cole as Augusta Elton: Mrs Elton is rich, and a good catch for Mr Elton in many ways. But shes also vulgar and interfering, and one-upmanship is second nature to her. She arrives in Highbury keen to prove her social standing, and immediately puts Emmas nose out of joint.
  • Robert Bathurst as Mr. Weston: Mr Weston is an eternal optimist, despite the fact that his life has not always run smoothly. He married young, to a woman who spent all his money, who was disowned by her family, and then died, leaving him with Frank, his two-year-old son. He agreed for Frank to be adopted by his wifes estranged sister, who insisted that he change his name to Frank Churchill. Frank has lived in the lap of luxury ever since.
  • Romola Garai as Emma Woodhouse: In Austens opening lines of the novel: "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." Emma has no need to marry, being head of her own household, and having plenty of money, but she delights in matchmaking those around her - and credits herself with being very good at it - despite Mr Knightleys scepticism.
  • Blake Ritson as Mr. Elton: Mr Elton is the vicar of Highbury. In the early 19th century, the post of vicar could be given, inherited, or bought, and conferred a certain social status as well as an annual income. Mr Elton is a dashing young man, aware of his status in the village, and his eligibility. Hes charming - perhaps, at times, a little too charming.
  • Valerie Lilley as Mrs. Bates: Where Miss Bates talks non stop, her aged mother, Mrs Bates, never speaks. She sits quietly in the corner of the room, or is wheeled from place to place by Miss Bates, revealing very little of what she really thinks of their situation.
  • Laura Pyper as Jane Fairfax: Janes parents died when she was a toddler. Her aunt, Miss Bates, and grandmother Mrs Bates sent her from Highbury to live with the Campbells, who could offer greater advantages. Captain Campbell knew she would be a good companion for his only daughter, Miss Campbell. Ever since, Jane has excelled at everything a girl should, and Miss Bates has bored Emma rigid with Janes virtues at every opportunity. Now Jane has reached the age where she must leave the Campbells and return to Highbury - but what is the real reason for her return?
  • Rupert Evans as Frank Churchill: Frank is a ball of energy, charming, mischievous, and spoilt. He has been kept at his manipulative aunts beck and call for most of his life, and often seems to be called back to her bedside whenever he ventures away - although it is never entirely clear whether this is just a convenient excuse for not visiting Highbury and his father. At his worst, he could be a rogue - and he seems to delight in gossiping about Jane Fairfax.
  • Tamsin Greig as Miss Bates: Miss Bates is the daughter of the former vicar of Highbury, who died many years ago. She has never married, and now never will. Without a husband to provide an income, she faces ever-increasing poverty. Despite her woes, Miss Bates has a perennially cheerful disposition. She fills any silence with incessant talk.
  • Louise Dylan as Harriet Smith: Harriet is a parlour boarder at Mrs Goddards School. She has been sent there to be educated by her father, who remains anonymous, because Harriet his "natural daughter" - i.e., shes illegitimate. Being a parlour boarder means that she has stayed on at the school to help out with the other girls. Shes pretty, but in reality, she has little prospect of marrying a gentleman. Emma, however, is sure that Harriets anonymous father must be a gentleman, and takes her under her wing.
  • Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. George Knightley: Mr Knightley is Emmas only social and intellectual equal in Highbury, living at Donwell Abbey, a rambling country estate a short walk from Hartfield. He has known Emma since she was a baby, and theres an easy familiarity between them. He is an individual, quick-witted, with a dry sense of humour - often used in sparring with Emma. But he also has a strong moral compass - and at times he strongly disagrees with Emma over her behaviour.
  • Jodhi May as Anne Taylor/Weston: Anne has been Emmas governess since her mother died when Emma was a baby. More like a sister than a governess, Anne is wise and caring, but devoted to Emma and perhaps a little indulgent. When she marries Mr Weston, she is worried about leaving Emma on her own at Hartfield.
  • Michael Gambon as Mr. Woodhouse: Mr Woodhouse is described by Austen as a valetudinarian - old before his time. He lost his wife when his two daughters were very young, and has developed an extremely nervous disposition. He is a loving and kind father, but he worries constantly, especially about health. He hardly ever leaves Hartfield, and hates the thought of Emma ever leaving him.

2.2. Cast and characters Recurring

  • Amy Loughton as Miss Campbell / Mrs Dixon
  • Frank Doody as Mr Dixon
  • Sarah Ovens as Miss Martin 2
  • Liza Sadovy as Mrs Cole
  • Dan Fredenburgh as John Knightley
  • Eileen OHiggins as Miss Martin 1
  • Jefferson Hall as Robert Martin
  • Veronica Roberts as Mrs Goddard
  • Poppy Miller as Isabella Knightley
  • Susie Trayling as Mrs Churchill

3. Production

Principal photography commenced with a four-day shoot in the Kent village of Chilham from 14 to 18 April 2009. Production design staff covered several roads with gravel to disguise the 21st-century road markings, and erected a fountain in the village square. Filming occurred from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day and was scheduled to coincide with the Easter school holiday to minimise local disruption.

Filming continued at the parish church of St Mary the Virgin in Send, Surrey on 24 and 28 April, where scenes of a wedding and a Sunday service were completed. Further filming took place at Squerryes Court, Westerham, Kent where many interior scenes were shot.

The scene that shows Emma and Harriet Smith on their way to visit the poor was filmed in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England. The church they pass along the wooded path is St Etheldredas Church, Hatfield.


4. Critical reception

Reviewing the first episode, Sam Wollaston of The Guardian called it "very good. even if its not necessary", wishing the BBC would adapt some lesser-known novels rather than churning out the same adaptations again and again. He nevertheless praised the acting, suggesting Garais "eyes alone deserve a BAFTA" and that Michael Gambon made "a splendid old Mr. Woodhouse".

John Preston of The Telegraph also noted Romola Garai as "particularly good" in the titular role, and noted that while Jim O Hanlons direction was perhaps a little too "steady and sure" there was still "plenty of sprightliness there too". After the third episode of the series, however, he wrote that over".


5. Soundtrack

The original soundtrack with music composed by Samuel Sim was released on 8 December 2009 and features numerous themes featured in the series, including music from the dance sequences during the ball at the Crown Inn. A track listing for the album is as follows: