A new drama, Dodger, starring Christopher Eccleston, begins tonight on CBBC. But don’t let the channel fool you: this is designed to be watched by all the family, as was The Sarah Jane Adventures, a superb show that many unfairly overlooked because they thought it was “for kids”.
Eccleston, of course, played the Ninth Doctor in 2005, and returned to the worlds of Doctor Who for audio company, Big Finish. In Dodger, he plays Fagin. And as you might have guessed already, this series takes the characters of the Charles Dickens classic, Oliver Twist, and is described as a “prequel”, explaining how the Artful Dodger met the gang of urchins he’d become associated with.
The lead role is played by Billy Jenkins, who you might know from The Crown, Cursed, or Humans (where he acted opposite Big Finish favourite, Ruth Bradley). He spoke about Dodger’s relationship with Fagin:
“There’s a little spark there, they just hit it off and Fagin really likes Dodger. It’s kind of like a son and father relationship. There’s laughter but there’s some sad, heart-warming moments too. It was great working with Christopher!”
Eccleston is similarly enthusiastic about the production:
“It’s about a family. Fagin has created a family, so it’s about sibling and family dynamics. I want the audience to take pleasure from it. I want them to invest in the characters, invest in the relationships within the gang. I want them to laugh, I want them to cry and I want them to stay with us. They will also hopefully see themselves in Dodger.”
The 10-part series is co-written by Rhys Thomas (Death in Paradise), Lucy Montgomery (The Life of Rock with Brian Pern), and The Fast Show‘s Charlie Higson, who also wrote the Doctor Who short story, The Beast of Babylon — featuring the Ninth Doctor!
“The whole thing is survival, there’s no one to rely on. As Fagin says, ‘If we don’t rob, we can’t eat, and if we can’t eat, we’ll starve and we’ll die’. It’s a survival instinct; he’s not a greedy man who wants money in the way you’ve seen in the past.”
And Doctor Who fans will recognise a few more familiar faces including Alex Kingston (River Song), Frances Barber (Madame Kovarian), and Colin McFarlane (Under the Lake/ Before the Flood).
Dodger airs tonight (6th February 2022) on CBBC and will also be available on BBC iPlayer.