‘A Christmas Carol’ reviews round-up: ‘Guy Pearce is a delight’ in ‘bleak’ BBC series

The BBC’s new adaptation of A Christmas Carol launched in the UK last night.

Based on Charles Dickens’ classic festive tale, the three-part mini-series has been written by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight.

The all-star cast includes Australian actor Guy Pearce (Mary Queen of Scots) as Ebenezer Scrooge, Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings) as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and Stephen Graham (Line of Duty) as Jacob Marley.

They’re joined by Charlotte Riley (Peaky Blinders) as Lottie, Joe Alwyn (The Favourite) as Bob Cratchit, Vinette Robinson (Sherlock) as Mary Cratchit, Jason Flemyng (Save Me) as the Ghost of Christmas Future, Kayvan Novak (What We Do In The Shadows) as Ali Baba, and Lenny Rush (Old Boys) as Tim Cratchit.

The official synopsis reads: “As Ebenzer Scrooge, the miserly cold-hearted boss, is visited by four ghosts from the past, present and the future, on a freezing Christmas Eve, he must face up to how his self-interested, penny pinching behaviour has impacted his own life and those around him, leaving him in a paranoid bubble of fear.

“Is it too late for him to save the spirit of Christmas, and himself?”

We’ve rounded up a selection of reviews for the first episode to help you decide if you’d like to watch it:


“Perhaps the real surprise, though, isn’t the Peaky Blinders creator’s decision to re-tool Dickens’s classic morality tale as a full-blooded horror story, but the fact that more people haven’t done it before … You might ask why all this is necessary, and this grisly, gritty take on such a well-loved seasonal staple will surely prove divisive. But then what would be the point of doing it at all, if it turned out to be just another cosy re-tread?” ★★★★★ – Radio Times


“Guy Pearce’s Scrooge is the best thing about this macabre retelling. It ought to be too hammy to hang together, and it would probably have worked as a one-off film rather than the full three-hour mini-series, but I found myself watching, mainly due to the central performances.” ★★★ – The Independent


“Tweeness and whimsy have made way for psychological realism. The result is A Christmas Carol for our times, and for many times to come.” ★★★★★ – The Guardian


“The swearing and grimness were occasionally a little overdone but Guy Pearce is a delight as a younger — but still curmudgeonly — Scrooge … as the swearing and shouting continued, it began to resemble not so much Peaky Blinders as Taboo, Knight’s dark Regency drama from 2018, which began promisingly but became wearyingly OTT.” ★★★ – iNews


“Our gift of Christmas present: a sweary Scrooge.” ★★★★ – The Times


Peaky Blinders’ Steven Knight dares something new as Guy Pearce leads dark retelling of Dickens classic.” ★★★★ – Metro


“The result is a production that’s certainly eerie and handsome, while incorporating some powerful, even disturbing moments — not only in the causes of Scrooge’s moral descent, but the unethical way he wields power through his business dealings and personal interactions.” – CNN


“[Guy] Pearce is a solid piece of casting as this chilly, manipulative take on Scrooge, icily playing into your “Maybe he’s not so bad” hopes until each revelation expands the character’s awfulness … If there’s a real hero to [Steven] Knight’s approach, it’s Mary Cratchit, and [Vinette] Robinson has several of the movie’s best acting moments.” – Hollywood Reporter


“…while this new BBC One version of the Charles Dickens classic has many things going for it, I doubt it’s going to be top of anyone’s Christmas list.” ★★★ – The Telegraph


“A deep-frozen Ebenezer Scrooge casts his chill over Dickens’s festive fable … Comfort and joy is lacking from Steven Knight’s new adaptation of Dickens’ classic.” – Evening Standard


“Dickens’ story is one of goodness and the universality of kindness. This new version, on the other hand, focuses on innate human vileness. And although it’s well-executed and thought-provoking, I found such a bleak and, frankly, distressing overhaul too dark for my liking.” – Mashable


A Christmas Carol aired last week in the US on FX and the second episode airs in the UK at 9pm tonight on BBC One.

Charles Dickens’ original A Christmas Carol novel is available on Amazon.