Christopher Eccleston is Fagin in new ‘Oliver Twist’ prequel ‘Dodger’

The BBC has announced a new family adventure series set in the world of Oliver Twist.

Dodger is set before the events of Charles Dickens’ classic novel.

Described as a “funny, optimistic, fast-paced comedy drama full of jeopardy”, the first season will feature some familiar characters and a whole gallery of colourful, new ones.

Billy Jenkins will lead the cast as Dodger.

Jenkins will be familiar to viewers of The Crown, having played the young Prince Charles in the first two seasons.

The 13-year-old actor has also appeared in Britannia, Holmes & Watson, and Netflix’s Cursed.

Former Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston is playing Fagin.

Eccleston commented: “Fagin is an iconic role, I’m a very fortunate actor. [Writers] Rhys Thomas and Lucy Montgomery have taken Charles Dickens’ extraordinary characters and imagined a whole new world and lives for them. I’m very, very excited.”

David Threlfall (Shameless, Housewife 49) will play Chief of Police, Sir Charles Rowan.

The cast also includes Saira Choudhry (Life, No Offence) as Nancy, Sam C Wilson (Hanna) as Bill Sikes, Tanya Reynolds (Sex Education) as Queen Victoria, Lucy Montgomery (Disenchantment) as Fagin’s landlady, Minnie Bilge, and Frances Barber (Medici) as theatrical dame, Eliza Vestris.

They’ll be joined by Javone Prince (Horrible Histories) and Rhys Thomas (The Fast Show) as inept coppers PC Blathers and PC Duff.

Ten 45-minute episodes are filming now in Manchester and around the north west of England and the BBC has released this first look photo:

The official synopsis reads: “Dodger follows the exploits of the infamous pickpocket, The Artful Dodger, and Fagin’s gang as they find ingenious ways to survive the grim and exploitative conditions of early Victorian London in the 1830s.

“The group of young misfits is led by Dodger and his pickpocketing partner-in-crime, Charley Bates, a girl from the countryside with a mysterious past. Charley is played by newcomer Aabay Ali. They are joined by Polly (Ellie-May Sheridan), Tang (Mila Lieu) and Dodger’s adversary in the gang, Tom (Connor Curren).

“Together the orphans duck and dive their way through the criminal underworld, trying to make a better life for themselves, whilst satisfying Fagin’s pickpocketing demands and avoiding the hangman’s noose. The police are always just one step away with Sir Charles Rowan (Threlfall) becoming increasingly obsessed about how to deal with the gang and catch Dodger.”

Writer Rhys Thomas said: “I have always loved Oliver Twist but wasn’t so keen on Oliver himself. I preferred the company of Dodger, Fagin and the gang.

“I thought it would be fun to create a family show with Dodger at its heart and see how he came to be a master criminal in Victorian London. Working with the very best material as a springboard, it’s a total delight to expand Dickens’ rich world of characters and create a few of my own.

“To top it all, we have an incredible cast who are starring in the show. I can’t wait for families all over the world to see it!”

Dodger will premiere in the UK on CBBC and BBC iPlayer later this year.

Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist is available on Amazon.