Shiny Shelf

The Lost World

By Mark Clapham on 08 November 2002

So, you’re the BBC (lobotomise yourself with a hammer if this will help you get into the mindset of the people who make ‘Holby City’) and you’ve got the technology to create convincing CGI dinos thanks to ‘Walking With Dinosaurs’. Oh, what to do with such wonders… well, how about pulling A Classic Novel off the shelf, one which features ravenous dinosaurs, and adapting it as a lavish Christmas mini-series? Why, Mr BBC, that actually sounds like a good idea for once.

Thankfully, even though it’s a BBC literary adaptation, unlike other exercises in big budget drama by the Corporation, they haven’t felt the need to spread the cash over as many broadcast hours as possible. ‘The Lost World’ therefore moves at a pleasantly brisk pace, emphasising thrills, drama and the occasional flash of humour over pedestrian pacing and gawping at the magnificent locales. No Rhodes or Ivanhoe type dullardry here.

Holding the whole project together is Bob Hoskins, another faded movie star realising that doing good TV is a better career move than adding to the world surplus of bad films. Hoskins’ Professor Challenger is intelligent, passionate to the point of insanity and as such occasionally reckless – the perfect adventurous academic hero. Starry support comes from James Fox and Peter Falk as a stiff scientist and fiery preacher respectively, bringing Victorian ’science vs. religion’ debates to life. Of the less notably cast characters, the courageous Lord Roxton is pitched perfectly, played not as a fop or a sadistic hunter but as a hard case strong enough to fight his way through most contemporary action films.

In balancing quality with entertainment, this production squares the circle that these prestige BBC projects have been struggling with for years. Lets hope that this Christmas will bring something as good – in the meantime, ‘The Lost World’ should be just as entertaining through the summer as it was back in winter.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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