Gormenghast (TV serial)

Created by Series:
Malcolm McKay
Mervyn Peake
Written by Malcolm McKay
Directed by Andy Wilson
Music by Richard Rodney Bennett
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 4
Editor(s) Paul Tothill
Running time approx. 58 min. (per episode)
Production company(s) WGBH Boston Productions for BBC Television
Original network
Original release
  • 17 January (UK)
  • 27 June 2001 (US)


  • 7 February 2000 (UK)
  • 28 June 2001 (US)
External links
Gormenghast @BBC Drama

Gormenghast is a four-episode television serial based on the first two novels of the Gothic fantasy Gormenghast series by Mervyn Peake. It was produced and broadcast by the BBC.

First broadcast in early 2000, the serial was designed for an early evening time-slot in much the same vein as the earlier adaptations of The Chronicles of Narnia. The BBC conception was based on the idea that Peake's early life in China had influenced the creation of Gormenghast; thus, the castle in the series resembles the Forbidden City in Beijing as well as the holy city of Lhasa in Tibet.


The series covers the events of the first two books, Titus Groan and Gormenghast. It does not cover any of the events from the third book, Titus Alone.

Episode Summary
Episode 1 Depicts the events of the first half of Titus Groan, beginning with the birth of Titus and features a number of events including Titus's christening, Steerpike's escape and the events up to the lighting of the fire in the Library.
Episode 2 The episode begins by detailing the conclusion of the events surrounding the fire in the Library. This episode mainly focusses on the events in the second half of Titus Groan, including Sepulchrave's descent into madness and the subsequent death of the Earl and Swelter, Keda's departure and the birth of The Thing, and the banishment of Flay. It ends with the ceremony in which Titus is invested as Earl.
Episode 3 The episode picks up the story eleven years after the events of the previous episode and mainly covers the events from the early part of Gormenghast. Titus, now aged 12, is a schoolboy. The episode includes events such as Irma Prunesquallor's party and her romance with Professor Bellgrove, the murder of Nannie Slagg by Steerpike, and the incarceration of Clarice and Cora. During the episode, Titus begins to rebel and makes his first journey away from the castle, where he meets Flay and sees The Thing.
Episode 4 The final episode covers the remaining events of Gormenghast, in which Titus - now aged 17 - along with Flay and the Doctor discover Steerpike's misdeeds. Events in this episode include Steerpike's murder of Barquentine, the discovery of the twins' corpses, Fuchsia's depression, the flood, the search for Steerpike and Titus' wish to leave Gormenghast.


Role Actor
Steerpike Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Gertrude, Countess of Groan Celia Imrie
Sepulchrave, Earl of Groan Ian Richardson
Lady Fuchsia Groan Neve McIntosh
Flay Christopher Lee
Swelter Richard Griffiths
Titus, Earl of Groan (17 years) Andrew N. Robertson
Titus, Earl of Groan (12 years) Cameron Powrie
Dr Alfred Prunesquallor John Sessions
Irma Prunesquallor Fiona Shaw
Nannie Slagg June Brown
Keda Olga Sosnovska
Lady Clarice Groan Zoë Wanamaker
Lady Cora Groan Lynsey Baxter
Professor Bellgrove Stephen Fry
Barquentine Warren Mitchell
Rottcodd Windsor Davies
Mollocks Eric Sykes
Headmaster De'Ath Spike Milligan
The Fly Gregor Fisher
Professor Perch Mark Williams
Professor Flower Martin Clunes
Professor Mule Steve Pemberton
Professor Shred Phil Cornwell
Professor Fluke James Dreyfus
Poet Sean Hughes


At the time of its broadcast, Gormenghast was among the most ambitious serials ever undertaken by the BBC. The series required a combined five years of production and pre-production and utilized over 120 sets.

Differences from source material

Changes were made to both the plots and characters of both books.


Certain changes are made to make the story fit the four episode format:



The series received wide critical acclaim, with particular praise for its visual design, music, cinematography and the cast's performances. Variety offered an especially glowing review, describing it as an "unforgettable production" and a fascinating drama that defied logic and specifically. The review noted that it featured "marvelous performances all around", although it singled out Celia Imrie's portrayal of Lady Gertrude for especial praise.[1]





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