The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

Character: Kate Nickleby
Created by: Charles Dickens
Directed by: Stephen Whittaker
Written by: Martyn Hesford
Other cast: John Dallimore, James D'Arcy, Diana Kent, Charles Dance, George Innes, Lee Ingleby, Donald Sumpter, Gregor Fisher, Pam Ferris, Debbie Chazen, Chris Roebuck, Hannah Storey, Tom Ellis, Berwick Kaler, Abigial McKern, Tom Hollander, Marian McLoughlin, Rosalind March, Dominic West, Roderic Culver, Malcolm Tierney, Jacqueline Tong, Ruth Chapman, Richard Katz, Jonathan Coy, Simeon Andrews, J.J. Feild, Frank Mills, Liz Smith, Katherine Holme, Philip Bond, George O'Shea
Original airdate: 9 April 2001 (UK), 29 December 2002 (US)
Genre: Comedy / Drama
Running time: 200 min

Nicholas Nickleby, is an impoverished young man making his way in life in the cruel and unjust world of early Victorian England. His good looks, kind heart and gentlemanly manner are fine qualities but will they be enough for what awaits him?

Story Description

This TV miniseries is based on an 1839 Charles Dickens novel, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. The film begins with the burial of Mr. Nickleby beneath snow-covered earth. Attending are Nickleby’s wife and teenage children, Nicholas (James D’Arcy) and Kate (Sophia Myles). Because Mr. Nickleby died broke after speculating on stocks, Nicholas needs money fast to provide for his mother and sister. When he seeks help from his uncle, Ralph Nickleby (Charles Dance) — a cold-hearted businessman — Ralph refuses cash and instead arranges for Nicholas to assist at a boarding school operated by Wackford Squeers (Gregor Fisher), a sadistic overlord who whips and starves his students. Soon, Nicholas rebels against the inhumane conditions at the school, thrashes Squeers, and flees. A pitiful and sickly student named Smike (Lee Ingleby) joins Nicholas and becomes a family friend. After working as an actor, Nicholas gets a good job at a counting house operated by the kindly Cheeryble brothers. Meanwhile, Ralph Nickleby tricks Kate into meeting his friend, Sir Mulberry Hawk (Dominic West), who wants to defile her. When Hawk strongarms her onto a billiard table, Kate escapes. Enraged, Nicholas and Ralph become thoroughgoing enemies. When Ralph uses his financial leverage to force an innocent young woman, Madeleine Bray (Katherine Holme), to marry one of his cronies, Nicholas foils the plot — then falls in love with Madeleine himself. Ralph tries to strike back at his nephew through Smike, but fails — although poor Smike dies. As the production reaches its climax, Ralph learns a startling secret when he and Nicholas confront each other. The final scenes of the film reveal the fates of the principal characters.

Sophia’s Role

Sophia plays Kate Nickleby, Nicholas’s younger sister. Kate is a fairly passive character, typical of Dickensian women, but she shares some of her brother’s fortitude and strong will. She does not blanch at hard labour to earn her keep and defends herself against the lecherous Sir Mulberry Hawk. She finds well-deserved happiness with Frank Cheeryble.


Costume designer Barbara Kidd won a BAFTA in 2001 and a Royal Television Society Award in 2002 for her work on this film.

Quotes from Reviews

Old-Fashioned Charm

Sophia Myles portrays a sweet, earnest, kind and brave young lady who is quite a heroine in her own right.