The Nativity Coming to the BBC

28/11/10 | Posted by MattPage

Having enjoyed success with The Passion two and a half years ago, the BBC have decided to follow it up by filming a new version of the birth of Jesus. The Nativity is due to air over four nights in the run up to this Christmas with each episode lasting half an hour.

image
 Tatiana Maslany and Andrew Buchan as Jesus mum and dad.

The new programme has been written by Tony Jordan, who was a writer for EastEnders for 17 years before going on to create Life on Mars as well as a number of other key projects. However, prior to the start of filming, Jordan had been working on this script for almost five years.  During that time he swung from writing a traditional version of the story to taking a more sceptical historical approach, before promptly turning round and going back to a more familiar take.

“I went from only knowing about what I saw when I watched my kids in their school plays, to talking to historians who told me it didn’t happen, to then looking at all the facts and talking to people of faith. I did another 18 months of research and decided to make up my own mind and by the end of the script writing process I believed that it did happen and it was a true story.”

However, one of the key things that Jordan wanted to do was to “retell a story that has been told countless times before, a story that everyone knows intimately, yet to do so in a way that will still surprise and move you”. “The problem is that everyone that exists in the story of the Nativity is a cardboard cut-out”, but “if you care about the characters as well, then suddenly the whole thing comes to life.” As with The Passion the script takes three initially separate stories - those of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the magi - and gradually weaves them together.

One of the things that will help the new production bring its story to life is its impressive cast. The Thick of it/In the Loop‘s Peter Capaldi is probably the best known. He’ll be playing Balthasar, one of the magi/wise men. The role of Mary has gone to Tatiana Maslany, who won the “special jury prize for breakout performance” at this year’s Sundance Festival for her role in A Grown Up Movie Star, and Andrew Buchan (Cranford, Garrow’s Law) will star as Joseph.

This will be the second major production about the birth of Jesus in four years, after 2006’s The Nativity Story. Whilst that film also tried to flesh out the holy family and the magi, the shepherds were largely consigned to the background, so it will be particularly interesting to see their story developed a bit more. Hopefully this new programme can match the strengths of The Nativity Story without succumbing to its weakness. We’ll be reviewing the series sometime around when it’s broadcast.

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Your comments

Informative piece about the production but it doesn’t tell us WHEN the four episodes are to be transmitted.

#1. By Peter Dale on December 09, 2010

Very much want to see this but when will it be shown?

#2. By Kathryn Browne on December 10, 2010

Sorry I wasn’t able to give more details on this when I wrote the article. All I could find out at that stage was that it was screening the week before Christmas.

Red Planet’s website (it is they who have produced the series for the BBC) says that the four episodes will be screened on BBC1 from Monday 20th to Thursday 23rd December 2010, starting at 7pm. Each episode will be half an hour.

Hope you enjoy it.

Matt

#3. By Matt Page on December 11, 2010

Attended a preview showing last week and it is excellent. Strongly recommend it. 

Would be worth a discussion on the ‘annunciation scene’.

Will be reviewing it for www.thinkingfaith.org

#4. By Tim Byron on December 12, 2010

Have watched this now… absolutely brilliant! Thank you BBC for showing it… very moving and made the whole thing come alive in a very profound way. GREAT!!

#5. By Sara on December 24, 2010

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