This 1985 television production faithfully adapts Charles Dickens' Bleak House, an indictment of Victorian England's corrupt legal and class systems that prey on the weak and the innocent. Esther Summerson (Suzanne Burden), a kind and level-headed young woman introduced as an orphan, is the link who knits several storylines together as a witness to injustice. She and two other young people -- the naïve and vulnerable Richard Carstone (Philip Franks) and Ada Clare (Lucy Hornack) -- are wards in an estate case before the High Court of Chancery. They stay at the home of John Jarndyce (Denholm Elliott), a relative. Like so many other lawsuits, the case drags on indefinitely, depleting the estate while garnishing lawyers' bank accounts. Richard and Ada fall in love and marry in secret, but his health declines as legal fees and delays consume his expected fortune. Eventually, he dies. Meanwhile, in the upper reaches of society, Lady Dedlock (Diana Rigg) harbors a secret that would ruin her and her doting husband if it became known. Years before, while in love with a Captain Rawdon, she gave birth to his child after she received news that Rawdon had been lost at sea. Upon discovering that the report was false, she attempts to track him down with the help of a guttersnipe named Jo, a friendless little boy who later dies, and finds him -- buried in a pauper's field. Lady Dedlock's attorney, the grasping and devious Tulkinghorn (Peter Vaughan), learns of Lady Dedlock's secret and threatens to disclose it, but a mysterious intruder murders him before he can do so. Miss Summerson, who has been a good friend to Richard and Ada, attracts the attentions of her benevolent but much older host John Jarndyce, and he proposes to her. However, she has already fallen in love with Dr. Allan Woodcourt (Brian Deacon), who was with little Jo when he died. As the various storylines merge, Esther Summerson discovers that she is Lady Dedlock's daughter, Lady Dedlock's husband learns his wife's secret, and Lady Dedlock runs off in deep despair. The conclusion reveals the fate of Lady Dedlock, the murderer of Tulkinghorn, and the future of Esther Summerson.
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