The BBC have announced fresh details of this Christmas’ new animated adaptation of the classic novel by Richard Adams. Included is the news that the Twelfth Doctor himself, Peter Capaldi, will be voicing Kehaar the seagull

Watership Down is a novel which, particularly through its 1979 film adaptation, sits in a generation’s hearts close to Doctor Who itself. Both beautiful and dramatic, it’s full of tense moments of danger. It’s a tale which both enchanted and very mildly traumatized children around the world. So it’s appropriate that former Doctor, Peter Capaldi has been announced as joining the cast of the BBC’s lavish new adaptation.

The narrative is a kind of Battlestar Galactica set in the fields of England. Watership Down follow a rag tag band of rabbit survivors as they escape the human destruction of their warren. And then follows their long journey to find a new home, constantly beset by enemies and pursuers. Led by Hazel (James McAvoy) and Fiver (Nicholas Hoult) the rabbits find an ally in the eccentric seagull Kehaar (Peter Capaldi) who uses his flights as scouting missions for the rabbits. Kehaar has been previously played by the legendary Zero Mostel in 1978, and by Rik Mayall in the 1999 adaptation. Capaldi is also not the first Doctor to be associated with Watership Down. The War Doctor, Sir John Hurt, played Hazel in the film and the evil General Woundwort in previous TV version.

Nor is Peter Capaldi the only Doctor Who actor in the 2018 adaptation. Humans and Crazy Rich Asians star Gemma Chan (Mia Bennett in The Waters of Mars) plays Dewdrop. While Get Out and Black Panther’s Daniel Kaluuya (Barclay in Planet of the Dead) plays the Black Rabbit of Inlé. Also in the cast are Broadchurch and The Crown actor Olivia Coleman (The Eleventh Hour) as Strawberry. While Jason Watkins of W1A and Being Human (and Webley in Nightmare in Silver) voices Captain Orchis.

A stellar cast heads up a prestigious new version of a children’s classic

John Boyega (Bigwig), Gemma Arterton (Clover) and Rosamund Pike (Bluebell) are also in the outstanding cast of major names. And knight of the stage, Sir Ben Kingsley takes the role of malicious dictator General Woundwort.

Ben Irving, Executive Producer for BBC One, praised the new cast. “It’s a real testament to the calibre of this adaptation of Watership Down that it has attracted such an exciting roll call of names to bring these much loved characters to life. BBC One viewers are in for a treat this Christmas.”

One of the most enduring and iconic elements of the first adaptation is the song Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel. The new version will seek to create its own legend with new song Fire on Fire. Fire on Fire has been especially written by Sam Smith and Steve Mac. And it will be performed by Smith on the soundtrack.

Sam Smith says: “I am so excited and honoured to be a part of this new adaptation of Watership Down. This story is so powerful and timeless, and it has been thrilling to work with Noam [Murro, of Biscuit Entertainment] and his team and the incredible Steve Mac on this song for it. I hope everyone loves it as much as I do.”

Watership Down will air this Christmas on BBC One as two feature length episodes. Outside of the UK it will available on Netflix.

 

Watership Down, this Christmas on BBC One and Netflix

Adapted for the screen by Tom Bidwell (My Mad Fat Diary), Watership Down uses Richard Adams’ bestselling novel as its source to bring an innovative interpretation to the beloved story. Set in the idyllic rural landscape of southern England, this tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of rabbits on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stout-hearted pair of brothers, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, towards a promised land and a more perfect society.

Watership Down will be shown on BBC One as two special feature length episodes this Christmas. Executive producers are Rory Aitken, Josh Varney, Ben Pugh and Eleanor Moran for 42; Noam Murro for Biscuit Entertainment; Martin Rosen; and Ben Irving for BBC One. The series is produced and developed by 42 and Biscuit Entertainment, was commissioned by the BBC, and is a co-production between BBC One and Netflix. The mini-series is co-directed by Alan Short and Seamus Malone and produced by Georgia Dussaud and Cecil Kramer.

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