Great Fire (The): Complete Series (TV)
R2 - United Kingdom - ITV DVD
Review written by and copyright: Samuel Scott (14th November 2014).
The Show

***This is a technical review only. For reviews on the show from various critics, we recommend visiting HERE.***

The greatest drama starts with the smallest spark.

Shortly after midnight on Sunday, 2 September 1666 a fire started in a London bakery, on Pudding Lane. This inferno burned its way into history as the Great Fire of London, raging for four days and bringing the Capital City to its very knees. Cathedrals, shops, inns were all lost and 70,000 of the City's 80,000 inhabitants were made homeless.

The Great Fire brings that history to vibrant life through the eyes of the people on the ground. A cross section of society from King Charles II, to Samuel Pepys, to Thomas Farriner the King's baker in whose premises the fire began. Written by ITV Political Editor Tom Bradby (Shadowdancer) it draws on his journalistic experience to recreate the chaos of a city imploding and the fear and rumours of treachery that took hold.


British distributor ITV Studios Home Entertainment have released the historical mini-series "The Great Fire" on to DVD in the United Kingdom using the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfer is anamorphic, and in PAL format, but doesn't look anywhere near as good as such a new show should, especially one coming from a major broadcaster.

Although squeezing three hours of material onto a single DVD is not uncommon, it can cause various compression issues, something which doesn't really rear its head here. The problems seem to lie mainly with the production, with the biggest being the poor colours and detail due to what appears to be some rather lacklustre on set lighting. The colour scheme does suit the dreary 17th century London setting, and is similar to that of similar shows/films, but blacks fail to be inky and deep, and dark velvety reds fail to hold their various shades. Lighter colours fare okay, but skin tones feel slightly warm and greens/blues too dark. The oranges of the fire do look good however, and are the highlight here by quite a margin. Details aren't as good as they should be, with background items often feeling blocky and clunky, and close-ups lacking sharpness and clarity, especially when it comes to faces and clothing. There are no major issues with damage, but there's multiple examples of light banding and aliasing throughout. Overall, this is a passable and adequate effort, but wholly disappointing.

The show is uncut, and all four episodes can be selected either separately, or as part of a play all option which also tacks on the featurette.


ITV have provided us with a single English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track here, and I would hazard a decent guess that it sounds identical to the original broadcast. Channel separation is minimal, and direction not particularly noticeable, but the overall quality of the track is good. Dialogue is perfectly clear at all times, whether it be shouting, low key chat, or the echo effect from large stately rooms. The sound effects are well placed and at a suitable volume level in comparison to the dialogue, whether it be people rushing around, or the crackle of the fire. There are no obvious issues such as scratches, drop outs or background hiss.

Optional subtitles are available in English for the hard-of-hearing.


The sole extra included on this release is a featurette entitled "The Great Fire: Behind the Scenes" (21:23). It covers several aspects of the mini-series, including the costume design, the research that went into the diaries of Samuel Pepys, the love aspect between Thomas and Sarah, and the special effects. This is actually a very good featurette, which keeps things short but gives enough information to keep you interested. There are plenty of interviews with various cast and crew members, all of whom speak about their involvement in a reasonable amount of detail. Certainly worth watching.


An overall disappointing mini-series that would have fared better by being more historically accurate, and by being condensed into two episode, rather than spun out over four. For genre fans only.

The Show: C- Video: C Audio: B- Extras: D Overall: C-


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