When is Watership Down on TV?

Watership Down gets a new adaptation this Christmas. The classic and emotional novel has been split into two parts for BBC One, and features a number of A-listers voicing the well-known characters.

Watership Down

Hear the names Fiver, Hazel, Bigwig and Captain Holly and a chord is struck with many people who grew up with Richard Adams’ tale of a plucky band of rabbits. This Christmas we meet those legendary characters again.

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When is Watership Down on?

In a joint production, BBC One and Netflix have teamed up to adapt Watership Down, a novel written by Richard Adams and published in 1972.

Unlike the 1978 film, this adaptation is split into two feature-length parts, although it had been planned as four episodes to correspond with the structure of the original book.

The Journey and the Raid (part one) will air on Saturday 22 December on BBC One at 7pm, and The Escape and the Siege (part two) will air on Sunday 23 December on BBC One at 7.20pm.

After airing, Watership Down will be available on BBC iPlayer and will be released on Netflix.

Watch the trailer for Watership Down

Who is in the cast of Watership Down?

There’s a star-studded cast voicing the famous rabbits including James McAvoy as Hazel and Nicholas Hoult as Fiver, the two brothers.

Nicholas Hoult voices Fiver in Watership Down. © BBC/Guy Levy
Nicholas Hoult voices Fiver in Watership Down. © BBC/Guy Levy

Other cast members include John Boyega (Bigwig), Ben Kingsley (General Woundwort), Tom Wilkinson (The Threarah), Gemma Arteton (Clover), Peter Capaldi (Kehaar) and Olivia Colman (Strawberry).

John Boyega voices Bigwig in Watership Down. © BBC/Guy Levy
John Boyega voices Bigwig in Watership Down. © BBC/Guy Levy
Gemma Arterton voices Clover in Watership Down. © BBC/Guy Levy
Gemma Arterton voices Clover in Watership Down. © BBC/Guy Levy

What happens in Watership Down?

The plot of Watership Down is driven by Fiver, a seer living in the Sandleford warren. He is tormented by visions of his home, being destroyed, and persuades his older brother, Hazel, that they should leave the warren.

They are joined by nine other rabbits from the warren, and set out to find the Watership Down, a perfect home described by Fiver from his visions.

Fiver convinces Bigwig to follow his plan and head for Watership Down.
Fiver convinces Bigwig to follow his plan and head for Watership Down.

Along the way, they meet other rabbits, both in warrens and in hutches, and a number of problems that they must overcome.

Is Watership Down suitable for families?

The intensely loved classic uncomfortably brutal yet widely adored as a tragic, beautiful portrayal of courage and adventure in an English countryside replete with teeth and claws. The 1978 film, particularly a couple of famous scenes, is renowned for traumatising generations of children.

“We know how strongly people feel about Watership Down, and we don’t shy away from the dark themes Adams explores in the novel,” says series producer Georgia Dussaud.

“We are interpreting his story as an action adventure with an underlying context. So we see the death, we see the brutality – but it’s not gratuitous. It’s suitable for a family audience.”

What do the critics think of Watership Down?

There are mixed reviews of the new Watership Down.

Anita Singh from The Telegraph has given the adaptation four stars, but she wasn’t impressed with much the animation. Although the rabbit fur is “impressive in high-definition and the countryside is gorgeously realised from photographs of the real Watership Down … it is an initially jarring experience for audiences used to the quality of Pixar.” Read her full review.

Metro‘s Sarah Deen gives it three stars, saying that “Hoult and McCoy tenderly bring Hazel and Fiver’s relationship to life”. She believes that the adaptation “is still as traumatising as the first animation.” Her main criticism is also directed at the animation, “the bright eyed and bushy tailed bunch are robotic and dead behind the eyes.” Read her full review.

For The Indepedent, Ed Powers gives the series only two stars and says that it “simply isn’t scary enough.” However he praises the cast’s performances as “top rank”.  Read his full review.

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Den of Geek‘s Catherine Pearson says that this adaptation of a “British institution … is just as scary, if not scarier.” Read her full review.

Hazel and the gang meet the strange bird from across the water.
Hazel and the gang meet the strange bird from across the water.