This adaptation of Jane Austen’s unfinished work Sanditon has Gigi Darcy taking the Pemberley Digital app on the road to the town of Sanditon. Remember that Domino app that Gigi and Darcy used to track down George Wickham? It’s back and the townspeople—with Gigi’s ever-adorable help—are using this “life revealing” app to tell the stories of their town. She’s only posted the first episode “Home Away from Home,” and already it’s clear this is going to be a different kind of show.
Right from the introduction of the first Sanditon residents there is a conflict. Mayor Tom Parker has plans for big changes in little Sanditon. Using the town as the site for Domino’s beta testing is only part of his plan; Sanditon Scoops owner Clara Breton wants people to remember all the good things about Sanditon. Clara has no plans to turn her ice cream shop—which has free sprinkles night!—into a juice bar or whatever to get on board with Tom’s plan to turn Sanditon into a health mecca. Clara is sweet and devoted to her town. Tom is hilariously internet-savvy deficient and self-righteous. His sci-fi reference making assistant is the charmingly awkward Edward Denham. Do I see a ship on the horizon? With this fandom, I doubt it will be a question for long.
You wouldn’t think there would be that much to say about the show after only one episode airing and the odd tweet and Facebook post but you’d be wrong. Like with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, so much of Welcome to Sanditon is an exploration of online storytelling. Part of what makes it so fascinating is watching the team try on different means of telling the story and engaging the audience. Welcome to Sanditon is the main story site. Like with LBD, you can watch the main videos and follow along with twitter exchanges among the characters archived with Storify. Already the characters are interacting with the fans on Twitter. Even more fun is how interactive the cast and the production team are with the fans. The answer questions and even had a Q&A chat about the series.
What is so different about this from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries explains why the writers were so married to the Domino app, despite the sometimes awkward storytelling moments it created. The characters who live in Sanditon use Domino to tell their stories. And now you can too. Through a social media site called Theatrics, you can create an account and use Pemberley Digital’s Domino welcome to create your own videos to post your own stories of life in Sanditon. Create a character, join in someone else’s storyline.
There were several very clever and popular fan accounts during LBD (on Tumblr and Twitter look for Mr. Bennet and Mister Bearsley—Darcy’s sad teddy bear—for example) who commented on LBD as events unfolded. There are fan accounts already on Tumblr and Twitter but now there is a whole town. The town populated itself seemingly overnight. If you want to join in the fun, simply set up a persona. Write your own character, a history, make up a family, open that bakery you’ve always dreamed of. A persona page looks like this one for Chelsea Quinn. Then start talking.
Newspaper and coffee shop and fire station are all there. Don’t want to be all on your own in town? Sanditon Pharmacy is taking applications!
Perhaps my favorite part of the opening video is Gigi. There are hints that she is still applying to grad schools. She’s always sounded pretty half-hearted about the process, doing this more because it’s expected of her than any love of learning. I hold in my heart a tiny hope that she’ll finally grow up enough to say out loud that she doesn’t really want to go back to school. And of course Lizzie and William will support her completely.
Am I going to start making videos from Sanditon? I don’t really know. I enjoyed discussing LBD (obsessively) out of universe and read more than my share of speculation and fan fiction, but I never felt the need to add to the story myself. I will at least get around to making an account with Domino so I can “cheer” some of the super cute videos, like Rose, the school newspaper editor, or the Crazy Cat Lady. If you make a Sanditon persona, let me know in the comments so I can swing by and say hi. There must be a book shop in Sanditon. Maybe we can start a book club!
Julia Broadbooks writes contemporary romance. She lives in the wilds of suburban Florida with her ever patient husband and bakes ridiculous amounts of sugary treats for her teens' friends. Find her on Twitter @juliabroadbooks.