This is a ten-part biographical series depicting the life of English novelist Charles Dickens.
This episode focuses on the changing relationship between Charles and his father, John Dickens, as the family experiences a downfall. John is a Naval office clerk and an emotional man with a flair for the dramatic, but he is unrealistic about supporting his family. As one of his eight children, Charles looks up to his father and shares a close relationship with him. As time goes on, John is confronted with the fact that he cannot financially support his family, and Charles' idolized father begins to fall from his pedestal. John gets a transfer to London in the hopes of improving their situation, but as they slip further into debt and encounter hassles with creditors, they are forced to re-evaluate their position. Charles gives up his dreams of education and takes a job with his cousin to help support the family.
The Dickens family's desperate poverty forces young Charles to go to work at Warren's Blacking Factory. There he meets personalities who will inspire characters in his novels - the urchin Fagin and the bullies Smelly and Tucker.
Now a reporter at the House of Commons, 19-year-old Charles Dickens finds love in the person of Maria Beadnell, a wealthy banker's daughter. Determined to obtain money to properly court her, he takes acting lessons in a bid for stage stardom.
Personal and professional problems arise for Charles. He determines to marry Christine Hogarth but the courtship runs into trouble. His disagreements with well-known artist Robert Seymour over the publication of the Pickwick Papers spell disaster.
Claudius, aging Emperor of Rome, sits down to write his memoirs which encompass the stories of his predecessors and their intrigues. His story begins during the reign of the first Emperor, Augustus, and deals with the intrigues of his wife Livia to put her son, Tiberius, on the throne.
Anna Karenina is the tale of a young woman married to a man twenty years her senior, who believes herself invulnerable to temptation. Anna, who moves in the highest circles of czarist Russia, descends into tragedy when she meets a man who awakens in her a passionate, driving love.
The contrast between the lifestyles of the Russian aristocracy and the common people is evident when Levin visits his brother, a political activist living in a slum. Anna is the toast of Moscow and attends a gala ball, where she pays a good deal of attention to Count Vronsky.
Levin, unaware of Vronsky's abandonment of Kitty, returns unhappily to his country home. In despair, Kitty remains bedridden. Meanwhile, Vronsky has become infatuated with Anna.
Alexei Karenin's suspicions about his wife's conduct grow more intense every day, but he remains in the capital while Anna spends the summer at a villa. His suspicions are confirmed when Vronsky is injured at the races.
Anna stuns Karenin with the announcement that she is carrying Vronsky's child. Her husband finally concludes that divorce is the only solution, but harsh Czarist laws will bring disgrace upon Anna.
Anna is convinced that she will die in childbirth. When her labor begins, she sends for Karenin who returns home only to find Vronsky there. Meanwhile, Kitty and Levin become engaged.
Anna is finally told the truth about Vronsky's attempted suicide. When he recovers, Vronsky decides to accept a distant army post in order to forget Anna. However, Karenin's surprising actions change the whole complexion of things.
Bored with life in Italy, Anna and Vronsky return to Russia and decide to live together openly, even before her divorce is finalized. After their virtual banishment from St. Petersburg society, the situation grows worse with an ugly incident at the opera.
Vronsky appeals to Dolly to persuade Anna to seek a divorce. When Anna writes Karenin and receives no reply, she becomes jealous, and drives Vronsky away in fear of losing him.
Stiva pays a call on Karenin, pleading with him to grant Anna a divorce and to let her have their son. At Vronsky's house, an irritable Anna torments him with accusations of infidelity. Deranged by her misery, she seeks a means of escape.