May 11, 1998 12:00 PM

PBS (Sun., May 10, and Sun., May 17, 9 p.m. ET)

This 4-hour Mobil Masterpiece Theatre version of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel transports us so effectively to another place and time—rural England, 19th century—that we’re only too willing to hang on, even when the plot takes an improbable turn late in Part 2. Paloma Baeza (a fresh and striking face) stars as Bathsheba Everdene, an independent-minded young woman who inherits a large farm, which she insists on running herself, and stirs the hearts of three dissimilar men: Gabriel Oak (Nathaniel Parker), the noble shepherd who becomes her steward; Mr. Boldwood (Nigel Terry), a rigid landowner unaccustomed to the pangs of love and undeterred by repeated rejection; and Sgt. Frank Troy (Jonathan Firth), the dashing but unstable soldier she foolishly marries. Terry gives a remarkable performance as a character dumbfounded by his own desire.

Bottom Line: A story to be savored, especially by the Masterpiece crowd

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