TV Reviews

Wentworth vs. Prisoner: Bea Smith

Wentworth is the highly successful modern adaptation of Australia’s 70s/80s cult classic Prisoner. In both series, Bea makes an impressive splash in both shows – but as fairly different characters. WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

Wentworth began its run by changing the characters on the show to give itself its distinct flavour. For example, Wentworth begins with Bea Smith’s arrival to Wentworth as a new inmate, whereas in Prisoner she has been inside for many years (more like Jacqueline Holt in Wentworth). Wentworth Bea is shy and unassuming when she arrives, and becomes a victim to Wentworth’s internal politics. Prisoner Bea is top dog from the beginning of the show (Wentworth Bea must fight Frankie for the position of top dog).

Over the course of the first season of Wentworth, Bea becomes much more like the version of herself in Prisoner. They both have creative pursuits (in Wentworth she sketches and in Prisoner she writes a column for the local newspaper), relationships on the inside (in Wentworth she has a lesbian relationship with Ally and with a male teacher in Prisoner), and a direct relationship with the Governor to help the women. Not only do they share these positive qualities, but they also successfully escape Wentworth Correctional Facility.

Bea’s daughter Debbie exists in both versions of the show. Debbie has already passed due to her drug use in Prisoner by the beginning of the show, whereas we see the eventual demise as brought on by Brayden Holt in Wentworth. In both cases Bea develops a strong anti-drug stance after losing Debbie. Bea also blames her ex-husband Harry Smith for not looking after Debbie in both shows; however in Wentworth Harry is killed by the Red Right Hand and Bea kills Harry and his girlfriend himself in Prisoner. In Wentworth she finds out that Jacks Holt is behind Debbie’s death and Bea kills Jacks and her son Brayden in revenge. Both Beas believe that they can communicate with Debbie after she passes away. In Wentworth, Bea is able to “communicate” with Debbie during drug induced hallucinations that come from the sedatives she is given after Debbie dies. In Prison, Bea thinks she is communicating with Debbie when Joan Ferguson enlists the help of a medium, and tricks Bea into thinking Debbie has messages for her.

In addition to killing in the name of her daughter, both Beas use violence against others who have wronged the ones she loves. In Wentworth, Bea attempts to kill Joan Ferguson for the assumed brain death of Ally. On Prisoner, Bea kills Nola McKenzie for Tracey. Unlike her Prisoner counterpart, Wentworth Bea also turns that violence against herself, self-harming to cope with the stress of being top dog, as well as the life changing events she endured up to this time.

The most dramatic difference between the two Beas is their exit from the show. Bea is killed by Joan Ferguson on Wentworth when she attacks Ferguson in revenge for Ally. On Prisoner, Bea is also affected by Joan Ferguson (and Sonja Stevens) but departs from the show under the guise of being transferred to Barnhurst.

Regarless if you are a Bea Smith fan from Wentworth or Prisoner, each has their own identity. Both leads face a number of challenges that they inevitably tackle in similar ways. While Bea Smith from Wentworth begins the series as meeker, she finishes her run just as tough as nails as her counterpart from Prisoner.


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