This story feels so engrained in the history of London aristocracy turned rotten that it didn't feel that much more could be said beyond a repetition of the facts - a gambling earl who disappeared into the November night of 1974, leaving behind an apparently battered wife, a murdered nanny, and the birth of a conspiracy theory that lasts to this day.
But this adaptation managed to breathe fresh, thought-provoking life into the tale, stressing the guiding hand into the whole affair of club owner John Aspinall, played here with a cruel grace by Christopher Eccleston.
Rory Kinnear as Lord Lucan in this enduring mystery
If Lucan (Rory Kinnear) here was a hostage to fortune, Aspinall appeared a capricious alpha male whose laws of the kingdom extended from tending his own beasts to guiding the hand of an easily swayed 'Lucky' Lucan, whose good fortune had long deserted him.
It was all framed within the efforts of a 2003 author (a sympathetic Paul Freeman) prising memories of some of those partygoers from a bygone era of aristocratic indolence, most still palpably shocked that their days of champagne, cards and chips were so long gone.
Christopher Eccleston almost stole the show as the capricious John Aspinall
In their midst was a blank-faced Lucan, whose famous suavity and spotless tuxedo contrasted so rudely with his volatile home life, and whose apparent passivity belied a volcanic temper. The drama here concentrated on the hostility of his dealings with wife Veronica (Catherine McCormack), including shoehorning her into a genteel asylum.
In fact, the gentility of her surroundings, and apparent luxury of her town life, did little to prevent the creeping sense of doom and desperation as Lucky grew increasingly charmless, with fewer and fewer cards to play. Part 2 next week.