WHISPERING Tommy Shelby is back and he has the massed pistols, shotguns and razor blades of his feral family behind him. But have the Peaky Blinders finally met their match?

Because this time, the flat-capped Brummie gangsters must go head to head in a battle to the death with their most dangerous rival yet, a foe more fearsome even than Adrian Brody overacting with a toothpick: a well-mannered young woman in a big bonnet from the 1800s.

That must be autumn in the air, because the BBC and STV are suffering an attack of the seasonal fevers, and embarking on a bloody ratings war for Sunday night, even though no one actually cares.

Up against the return of Peaky Blinders, STV is offering Sanditon, a new adaptation of the Jane Austen novel you’d be forgiven for never having heard of, written for the screen by Andrew Davies, a man who knows possibly too much about all her books.

You can tell the Beeb is nervous about STV pulling such a full-blooded costume drama on them, because they’re whipping out the big guns in response, pairing the launch of the Peakies’ new series with the last ever episodes of Poldark (which, like Peaky Blinders, gets two episodes this week, Sunday and Monday). In truth, though, they have little to fear. Even though Peaky Blinders remains humourless and essentially duff, it’s still far more entertaining than Sanditon.

Rose Williams stars as the be-bonneted Charlotte Heywood, plucky daughter of a lowly but upstanding family in the sweeping English boondocks, who comes to the rescue when a passing carriage loses a wheel.

Its passenger is Tom Parker (Kris Marshall), an ambitious developer who, with backing from the haughty Lady Denham (Anne Reid), hopes to make the new town of Sanditon “the finest seaside resort on all the south coast,” if you can stand the excitement.

To thank Charlotte for her kindness, Parker invites her to come sample Sanditon’s bright lights, giddying social swirl and daring nudie sea-bathing as his guest. And so, breath bated, she journeys there, with her father’s advice ringing in her ears: “these seaside resorts can be odd places…the normal rules of conduct tend to be relaxed.”

That said, the normal rules of conduct for a Jane Austen adaptation are stringently observed. Before long, Charlotte is charting the mild hypocrisies of the community, while surrounded by scheming sorts, and unsuitable men in britches, and sometimes out of them.

Jane Austen died before finishing this book, and, 20 minutes into episode one, I knew exactly how she felt.

By the time a big set piece ball scene started, my central nervous system had no choice but to go rogue, seize control and force me into an induced coma simply for its own protection. But the dancing was still going on when I came to three weeks later. Sometimes, I feel it will never end.

Meanwhile, in Peaky Blinders, two years have passed. Now firmly ensconced as an MP, Tommy makes stirring man-of-the-people speeches in the House, while secretly presiding over an empire that has vast investments across the ocean in the USA. All that is about to change, however. It is October 1929, and when the New York stock market crashes, it takes Shelby’s fortune with it.

Meanwhile, as Tommy is haunted by ghosts of the past, dark new forces are gathering, both in the brick lanes of gangland, and in the whispering corridors of Parliament, where he encounters a pale politician called Oswald Mosley. There will be blood. And people walking in slow motion for absolutely no reason at all.