New episodes of the greatest show in the galaxy have now been missing from our screens for 29 days and with things looking sketchy for 2012 (Whatever IS going on?) we’re sure to be needing some Who-substitute for the time being.
The Autumn 2010/Winter 2011 season for BBC drama is mostly over now and there have certainly been some fantastic highlights. Here’s a list of BBC-goodness that’s well worth watching if you haven’t caught it already (except of course Doctor Who) with a couple of reviews and links to watch for each as well:
PS. They’re all slightly Who-related in one way or another…
Christopher & His Kind
“Carpe diem darling…”
First off, if I didn’t mention Christopher & His Kind, I’d be dealing it a grave disservice. Witty, touching and, at times, heartbreaking this is a great example of Matt Smith showing his acting prowess in a role besides the Doctor.
The story itself concerns 1930’s Berlin, the rise of Hitler and (primarily) how it affected the gay community – all from the perspective of the writer and main protagonist Christopher Isherwood (Matt Smith). The house where most of the main characters stay is wonderfully brought to life and I enjoyed seeing Smith alongside Toby Jones once more (who’s character Christopher meets on a train and learns of his future Berlin residence from) particularly – who we last saw together in Amy’s Choice (Doctor Who). As if to further the Doctor Who connections, on top form is Lindsay Duncan (who plays Christopher’s condescending and manipulative mother excellently) whom you may remember played one Adelaide Brooke in The Waters of Mars.
Scenes such as the depiction of the Nazi book burnings, Imogen Poots’ singing in a Berlin club and Isherwood’s family home make this a memorable watch and you can’t help but warm to the various main characters who by the end of it have all gone their separate ways. The fabulous chemistry between Smith and Imogen Poots on screen makes their scenes delightful to watch and the drama itself conveys the mood in Berlin and the fall into Nazism in a way that’s not of the typical nature – definitely one of my favourite dramas in a long time.
“There’s been a most terrible accident…”
Where to begin with Single Father? Cast your mind back to Christmas 2009 where good ol’ Davey T was a little bit overexposed on our televisions – but rightly so, as one of the greatest incarnations of the Doctor was about to sing his swansong. After however, things went a little quiet, some uneventful goings on in Hollywood and then BAM. Single Father. Single Father gives a tear-jerking insight into the trials of a family trying to function without a mother and gives Tennant a chance to show that heartbreaking tender side we occasionally got to see in his tenure as our favourite Time Lord. Surprisingly, the children cast in Single Father never lets it down for a moment – that is an achievement and a testament to the talent of the child actors.
Many of the cast are worth mentioning, but in particular Suranne Jones – who would later go on to play Idris (AKA. The TARDIS) in Neil Gaiman’s episode of Doctor Who, The Doctor’s Wife.
The Shadow Line
“It’s almost like you planned the whole thing.”
Like most slow-playing dramas, The Shadow Line could have been thrilling and intelligent or boring and too slow. Fortunately this brilliant, gritty drama is the former and did not fail to impress. Featuring a capable cast, the most noteworthy being Chris Ec’ (whom we all know as Doctor number nine), the Shadow Line is a great example of a drama that flips everything you thought you knew on its head and then proceeds to surprise you even further – twice (as the Moff would say). The show’s story revolves around the murder of the drugs baron Harvey Wratten and the subsequent investigations by both the Police and Wratten’s business (in inverted commas) associates.
My hat must go off to Stephen Rea and Rafe Spall (the characters Gatehouse and Jay Wratten respectively) who are both absolutely chilling in their parts and to an extent make the drama what it is. Christopher Eccleston is on top form, playing Joseph Bede, the owner of a front who is desperately trying to get out of the drugs trade and save his wife from Alzheimer’s disease with the money from one last job (the tired cliché, in this case, fits the story well). Finally, Chiwetel Ejiofor plays DI Gabriel – a tenacious amnesiac who is desperately trying to find out where he fits in the web of lies and deception, or as characters elegantly put it: which “side of the line” he’s on.
The Shadow Line is pulled off in a way that’s unusual these days – it’s confusing, but in a good way. You find yourself wanting to understand because of how deep the mystery goes and ultimately what it means for the main cast.
“Tell the truth and shame the devil.”
For me, Exile can be described in one way – hard hitting. This is a drama that to begin with looks like one type of story and soon becomes another. Like the Shadow Line it’s all about lies and deals with the devil but in a very different and – in the end – surprising way.
Exile begins with a down-and-out Tom (John Simm, who we all know in DW played the Master) returning to the home he hasn’t been to since his teens, after being fired for being involved with the boss’wife at his news company. At first it seems the story will be all about his relationship with his father (Jim Broadbent) and why like his father Tom is such a “fuck up”. However, things quickly develop into a story of good old fashioned investigative journalism and to say the least – things get dark.
There are lots of twists in Exile and the show deals well with the homecoming theme the main character is so reluctant to embark onto. Contrasting Simm’s character, who has left town to pursue a lucrative career which has earned him a sports car, are the people he’s left behind; who feel at times they have done comparatively little. To this effect, old wounds are opened up that Tom must attempt to heal. Worth mentioning is Olivia Colman (who was one of Prisoner Zero’s forms in Doctor Who), who plays Tom’s sister. Her performance is both sad and heart-warming – the difficulties of being a full-time carer are obvious – and a scene where she does karaoke in the pub for the first time in years is certainly smile-provoking. At it’s best Exile is about the things people are remembered for and at it’s worse… well it doesn’t really have a worst – it’s that good. As Simm’s character attempts to learn who he really is, and is forced to reconcile with the people he hurt on the way up, we are given a great insight into what people will do for their loved ones in the face of great horrors.
So those are my four shows which I thought were absolutely brilliant.
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, and do tell me if any of the links stop working.
Did you watch any of these shows?
Comments below please!