Neil Cross

Luther S4

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Contains spoilers

luther-coverCan one really call a two-part special a ‘season’ these days? Apparently you can, although to be honest on this evidence I’m still far from convinced. Nor am I at all sure that the quick-hit brevity works for a show like Luther.

Despite coming very late to the Luther party, I was a big fan of the first season which consisted of a fully-formed six episodes. To be honest I did feel that the show lost its way somewhat over the ensuing two shorter four-part seasons that followed, but it nonetheless remained eminently watchable not least thanks to the towering performance of Idris Elba in the title role which was nicely counterpointed by the deadpan level-headedness of his likeable loyal sidekick DC Ripley (Warren Brown). Read the rest of this entry »

Whistle and I’ll Come To You (BBC/BFI DVD)

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Contains spoilers as to the original short story and the two adaptations reviewed.

I’d intended to do a little Halloween-themed run of reviews this week but sadly time and other commitments got the better of me. However, one did manage to sneak under the wire – a look at the two screen adaptations of MR James’ Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come To You, My Lad made by the BBC 42 years apart and released again this month by the British Film Institute as part of its Gothic season.

MR James was an early 20th century medieval scholar and in his time provost of both King’s College, Cambridge and Eton College. Today he’s best recalled for his sideline of writing ghostly short stories, adaptations of which were for a time a staple of the BBC’s Christmas television schedule in the 1970s. They possess a rich nostalgic appeal to those who saw and loved them at a time, so that every now and then a revival of the spirit of retelling the ghost stories of Christmas past is attempted.

I should confess that I wasn’t one of those who avidly watched the dramas at the time. Some came along far too early for me, while even on reruns the late ones generally proved too slow and subtle for my young self. These are ghost stories for adults, and moreover for intellectuals, and not the Paranormal Activity, Insidious or The Conjuring sort of over-manic fare today that gets taken as horror. In fact there’s nothing really ‘horrific’ in these works at all, they are more accurately tales of the unsettling that may or may not send a chill down your spine, or perhaps leave you anxiously glancing behind you next time you’re out walking alone. Read the rest of this entry »

Luther S1 E1-3

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I know, I’m coming very late to this particular party, but for some reason I never caught on to the BBC series Luther when it originally aired in 2010. Maybe I was busy doing something else, or perhaps the promotional campaign at the time simply didn’t appeal to me in that it looked like just another story of a troubled maverick cop breaking all the rules in his obsessive hunt for justice.

Having missed the first series entirely (and then naturally felt stepping straight into season 2 wasn’t a good idea) it’s taken a first-time re-run on the UK TV Alibi channel to finally get me to watch – and make me an instant convert.

What an excellent series. And the reason for just how good it is can be summed up in just two names – Idris Elba and Neil Cross, respectively star and creator/writer of the show. Elba of course made his name by being so impressive as part of the ensemble line-up in the already overwhelmingly brilliant The Wire, but here he’s given for want of a better description a star vehicle, a show completely built up around what he can do inhabiting a single character central stage. Read the rest of this entry »

Doctor Who: Hide (BBC1)

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I was going to keep this one relatively short, since I didn’t think that I had a lot to say about the latest instalment of Doctor Who other than that this was one of the best and strongest episodes to date of an otherwise uneven series 7. But it turns out that there’s a lot to say about excellence after all.

Here was a story that was finally let off the leash and allowed to be proper scary in just the way that the previous episode, “Cold War”, didn’t quite have the heart to follow through. I was amazed by the lengths this one went to and what it ended up getting away with: if this were indeed back in the 1970s and Mary Whitehouse was still with us, she would surely have been apoplectic at how much the show must have traumatised the little kids on Saturday night. Or the big kids, come to that – this was seriously frightening stuff. And it felt great to have Doctor Who back to its full-blooded, no-holds-barred best.

In a nutshell it was a haunted house story with a ghost and a hideous monster lurking in the shadows, being investigated by slightly eccentric paranormal researcher Alec Palmer and his assistant (not companion – this is 1974) Emma Grayling, an empathic psychic. Her talents prove vital to solving the mystery of Caliburn House, but of course it’s the Doctor who provides the brain power in figuring out what’s going on in the first place and what must be done about it – which takes us out of gothic supernatural horror and into a quite wonderfully clever and original science fiction story about time travel. This in turns allows some important character moments between the Doctor and his companion (not assistant – this is 2013) in which Clara gets insight into the Doctor’s world view, and we in turn get insight into the mystery of The Impossible Girl and why she fascinates the Doctor so – although why the Tardis is apparently not also a fan of hers is a whole different juicy strand to things. Read the rest of this entry »