BBC1 - 28th February 2008 - 9.00pm
"If that's fascist then Heil bloody Hitler!"
"It gave me a rash when I did that to mine"
Another superb episode that benefits from more concentration on plot and less 1980s gimmicks. I'm so glad they've made the Catherine Price character, played wonderfully by Amelia Bullimore, central to Alex's attempts to return to her waking state in 2008. The relationship between Alex and her mother is all about mutual trust and Alex discovers that those half-remembered glimpses between her mother and her godfather Ewan confirm their affair and that her insecurities about her mother are all too true. It's a good dynamic that propels the series forward and I'm now convinced that Catherine's involvement in breaking into the weapons establishment and the stolen 'Artemis' file is somehow going to lead us to the car bombing.
The plot itself is a not so subtle homage to Troy Kennedy Martin's 'Edge Of Darkness' - I mean if you are going to call the weapons establishment 'Edgehampton' and have a character called Kennedy and then name the areas of the Edgehampton facility after Tube stations in a similar way to the tunnels under the Northmoor complex in 'Edge Of Darkness' - well...if that's not an homage...I'm Gene Hunt's crocodile shoes. It was a good crib though and the scenes with Gene and Alex wandering through the maze of corridors and rifling through the files had a 'Prisoner'esque feel to them that was then capped by the meeting with bowler hatted spook from MI5 at the conclusion. Their clinch in the sealed archive room further delved into Gene's protectiveness of Alex and the scenes were superbly played between Hawes and Glenister. Her plaintive "I can't die can I....Can I?" was just heartbreaking. Lovely satin red bustier too.
Poor Alex was put through the wringer with lots of blurred, skewed visions of clowns, toy cupboards, flashes of the car bomb and noticeably a shot of Ewan running towards the explosion in an attempt to stop it? It was visually very arresting, almost dream like again and helps give the episode that necessary edge with a strange suggestion of childhood abuse or even a confirmation that Evan is in fact Alex's dad perhaps? And it was clear he knew a great deal more about Kennedy and the weapons establishment than he was letting on - is he plotting against the Prices perhaps?
The humour at the expense of a gang of Greenham Common agitators was rather cheeky with a lot of very un-PC brickbats flying about and Ray and Chris in their element. The best was Chris trying to get his head around feminist arguments with his refusal to get Shaz a Marathon on the grounds that doing so was somehow sexist, Ray and Chris practising their stealth stalking on Alex and Gene, and the rather funny, if uncomfortable, Good Cop/Bad Cop routine for the interrogation of Sara which is defused by Chris helping himself to a pink wafer biscuit as he consoles the guilty party. The humour was overall wonderfully timed within the script, felt natural (if anything in 1981 could be deemed as such) and helped to finally create a genuine ensemble playing.
This is certainly the best episode of the series so far and equals the good scripts for 'Life On Mars' and the acting and characterisation are now working well. The sub plots are nicely coming together and although we're still getting 'crime of the week' as the main plot these will work if they can script them as well as this and integrate them with the Evan / Alex/ Catherine sub-plots. The direction and writing on this by Catherine Morshead and Mark Greig respectively keeps all the elements working to their best. 'Ashes To Ashes' has finally arrived!
Episode Three review
Episode Two review
Episode One review
- Freelance writer and film and television researcher (for hire).
He has contributed to a number of books and websites about British archive television and cinema as well as recent television series including work for Moviemail, Frame Rated and Arrow Video. Publications include I.B Tauris's 'Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour - A Critical
Celebration of the Matt Smith and Steven Moffat Era' (2013) and 'Doctor
Who - The Pandorica Opens' (2010).
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