|Sam and Ronnie find the cause of the train wreck – an abandoned vehicle. Pics: ITV|
ITV: starts Sunday, 14 July, 9pm
Story: A commuter train collides with a car that’s been abandoned on the tracks in Streatham, resulting in deaths and a huge number of injuries. A man is charged with murder – but was he after revenge or acting through diminished responsibility?
MANY SHOWS LIKE to end a series with a bang. This latest batch of L&O: UK, however, kicks off with one – a train smash that kills 15 people and injures hundreds.
It’s a spectacular opener, which has the added job of injecting new faces into the legal and cop halves of
|New guvnor Paterson Joseph|
the drama. Paterson Joseph steps in as the new detective inspector, Wes Layton, and Georgia Taylor is Kate Barker, who faces Dominic Rowan’s established prosecutor, Jake Thorne, when a man is charged for mass murder following the crash – though there’s a nice twist to her story after she gets in Jake’s face during the trial.
Ronnie tries to calm Sam down
The tragedy of the crash is rammed home when DS Sam Casey (Paul Nicholls) tries but fails to save a boy on the train. Reliable Ronnie (Bradley Walsh) attempts to calm his younger colleague and keep him focused on finding out who left the vehicle on the tracks.
They zone in first on an arrogant, abusive husband who owns the abandoned wheels, then on Finn Tyler, a sad case, separated from his wife and with an alcoholic background and suicidal tendencies.
When the case goes to trial, Sam and Jake are desperate to nail Tyler, who they see as a man who, through his own selfishness, recklessly caused the death of 15 people and devastated hundreds of lives. They want him to serve life sentences for each victim.
New face Kate claims diminished responsibility
Defending Tyler is Kate Barker, who has a bee in her bonnet about the mistreatment of people with
|Actress Georgia Taylor joins the team|
mental health issues and cuts to their services. She argues Tyler was suffering an abnormality of mind.
In line with the best episodes of Law & Order (this one, called Tracks, is based on the US episode Locomotion), the drama’s loaded with twists and ambiguity, refusing to tell viewers which side to take.
It’s got a great performance from Aidan McArdle as Tyler (unrecognisable here from the smarmy lawyer he played in Garrow’s Law), and there’s a nice scene when Jake basically discards court protocol and just makes a speech slamming the accused. Not realistic, perhaps, but emotional all the same.
What is DS Casey up to?
Where many dramas, such as Broadchurch, benefit from the slowburn, Law & Order‘s template is all about concisely told dramas packed with characters who have murky motivations. The truth is usually hard to discern and the good guys don’t always win. It’s a formula that kept the original US series going for a record-breaking 20 years.
Scriptwriter Emilia di Girolamo, a stalwart of the series and fan of the US version, has written a powerful one here. She tells me series seven features her last two scripts for Law & Order: UK, which is a shame, while she focuses on other projects.
The good news is that it’s a two-part opener, and she’s written the next instalment, which has some pretty big questions to answer about DS Sam Casey after his apparently dodgy behaviour at the end of part one.
|The law and order sides of the story|