Whitechapel 4, ITV, with Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis, Steve Pemberton PREVIEW

Phil Davis, Steve Pemberton and Rupert Penry-Jones. Whitechapel series 4 Pics ITV
The worst-lit police station in London – Whitechapel with Phil Davis, Steve Pemberton and Rupert Penry-Jones. Pics ITV

Rating: ★★★

ITV: day and time to be announced

Story: The team investigates a number of killings that seem to be of witches, leading them to suspect that some kind of modern-day Witchfinder General is at work.

TRYING TO EXPLAIN what the blazes is going on in Whitechapel these days is the devil’s own job. Perhaps we should ask him, as it is now revealed that the gates to Hell are actually located within the shadow of Christ Church, Spitalfields.

That’s according to Edward Buchan, the swivel-eyed loon they keep in the basement poring over ‘archives’ in this rather bonkers series.

‘Why do these things keep happening in Whitechapel?’ Buchan wonders – along with the rest of us. Hence, the gates of hell thesis.

Washington (William Beck) in Whitechapel 4 ITV
Washington (William Beck)

The Witchfinder General

Jack the Ripper, the Krays, the Thames Torso murders and others have all revisited the Whitechapel area of London in past series. This time it’s the Witchfinder General who’s popped back out of the pages of infamy to give the willies to Rupert Penry-Jones (DI Chandler), Phil Davis (DS Miles) and Steve Pemberton (Buchan).

Watching this instalment you do wonder if writers Caroline Ip and Ben Court have not been a bit dazed and confused by the success of what was a a good idea that is now stretched thinly. After all, they have moved onto other projects, such as BBC1’s Mayday, but still the viewing figures demand further Whitechapels. Hence, the more and more barmy the show has become.

 RUPERT PENRY-JONES as DI Joseph Chandler Whitechapel 4on ITV
Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones)

The fourth outing has the odd trio of investigators looking into a couple of deaths – that of a Bulgarian spy and an old woman burned to death.

Grab bag of horror

In episode two we learn someone wearing a big brimmed hat that was last in style during the English Civil War seems to be tracking down contemporary witches. It can only be a re-imaging, reincarnation – whatever – of Matthew Hopkins, the witch-hunter who killed 300 suspected witches in a couple of years (1644-46). Natch.

The current day perpetrator in the big hat is an absolute rotter. Literally. His skin is rotting and he talks like the Elephant Man. It all amounts to a grab bag of horror genre routines and motifs. Trouble is, it’s not even that chilling because the characters are all a bit flat.

The story is garbled and silly, and Hammer Horror atmospherics are used in place of an intelligible drama. Creepy dark houses, a creepy dark police station, blind women, black cats, blood from faucets, drownings, flayings – scare tactics in search of a story.

STEVE PEMBERTON as Edward Buchan in Whitechapel series 4 ITV
Buchan (Steve Pemberton)

Buchan, Chandler and Miles are still the best things in Whitechapel

However, the three stars are still fun to watch. Buchan even seems to be about to find love (he could definitely do with a new hobby), Chandler takes his shirt off to expose his ripped abs, and Miles is having a crisis of confidence.

It’s a shame better use isn’t made of these guys – in series one their characters were far more interesting and affecting. They’re too good for this Chamber of Horrors.

Cast: Rupert Penry-Jones DI Joseph Chandler, Phil Davis DS Ray Miles, Steve Pemberton Edward Buchan, Sam Stockman DC Emerson Kent, Hannah Walters DC Megan Riley, Claire Rushbrook Dr Caroline Llewellyn

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