SS-GB, Sam Riley, Kate Bosworth

SS-GB - Episode: SSGB - Picture Shows: Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer. Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer (SAM RILEY) - (C) Sid Gentle Films - Photographer: Sid Gentle Films

Trapped – Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer (Sam Riley)

The Nazis rule Britain in this decent adaptation of Len Deighton’s thriller

★★★ BBC1 Sunday, 19 February, 9pm

WHAT WOULD have happened if the Battle of Britain had been lost?

SS-GB, based on Len Deighton’s 1978 novel, imagines how this scenario plays out. Buckingham Palace in ruins, Swastikas over Westminster and the SS breathing down our necks, is the vision offered.

As alternative histories go – we’ve had Fatherland, The Man in the High Castle, 11/22/63 in recent years – this BBC production is better at the personal drama than depicting the nightmare of Britain subverted by Nazism.

Starring Sam Riley

The Man in the High Castle had more impact at slapping us in the face with chilling and imaginative scenes of Axis occupation in the USA. Whereas in SS-GB, it is the plight of detective Douglas Archer that is the nightmare that keeps us watching. It’s basically a good police procedural with What-If backdrop.

SS-GB Dr Oskar Huth (LARS EIDINGER) - (C) Sid Gentle Films Ltd - Photographer: Screen Grab

Nazi piece of work – Dr Oskar Huth (Lars Eidinger)

Archer, played by Sam Riley (who looks too young to be a 1940s senior Scotland Yard detective), investigates what seems a simple black market murder. But when he is informed that Himmler’s right-hand Rottweiler, SS Standartenfuehrer Dr Oskar Huth (Lars Eidinger), is flying in from Berlin to oversee the case, it’s clear there is something darker going on.

The English detective is met by torn loyalties at every turn. His lover, Sylvia Manning (Maeve Dermody), puts him to shame with her ballsy defiance of the occupiers. His sergeant, Harry Woods (James Cosmo), also seems less under the thumb of the Germans than he should be.

SS-GB - Episode: SSGB - Picture Shows: Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer. Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer (SAM RILEY) - (C) Sid Gentle Films - Photographer: Sid Gentle Films

Allies – Archer with Barbara Barga (Kate Bosworth)

Kate Bosworth adds mystery

His own schoolboy son is growing enamoured of the smart Nazi uniforms. And finally, Archer has mixed feelings about the British resistance movement – for how long will he be able to work under Huth’s brutal direction?

Kate Bosworth as American journalist Barbara Barga adds an element of sultry mystery. A one-armed man named Spode (James Northcote) increase the menace.

It should be noted that SS-GB has been missing in action now for a couple of years. CrimeTimePreview.com has twice listed in forthcoming highlights for 2015 and 2016, but it was both times a no-show.

While not great, SS-GB is gripping

Was there some behind-the-scenes production problems causing this delay?

SS-GB Picture Shows: Sylvia Manning (MAEVE DERMODY) - (C) Sid Gentle Films Ltd - Photographer: Todd Anthony

In trouble – Sylvia Manning (Maeve Dermody)

Having waited so long and read the book, I was hoping for something special. This is OK. The noirish mood feels clunky and shocking premise lacks imagination in its portrayal. Perhaps nightmarish alternative scenarios are not that scary these days. 2016 provided enough actual history to terrify us.

Still, the core drama grips and it is full of enough feints and twists to keep you guessing. 

Check out…

The Deighton Dossier

The Guardian on What-If novels

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: