Ripper Street 3, Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn

Whitechapel series 3

East Enders – Jackson, Long Susan, Reid and Drake

The crime-fighters of Victorian Whitechapel return with a new spectacular series

★★★ BBC1, Friday, 31 July, 9pm

STAR TREK and Cagney and Lacey were both among those shows axed by TV honchos only to be resurrected after fan pressure. Both vindicated their reprieves and went on to huge success.

Ripper Street 3, Capt Jackson

Gung-ho Jackson to the rescue

Ripper Street is unlikely to enjoy such admired longevity. It’s lurid and as believable as a graphic novel. with its theme-park depiction of Jack the Ripper’s London.

But back it is, so a hardcore of devotees will be delighted that their favourite is the first UK show to be revived by a streaming service, in this case Amazon Prime Video (which originally showed the series to its UK subscribers last autumn). In addition, Amazon Prime has already ordered series four and five for future production and seem to have pumped more money into this fairly lavish eight-part instalment.

Train disaster for Reid to investigate

The opener, Whitechapel Terminus, features a spectacular head-on train smash, with the carriages and mutilated

Ripper Street series 3 in production

Behind the scenes of Ripper Street

bodies raining down on Leman Street. This all picks up four years after the previous series, which finished with Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and the American surgeon Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) at loggerheads and Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) broken in grief.

Here they are pulled back together in the search for the “general” behind the rail calamity. Robbery was the motive and before the episode’s end, Reid already has his suspicions about who may have been behind it. [Read more…]

Ripper Street 2, with Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg, PREVIEW

Bennet Drake (JEROME FLYNN), Edmund Reid (MATTHEW MACFADYEN), Captain Jackson (ADAM ROTHENBERG)
The Victorian crimebusters are back – Drake, Reid and Jackson. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC1: starts Monday, 28 October, 9pm  

Story: A sergeant from neighbouring K Division is hurled from a Whitechapel tenement window onto railings below, and inspector Reid and his team’s investigation takes them to the emerging Chinatown of Limehouse dockside.

SOMEONE AT THE BEEB must love Ripper Street. The first series only finished in February, and it’s already been recommissioned, written, made and rescheduled.

It’s a decent action show, lite on the history and often light-hearted in its approach. But why the fast

Long Susan (MYANNA BURING) in Ripper Street
Long Susan


Audiences of seven million did the trick. Ripper Street was recommissioned before it had even finished its first run and it was originally slated to come back in 2014, but it’s been rushed into the schedules way ahead of that slot.

Chinatown and the Elephant Man

It’s hard to believe audiences are gripped by the period setting, which is an unconvincing display of modern folk in fancy dress. The series has an annoying habit of nodding to the future, so that Inspector Reid is lumbered with chunks of expositional dialogue explaining, in this opener for instance, the historical context of emerging Chinatown.

‘Knock yourself out,’ says Capt Jackson, using a phrase that became current in the 1990s. Or there are knowing winks to the future – ‘Sgt, opium is not yet contraband.’ But we know it will be.

The Elephant Man even pops up here, thrown into the action to spice things up.

Bennet Drake (JEROME FLYNN) in Ripper Street
Clubbable man – Drake

Punch-ups and action are Ripper Street’s specialities

In terms of historical intrigue, Peaky Blinders is far more interesting. The post-First World War gangster drama is fascinated by its period and is interested in getting under the skin of its time.

Ripper Street really comes into its own as a straightforward costume actioner. Adam Rothenberg is back as the wisecracking American medical man, and Jerome Flynn as punch-up merchant Sgt Drake looks as though he may have genuinely stepped out of Queen Victoria’s London.

Matthew Macfadyen’s Inspector Reid tries to give proceedings some gravitas, but really Ripper Street just wants to get on with the chases and fisticuffs.

Joseph Mawle as Insp Shine

The series opener, Pure as the Driven, starts with a sergeant being flung from a first-floor window, followed by a larky mass punch-up in the cells at Whitechapel nick. And as the investigation centres on Chinatown, the episode has the added attraction of a martial arts fighter – a totally unheard of phenomenon for Drake and Reid.

Drake thinks he can take on Wong King-Fai and his exotic fighting skills. Forget it, Drake, it’s Chinatown.

The lads realise there’s some new narcotic from the East that is about to flood the streets of the East

Wong King-Fai (AARON LY), Blush Pang (KUNJUE LI) in Ripper Street
It’s Chinatown – Wong King-Fai and Blush Pang

End, which has resulted in a couple of murders. They come up against a dodgy inspector from neighbouring Limehouse, who argues there is a turf war between Triad gangs – but Reid realises that Insp Shine (Joseph Mawle) is more involved than he’s letting on.

Episode one ends on a nice cliffhanger, setting up a terrific turf battle between the inspectors for coming weeks. As a window on the past, Ripper Street is a convincing as a penny dreadful, but as a ripping yarn, it’s knockabout fun.

Cast: Matthew Macfadyen Insp Edmund Reid, Adam Rothenberg Capt Homer Jackson, Jerome Flynn Sgt Bennet Drake, MyAnna Buring Long Susan, Charlene McKenna Rose, Damien Molony Sgt Albert Flight, Joseph Mawle Insp Jedediah Shine, Frank Harper Silas Duggan, Gillian Saker Bella Drake, Clive Russell Chief Insp Frederick Abberline

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Murder on the Victorian Railway, Ripper Street 2, Murdoch Mysteries

Docudrama Murder on the Victorian Railway BBC2

• Fans of Victorian era crime should be throwing their top hats in the air in coming weeks. BBC2 is showing a docu-drama about Britain’s first slaying on a train – Murder on the Victorian Railway. This reconstruction of the investigation into a crime that horrified society at the time is based on the book Mr Briggs’ Hat by Kate Colquhoun, and will be shown on Thursday, 21 February, at 9pm. As usual with this genre, the drama reconstructions jar a bit, but it is an interesting story. The ‘iron roads’ were transforming Britain, but after this murder on a Hackney-bound train in 1864 – in a first class carriage! – Victorians feared what might be lurking on this new-fangled mode of transport. Testimonies, letters, court documents and press reports are used to reanimate the story.

Jerome Flynn, Matthew Macfadyen, Adam Rothenberg in Ripper Street

Ripper Street will return to BBC1 in 2014. Audiences of 7million have convinced Beeb bosses that the ripping yarn – starring Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn and Adam Rothenberg – is worth the outlay. Creator and writer Richard Warlow say, ‘I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to return to “H” Division and will be working tirelessly to ensure that those who join us each week will find ever more compelling crime-fighting thrills down on Ripper Street the second time around. The series will move forward into the 1890s.’

Crime fighting in Victorian Toronto has just returned with the sixth season of Murdoch Mysteries (Alibi channel, Mondays, 9pm). Yannick Bisson stars as William Murdoch, another detective grappling with the ground-breaking forensic techniques just emerging in the battle to catch criminals. This is a series that doesn’t attract much hullabaloo, but which still attracts a devoted audience. One of its trademarks is the historical figures who cross Murdoch’s path, with Winston Churchill (played by Downton Abbey‘s Thomas Howes) and Arthur Conan Doyle putting in appearances this time round.

Alibi Channel, Murdoch Mysteries series 6

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Ripper Street BBC1 with Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn, MyAnna Buring PREVIEW

Shadow of the Ripper – Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and Drake (Jerome Flynn). Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½ 

BBC1: Sunday, 30 December, 9pm 

Story: Between the factories, rookeries, chop shops and pubs of Whitechapel, Inspector Edmund Reid is trying to move police work on from the horrors of the recent Jack the Ripper killings. However, one of the first cases he encounters looks like another Ripper outrage…

Jack the Ripper, the pin-up boy among serial killers, has been done to death (so to speak) by movies, documentaries, TV dramas, fiction and non-fiction books.

Rose gets caught in the killer’s net

So much so that these days any new take on his infamous legend tends to skate round his presence, with ITV1’s Whitechapel transporting his spirit to the modern East End, and now Ripper Street taking us back to H Division in the period just after his murder spree mysteriously halted.

The action begins six months after the horrors, when the hysteria around them can still ignite mob mayhem. So when someone shouts, ‘They’ve found a tart, inspector – she’s been ripped,’ a rabble descends on the alleyway crime scene and Inspector Reid has his work cut out preserving the evidence.

Ripper hysteria whipped up by the press
Reid, played by Matthew Macfadyen, is a new sort of officer, trying to make up for the past failures of sloppy coppering by taking a more scientific approach to crime solving. His new-fangled ideas are little understood by diehards such as his predecessor, Frederick Abberline – a character based on the real chief inspector who investigated the Ripper killings.

Reid investigates the alleyway murder

Reid also has to battle the press, particularly the reporter Fred Best, who scrawls ‘Down on Whores’ in the alley to stir up further Ripper hysteria to flog papers.

It’s a bustling start to this new eight-part series, which is nevertheless a bit clunky in getting across just how wide-eyed the Victorians were at the wonders of the age – characters speaking in awe about every mod con around them, from underground steam trains to moving pictures and the porn industry.

MyAnna Buring as Long Susan

Pornographic pictures
When it turns out that the victim, Maude Thwaite, had been posing in naughty photographs after her middle-class husband fell on hard times, Reid and his assistants, Sergeant Drake (Jerome Flynn) and an American surgeon called Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), are drawn into the burgeoning pornographic industry. Together, the team proves Reid’s theory that Maude was not a victim chanced upon by the Ripper.

The drama is split between a fascination with the murky Victorian world of bare-knuckle fighting and lawless streets, and highlighting emerging new developments that are familiar in today’s world, such as forensics, movies and pathology.

Much of the action is brutal in this opener and the crime is disturbing – and perhaps a bit too modern for the Victorian age. Another niggle was characters using the odd phrase that seemed ahead of its time – I don’t think Jackson would say, ‘Show and tell, Susan.’

Reid is tormented by a past mistake
The success of the series will depend on how well the period is re-imagined and depicted – and whether the characters flourish.

Here, episode one looked promising. We got a glimpse of Reid’s strained home life with his wife and picked up on the fact that he is haunted by some past mistake. There is also tension between Drake, Reid’s pitbull, and the libertine Jackson, who is apparently a former Pinkerton in the US but has some dodgy past with the madam, Long Susan (MyAnna Buring).

Ripper Street has a decent stab (apologies) at transporting the police procedural back to the early days of modern coppering. And while it won’t reveal who the psycho was, of course, it’s clear that even without Jack, Whitechapel circa 1889 was still a pretty terrifying place.

Cast: Matthew Macfadyen Inspector Edmund Reid, Jerome Flynn Sergeant Bennet Drake, Adam Rothenberg Captain Homer Jackson, MyAnna Buring Long Susan, Amanda Hale Emily Reid, Lucy Cohu Deborah Goren, Charlene McKenna Rose, Jonathan Barnwell Constable Dick Hobbs, David Wilmot Sergeant Donald Artherton, David Dawson Fred BestClive Russell Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline

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Read on: Metropolitan Police sit on Jack the Ripper

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