Here’s the first official picture from forthcoming series 4, featuring Sherlock and John. The plot will feature John and wife Mary (Amanda Abbington) preparing for parenthood. Oh, and there’s the little matter of villains Moriarty (Andrew Scott) and new face Culverton Smith (Toby Jones), described by writer Steven Moffat as ‘the darkest villain we’ve had’. Here, by the way, is the official BBC Sherlock page.
Looks like Jim Moriarty will be back on the scene when BBC1’s Sherlock returns in 2017. Here’s the new trailer featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and, briefly, Andrew Scott. Toby Jones is also on view as another foe for Sherlock. Few laughs here, it all looks very serious…
‘Shut up.’ – Sherlock Holmes
‘I didn’t say anyth- ‘ — Detective Inspector Lestrade
‘You were thinking. It’s annoying.’ — Sherlock Holmes
Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves, Mark Gatiss, Amanda Abbington
Identikit: The consulting detective updated to contemporary London.
Writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss who, while working on Doctor Who, often talked about their love of Conan Doyle’s creation and of Basil Rathbone’s portrayal of him, finally decided they should do their own updated version. Seeing the 60-minute pilot, the Beeb liked it so much they ordered three 90-minute films, which meant the opener had to be re-shot. Despite BBC1 then scheduling the re-shot opener in July, the middle of TV’s dead season, Sherlock was a rip-roaring success. Moffat and Gatiss updated the world’s most famous sleuth with loving care, verve and great wit, evolving some of Arthur Conan Doyle’s best-loved tales in modern, thrilling adventures in contemporary London. It works so well because, by stripping away the Victorian fogs, frock coats and Hansom cabs, Holmes re-emerges as the exciting contemporary character he was when the stories first appeared. They were helped by the inspired pairing of Benedict Cumberbatch as a forbidding, high-functioning sociopathic Holmes, whom he plays as ‘dangerous and perverse’. Martin Freeman as the downbeat but caustic Dr Watson immediately clicked with Cumberbatch at the script read-throughs, creating a great blend of genius and exasperation. Una Stubbs is fun as Mrs Hudson, while Andrew Scott was weird and chilling as Moriarty. This arch villain featured in the terrific Reichenbach Fall cliffhanger that concluded the second series, prompting a viral swirl online as devotees tried to work out how Sherlock was going to survive. It was typical of the twists and jolts that Moffat and Gatiss enjoyed throwing at audiences throughout. Series three got off to a messy start, obsessed with
taunting viewers with the resolution of the Reichenbach cliffhanger, before progressing magnificently in the second and third instalments. It raised the stakes for the characters with revelations such as Sherlock getting a girlfriend, Watson getting a wife, Watson’s wife Mary Morstan being an assassin, Sherlock being shot, and Sherlock killing the evil Magnusson at the end (Sherlockian intellect for once giving way to bullets). It’s a twisting, spirited and funny joyride. And through it all, there is David Arnold and Michael Price’s distinctive music soundtrack.
Classic episode: A Scandal in Belgravia. The Reichenbach Fall got chins wagging over how Sherlock faked his spectacular death fall, but A Scandal in Belgravia was much more fun, as Holmes and Watson encounter naked dominatrix Irene Adler (Lara Pulver) in a quest for photos that compromised national security on her mobile. While Moffat’s storytelling (he wrote this one) can tie the plot in knots, this was still a fantastic blend of comedy and suspense, with plenty of cheek thrown in.
Watercooler fact: Matt Smith auditioned for the role of Watson. He was rejected for being ‘too barmy’, according to show runner Steven Moffat, who also oversees Doctor Who for the BBC. Soon after, Moffat cast Smith as the eleventh Doctor Who.
|Shot in the dark? Charlie Cox as the novice MI6 agent. Pics: BBC|
BBC: Thursday, 28 November, 9pm
Story: Against the backdrop of 1974’s industrial strife, British MI6 officer Charles Thoroughgood is tasked with turning his old friend from Oxford, Viktor Koslov, into a double agent…
TV JUST CAN’T STOP snooping on the world of spies, or at least what we imagine that world is like with its betrayals, ruthlessness and races against the clock.
We’ve had 2012’s BBC series Hunted, which tried to fill the slot left by Spooks. Earlier this year saw Spies of Warsaw, another BBC drama with David Tennant, and of course The Americans has recently finished on ITV, while Homeland soldiers on over at Channel 4.
|Charlie Cox, Romola Garai and Andrew Scott|
How does Legacy measure up to the flashy thrill-fests such as Hunted or Homeland? It is more Len Deighton/John Le Carré in its dowdiness than those series, being based on a novel by British writer Alan Judd.
Charlie Cox as the MI6 trainee
A 90-minute one-off, Legacy is set in a more primitive era of spycraft, the early 1970s, a time before GCHQ could spy on all of us with ease. This period was so primitive that the lights keep going out, owing to the three-day week. There is unease in intelligence circles that the industrial chaos is being sponsored by the Soviets.
|Simon Russell Beale as the manipulative Hookey|
It has a good cast, with Charlie Cox taking the lead as Charles Thoroughgood, an MI6 trainee who is asked by his boss, Hookey – a manipulative, intimidating Simon Russell Beale – to renew his friendship with a Russian he knew at Oxford. Andrew Scott swaps his Irish accent for Russian as Viktor, whom Charles has to turn into a double agent.
Romola Garai is Anna, the beautiful wife of jaded Hugo, to whom Charles is seriously attracted. After Charles ‘bumps into’ Viktor again, the game is afoot, but there is a shock for the British agent when Viktor gives him some dismaying news about Charles’s recently deceased father.
1974’s industrial strife as a cover for concerted attacks on Britain
|Close encounter – Anna and Charles|
Betrayal – personal and against one’s country – and truth are the themes, and it is a fairly absorbing drama, adapted by award-winning Paula Milne. The period is conveyed well, without clobbering the audience with lots of 70s kitschiness. And there is a nice bit of subterfuge in a Suffolk hotel carried out under cover of the power cuts.
The personal turmoil is counterpoised with a thought-provoking plot involving Russia attempting to use the industrial strife of 1974 as a launchpad for strikes against Britain’s infrastructure.
While Legacy slots in well with a programming season on the Beeb about the Cold War, it is limited by its 90-minute format, skimming over interesting themes and ending a little abruptly on a twist that is neat but not clearly explained.
Cast: Charlie Cox Charles Thoroughgood, Andrew Scott Viktor Koslov, Simon Russell Beale Hookey, Romola Garai Anna, Christian McKay Hugo March, Olivia Grant Eva, Tessa Peake-Jones Joyce, Geraldine James Martha
|Double-dealings in The Scapegoat. Pics: ITV|
ITV1: Sunday, 9 September, 9pm
Story: Teacher John Standing has just lost his job when his life takes a turn of bizarre and dangerous proportions. He meets a man in a pub-hotel who is his exact likeness. Johnny Spence is a charmer who wines and dines John, but when John wakes the following morning, Johnny has disappeared with John’s clothes. Johnny’s driver then arrives to take John ‘home’, which turns out to be a huge country estate…
The Scapegoat is based on a Daphne du Maurier story of swapped identity. It has an engrossing performance from Matthew Rhys in the dual role of brutish Johnny and sensitive John, who are the spitting image of each other, along with a terrific cast in Sheridan Smith, Eileen Atkins, Jodhi May, Alice Orr-Ewing and Andrew Scott.
|Sheridan Smith, Matthew Rhys|
It also looks fabulous, a convincing vision of the 1950s, with subdued lighting and rich red tones, all within the setting of a dowdy but magnificent country estate in decline.
The only problem is that you have to take the story with a huge dose of salt. Two men may look alike, but the idea that their speech, manner, hairstyle and everything else were so close that one of them could move into the other’s family, make love to his wife etc, and no one would notice really borders on the daft.
Matthew Rhys enjoys himself, particularly as the evil Johnny
Doubles are fun, no mistake. Everyone from Stalin to Saddam Hussein’s had one, though Charlie Chaplin’s failure in a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest shows how hard it is to convince people you look like yourself. And the lookalike is a staple of literature, from The Man in the Iron Mask and A Tale of Two Cities to Coraline.
So if disbelief can be suspended there is intrigue and fun to be had, and Matthew Rhys, star of Brothers and Sisters and brilliant in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, certainly enjoys himself here, particularly as the evil Johnny Spence.
Johnny is a bastard, loathed by his family, with debts on his country estate. His sister hates him, mother tolerates him, he’s sleeps with his brother’s wife, among other mistresses, and is generally spiteful and nasty. What he wouldn’t do to escape the mess of his life.
Daphne du Maurier
And then he by chance encounters a man who is the spitting image of himself, a quiet bloke, a teacher who’s just been fired. Johnny has a boozy evening with doppelganger John, but in the morning is nowhere to be seen, having left with John’s belongings.
Hungover John is bemused by the offer of a lift from Johnny’s chauffeur in their luxury car, and before he knows it he is at Johnny’s crumbling stately home. It is amusing watching John bumbling around the house, seduced by the nobs’ lifestyle and blagging his way into their world.
There is dark humour along with themes personal to du Maurier, author of stories such as Rebecca, The Birds and Don’t Look Now, themes of the neglected daughter, the young manipulated wife who feels inadequate, the ominous presence of a doppelganger. And of course there is the all-seeing housekeeper.
It is hard to get away from feeling that the central story is so contrived – John being so good, Johnny so rotten – but by the end of this 90-minute thriller when events turn murderous, the production and actors certainly cast du Maurier’s suspenseful spell.
Cast: Matthew Rhys John Standing/Johnny Spence, Sheridan Smith Nina, Jodhi May Blanche, Eileen Atkins Lady Spence, Alice Orr-Ewing Frances, Andrew Scott Paul
|Hitchcockian assassination scene from Blackout. Pics:BBC|
Channel: BBC1, starts Monday, 2 July, 9pm
Story: Corrupt council official Daniel Demoys’ life is spiralling out of control. He’s an alcoholic, his wife has had enough of his lifestyle, and he finds himself in an alleyway with the businessman who is bribing him when his life takes a violent turn.
Blackout is a bold bit of TV noir. It’s hard to look away from the car-crash life of local politician Daniel Demoys, played without vanity by Christopher Eccleston, as he descends into out-of-control alcoholism, corruption and family destruction.
It takes place in dark alleys and rainswept streets in classic pulp-fiction mode, and begins with a Hitchcockian bit of silent storytelling, a montage that sets the scene nicely, with Demoys stealing council documents that he will sell to a local businessman before turning up late for his daughter’s school dance performance – drunk.
|Nightclubbing: Sylvie (MyAnna Buring) and Daniel (Christopher Eccleston)|
Waking up as a potential murderer
The blackout of the title is the drunken loss of awareness Daniel suffers later that night. After a bit of corridor sex in a club with a blonde he’s met, Sylvie, he hands over the documents to Pulis in a back alley. The businessman taunts Daniel, things turn violent, and in the morning Daniel wakes from his stupor realising he may have committed murder.
|Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent|
His wife, Alex ( Dervla Kirwan), is sick of Daniel, his son is scared of him, he is disgusted with himself.
‘Show me a way out of this hell,’ he says, as his life takes a twist when he recklessly stops a bullet for a young man campaigning against gang violence. Director Tom Green again pays homage to the Master of Suspense by shadowing the famous assassination scene amid an array of umbrellas from Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent.
|Dervla Kirwan is Alex|
Bullet-stopping Daniel Demoys
Suddenly, Daniel has a heroic profile and is encouraged to run for mayor, to turn his life round and reignite his youthful dreams of making a difference to society. Will he make amends for the damage he has caused, or will his past catch up and destroy him?
Blackout is a sharp and compelling psychological thriller, with a first-class cast, including the electric Andrew Scott (Moriarty in Sherlock) as a slightly unhinged cop and menacing ex of Sylvie’s, Lyndsey Marshal as Daniel’s sister, and Ewen Bremner as his election agent. That’s in addition to a star turn from Christopher Eccleston as the sweaty, red-eyed, dishevelled Daniel.
Cast: Christopher Eccleston Daniel Demoys, Dervla Kirwan Alex Demoys, Ewen Bremner Jerry Durrans, MyAnna Buring Sylvie, Branka Katic Donna, Andrew Scott Dalien Bevan, David Hayman Henry Pulis, Rebecca Callard Ruth Pulis, Lyndsey Marshal Lucy Demoys, Olivia Cooke Meg Demoys, Danny Sapani Detective Griffin