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? [Read more…]

Marcella, ITV, Anna Friel

BUCCANEER MEDIA FOR ITV MARCELLA Pictured: ANNA FRIEL as Marcella. This image is the copyright of ITV and must only be used in relation to MARCELLA.

Losing control? Anna Friel as Marcella

Dark and intricate thriller from the writer of The Bridge

★★★ ITV, Monday, 4 April, 9pm

HEROINES are often called ‘feisty’. Marcella Backland is not feisty, she is out of control.

She shoves her unfaithful husband down the stairs, she’s volatile, has blackouts, and when we first meet her she is in a bath and caked in mud and blood. How did she get there? That’s what this brooding eight-parter is going to tell us.

Writer Hans Rosenfeldt, who gave us the superb The Bridge, has here conjured up a heroine who is the opposite of Saga Noren in that Swedish-Danish production. The emotionless rule-following blonde has been replaced by a heartbroken, rule-breaking brunette.

Marcella on ITV with Anna Friel episode one

Gripping: Anna Friel as Marcella

Anna Friel as Marcella

Marcella, played wonderfully by Anna Friel, is a woman on a tightrope. It’s hard to even tell if she is a goodie or baddie.

Rosenfeldt has been brought in by ITV to inject some Nordic noir in between the fluff of Midsomer and Lewis. So Marcella is a forbidding heroine and many of the scenes are filmed on rainy London nightscapes. She’s not an anti-hero in the league of Walter White or Dexter, but she’s not cuddly either.

It also has in common with The Bridge multi-strands of stories woven together. This is how Rosenfeldt describes the drama he and his team wanted to make: ‘A thriller, yes. But there are many ways to tell a story. We settled for multi-plot. A lot of characters, not all of them immediately connected to the main story or main characters, but eventually ending up there; that’s what I like to do. That’s what I’m good at. Creating and solving a mystery with as many hooks, twists and red herrings as possible. So that’s what we did.’

BUCCANEER MEDIA FOR ITV MARCELLA Pictured: NICHOLAS PINNOCK as Jason Summers, SINEAD CUSACK as Sylvie Gibson and PATRICK BALADI as Stephen Holmes. This image is the copyright of ITV and must only be used in relation to MARCELLA.

High-powered: Nicholas Pinnock as Jason, Sindead Cusack as Sylvie and Patrick Baladi as Stephen

Sinead Cusack and Laura Carmichael

The threads involve Marcella’s marriage breakdown after 15 years, her return to work as a detective when the Grove Park Killer seems to have reappeared after an 11-year break, a sex worker with a sideline in mugging, and a property firm run by a nasty CEO, Sylvie Gibson (played by Sinead Cusack in Cruella De Vil mode).

Nicholas Pinnock is Jason, Marcella’s now ex-husband, and Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith in Downton Abbey) is Maddy, a student researching domestic abuse who is on the radar of a potential suspect for the Grove Park murders. Maeve Dermody is Grace, Sylvie’s high-flying businesswoman daughter.

Marcella is elevated above just being a compelling whodunit by also having an intriguing set of characters and terrific atmosphere.

Marcella on ITV Hub

And Then There Were None, BBC1

Philip Lombard (AIDEN TURNER), Thomas Rogers (NOAH TAYLOR), Vera Claythorne (MAEVE DERMODY), AJ Marston (DOUGLAS BOOTH), Dr Armstrong (TOBY STEPHENS), Judge Wargrave (CHARLES DANCE), William Blore (BURN GORMAN), Emily Brent (MIRANDA RICHARDSON), General Macarthur (SAM NEILL), Ethel Rogers (ANNA MAXWELL MARTIN)

Guilty looks – Aidan Turner, Noah Taylor, Maeve Dermody, Douglas Booth, Toby Stephens, Charles Dance, Miranda Richardson, Burn Gorman, Sam Neill and Anna Maxwell Martin

A star-packed cast gathers for one of Agatha Christie’s best-loved mysteries

★★★½ BBC1, Boxing Day, 9pm

BASED on the Queen of Crime’s bestselling mystery of all time, And Then There Were None gets a handsome showcase and starry cast from the Beeb to ensure this three-parter is a lavish treat for the Christmas holidays.

Agatha Christie’s mystery, recently voted her best by the Crime Writers’ Association, is Christie par excellence with its isolated island setting, a motley band of victims and suspects, and a fiendishy silly denouement.

Programme Name: And Then There Were None - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: ++PURE DRAMA++ ++Publication of this image is strictly embrgoed until 18.01 hours Sunday November 8th 2015+++ Vera Claythorne (MAEVE DERMODY), Philip Lombard (AIDEN TURNER), Dr Armstrong (TOBY STEPHENS), William Blore (BURN GORMAN), Judge Wargrave (CHARLES DANCE), General Macarthur (SAM NEILL), Fred Narracott (CHRISTOPHER HATHERALL) - (C) Mammoth Screen - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

All at sea: The guests on their way to Soldier Island

But this is a beautifully produced mini-series that detracts nicely from the contrived nature of the story with stunning photography, discreet period touches and a terrific score.

For those unfamiliar with the tale, it is 1939 and ten strangers from differing backgrounds are lured to remote Soldier Island off the Devon coast for a get-together by the mysterious Mr and Mrs U N Owen. It’s not long before the guests all realise that none of them has ever met either of the Owens, who are absent from the cut-off island.

Aidan Turner as Lombard

One of the advantages of spreading the story over three episodes is that it unfolds slowly, so that tensions beneath the gentility gradually surface before the mayhem begins.

And Then There Were None - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Behind the scenes on the set of And Then There Were None. Vera Claythorne (MAEVE DERMODY), Philip Lombard (AIDEN TURNER), Judge Wargrave (CHARLES DANCE), General Macarthur (SAM NEILL), William Blore (BURN GORMAN) - (C) Mammoth Screen - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

Behind the scenes: Maeve Dermody, Aidan Turner, Charles Dance, Burn Gorman and Sam Neill filming And Then There Were None

Topping the cast is Aidan Turner, now burdened with the status of Sex God thanks to that shirtless picture of him in Poldark reprinted 40,000 times by the newspapers. He plays the brooding Irishman Lombard here.

Charles Dance is the retired judge Wargrave, Miranda Richardson the snooty, god-fearing spinster Miss Brent, and Sam Neill plays General MacArthur. The strange atmosphere is helped by the odd servants, played by Noah Taylor and Anna Maxwell Martin.

The rest of the shifty-looking characters are performed by Toby Stephens, Maeve Dermody, Douglas Booth and Burn Gorman.

All of which makes it a rich confection of a show – and perfect for Christmas.

See also: agathachristie.com

• My recent feature in the Sunday Mirror: The celebrity kidnap that inspired Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

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