Unforgotten, ITV, Nicola Walker, Sanjeev Bhaskar

MAINSTREET PICTURES FOR ITV UNFORGOTTEN EPISODE 1 Pictured : NICOLA WALKER as DCI Cassie Stuart and SANJEEV BHASKAR as DS Sunil Khan. Photographer: JOHN ROGERS This image is the copyright of ITV and must be credited. The images are for one use only and to be used in relation to UNFORGOTTEN, any further usage could incur a fee.

Nicola Walker as DCI Cassie Stuart and Sanjeev Bhaskar as DS Sunil Khan

A terrific cast comes together for this intriguing cold-case drama

★★★½ ITV, starts Thursday, 8 October, 9pm

UNFORGOTTEN brings together an odd-couple lead pairing of Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar as coppers probing a 39-year-old cold case.

 UNFORGOTTEN EPISODE 1 Pictured : NICOLA WALKER as DCI Cassie Stuart and SANJEEV BHASKAR as DS Sunil Khan. Photographer: JOHN ROGERS This image is the copyright of ITV and must be credited. The images are for one use only and to be used in relation to UNFORGOTTEN, any further usage could incur a fee.

Digging for clues: DCI Cassie Stuart and DS Sunil Khan

Walker is currently on the crest of a career wave following a versatile run of successes in Last Tango in Halifax, Babylon and a menacing turn in Scott & Bailey. She is also excellent as a shadowy presence in the BBC’s forthcoming River, another crime series.

Meanwhile, Bhaskar has a track record as a terrific comedy presence in the likes of The Kumars and Goodness Gracious Me, and has been flexing his dramatic muscles in series such as The Indian Doctor.

With Bernard Hill, Tom Courtenay, Trevor Eve

Do they work as a dramatic pairing here? Walker is a dramatic actress who can pull off the light-hearted moments, whereas Bhaskar seems a light actor who remains light. So,on the basis on having seen only the opening episode, I would say the jury’s still out. [Read more…]

Death Comes to Pemberley, BBC1, Anna Maxwell Martin, Matthew Rhys PREVIEW

Death Comes to Pemberley, BBC, Wickham (MATTHEW GOODE), Darcy (MATTHEW RHYS), Elizabeth Darcy (ANNA MAXWELL-MARTIN), Lydia Wickham (JENNA-LOUISE COLEMAN)
What happened next at Pemberley – Wickham, Darcy, Elizabeth and Lydia. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★ 

BBC1: Boxing Day, 8.15pm

Story: It’s six years since Elizabeth and Darcy married and they now have a young son, Fitzwilliam. On the eve of the magnificent annual ball at Pemberley, a scream calls everyone to the window as a hysterical Lydia – Elizabeth’s wayward youngest sister – tumbles out of a carriage screaming murder…

ALONG WITH Lucan and The Great Train Robbery, this is the best crime drama on this Christmas (before the genre starts firing on all gun cylinders again in January, when the likes of Sherlock and The Bridge will return).

Death Comes to Pemberley, outdoor scene of estate, BBC
Making a splash for the annual ball

This beautiful-looking three-parter is based on crime writer PD James’s inspired homage to that ever-green classic Pride and Prejudice (it’s the book’s 200th anniversary this year), giving the tale of Elizabeth (Anna Maxwell Martin) and Darcy (Matthew Rhys) a suspenseful and murderous twist.

It’s well cast and looks sumptuous. Often lavish costumes and settings cover feeble, fanciful storytelling, but here they perfectly match an intricate mystery that is set, of course, on Darcy’s grand estate. Death Comes to Pemberley‘s story and production lift it above your average chocolate box drama.

Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin

It’s been adapted by Juliette Towhidi (Calendar Girls) and directed with dash by Bafta-winner Daniel

Matthew Rhys stars as Darcy in Death Comes to Pemberley, BBC
Matthew Rhys as Darcy

Percival. Matthew Rhys carries off the stern countenance of the master with ease, and Anna Maxwell Martin is equally at home portraying the caring, inquisitive Elizabeth.

She doesn’t have Jennifer Ehle’s twinkle in the classic 1995 BBC serial, but she certainly plays the role like an impulsive young woman who has grown into her greater responsibilities.

It’s the eve of the annual Lady Anne ball at Pemberley and the huge stately home is abuzz with busy domestic staff, and Darcy and Elizabeth overseeing the preparations. Doctor Who‘s Jenna Coleman upsets the calm atmosphere as Elizabeth’s flighty youngest sister Lydia – who eloped with that blackguard Wickham, as you no doubt recall – spills out of a carriage screaming murder.

Murder and marriage

Georgiana (Eleanor Tomlinson) in Death Comes to Pemberley
Who should Georgiana marry?
Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth in Death Comes to Pemberley
Anna Maxwell Martin

George Wickham was planning to gatecrash Darcy’s do, but is discovered at night in the woods by the body of a dead man, Captain Denny, with blood on his hands. Sir Selwyn Hardcastle – a forbidding Trevor Eve – takes charge of the investigation and is soon convinced of Wickham’s wickedness. But did the scoundrel commit the deed?

There are plenty of twists to come, and the reputation of Pemberley is threatened, but there are also interesting subplots adding to the drama, such as the marriage of Darcy’s sister, Georgiana. Should she marry Colonel Fitzwilliam, through a sense of duty, as Darcy favours, or follow her heart and settle with dynamic young lawyer Alveston?

PD James’s story has a satisfying mix of romance and mystery, and will look gorgeous accompanying the Christmas tree lights by the telly.

Cast: Anna Maxwell Martin Elizabeth Bennet, Matthew Rhys Fitzwilliam Darcy, Matthew Goode George Wickham, Trevor Eve Sir Selwyn Hardcastle, Tom Ward Colonel Fitzwilliam, James Norton Henry Alveston, Eleanor Tomlinson Georgiana Darcy, Jenna Coleman Lydia Wickham, Joanna Scanlan Mrs Reynolds, Rebecca Front Mrs Bennet, James Fleet Mr Bennet, Jennifer Hennessy Mrs Bidwell, Lewis Rainer Will Bidwell, Nichola Burley Louisa Bidwell, Philip Martin Brown Bidwell, Tom Canton Captain Denny, Penelope Keith Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Alexandra Moen Jane Bingley

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Kidnap and Ransom 2, Trevor Eve PREVIEW

Armed with his three mobiles – Dominic King (Trevor Eve). Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★½ 

ITV1, starts Thursday, 23 February, 9pm

Story: Srinagar, Kashmir. Dominic King is negotiating the release of a British Asian family kidnapped while visiting their son, Mahavir. As the handover is completed, the police turn up unexpectedly and a shoot-out ensues. The kidnappers (Anwar and Leela) get away with Mahavir and in their panic they board a tourist bus, taking all the passengers hostage…

Dealing with homicidal hostage takers is not a barrel of laughs, which makes Trevor Eve the ideal actor to play Dominic King.

He doesn’t do light-hearted. There were few giggles in Waking the Dead or Bouquet of Barbed Wire. But when it comes to the furrowed brow and tight lips, Eve is King, so to speak.

Even the trigger-happy police are hard work

His former military man turned hostage negotiator is back in the middle of a mighty mess here. A well-planned operation to free the kidnapped Mehta family goes wrong when the police provoke a shoot-out. The Mehtas’ son, Mahavir, is snatched and the kidnappers, Anwar and Leela, hijack a bus containing British, American and German tourists.

Pregnant woman and a hostage with a secret
Making matters worse is the political indifference in London – the Foreign Secretary wants Dominic to step aside and leave negotiations to the trigger-happy Kashmir police.

Writer Michael Crompton, whose inspiration for this three-partner was the 1993 hijacking of a bus in Rio that spiralled out of control, skilfully weaves more drama into the crisis. So there’s a pregnant woman among the hostages, intrigue about the kidnappers, the dying father ill with cancer and the eventual discovery that someone on-board is more valuable than the increasingly desperate Anwar realises.

Dominic, whose company, Beddoes King, negotiates for hostages on behalf of insurance firms, is a Sherlock Holmes among negotiators, expert in the science of crisis management and always one step ahead of police and gunmen. He virtually hijacks the crisis and buys more time to talk by exposing police incompetence to the world’s media and getting in touch with Amwar via mobile phone.

Helen Baxendale – love interest?
However, he’s not such an expert in managing his personal life. His second marriage, to Sophie, is breaking up, his reluctance to return from the trouble spots and support her career being the main reason.

Business and pleasure? Angela (Helen Baxendale)

Helen Baxendale is back as Angela Beddoes, Dominic’s business partner, and their relationship becomes emotionally charged – which would surely need serious negotiation before it could work as a romance between such a distant, high-powered couple.

Shadowy negotiators
Kidnap and Ransom was created by Patrick Harbinson (24, Law & Order, ER) and is made by Eve’s production company Projector Pictures. While the main jolt of dramatic tension is of course down to the ticking clock – Amwar giving deadlines before he executes hostages, Dominic jumping through hoops – another big plus point is the research that goes into it, Eve and the team having met the shadowy real-life negotiators and getting the scripts checked by them.

This can inject the characters with believable detail. As Eve explains, ‘Most of them are retired, military men, who really can’t live with retirement and they’re trying to go back to the adrenaline. When we’ve met  them they have their three phones, and every now and then they’ll walk away and say, “Sorry, it’s the situation,” which is what they call it, and they take the call. I’ve met five of them and they were all pretty much the same – they just wanted to be back on the front line for the thrills and the tension of it all.’ A bit like Dominic King.

With 20,000 kidnaps reported every year, this series could run and run. That should put a smile on Eve’s face.

Cast: Trevor Eve Dominic King, Helen Baxendale Angela Beddoes, Amara Karan Carrie Heath, Natasha Little Sophie King,  Owen Teale Robert Holland, Kimberley Nixon Florence Holland,   Madhur Mittal Anwar Razdan, Hasina Haque Leela Nishad, Gregg Chillin Mahavir Mehta, Sharon Small Beth Cooper, Letisha Singh Insp. Joythi Kohli, Daniel Fox Karl Fraser, Barbara Marten Janet Taylor, Chris Fairbank Chris Taylor, Sean Gilder Shaun Cooper, Khalil Kathrada Indian Tour Guide, Conrad Kemp Joshua, Kerstin Frances Louise, Dylan Skews Brendan, Lise Slabber Rhiane, David Dennis Mr Hiresh Mehta, Denise Newman Mrs Jasmin Mehta, Chae Pieterse Elina Mehta, Peter Butler Iqbal Razdan   

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Waking the Dead series 9 PREVIEW

Grace, Spence, Boyd, Eve and Sarah. Pic: BBC

Rating ★★★

BBC1,  Harbinger Part 1 Sunday, 13 March, 9pm; Part 2 Monday, 14 March 9pm

This is the final series for Det Supt Peter Boyd and his Cold Case Unit. They were at the cutting edge of the boom in the genre of forensic crime shows when the series launched in 2000, the same year as CSI in the US. Since then, there has been 92 hours of primetime viewing, with the highest viewed episode bagging 9.5 million viewers. 2004 was its finest hour, with Waking the Dead taking an International Emmy for the Multi-storey episode, starring Sean Pertwee.

Harbinger is a typically opaque two-parter, sparked by the discovery of a wrecked car, found in woods, that once belonged to a banker called Donald Rees. He went missing in 2007. Boyd, as ever played by Trevor Eve, takes the case to help a family that seems cursed. Having lost a daughter to cancer and suffered Donald’s disappearance, the mother, Julie, then developed cancer too. Despite DI Jordan being told by Julie’s son that his mother also thinks he has a mystery illness, it takes the team a long time to work out what’s going on.

Ghostly red-herrings
Written by Ed Whitmore, who’s had some major dramas on ITV recently, including The Little House with Francesca Annis and Identity with Keeley Hawes, this episode throws in some near-supernatural moments among the red-herrings, with the family seeing what appear to have been ghostly apparitions.

An old couple, the Geigers, are suspected of blackmailing Rees, and perhaps murdering him. There’s a mysterious nurse and the murder of a WPC to deal with before Boyd and co start to see the pattern in what is a satisfactory opening mystery.

Tara Fitzgerald’s new series, The Body Farm
So will Waking the Dead be missed? Well, die-hard fans  have the spin-off forensic six-part drama The Body Farm to look forward to. Tara Fitzgerald’s character, Eve Lockhart, will return to conduct experimental procedures on dead bodies, the trend for cop shows morphing into Hammer Horrors showing no signs of fading out yet. Trevor Eve will not appear, but will co-produce.

As for the current series, this has probably run its course. It’s a shame Waking the Dead never used the fine actors it has to portray beefier characters. Boyd’s ‘character’ is that he can be rude and shouts a bit. Most of the time he and the team just mouth plot summaries, with Tara Fitzgerald having a really dry time reciting lines about ‘polymeric forms of paint additive’.

Good cast wasted
Harbinger introduces a promising new character, Sarah Cavendish (Eva Birthistle), who is foisted on Boyd. The same rank as Boyd, she was a brilliant counter-intell officer who has issues, but after some early sparks between her and the team, this storyline is forgotten and it’s back to murder and mayhem.

Her character may be developed later, but Waking the Dead is the kind of show where the mystery is always the star. And there’s a lot of plot and mystery to keep our attention – with seven grim murders in Harbinger – but the characters once again rarely grab us.

It’s been lurid and fun at times, but it’s unlikely there will be many wailing mourners for Waking the Dead.

Trevor Eve (Det Supt Peter Boyd), Sue Johnston (Dr Grace Foley), Tara FitzGerald (Eve Lockhart), Wil Johnson (DI Spencer Jordan), Eva Birthistle (Det Supt Sarah Cavendish), Charles Edwards (Donald Rees), Genevieve O’Reilly (Julie Rees), Amelda Brown (Elsa Geiger), Ian Hanmore (Ernst Geiger), Stacey Sampson (WPC Gina Allen)

Kidnap & Ransom PREVIEW

Trevor Eve as Dominic King (all pics: (C) ITV Plc)

Rating ★★★½

ITV1,  Thursday, 13 January, 9pm

If the thought of sitting through a three-hour hostage drama in the company of Waking the Dead‘s Mr Angry, Trevor Eve, makes you long for something less tetchy and serious – say, a war documentary – think again.

The pedigree of this new thriller is a cut above many currently on TV, with Patrick Harbinson, the acclaimed scriptwriter on US hits such as 24, Law and Order and ER, providing a taut, pacy story with strong characters.

Hostage Naomi (Emma Fielding)

But while Eve, seen most recently in the highly-strung Bouquet of Barbed Wire but better known as short-fused detective superintendent Peter Boyd in Waking the Dead, can be heavy-going, in Kidnap & Ransom his performance is subtle, playing a troubled figure in an emotionally-charged story.

Death of a hostage
He is Dominic King, a private hostage negotiator whose new assignment is to bring home businesswoman and mother Naomi Shaffer, the victim of a kidnap in South Africa. The trouble for him is that he seems to be losing his touch in the dangerous world of hostage negotiations, and even as a husband too.

Dominic is haunted by a recent exchange in which the hostage was handed over as a corpse. His wife, Sophie, wants him to stop working at the sharp end of this hazardous business and support her political ambitions, and he is distant from his teenage daughter, Tess.

That is the strength of this three-parter. It takes time to build the characters, who are nuanced and believable. And it’s not just Dominic’s life we see into, it’s also Naomi’s, with her shocked husband and daughter following negotiations fearing that it could all go wrong.

Trevor Eve and Helen Baxendale

Helen Baxendale as King’s boss

And so, with domestic pressures mounting, Dominic has to leave for South Africa to see the transaction through and bring Naomi home.

Watch carefully and it slowly becomes apparent that Dominic is dealing with something bigger than the bunch of desperate amateurs he initially suspects are the movers behind this kidnap. But what makes this drama compelling it that it is a slow burn, with none of the wild plot convolutions these shows often depend on to keep audiences gripped.

Trevor Eve has a good cast round him, with Helen Baxendale as his boss, Angela Beddoes, Emma Fielding as Naomi, Natasha Little as his wife, Sophie, and John Hannah turning up in episode two as Willard, a more sinister figure for Dominic to tackle.

SAS guys
Kidnap & Ransom was developed by Eve’s own production company, Projector, and he is the series’s executive producer. He shrewdly wanted to have a premise that hadn’t been done to death in cop and medical shows, and that’s how they came up with the hostage negotiator idea before Patrick Harbinson was brought in.

Tumisho Masha as Insp Lanning
John Hannah as Willard

‘We wanted to do a story based around the life of an ex-military man who became a hostage negotiator,’ says the actor. ‘It happens a lot – ex SAS guys, when they hit their 50s, go in to private security, the “grey hairs” as they call them. So we knew we wanted to do that and then it was a question of coming up with the story and creating the life around this man.

‘The life of a hostage negotiator is strange places, little hotel rooms, dealing with rather unpleasant people all the time. That’s their thing and they have to have a great sense of calm. That was what attracted me to it. Because having played Boyd in Waking the Dead, who’s an irascible, volatile person, we were looking for something different. Boyd would be a terrible hostage negotiator.’

It’s a successful gear change for Eve. Kidnap & Ransom, filmed in South Africa and London, has a near cinematic quality, a fresh story for UK television and is packed with tension.

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