TV Review: Cobra – Cyberwar, Series 2

Even with much of the Kent coastline underwater, Series 2 of Cobra – Cyberwar lacks some of the camp silliness of the first season

“I want that port open again before there’s riots in Tesco”

I rather enjoyed the Spooks-ish thrills of Sky drama Cobra, so new of a second series which aired late last year was certainly welcome, if a little bit of a surprise. And as Ben Richards’ writing ends up cleaving a little closer to reality (I mean, to a point, there’s still a tsunami in Kent…), it proves less of a guilty pleasure and more of a sinking-feeling kinda show.

This time around, a WWII shipwreck full of ammunition is the flashpoint for the tumultuous events that occur when a multi-pronged cyber attack puts several key services under severe threat. There’s political strife once again, not least from a resurgent Labour party and the swaggering far right wing of the Tory party. And as if it couldn’t be any more on the nose, some Ukrainians are assassinated and the most likely suspects are Russian… Continue reading “TV Review: Cobra – Cyberwar, Series 2”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 21

Series 21 of Silent Witness is an absolute corker, some of its strongest work in years as it touches on the profoundly personal for the Lyell team

“You interfered in my investigation”

After a couple of good but not great seasons, Series 21 of Silent Witness finally cracks the code for this iteration of the Lyell team to come up with a superb string of episodes, its best in years. For me, this is mainly because the writers identified personal stories that actually resonated, that made sense for the characters for once, instead of just being bolted onto cases of the week.

So Nikki suffers badly from PTSD from the traumatic events of the Series 20 finale in Mexico (a rare occasion where past consequences are actually played out instead of just forgotten) and her shame at seeking therapy plays a crucial part in ‘Duty of Candour’. And Thomas’ role as a father is interestingly interrogated when his daughter comes to stay, navigating the issues that arise from his ex-wife starting a new family with her new fella. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 21”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 19

Series 19 of Silent Witness sees the four-strong team click into gear whilst still not quite hitting earlier heights

“It’s not your job to ask those questions”

Having watched rather a lot of Silent Witness over the past months, Series 19 is the first one where I’ve started to feel, dare I say, perhaps just a little bored. I mean, it was never a show designed to be binged (and we’re talking 25 years’ worth of broadcasts) but even so, there’s a slight but undeniable sense that the writers haven’t really got much new to say or show.

It’s a bit of a shame as this series does see the reconfigured Lyell team finally settling into their new groove (with Liz Carr’s Clarissa finally getting her much-deserved pre-show credit). But between the police unit corruption and padeophiles being attacked, sexual assaults on women and one of the team having to question previous decisions, it feels too familiar ground to be genuinely exciting. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 19”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 3

Guest stars such as Lesley Manville, Adam James and Elizabeth Berrington help elevate an interesting Series 3 of Silent Witness 

“I’d’ve thought you’d learned by now, this is police work not yours”

Series 3 of Silent Witness brings a new recurring police team for us to get to know, a(nother) new handsome man from Sam’s past who is waiting to jump into bed with her, and a new set of cases for Sam to get overly invested in. It gets to beyond the point of mockery when almost every episode has a line like the above quote in it but you sense the writers acknowledging this, as the opportunity to work in a different capacity in London is presented at the end of the season.

Which is probably right as there can’t be many more police officers in Cambridge that Amanda Burton’s Sam Ryan hasn’t royally pissed off. And in a Midsomer Murders/Morse way, surely there’s a limit to the number of crimes that can take place in a single locale. The casting is on point in this series though – Adam James and Mark Umbers appearing as posh students and somone had clearly been watching Mike Leigh films as Lesley Manville, Heather Craney and Elizabeth Berrington all make appearances here.

Top guest appearences

  1. a baby Nicholas Hoult appears briefly as a grieving child
  2. a fresh-faced Adam James as an earnest undergrad who describes someone as “a bit of poof but he didn’t deserve to get beaten up” (1998 doesn’t feel that long ago…)
  3. there’s a performance of striking froideur from Lesley Manville in ‘Fallen Idol’
  4. Jimi Mistry makes up the numbers in the incident room for one scene in one of the cases early on, never to be seen again
  5. and no spoilers but Josette Simon is brilliant as the slick Drug Squad DCI at the heart of ‘Divided Loyalties’

Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand

Simon Annand’s Time To Act is a beautiful book of photos capturing actors in the minutes before they go on stage

Tackling the constraints of the pandemic in its own way, Simon Annand’s fantastic new book of photos Time To Act has launched a virtual exhibition of some of the photographs which has now been extended to until Christmas. It’s an ingenious way of sharing some of the hundreds of images from the book and should surely whet the appetite for either just buying it now or putting on your list for Santa to collect soon.

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TV Review: Doctor Who Series 12

Series 12 of Doctor Who goes hard on what we think we know about the Time Lord and finishes in a blaze of glory

“You can be a pacifist tomorrow. Today you just need to survive”

I don’t think I have ever minded anything that happened in Doctor Who so much that I have declared it cancelled, even at the point where all the magnificent character development by Catherine Tate’s Donna was undone in a plot point of real cruelty. So it is hard to take so-called fans of the show seriously when torrents of complaints are unleashed about the sanctity of a world of science fiction that has long enjoyed challenging and expanding what we know about characters we love. (See my Episode 1 review here.)

So it should come as little surprise that I really rather enjoyed series 12 of Doctor Who. Across the season as a whole, I felt that Jodie Whittaker has settled more into the role, especially as the writers feel more confident in finding her voice. And the balancing act of having three companions in the TARDIS has been more assured now that the business of introducing them is over, allowing the group to splinter off for large chunks of episodes has allowed much more of their characters to shine through, particularly for Mandip Gill’s Yaz (who I am mightily glad survived that final episode – I thought she was doomed after her chat with Graham). Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Series 12”

TV Review: Doctor Foster Series 2

“How does this end Simon?”

In some ways, you can’t blame ’em for trying to replicate the extraordinary success of the first series of Doctor Foster, quality drama that fast became a rare appointment-to-view fixture  with a rare return to weekly instalments.  And given that writer Mike Bartlett is known for his prolific nature, that a second series quickly came into the offing was no great surprise.

But it can be hard to recapture the magic and though all of the key players have returned – most notably warring ex-couple Suranne Jones’ Gemma and Bertie Carvel’s Simon – this set of five episodes has really suffered from a lack of raison d’être. Waves of vicious revenge percolate throughout but with no discernible driving narrative beyond that, it proved far less engaging. Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Foster Series 2”

TV Review: Doctor Foster, BBC1

“It’s just once you have the thought…”

I was late to my appointment with Doctor Foster, only getting round to watching episode 1 on Monday but I loved it so much (how could I not when the opening subtitle is “belt buckle being undone” and Bertie Carvel soon strips to his boxers) that I mainlined the next three so that I could watch the finale with the rest of the world. Written by noted playwright Mike Bartlett (King Charles III, Cock, Love Love Love amongst many others), it’s a fierce revenge drama anchored by a cracking performance from Suranne Jones as the titular medic with the errant husband.

From the moment she discovers a long blonde hair on her husband’s scarf, the scene is set for an almighty showdown but Bartlett’s skill is in stretching that moment tantalisingly over the entire series. Secret after secret tumbles out of the closet as she pulls at the thread but almost as destructive as his conduct (and Carvel is brilliantly craven as the slippery Simon) is the behaviour it unleashes in Gemma, her forthright determination cutting swathes through her employment prospects, her friends and neighbours and even her relationship with their 11-year-old son Tom. Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Foster, BBC1”

Re-viewing Bull, and Di and Viv and Rose

“If it hadn’t been me, it would have been someone else”

In one of those curious co-incidences, Mark Shenton’s blog for The Stage today was about the pleasure of re-viewing shows already seen. For me, it was a two show day and in both cases, it was the third time I had seen them, albeit in different productions. Part of being a theatre addict is the delicious thrill of being able to revisit plays and get something new from them, as well as being reminded of why I enjoyed it so much, and so it proved with Mike Bartlett’s Bull and Amelia Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose.

I first saw Bull in a rehearsed reading at the Finborough back in 2010, when I was still in the process of falling hard for Bartlett’s writing, and was then so enthused by the prospect of seeing a full production that we made a trip to Sheffield to see it be wonderfully staged by Clare Lizzimore in the Studio at the Crucible in 2013. (Travelling from London to Sheffield for a show that isn’t even an hour long is proof positive, as if it were ever needed, of the strength of my addiction!) And it is that same production that has belatedly arrived at the Young Vic this year.

Continue reading “Re-viewing Bull, and Di and Viv and Rose”