Tag Archives: Ashes to Ashes

Eternal Law: We’re loving angels instead…

There’s a certain irony to knowing that the creators of Eternal Law like their work to be judged on how well it achieves its aims rather than what people think it ought to be achieving, when a lot of people won’t be judging EL on its own terms at all this evening, but on whether it’s as good as Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes (bearing in mind there are plenty of LoM fans who wish A2A had never happened). Personally I’m put in mind of the three series forming a sort of Law and Order: Afterlife – we’ve had the policework, here comes the prosecution…

The premise is a simple one: two angel barristers Zak and Tom (Sam West and Ukweli Roach) fall to earth to help humans (as counsel for the defence). They are helped by Mrs Sheringham (Orla Brady) and have a nemesis in the shape of Richard (Tobias Menzies), prosecuting counsel (and fallen angel).

Of course, this isn’t Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes, crucially it doesn’t seem to be Bonekickers either. The mix of straightforward case of the week (Tom and Zak have to defend a man who seems to have shot at his ex-girlfriend  - whose testimony sent him to prison for two years – and her new husband on their wedding day) with an underlying mystery and mythology (Why are the angels here? What’s the big deal about God  - aka Mr Mountjoy – sending a chorister to earth? What sort of frontline is Richard talking about? What exactly does Mr Mountjoy ‘pulling the plug’ entail?) is well judged.

There’s plenty of funny dialogue (the jokes about the stained glass portrait of Terry were a particular highlight) and in Sam West, Eternal Law has a charismatic and highly talented lead (even if he does bear an increasingly uncanny resemblance to Gary Barlow). Zak is the jaded, flawed senior partner, but he’s not a stand-in for Gene Hunt. There’s a subtlety and restraint in the writing (and in Sam West’s performance) that mark him as a man cut from different cloth, albeit from a similar template.

If I have any complaint, it is that it was obvious from the moment we saw Sean dismantling the rifle on the roof after the shooting who the culprit was, but in an episode where we’re discovering the world and its characters, you can get away with a flimsy case of the week. Let’s hope next week’s case is a bit meatier – I have been sufficiently hooked to tune in again. I have high hopes that Eternal Law will be worth a weekly blog post – only time will tell.

If you didn’t watch this episode of Eternal Law, you can do so now on ITV player. I highly recommend doing so.

Posted by Jo the Hat

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Doctor Who (6.9): “You’re not from social services, are you?”

Night Terrors might not rank as the scariest Doctor Who ever (and to be honest I’m not sure I want them to make anything scarier than Blink or The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances) but last week’s trailer was sufficiently creepy to have Hat Jr considering watching this in daylight…

In the end, she not only couldn’t resist watching it tonight, she rated it seven out of ten. And as I write I can only hear happy sounds coming from her bedroom. Phew!

(Spoilers below the line…)

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The Joy of Sets: Life on Mars

Schedulers can be a bit rubbish over the summer months. They seem to think we’re all going to be dining al fresco every night and in no need of decent telly. Clearly they also live somewhere where that’s possible. Malta perhaps.

So while they phone in their schedules of blandness, we sit upon our sofas listening to the rain driving against the window and wondering whether watching Lord of the Rings for the fourth time will kill the magic.

What you need gentle viewer is to get your hands on some good TV that doesn’t seem to merit repeating by the broadcasters. So, let us celebrate the glory that is the DVD boxed set…

First up: Life on Mars – a programme that was immediately rated unmissable here at Hat Towers when it was first aired in 2006.

The first 5 minutes could have come from any modern police procedural if it wasn’t for the fact that our hero DCI Sam Tyler isn’t a rule-breaking, heavy-drinking, chain-smoking maverick. He doesn’t even follow his gut anymore…

It’s a testament to both the writers and to the phenomenal talents of John Simm, that those few minutes in the 21st century provide a perfect miniature portrait of Sam before the shocking sight of him being taken out of shot (and out of this reality) by a speeding car.

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Doctor Who (6.5): Displeasures of the Flesh

I’m not surprised The Rebel Flesh started later than usual tonight. Bless the schedulers for giving parents the chance to pack smaller kids off to bed and avoid the sight of people melting in acid and the grisly Flesh people being formed. I think, perhaps, I should have packed Hat Jr off too. Not that she’s scared by any of that stuff – but it was an episode that required a bit more explanation than usual. And there wasn’t enough ghoulish stuff to keep her six-year-old brain engaged: “Doctor Who is boring without monsters…”

As an episode for older children and grown-ups though, I think it succeeded. It’s dark stuff packed with plenty to really think about (as opposed to the puzzlers that Steven Moffat likes to give us, Matthew Graham has thrown us some issues of morality to chew on). Yes, Matthew Graham – of  Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes (and, uh-hum, Bonekickers…).

Having opened with the chilling sight of two workers coolly leaving their colleague to dissolve (with equal sang-froid: “This is a right pain in the armour.”) in acid and worrying more about the cost of replacing his ‘acid suit’ and filling in the paperwork, Graham quickly makes it clear we’re going to have pay attention, by having them discussing the accident with the man they’ve just left to die. (Or not, obviously, but both of them had Marshall Lancaster’s face.) Continue reading

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Lustbox: Keeley Hawes

Ah, Christmas. Despite my very best attempts to be a Good (Velocity) Girl this year, in return Santa’s Sack contained a broken speedometer and a chest infection. Thanks for that, Father Christmas – you really shouldn’t have! No, really. You shouldn’t have.

However, our old pal FC did at least partly redeem himself on Boxing Day, by providing your intrepid correspondent with the opportunity to drool ov- I mean ardently admire the acting performance of Keeley Hawes in the BBC remake of Upstairs Downstairs.

Upstairs? Downstairs? Anywhere you like, really...

Hawes has pretty much cornered the market in Dramas of all Periods – Our Mutual Friend, Wives and Daughters, Tipping The Velvet, Marple, Ashes to Ashes etc. Plus she’s done Shakespeare (she was a truly moving miscarrying Lady Macbeth in the ShakespeaRe-Told series on the Beeb a while back and was also very good indeed in the not-dreadfully-sympathetic role of Desdemona in ITV’s Othello) and Chaucer (again in the Beeb’s modern adaptations). And she also played probably the most sympathetic female role to date in Spooks (yes I know Ros was fab but she was also terrifying), bringing a touching vulnerability as an agent ultimately done in by having to continually choose Duty over Love. And whilst her struggle with the badly-underwritten role of Alex in Ashes to Ashes was all too plain to see in its first series, the way in which she went on to make the part into something that managed to be both strong and moving was impressive.

Having been at times written off as yet another Kate Winslet/Emma Thompson/Emilia Fox/Emily Mortimer/Keira Knightley etc English Rose, the fact that Hawes is almost continually in high-quality work such as Upstairs Downstairs surely speaks for itself. She’s not adverse to sending herself up either, as her turn in That Mitchell And Webb Look proved. And if that wasn’t enough, she’s even the face of Boots No. 7 make-up and the voice of Lara Croft. Carlsberg don’t make women, but if they did….

Posted by Velocity Girl

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Doctor Who (5.7): Back to reality

I haven’t seen enough zombie films to be sure (the first twenty minutes of Shaun of the Dead three times doesn’t really count as proper experience, anymore than my intention to definitely see 28 Days Later), but I can’t help thinking that Amy’s Choice was the DW team’s sly dip into the genre.

It’s a hard episode to pin down in many ways – overly simplistic or quite clever? A dig at the show’s critics or a love letter to the Doctor? Or perhaps both (twice – as it were).

The premise is that the Doctor, Amy and Rory are sharing a dream – but which experience is reality? Is it Upper Leadworth, five years in the future where Rory is now a doctor and Amy has, in the Doctor’s words, “swallowed a planet”.

Or is it a dead TARDIS drifting towards a cold sun that will freeze them to death before the ship plummets into it?

The Dream Lord commands them to choose a reality (each of which contains something potentially fatal) and die in it, in order to wake up in reality. Of course, if you die in reality, then you, well just die.

So, which is real? Simon Nye has his work cut out. This isn’t eight hours of Ashes to Ashes, it’s 45 minutes of TV for kids (and their parents). Both realities could be real (I wouldn’t put it past Rory to grow a ponytail that awful), but both have anomalies too. Choices, choices… all made harder by the Dream Lord popping up as they switch randomly between realities to taunt them (especially the “flop-haired wuss” of a Doctor:  “If you had any more tawdry quirks, you could open up a tawdry quirk shop.”).

Upper Leadworth is filled with very, very old people. The Doctor smells a rat: “Something doesn’t make sense. Let’s go and poke it with a stick…” The ‘rat’ is, naturally, a bunch of vengeful aliens living inside the OAPs, and turning humans into medium-sized piles of dust. (Incidentally, the second Red Dwarf allusion here.) Rumbled by our time-travellers, the pensioners shuffle menacingly on sticks and Zimmer frames through the village intent on making our heroes look more like the content of a dustbuster…

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Ashes to Ashes (3.7): And now the end is near…

Only in Ashes to Ashes could the funeral of a white-hat character be pretty much the most cheerful moment of the episode.

When the motorised curtains fail to close around Viv’s coffin, Gene’s patience snaps and he stalks to the front of the chapel to tug them shut – and say sorry to his friend. Chris can’t help but see the funny side and stands in his pew giggling like a school boy. It doesn’t endear him to the DCI who is feeling his loss acutely.

Chris’s clumsiness at the wake has a ragged Gene snapping at him – not for the last time this episode. There are fans who weren’t impressed with Gene’s loudly proclaimed loyalty to Viv last week, perhaps they’ll be mollified by the neat little bit of backstory slipped in here – that Viv apologised to Gene when he first arrived in Fenchurch East from Manchester because all Northerners look the same to him; and that he promised to look after our Manc lion.

I’m sure it wasn’t just my heart that sank as Keats collared that roll of film from Alex – there can be no good that comes from that man. Although I’m glad to see that his taunting is water off a duck’s back to Gene now, and that Alex and Gene have the nasty piece of work a bit rattled – “Do you think this is a flirty game between you, me and Gene?” he snaps.

The rest of us are enjoying the flirty game however, as Alex ask Gene what he’s doing tonight. “Going to a revival of The Caretaker at the Royal Court,” he deadpans. When, unsurprisingly, this turns out not to be true, and Alex asks him out for dinner, the nation’s women swooned  and once again wished themselves into her red pointy shoes. Even his declaration ” Got to warn you Bolly, first date, upstairs outside only…” is sweetly endearing. But there is much to get through before we can enjoy some serious chemistry between these two.

There is poor Chris – starting to feel the pressure both from Gene and the literal disintegration of the world. Is that whistle marking the end of the game, perhaps? There is much talk of final chapters, and fighting for our lives, there is the sheer terror of Ray and Shaz as the corridor fills with unexplained noise – all ratcheting up the foreboding and tension a few more notches. Will we find out what’s in the locked red cabinets? Or are they another red herring. (Is all the red stuff a red herring ? It wouldn’t surprise me if the writers were poking a little fun at us and our many theories.)

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Ashes to Ashes (3.6): Braveheart in Paco Rabanne

With the end in sight the Ashes to Ashes team delivered a clenched fist of an episode tonight. Not even top-quality Huntisms (the rioting prisoners are “Scum de la scum – you name it, they raped it, robbed it, killed it.”; his riposte to Alex’s “I hope you’ve got a heart in there.” – “I’ve got two. Mine and some toerag’s I ate earlier.”) could pierce the darkness for more than a moment.

It was a clever move to have Viv taken hostage by the prisoners (as well as essential for the backstory to work) – he’s a sympathetic character, but one we don’t know well enough that we can second guess his reactions. So, we’re worried about him (and that football of his – I can’t help but admire the chutzpah of the writers chucking in random red herrings just to bait us – the bastards) and then there’s the mysterious Paul Thordy (the internet serves up dozens of anagrams for this – many of them faintly mucky-sounding – but none that scream out for attention. I suspect I’ve just had my chain yanked again…).

I had chills and tingles top to toe when Alex opened the cell window on Thordy (the escaped prisoner who apparently precipitated the prison riot) to be confronted by Steven Robinson doing his best Sam Tyler meets the Master impersonation… The mania was very Time Lord, but everything else – that classic Life on Mars intro (“Am I mad, in a coma….”), the intonation, the physical mannerisms, were close enough to conjure the tiniest drop of doubt. After all, we’re told Thordy is a conman and a fantasist – so he can’t be our beloved Sam, surely? When Ray and Chris go to pick him up and declare Alex would go nuts if she knew who he was, they’re alluding to the fact that Thordy was Sam’s last arrest before he died – right?

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Ashes to Ashes (3.5): Giving me the SHIVERS

Raaah… we’re back firing on all four cylinders this week. There was nothing average about last night’s episode – from Alex’s dream about the lovely Sam Tyler, to the improved quality of Gene’s one-liners (“Not going to shoot him Bols? Then let’s go and run him over…”), the look of terror on Ray’s face, Chris body-popping – when they’re good, they’re very, very good.

Life on Mars fans will remember DCI “Bastard” Litton (and Press Gang fans will remember Lee Ross). It’s a delight to watch the tension between Litton and Hunt (Alison Graham describes it beautifully as ‘like watching two polyester-clad stags’ and I just can’t do any better.) as the former turns up on the trail of Manchester comedian Frank Hardwick, accused of stealing two grand from the Police Widows’ Fund.

You can almost smell the testosterone and cheap aftershave coming off the TV screen  – despite Litton’s nasty grey ‘Next for men loafers’.

Gene, of course, quickly discerns that there’s more to this than meets the eye, and determines to ruin Litton’s day by catching Hardwick (the great Roy Hudd) and arresting him on trumped up charges for selling hardcore porn. Alex, disapproving turns up to arrest Hardwick for the theft instead and gets to meet Ben Elton. (Incidentally, I’d love to know exactly which facet of Elton’s personality or career pissed off the writer so much that not only did he get crunched by Gene, but fatally shot by our bad guy – my money’s on We Will Rock You.)

Kudos to the writers too, for demonstrating just how fine the line between Gene’s outrageous one-liners and Litton’s downright offensiveness is. How they have kept Gene from teetering over that line in all this time is frankly miraculous. I also liked the little line about troglodytes they gave to Shaz – “It means big, strong men from the north.”

More worrying is Keats’ offer to transfer Alex to Fenchurch East and Gene’s refusal to talk about what happened to Sam. I still have faith in the Gene Genie (I even have a theory for what’s going on now), but I worry that Alex will be lost by the end of episode eight if she doesn’t take the leap of faith that Gene describes to her.

Actually, I’m worried about them all now – the look of terror on Ray’s face at seeing the edge of the world reminded me of a great novel about near death experiences (Passage by Connie Willis – possibly the most frightening book I’ve ever read – highly recommended). And here’s my theory – they’re all dead already (or as near to dead as makes no difference in the case of Sam and Alex); Gene is the guardian angel of this world; and perhaps he despatched Sam because Sam was threatening the stability of the world. That they’re seeing stars could mean the world is coming apart again. Whatever the truth of this world is, I’m damn sure that is what Gene whispered in the ear of the bad man at the end of the episode.

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Ashes to Ashes (3.3): Ask not for whom the bell tolls

Normally British TV drama and a serious ‘issue’ are a bad mix. Of course, the normal rules can be pretty much suspended for Ashes to Ashes, so that even an episode taking a dark look at the realities of war doesn’t turn into a clunking great disaster.

The episode is, of course, peppered with the ongoing elements of mystery (how weird is it that Shaz is seeing stars too? Is this going to be like the end of series 4 of Doctor Who with the boundaries between worlds breaking down?) but the meat of the story is the hunt for a serial arsonist who’s at work on the eve of the 1983 General Election, and the effect it has on Ray.

Ray often feels the most caricatured of the team, but last night we really discovered his depths. When the team are called out to another arson attack (which in turn brought back memories of the fabulous London’s Burning) Ray dashes into the burning building to rescue a trapped woman. He in turn is rescued by one of the firemen and when offered the kiss of life by Chris manages to stick two fingers up at the suggestion.

The hero fireman, Andy Smith,  is a Falklands War survivor too and Ray is typically respectful of this military history. It goes without saying that he buys Andy and his fireman brother Steve, a pint or two.

Sadly it’s not long before Andy Smith is chief suspect – he has the technical expertise and motive (he’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which feels a bit like calling a migraine a headache to be honest). Ray is deeply unhappy at the turn of events, and when another polling station goes up in flames, is relieved to be able to let Andy out of the cells.

All the while Jim Keats is trying to pull Ray’s strings, not to mention needling Gene and Alex unnecessarily. I know I’m not meant to like him (otherwise they wouldn’t be asking him to smile like Eugene Tooms from the X-Files), but he’s really starting to annoy me now. Nobody likes a gloater.

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