Tag Archives: Dean Andrews

Marchlands: Plumbing that goes bump in the night

This is essentially a haunted house story for wimps, since every time the tension and suspense builds up to any degree, it’s interrupted by REALLY BLOODY ANNOYING ADVERTS. Sorry to shout, but really, those twatting meerkats. I’d drown them. And, as it happens, that would fit in nicely with the plot of Marchlands. Actually, I’m really enjoying this. It’s got a great cast. Anne Reid is always class. I’ve loved Denis Lawson ever since Local Hero. Even in 1980s fashions, Alex ‘Dr Corday’ Kingston is as beautiful as ever here, as is Shelley Conn (from Mistresses, here playing the heavily pregnant Nisha).Dean Andrews from Life on Mars is very good.

And I really like the idea, of the core ‘character’ of a drama being a house, as lived in by three families over five decades. To make this series, they had to film every scene from each era (1960s, 1980s and present day) before entirely refitting and decorating the same house. Which they do brilliantly. I find it fascinating.

I’ve never lived in a new house, and one thing I like about buying old ones is uncovering the ‘secrets’ of past occupants. So long as your property has never had a forensic makeover, you discover things over the years about the previous occupants. A buried ornament in the garden, patches of ancient layers of wallpaper, kids’ stickers or pencilled heights drawn inside the cupboard doors. And if you’re in a town or village, you might bump people who once lived there.

Hopefully they won’t remember it because it was the site of a tragedy, however. One which seems to have led to the plumbing being frankly not up to Corgi standards. Marchlands, it seems, was once the place where an eight year old girl, Alice, lived, who drowned in tragic, and slightly mysterious circumstances and whose restless ghost haunts the house (and plumbing) for future inhabitants.

I guess the true story will slowly unravel. I fear Denis Lawson may not come out of it well, but I may be wrong.

We’re now three episodes in, but you can catch up, thanks to ITV Player allowing access to programmes for longer than the stingy week that BBC iPlayer offers them (but with ITV Player, you get all the adverts, so it’s swings and roundabouts). My only caveat is that if, like me, you don’t believe in ghosts, you might raise an eyebrow or two, since the story hangs on the troubled spirit of the dead child, Alice, trying to communicate her story through future generations. But even so, this is a good, well written and acted drama.

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Ashes to Ashes (3.8): A love letter to Gene Hunt

Two questions. One, how can a mere blog do justice to a proper thrilling TV event like the conclusion of Ashes to Ashes? And, two, did you guess correctly what was going on? Actually – make that three: Did you make it through without crying? Me, neither.

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in approaching this episode with some trepidation – we Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes fans have invested heavily (time, theories and emotions) over the past five years and if the writers fell at the final hurdle it wouldn’t just be disappointing now – it would devalue everything that went before (not to mention taking all the fun out of those DVD boxed sets).

I don’t know about you, but I take my hat off to Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah. They crammed the episode chock full of the things we love about LoM and A2A: the great, incomparable Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister in his finest hour yet), a daft TV reference (well done whoever made the papier mache heads of Alex and Gene for that It’s a Knockout run), wonderful Huntisms, spine-tingling tension and some serious chills too. If it wasn’t enough that we’re wrapping up five years of questions (well the most important ones anyway), we get a crime of the week too.

And the truths we’ve been hankering after? Gene tells the truth about Sam in a moment you might otherwise miss – the DCI sent him to get a pint in. It brings a whole new meaning to Last Orders, doesn’t it?

The policeman who’s been haunting Alex? Poor old Gene… a green PC who thought he was Gary Cooper in High Noon and was buried in a shallow grave back in the fifties. But from the moment Gene experiences his own weird TV flashback in Keats’ office, you know your heart is really going to get broken.

Philip Glenister has been the star of the show from Day One (if you don’t believe me, read the reviews of Harvey Keitel trying to wear the Gene Genie’s cowboy boots), but, boy does he blow you away here. The look of trepidation on his face as he drives onto the farm, the terrible, un-Gene-like look on his face as Alex uncovers, first, the bones and then the awful, awful truth. The poignant story-telling in the decrepit farmhouse. Who could blame Gene for forgetting his past, and that this world is a place where coppers go to sort themselves out?

Which answers another question – Ray, Chris, Shaz – they’re all dead coppers working through their issues. But who is Jim Keats? Some sort of demon determined to wrestle some souls into hell it would seem. If there was a line where Gene explained it, we’ll have to wait for the 100-minute version of this episode on the DVD extras I guess. We can only go on the heavy symbolism (Ray, Chris and Shaz being led downstairs for their ‘transfer’) and plentiful hissing noises emanating from Daniel Mays for now. I don’t know which I found more disturbing – Keats driving the Quattro back to London or him stroking Alex in his office. Both had my flesh creeping though.

Neither matches the horror of him leaving the death tapes for Ray, Chris and Shaz though (and let’s not forget the incredible performances of Dean Andrews, Marshall Lancaster and Monserrat Lombard here) or the manic insanity as he tears down the walls of the world. For all that, I love that the team’s love and loyalty is enough to repair the world – and that Alex can restore the Gene Genie to his full powers (and in time to solve that crime of the week).

Funnily enough, for all the revelations, it was the moment that the Dutchmen ‘killed the Quattro’ that really drove home that the end was nigh. Of course, the sight of the Railway Arms – and Nelson – really started the tears falling. And as Gene’s beloved team finally move on, bickering, Alex faces her final test, Gene finally gives Keats that smack in the face and Alex at last kisses that man… well, it’s a good job the tissues were close to hand.

And then, just when you think it’s all over (in every sense), in stumbles some poor sod looking for his iPhone…

So what am I taking with me to bed now? A satisfying explanation for five years of weirdness and the stand-out performance of Philip Glenister – from the vulnerability in the farmhouse to the full-on Armed Bastard. I’m glad that the Gene Genie lives (as it were) to fight many more days – even if we won’t get to see them. Thank you Ashley, Matthew, Philip, Keeley, Dean, Monserrat and John (not forgetting the rest of the cast and crew) – you gave us something wonderful and unique. The Quattro may be dead, but Gene Hunt will live on in our hearts for many years to come.

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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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