Tag Archives: Tobias Menzies

Doctor Who (7.8): Under pressure

Doctor Who: Ice WarriorBlimey, the only thing that could have made this week’s episode more timely was a Nasa announcement that it’s found proof of life on Mars.

I didn’t really enjoy the Eighties the first time I lived through them (though the pop music was very good) – and have clear memories of the Cold War (living next to two American and one British air base, focussed the mind on the nuclear issue somewhat) – and I haven’t relished reliving them in a somewhat concentrated form for the past week thanks to Kim Jong-un and the death of ‘that woman’. I did enjoy Mark Gatiss’s Cold War though – a beautifully tense and claustrophobic piece of television.

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Eternal Law: Don’t mess with a man wearing Egyptian cotton

You may remember how cross I was when the BBC decided not to recommission Zen (if you’re not sure, the answer is ‘Very’). I am going to be double and triple that cross if ITV don’t give us (at least) a second series of Eternal Law.

There was a lot going on in the series finale. The case of the week reflected three of Eternal Law’s biggest recurring themes – war, sacrifice and family, but it’s main purpose is still to facilitate the bigger story.

Richard uses the case to pile the pressure on Zak and Tom and we learn a little more of what this fallen angel is capable of.

Speaking of which, I stand corrected on last week’s assumption that Mr Mountjoy was testing his angels in a rather callous way. All, unsurprisingly, is not what it seemed.

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Eternal Law: Funny, poignant and easy on the eye

I am more than a wee bit in love with Eternal Law now. A lot of that love is for Zac, the very middle-class angel happy to mock himself (with regards to the ‘poor fish’ he’s buying at the market: “Line caught on the Tweed by a hirsute man called Malcolm, apparently.”) as well as others, but there is plenty of love for Tom and Mrs Sheringham too. Not to mention the heart and wit and intelligence and spirit that Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah have written into every line of the series.

This week, there is more darkness than before. It’s clear from both Richard and Zac’s comments (not to mention his own actions – tempting Zac with Hannah, giving him this week’s case, his treatment of Zac after the incident with the Cheshires) that Mr Mountjoy may not actually be all that pleasant.

After Tom accidentally wanders onto an army bombing range and saves the life of Laura, a young soldier with a bayonet deep in her thigh, Zac is asked to defend her in a court martial by her handsome psychiatrist Maj John Parker (Mark Umbers). Solving Laura’s case allows us to learn about one of Zac’s previous missions (as a soldier in the First World War) and lets Zac attempt to defuse the situation with Hannah by setting her up with Maj Parker.

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Eternal Law: Angels don’t pick up dog poo…

Every moment of Eternal Law that I watch makes me love it more and more. The moral questions, the subtle revealing of the characters’ depths, the bloody marvellous dialogue given to Zak and brought to life by Sam West – I’m at a loss as to why people tune into watch a show about angels being lawyers and then complain about the lack of realism in the courtroom instead of savouring all of these other wonderful things.

Of course cases don’t go to trial as quickly as they do here, but all TV crime dramas cut to the chase. In a weekly procedural, nobody wants to know about the nine months or more that it takes to get to court. The people who didn’t like that, are going to like the idea that Zak and Tom can suddenly swap to prosecution even less. But, yah boo sucks to ’em. Eternal Law isn’t really about law, it’s about justice. And this week the pursuit of justice has a very expensive price tag.

Zak and Tom are prosecuting Gemma, who fatally stabbed her alleged stalker. Tom has serious qualms about this, which are fuelled by the noisy support that Gemma receives both inside and outside the courtroom, Jude’s influence and learning that Gemma will kill herself if she’s convicted. To make matters worse, Richard is meddling and messing with Tom’s mind. He plants a seed of thought early on that has terrible consequences – exactly his intention I’m sure.

The focus is very much on Tom this week, from his teen-like rebellion against Mrs Sheringham complete with thoughtless, hurtful comments to his misjudgement of the case in hand. I fully expect to see Ukweli Roach on my TV a lot more in future.

It is still Sam West who is the star of this show though. Zak has too many wonderful lines to regurgitate them all here, but for the record, I particularly enjoyed the quip about Tom being ‘brilliant on the day of judgement’, and his response to Mrs Sheringham’s suggestion that they should get a dog: “If it can learn to flush the loo it’s more than welcome, but please be advised that as the actual embodiment of heavenly grace on earth I will not be reduced to picking up poo in a plastic bag.”

My final highlight of this week is Mrs Sheringham stepping in to stop Jude ‘messing with the head of one of her boys’. I love Orla Brady’s combination of compassion and utter steeliness. And I won’t be sad to see the back of shallow, silly Jude…

With only two weeks to go, I can’t tell you how much I’m hoping ITV commission a second series. There is so much more I want to know and see. I want more of the fabulous flying sparks when Zak and Richard clash. I want to know more about Mrs Sheringham. I want to see Sam West show us more of Zak’s heartbreak and joy and conflicted emotions whenever Hannah is in the room.

For now, I will be content to find out if the Armageddon clock can be stopped and which of our angels has started its deadly ticking. Who is closer to falling? Feel free to speculate below! Roll on next week…

Posted by Jo the Hat

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Eternal Law: The angels find their feet

If you’ve stuck with Eternal Law this far, then this is the week in which your faith (or patience or inability to shift off the sofa) is rewarded.

The focus shifts firmly on to Zak and Tom’s case this week, which is nicely obscured and, naturally, much more interesting. Mack Steen (David Bradley – or Argus Filch – if you’re a Harry Potter fan) is a curmudgeonly old sod being turfed (along with all his fellow residents) out of his care home by the uncaring owner Keith Cedric (Adam Kotz). Mack poisons (but doesn’t kill) Cedric and what should be a simple guilty plea to ABH goes awry as Richard sticks his oar in and gets the charge raised to attempted murder.

The enjoyment is in seeing Zak unpick the layers of the story to get to the truth and understand why Mr Mountjoy has sent this case his way. The resolution also feels more in tune with what Eternal Law is about than the first two episodes too. (I’m deliberately not spoiling so you can go and watch this on ITV player when you’re done here.)

I already adore Zak (Sam West is pure class, even – or perhaps especially – in an apron) and he gets some beautiful dialogue from Matthew Graham this week. I liked his response to Mack’s “You want chat? Tickety-boo. Oprah, Jeremy, Trisha. All on right now…” – “I won’t if you don’t mind, I know what hell feels like already.” I giggled at “It’s like having Ned Sherrin to stay” (after Mack heads off to point his barrage-balloon bladder at the porcelain) and if you weren’t tickled by his teasing Tom about his new friend (“Hiya!”) then I don’t know what we’re going to do with you. You have to admire his restraint (“Ow! Bloody ow!”) when punched by Mack in thanks for Zak trying to stop breaching his bail conditions.

Speaking of which, Tom is growing on me too – his concern for the “lonely” internet ladies who really want to chat, his reaction to experiencing Joe’s dementia, his superior and ecstatic dance moves, copying Mack’s tea-drinking method – all make me want to bring him home and feed him biscuits.

The small snippets of angel mythology woven around this week’s episodes make the larger mystery all the more alluring. I was tickled both by the lawn full of four-leaf clovers as a potential portent of doom and at Zak’s expression of exactly how ‘impressive’ angels are between the sheets. Less joyful was learning exactly how Mrs Sheringham lost her wings. As brutal an act as placing Hannah in Zak’s path again, I would say.

All in all, very satisfying. I’m off to cultivate my new crush on Sam West, so see you next week.

Posted by Jo the Hat


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Eternal Law: The Difficult Second Episode

Yes, it’s Difficult Second Episode week. Viewers who have stuck with you past your the first episode will be looking to be entertained enough to stay with you to the end (in a good way, not a “Bloody hell, might as well see where this ends now I’ve wasted three weeks on it” way).

I’m enjoying the quiet quirkiness and warm heart of Eternal Law. Sam West is a joy to watch as Zak, and he’s been gifted some lovely dialogue by Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah. And yet, gentle reader, I worry for Eternal Law.

Casting around t’internet, there are people who think it’s too silly or too dull. I can’t agree with the ‘silly’ people – I’m willing to buy into angels covertly helping humans. That’s no sillier than a dead policeman conjuring up his own personal limbo for other dead coppers…

So, is it dull? That’s not the adjective I’d choose, but I can see why you  might reach for it when both EL’s cases of the week have been so predictable.

It was clear from the beginning that the only villain in this piece was Richard (Tobias Menzies doing his creepy vulpine thing). That’s not to say that there aren’t divorcing parents out there who won’t benefit from a reminder that they should be going to court for what’s best for their child, not to punish their ex. And I enjoyed the judge’s King Solomon moment as he made his final decision – though I don’t suppose Social Services appreciate being used as a stand-in for the whole ‘chop the baby in half’ solution.

I could do with a bit more of the supernatural too. I appreciate that it can’t be all wings and heavenly CGI, and I like the extra pressure on Zak not to be tempted by Hannah (one more angel leaving Heaven and Mr Mountjoy may give up on the human race completely – though why we should get the blame for the angels I’m not quite sure…), but I’m not feeling the threat of armageddon yet.

Until I start caring about anyone other than Zak, there’s no real jeopardy (or long-term interest). I’m not giving up on Eternal Law yet though. I stand by my statement that it shouldn’t be judged too fast or against Those Other Shows. For now Sam West’s luminous performance is enough to bring me back next week – but if Eternal Law wants a longer run than six episodes it will need more than one stellar actor.

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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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