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Saturday, 13 March 2010

Five Days Series 2, BBC1

In 2007 the ending of the BBC’s new crime drama Five Days really disappointed. The story centered around the mysterious disappearance of a woman who bought a bunch of flowers from a roadside flower seller In a scene that wouldn’t have appeared out of place in an episode of Jonathan Creek one minute she was there and the next she vanished. The first few episodes were gripping and full of atmosphere but by the fifth day the story had taken so many twists and turns that I’d lost track of who was who and what they were up to. The ending of the first series seemed to limp to an unsatisfactory end which didn’t do justice to its beginnings. When the first series finished I didn’t give it much thought feeling slightly let down by its conclusion. Also why is the series called Five Days? So many unanswered questions!

Like a dog who hasn’t learnt that if he continues to bark he will receive a small yet painful electric shock I eagerly tuned in to the second series which aired on five consecutive nights on BBC1 completely willing to give writer Gwyneth Hughes a second chance to wow me. One might think that giving a crime drama a nightly run was a risky but the series did well in the ratings and just as I say every year I shan’t be sucked into the going’s on within the Big Brother house I sat night after night, slightly confused but really into Five Days.

The story started so promisingly with all the central characters stuck on a train as a mysterious figure in burker threw themselves onto the tracks. It was a strange mix of action and slow pace which allowed the audience to get to know the many characters whose stories would interweave clumsily throughout the series.

Let’s jump to the point (and apologies for any spoilers you might read) the figure in the burker was first thought to be a woman then a man (who eerily resembled Michael Jackson lying lifelessly on a slab) and then the man who he was thought to be turned up in a Scarborough. Now if you found reading that difficult imagine trying to keep up on TV. The main problem with this edition of Five Days though as it turned out were all the unnecessary storylines that we assumed were there because they were going to lead us to an eventual conclusion of the mystery of why the man in the burker jumped to his death. In reality though they seemed to be there just to patch out the story and make sure it could last a five night run.

I was halfway through the fifth and final episode (or fifth day) before it dawned on me that the majority of the stories that I’d tried to follow for four straight evenings weren’t actually going to come to anything. Like Bernad Hill as Gerard who seemed really creepy (for lack of a better term) as he wormed his way into the life of policewoman Laurie Franklin and her elderly dementia suffering mother played marvelously by the wonderful Anne Reid. That went nowhere and he wasn’t anything to do with any of the mystery. Or the Muslim family who saw pictures of their brother/son in the mountains of Afghanistan with a machine gun. Sure he was in prison but was that entire story really necessary as it took up a loft of time but didn’t take us any closer to discovering who jumped or why. When the mystery was explained it was done in a few sentences that left me feeling both baffled and cheated in equal measure.

I know I’m Mr. Grumpy about the series but I think it’s a case of not learning from my first Five Days experience and secondly because it started so well and it seemed so full of promise. The good things about it were the marvelous performance from Anne Reid and Surrane Jones and the surprising untimely demise of David Morrissey’s character but they were sadly outweighed by the things that by the end of the series just didn’t add up. For example why would the police investigation shut down after the death of Morrissey’s character? Why would a Muslim man wear a burker? And finally why had it taken five episodes to introduce to the eventual culprit. The saddest thing about this series though was if the ending had been more thought out and satisfying this could’ve been one of the best dramas the BBC has shown this year, instead it fizzled to nothing and left me irritated.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

How will the New Who fair?

Daleks, Weeping Angels, Silurians and Sea Devils; just some of the Doctor Who villains we already knew were returning to our screens for the forth coming series. Hence, why this specially produced trailer shown between ‘Total Wipe-out’ and ‘Let’s Dance for Sport Relief’ by BBC One seemed utterly pointless and may have done Matt Smith’s first series as the travelling time hero more harm than good. Acting as a dangling carrot that show cased nothing new; accept some forced and uncomfortable lines by Smith and Karen Gillian, as his new assistant Amy. Beginning with the pair laid on a hill staring at the stars, Amy remarks that one is flickering, the Doctor replies ‘Yeah, sorry I thought I fixed that.’ (Cringe!) Amy asks ‘Who are you?’ Doctor: ‘I’m the Doctor.’ Amy: ‘Doctor Who?’ (Cringe!) Suddenly the ground opens, to reveal the newly designed time vortex swallowing the Doctor and his companion backwards in the effect style of Doctor Evil’s time machine in Austin Powers 2 (Cringe!) Swirling around the vortex are all the villains we already know about; Daleks and Weeping Angels, with the Doctor wrestling them to protect Amy. The vortex closes and the couple return to their initial positions, as the Doctor asks where Amy would like to go first-they are flung apart again as a Sea devil’s face flies forward
We get that this trailer is in the same vein of the Tennant and Eccleston ‘So you wanna come with me?’ from years gone by. But from our new show runner and our favourite writer Steven Moffat we had higher hopes. 2009 and 2010 have been big years for ‘Who’ fans, we saw David Tennant as our favourite Doctor of all time proclaiming ‘I don’t want to go’ before bursting into a ball of flames. Emerging from these flames was Matt Smith who in the last seconds of ‘The End of Time’ and his first as the 11th Doctor showed promise. To accompany this was the astounding trailer on BBC Three after ‘Doctor Who confidential’ which was so action packed and insightful that in comparison it makes this latest effort look all the more embarrassing, which can only be described as style over substance. Perhaps when we see it in 3D before Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ its intentions will become clear and it’ll pack more punch.
The Doctor is certainly a hard role to cast, whoever the chap is they have to look old and young at the same time-not an easy task to display the wisdom of a 900 year old Lord of Time all the while fulfilling the part of a dashing hero. Sadly for Matt Smith, he has it all to lose and everything to gain. Opinions of him will swing either way after his first episode is screened. By Easter time we’ll either be pondering ‘David who?’ or Smith’s going to tank considerably. Of course we wish him all the best and want to see him succeed and all of those cynics proclaiming that they won’t watch prove that they were never true ‘Doctor Who’ fans after all-but decided to hop on the Tennant band wagon.

We were never a fan of the self indulgent Russell T. Davies, so when we heard that the writer of our favourite ‘Who’ episodes such as ‘The Girl in the Fireplace,’ ‘Blink’ and ‘Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead’, Steven Moffat was taking over we leaped with joy. However, we hope from this evidence that he hasn’t bottled it and lost his edge because the 2010 trailer has a feeling of the 2003 remake of ‘Peter Pan.’ So let’s just hope that this is but a bump in the road and Moffat really has stayed true to his dark roots. As the man himself put it the day after Matt Smith was announced ‘The 11th Doctor is here and the universe has never been safer.’ However, if the same goes for the franchise is yet to be determined.

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