What to say if you liked it
The welcome return of Alan Davies’s crusading, but flawed, barrister.
What to say if you didn’t like it
Yet another courtroom drama which artificially manipulates reality to suit its distorted theatrical agenda filled with paper-thin characters cut from rejected Hollywood scripts.
What was good about it?
• Bereft of the ostentation of his more traditionally trained peers, his subtle, almost mumbling, Alan Davie plays Henry Farmer as an authentic protagonist with so many flaws he could quite viably be returned to God by his parents and replaced with a less corrupted model.
• Michael Cochrane as Mr Cazalet, the amoral boss of Traxco, the train company who had worked their drivers so hard one of them, Michael Westlake, had fallen asleep in the cab which led to a crash which killed nine people. He had enough callous snobbery in his vowels to land a job with the Mail On Sunday, and an adoration of profits coupled with a disdain of those killed in the accident to warrant a senior position in the tobacco industry.
• Dean Lennox Kelly as the train driver Michael Westlake. Even when he assured Henry he had revealed everything that happened in the run up to the crash, Westlake always seemed to be holding something back. But, thanks to great acting, it didn’t appear to be anything as contrived as a dramatic device to heighten tension more the insecurity of a troubled individual.
• Cherie Lunghi as the conniving Cleo Steyn who stage-managed a confrontation between Westlake and the mother of one of the train crash victims in her and Henry’s chambers. But she was expertly played to be sympathetic when Henry inadvertently coerced her into disclosing to the case judge that she and her eminent
husband were divorcing.
• Henry’s fractious relationship with his father, an esteemed judge who conducted an inquiry into train safety a year before the crash. When they meet, they bicker incessantly, which usually relates to Henry feeling abandoned when his parents split up when he was young. But they do share a grudging affection, and this provides one of the more intriguing plot strands.
• The humorous diversions are amiable and distract attention periodically from the grave train crash case. Instances included the rabbit gnawing away at Henry’s courtroom wig and Denzil the vicious dog who tried to bite Henry’s hand off.
What was bad about it?
• The rather predictable plot which pitted nasty, profiteering corporation shifting their blame on to a poor little oppressed working man.
• The way in which Henry’s initial impromptu consultation with Westlake on a bus spanned exactly the time it took to drive from their getting on stop to Henry’s getting off stop.
• During the trial, Westlake was incarcerated in a steel cage; which appeared excessive as he was a disabled train driver charged with manslaughter not a voracious cannibal.
• The rather rushed denouement when Cazalet, confronted with Henry’s new evidence, crumbled into a raging froth of indignation that railways should be subject to stricter regulations than highways and the importance of profit in modern business. This, of course, stripped the jury’s verdict of any tension as they duly found Westlake not guilty of manslaughter.
• The cheap plug in the close-up of a Nokia mobile phone which used Orange.
• Henry seems a little too sanctimonious. Granted, his imminent bankruptcy (caused by a gambling addiction) make him an engaging lead, but his insistence to always be on the side of right enable him to remain pious. It will be interesting to see how fortified his piety remains if he is instructed to represent a real nasty piece of work, who is undeniably guilty of some heinous crime