Contributed by Rachael Blakey
Summertime isn’t when television shines its brightest. In fact it’s hard to find anything to watch at all. Add to that we’re being bombarded with sports featuring balls of all shapes and sizes and it’s easy to see why some just turn their tellys off till the autumn.
Perhaps The Living and The Dead, a supernatural drama which transports you from reality, to 19th Century Somerset is the answer to our drama needing prayers. The series is the brainchild of Life on Mars writer Ashley Pharoah who hasn’t really had much of a screen credit since ITV’s cosy Sunday night drama Wild At Heart.
The BBC has this new peculiar habit of putting all six episodes on iPlayer before the first episode last week. Quite why they’re experimenting in this way is unclear, but hey.
The first of six episodes starts in a Somerset vicarage in 1984, and I must admit it did leave me a little hesitant. I’m not usually one for period dramas and it can take me quite a while to enjoy them. However, as soon as the lovely Colin Morgan, or Mr Cheekbones as I like to call him, came onto the scene, I found myself easily sucked in.
Mr Morgan is introduced as Nathan Appleby, a pioneering Victorian psychologist who returns home, from London, to help keep the family farm afloat due to the impending death of his mother. He is joined by his wife, Charlotte, (Charlotte Spencer) a photographer who longs for them to start a new life in Somerset when they inherit the family farm.
Things take a turn for the worst, we’ll presume, when Nathan agrees to take on Harriet (Tallulah Rose Haddon), the daughter of the local vicar. They describe Harriet as someone who has always been a bright and lovely child that is until recently, DUM DUM DUMM! Alarm bells should’ve been for Nathan and Charlotte at this point, but alas, they took Harriet on regardless.
This once ‘bright and lovely child’ is now remote and subdued, isolating herself from her family. They blamed it on the fact that she is ‘caught between child hood and woman hood’, which is as described by Nathan, a very exciting but awkward place. Thanks for the reminder! Harriet then proceeds to feed a live duckling to pigs, tries to drown a maid and speaks in the voices of dead people. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember being THAT awkward as a teenager. Oh and she also sees ghosts, girls got it all going on! Still no alarm bells folks?!
After witnessing Harriet casually chilling in the lake outside his house, Nathan invites her to stay the night in his house. At this point he doesn’t know that Harriet is possessed by local bad apple, Abel North, the son of a preacher who didn’t love him and never had him christened. Abel is also said to be the possible murderer of a woman in a workhouse. He also died some years ago. Awkward.
Nathan, being the somewhat oblivious to danger or warning signs Good Samaritan that he is, decides to hang up his farmer boots and help Harriet, much to his wife’s objections. When asked why she decided to take a dip into his lake in the middle of the night, which isn’t actually that common funnily enough, Harriet claims that she doesn’t remember walking one mile from home, barefoot. The only bit of information that she does remember, is ‘the man told me to- the man that comes to me’.
It soon comes to our attention that Charlotte is actually Nathan’s second wife, and he had an infant son, that from the sounds of it, met a tragic end. We are also led to believe that our friend Abel may have known something about his death. I’m sure we’ll find out more about this later on in the series? Fingers crossed.
Nathan believes that Harriet only recites Abel’s voice after hearing a voice recording of him, on a wax cylinder that magically appeared in her bedroom – and the fact that she is ‘frightened by her own sexuality’ – has led her to have a nervous breakdown. Or as Harriet insists, she has never heard the recording and is in fact, possessed and there’s nothing Nathan can do about it. I love a ghost with confidence…
As you may have gathered by now, this opening episode as a whole had your typical supernatural, thriller vibes going on, a rocking chair rocking all on its own, dead crows, scary looking pot dolls and a pagan bonfire. I’m looking forward to the next five episodes and seeing where the show is going to take us. It asks you to suspend belief a little too often, but if you’re someone who can do this easily this will be an easy, intriguing and very spooky watch. If you are impatient like me, you can download all six episodes now on BBC I-player or you could be a team player and watch one episode a week, but where’s the fun in that?
The Living and the Dead Continues Tuesday 9.00pm on BBC One.