HomeCelebritiesCHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Gangsters & a satanic cult… welcome to Shetland
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Gangsters & a satanic cult… welcome to Shetland
Twitchers, gangsters, a satanic cult… welcome back to Shetland: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV
Tower Bridge, the Thames, the Gherkin — as Shetland (BBC1) returned without its lead detective, it seemed to have lost its bearings too.
Hardbitten Met copper DI Ruth Calder (Ashley Jensen) was investigating the murder of a London gangland accountant. Meanwhile, on the windswept moors of Britain’s most northerly islands, someone was slaughtering sheep and spraying their carcasses with weird symbols.
Locals suspected a devil-worshipping cult. That was usually a safe bet when DI Jimmy Perez, played by Douglas Henshall, was in charge. But he’s gone now, and those symbols looked to me more like the squiggles the doolally rock star Prince used instead of his name.
Tower Bridge, the Thames, the Gherkin — as Shetland (BBC1) returned without its lead detective, it seemed to have lost its bearings too
Hardbitten Met copper DI Ruth Calder (Ashley Jensen) was investigating the murder of a London gangland accountant
In a cleverly constructed double twist, DI Calder transpired to be a Shetlander — and so was an opportunist thief in high heels and a red dress who made off with a sack of banknotes from the accountant’s safe
If the islands are deluged by purple rain, and the killer drives a little red Corvette, my theory will be proved correct.
In a cleverly constructed double twist, DI Calder transpired to be a Shetlander — and so was an opportunist thief in high heels and a red dress who made off with a sack of banknotes from the accountant’s safe.
Jubilee of the week
The Time Lord from the Tardis is countless thousands of years old, but he (or she) also turns 60 this month. Doctor Who Night (BBC4) launched the celebrations, with David Tennant as our guide — and more than 800 episodes of the show arriving on iPlayer.
Calder pursued her up north, as did a pair of assassins, Lukas and John (Arnas Fedaravicius and Don Gilet), whose double act appeared to be inspired by the Coen Brothers crime movie Fargo.
Lukas was not only a psychopath, liable to threaten children at gunpoint or stuff shopkeepers into freezers, but a keen ornithologist who was hoping to see puffins during his visit.
John didn’t flinch when a local was shot in the back of the head, but he was outraged to see the price of bird-watching guides. ‘£18.99 for a book?’ he yelled. In fairness, that does sound quite steep for a paperback.
Ashley Jensen was busy establishing a double act of her own with Alison O’Donnell as ‘Temporary Detective Inspector’ Tosh McIntosh.
The relationship between Tosh and Perez was never the most interesting part of the story — he was her boss, occasionally her mentor but not her father figure.
More intriguing now, there’s an instant atmosphere of mutual suspicion between Calder and Tosh.
Each woman is testing to see who’s really in charge, with a clash of styles: the easy-going, sympathetic Shetland approach and the Met’s tendency to see a door and kick it down.
Emilia Fox is also planning to stay, after finding herself on the trail of a killer far from her regular beat, in Signora Volpe
Calder is here to stay. How the two detectives learn to trust each other could prove a bigger puzzle than the mystery of the satanic sheep sprayer.
Emilia Fox is also planning to stay, after finding herself on the trail of a killer far from her regular beat, in Signora Volpe (Drama).
She stars as Sylvia Fox, or Volpe in Italian, an MI6 spymistress who goes AWOL to attend her niece’s wedding in Tuscany.
The bridegroom vanishes, a woman’s body is discovered at his house, organised crime is implicated and, before you can say ‘ciao bella ‘, Miss Fox is dodging bullets in a high-speed car chase.
All her secret service tradecraft proves invaluable: throttling gangsters with seatbelts, eavesdropping on lovers in cafes, hiding electronic devices in dead pigeons and, of course, unarmed combat on trains.
The series, which first appeared on the Acorn subscription channel last year but is now free to view, is beautifully shot, with lots of soft focus: this is the best-looking crime drama since Endeavour, and far more enjoyable than Emilia’s other show, Silent Witness.
It can be tricky to tell the men apart, since they all have perfectly trimmed beards and smouldering glares. I don’t suppose many viewers will write to complain, though.
This is Italy, so the landscapes and streets are stunningly picturesque. There’s no shortage of sun-dappled meadows and romantic barefoot strolls. If Merchant Ivory made cosy murder mysteries, this is how they would look.