What could I say about Inspector George Gently? I could bang on about the scenery, I could bang on about the extensive use of Newcastle and area locations, I could even say something about the portrayal of the Geordie Nation in this film, But I won't. Suffice to say that as efforts go, this was among the best in recent times. If you watch this to play spot the landmark, you'll be too busy being drawn into the story to notice.
Peter Flannery has written a story that does so much more than show us 1966, he has entwined the personal story of John Bacchus and George Gently with the heinous crimes committed so much , that you know you need to look at your own relations with your children and how your choices will inevitably impact your children. That the evil Agnes is deranged and a threat too serious to be allowed free in normal society is beyond doubt. That she was driven to this by her own Mother and Grandfather is equally clear. That such people exist we cannot deny, Mr.Fritzel is only the latest example of the aberration that can strike in otherwise normal families. As the case sheds it's secrets, you realize just how much we want to believe we could turn in our own if they were indeed depraved and sick like Agnes, yet her own Father, Grandmother and Uncle feared for her and feared her so much, that they were prepared to lie for her.
It would have been easy to believe her Father was just a jealous man pushed over the edge, it would have been equally easy to tar the Uncle as a paedophile and a mental deviant. And yet the truth was so much darker. Agnes was beyond knowing or caring that what she did was wrong, or that she was hurting people, for her it was just a game, far more innocent than any played by Grandad and her Mam. The fact the justice system was able in 1966, despite a bit of Gene Hunt interrogation, or because of it, get to the bottom the case and avoid any further deaths, demonstrates that the truth is justice. Without it, Agnes would not have been put away and the whole sick tragedy might have gone on longer. Crime investigation is not a game you play where the prosecutors and the defence seek to outwit each other, they are officers of the court charged to insure we are safe from danger and that the innocent are not wrongly detained for the sake of a quick closing of a file.
I do feel compelled to praise the writer for some interesting symbolism. The Image of the heartless and efficient Dalek is conjured by the audio clip off the telly and the fact Agnes herself refers to them in showing herself to be a mad child who sees no harm in what she does. Daleks take their actions as the just retribution on lesser beings in the same way Agnes feels the children should also know what it's like to be invisible and unloved. Poor Bacchus can't help but wonder if his own daughter is next as victim or worse as cold and unloved child who will be scarred for life by his inability to interact with her and through the actions of authority figures who cannot and will not see past legal proceedings that she is a child who needs the attention of both her parents. When a child is treated as a prize or a cause to be fought over rather than a child, you will always on a lesser scale show that child only that he or she is only as important as the points you score. Which of course is the other layer of symbolism that ask us to choose between doing what's best for society or what's best for your career or your solve rate.
I would be remiss if I didn't single out the young actress who played Agnes for high praise. From the first time you meet her, you have a feeling she's not all there, but you can't put your finger on it. As the story progresses, Natalie Garner slowly unveils a deeply twisted dark mind through the kind of acting you might expect from a much older actresses. When she first is shocked at getting wrong for just playing with some children, you know she's lying, but the little bell going off in your head earlier is now screaming she's done it, is still tempered by the remote possibility it wasn't her. Is it hard to play crazy? Ask David Tenant who took barking mad to a whole new level earlier in the year in Hamlet. Ask a young actress to do this, and you know you have a future great talent on your hands. See Gently Evil again on the iPlayer before part 2 airs. PS, for those of you within listening distance of BBC Radio Newcastle, have a nosey at our Paddy MacDee's pic and that of George Gently.
By comparison, Merlin was a Vogon bad level 7 abomination. The FX let me down and the story was even too silly for my wife who still defended the camp nature of Merlin as late as last week end. Can a programme get any worse? Clearly Merlin has. Nothing about the story was convincing plausible or remotely entertaining. At one point before we turned off entirely about 15 or 20 minutes in, my wife joined me in the kitchen to help me clean pots..... she hates washing dirty pots with a passion. I know some of you enjoy this so called popcorn for the mind, but we won't be subjecting ourselves to it again. And for the record, yet again the poorly cast and ill conceived Gwen was almost as invisible as a minister at question time the day after he's been accused of paying for rent boys.
Speaking of rubbish, if the best buzz X factor can produce is an overly tangoed alleged prostitute named Chloe Mafia, you know the franchise has gone to the dogs. Somebody please put it out of it's misery before some no talent inflicts another eminently forgettable single on us at Christmas time. More on the Christmas number one in later posts, we should be prepared to fight back and I fully expect at least a half dozen plots to emerge on Face Book. My personal favourites would be Ernie the Milkman or Long haired Lover from Liverpool.
Thank God for Qi XL on Saturdays or there might be nothing worth watching till Strictly returns in a few weeks. Sue Perkins was a hoot and should be on more often. Highlights included an entire exchange on the subject of creepy handshakes, the entire panel brushing tribbles to prove you cannot comb a hairy ball and a most bizarre conversation about bleeding noses. Bill Bailey and company did not disappoint but I must admit to an irrational fear that the BBC might make some excuse or another to pre empt or ignore the far superior XLs in favour of some allegedly important athletic event we must all see. Qi Xl is far and away better than the Friday version, and watching both, is for me a waste of my time. Why don't they just expand the programme to XL and be done with it.
Well at least Monday night beckons with the return of Master Chef: Professional and the next exciting instalment of Spooks ....The less said about the week end's football the better, but I will say I hope James Perch will be a thing of the past come January.
I will leave you with these wise words from Douglas Adams
"There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened."