TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: FUGITIVE OF THE JUDOON (2020)

DOCTOR WHO: FUGITIVE OF THE JUDOON (UK, 2020) ****
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: BBC Studios; Release Date: 26 January 2020; Running Time: 50m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Nida Manzoor; Writer: Vinay Patel, Chris Chibnall; Producer: Nikki Wilson, Alex Mercer; Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens; Director of Photography: Sam Heasman; Music Composer: Segun Akinola; Film Editor: Rebecca Trotman; Production Designer: Dafydd Shurmer; Supervising Art Director: Rebecca Brown; Casting: Andy Pryor; Costumes: Ray Holman; Make-up: Claire Pritchard-Jones; Sound: Deian Llyr Humphreys; Special Effects: REAL SFX; Visual Effects Producer: Pete Levy (DNEG).
      Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brian), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Jo Martin (Ruth Clayton), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Neil Stuke (Lee Clayton), Ritu Arya (Gat), Paul Kasey (Judoon Captain Pol-Kon-Don), Michael Begley (All Ears Allan), Judith Street (Marcia), Katie Luckins (Tourist), Nick Briggs (Voice of Judoon ), Simon Carew (Judoon), Richard Highgate (Judoon), Richard Price (Judoon), Matthew Rohman (Judoon)
      Synopsis: Ko Sho Blo! Trigger-happy space police the Judoon are targeting 21st-century Gloucester. The Doctor, Yaz, Ryan and Graham race back to Earth in order to prevent them doing too much damage to the cathedral city. But who are they looking for, and what did they do to incur the wrath of the Judoon?
      Comment: Well, last week I said I felt a strong story may be just around the corner. It’s difficult to fully assess The Fugitive of the Judoon in isolation because it is really a set-up episode which should hopefully pay off over the remainder of the series. As such it achieves its objective splendidly by creating some genuinely surprising plot twists. The episode, co-written by Vinay Patel and Chris Chibnall, started shakily with the Judoon arrival in modern-day Gloucester initially failing to grab interest. However, once the true reason for their arrival is revealed the episode shifts up a couple of gears and moves into one revelation after another to set up a hugely promising conundrum for the Doctor to solve. The return of Captain Jack Harkness was intriguing and his involvement in the story is still to be fully explained. Barrowman clicks back into character and Jack delivers a message of warning to the Doctor’s companions before vanishing again. The character of Ruth is the most intriguing and raises even bigger questions around the direction Chibnall is taking us with this series. The tension builds through the episode as the Doctor discovers the true nature of the fugitive. Whittaker delivers her strongest performance to date and finally gets some moments of dramatic conflict to work with. There are now many unanswered questions and it will be a real test of Chibnall’s skills as a writer to resolve them all satisfactorily. For now, we can be glad we finally have an episode worthy of the brand name and whilst I am hedging my bets on the outcome, I have much more optimism, albeit cautious, than at any time under Chibnall’s stewardship.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: NIKOLA TESLA’S NIGHT OF TERROR (2020)

DOCTOR WHO: NIKOLA TESLA’S NIGHT OF TERROR (UK, 2020) ***
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: BBC Studios; Release Date: 19 January 2020; Running Time: 51m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Nida Manzoor; Writer: Nina Metivier; Producer: Nikki Wilson, Alex Mercer; Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens; Director of Photography: Sam Heasman; Music Composer: Segun Akinola; Film Editor: Tim Hodges, Rebecca Trotman; Supervising Art Director: Rebecca Brown; Casting: Andy Pryor; Costumes: Ray Holman; Make-up: Amy Riley, James Spinks; Sound: Harry Barnes; Special Effects: REAL SFX; Visual Effects Producer: Pete Levy (DNEG).
      Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brian), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Goran Višnjić (Nikola Tesla), Robert Glenister (Thomas Edison), Anjli Mohindra (Queen Skithra), Haley McGee (Dorothy Skerrit), Paul Kasey (Harold Green), Robin Gulver (Bill Tallow), Erick Hayden (Mr Sorenson), Russell Bentley (Mr Brady), Brian Caspe (Mr Martin), Shaun Mason (Foreman).
      Synopsis: 1903. On the edge of Niagara Falls, something is wrong at Nikola Tesla’s generator plant. Who or what is sabotaging the maverick inventor’s work? Has he really received a message from Mars? And where does his great rival Thomas Edison fit into these events? The Doctor, Yaz, Ryan and Graham must join forces with one of history’s great minds to save both him and planet Earth.
      Comment: An improvement on Orphan 55, but problems still remain with Chris Chibnall’s vision for the series. The positives include a more coherent story, excellent visuals and convincing production design. The story itself is rather generic, despite the interesting setting in turn of the century (19th to 20th) New York City. Chibnall continues his fascination with lesser remembered historical figures, who are given a platform to raise awareness of their important contribution. This time its Tesla and his innovative use of electrical current. The invading monsters here resemble the Racnoss from The Runaway Bride – substituting scorpion-like beings for spiders – but repeating the Queen of the Hive theme – even down to similarities in make-up design and the way Mohindra’s interpretation closely matches that of Sarah Parish. The story again needs more room to breathe and develop its theme of the competition between Edison and Tesla. There is again too little room for the three companions to contribute to the story effectively and the production team need to see the errors of their way in over-crowding the TARDIS. Whitaker is also partially sidelined here in favour of building up the historical elements in the story and the script gives her little scope to add depth to her performance. The need to cram as many elements into a 50-minute story as possible leaves the thing too crowded to fully satisfy, but there are signs that a strong story may be just around the corner. For me, two-parters are the way forward. Spyfall, despite its flaws, demonstrated this. Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror is a standard Who story told at breakneck speed in a series that is finding it increasingly difficult to demonstrate the story-telling strengths that have kept it popular for nearly sixty years.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: ORPHAN 55 (2020)

Image result for DOCTOR WHO ORPHAN 55DOCTOR WHO: ORPHAN 55 (UK, 2020) **
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: BBC Studios; Release Date: 12 January 2020; Running Time: 46m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Lee Haven Jones; Writer: Ed Hime; Producer: Alex Mercer, Nikki Wilson; Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens; Director of Photography: Ed Moore; Music Composer: Segun Akinola; Film Editor: Tom Chapman; Supervising Art Director: Joseph Wynne; Casting: Andy Pryor; Costumes: Ray Holman; Make-up: Claire Pritchard-Jones; Sound: Harry Barnes; Special Effects: REAL SFX; Visual Effects Producer: Pete Levy (DNEG).
      Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brian), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Laura Fraser (Kane), Gia Ré (Bella), James Buckley (Nevi), Julia Foster (Vilma), Amy Booth-Steel (Hyph3n), Will Austin (Vorm), Col Farrell (Benni), Lewin Lloyd (Sylas), Spencer Wilding (Creature).
      Synopsis: Having decided that everyone could do with a holiday, the Doctor takes Graham, Yasmin and Ryan to a luxury resort for a spot of rest and relaxation. However, they discover the place where they are having a break is hiding a number of deadly secrets. What are the ferocious monsters that are attacking Tranquillity Spa?
      Comment: An overly frenetic episode that tries to hammer home its environmental message about the threats humans create to the future of their own existence. It does so in a very ham-fisted way and with little finesse or time for reflection. The single-episode format for the series is not working in the hands of the current production team. The episode runs at breakneck speed and the intended irony of its core revelation falls flat. Hime’s writing is poor with cliched dramatic moments coming across as derivative of much that has gone before, attempting to recall Aliens and Planet of the Apes without either the style or resonance of those vastly superior offerings. The music score, which the director seems to feel needs to be underscoring the action 100% of the time, becomes overbearing and regularly drowns out the dialogue. The intention is obviously to create mood and tension, but the result is merely annoying and cloying. Whittaker tries her best to inject the required tension whilst still delivering an overly busy performance, but she shows signs of a potentially more restrained and effective portrayal that hopefully will emerge as the series progresses. The Dregs are no more than monster-of-the-week snarling creatures that give an opportunity for the cast to run away from them up and down corridors in a cartoon-like manner. I hope this episode is just a blip after the more promising, if flawed, Spyfall. The series desperately needs to up its game very soon by slowing down and allowing stories to breathe, tension to build and characters to have depth. On a positive note, the production values and visual effects are strong.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: SPYFALL (2020)

Image result for doctor who spyfallDOCTOR WHO: SPYFALL (UK, 2020) ***½
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: BBC Studios; Release Date: 1 & 5 January 2020; Running Time: 2 x 60m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Jamie Magnus Stone, Lee Haven Jones; Writer: Chris Chibnall; Producer: Alex Mercer; Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens; Director of Photography: Catherine Goldschmidt, Ed Moore; Music Composer: Segun Akinola; Film Editor: Rebecca Trotman, Tom Chapman; Supervising Art Director: Joseph Wynne; Casting: Andy Pryor; Costumes: Ray Holman; Make-up: Claire Pritchard-Jones; Sound: Harry Barnes; Special Effects: REAL SFX; Visual Effects Producer: Pete Levy (DNEG).
      Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brian), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Sascha Dhawan (‘O’ /The Master), Lenny Henry (Daniel Barton), Stephen Fry (‘C’), Sylvie Briggs (Ada Lovelace), Shobna Gulati (Najia Kahn), Ravin J. Ganatra (Hakim Kahn), Bhavnisha Parmar (Sonya Kahn), Melissa De Vries (Sniper), Sacharissa Claxton (Passenger), Willian Ely (Older Passenger), Brian Law (Operative [US]), Buom Tihngang (Tibo), Asif Khan (Sergeant Ramesh Sunder), Andrew Bone (Mr Collins), Ronan Summers (Rendition Man), Christopher McArthur (Ethan), Darron Meyer (Seesay), Dominique Maher (Browning), Struan Rodger (Voice of Kasaavin), Aurora Marion (Noor Inayat Kahn), Mark Dexter (Charles Babbage), Kenneth Jay (Perkins), Blanche Williams (Barton’s Mother), Andrew Piper (Inventor), Tom Ashbury (Airport Worker).
      Synopsis: Intelligence agents around the world are under attack from alien forces. MI6 turns to the only people who can help: The Doctor and friends. As they travel the globe for answers, attacks come from all sides. Earth’s security rests on the team’s shoulders, but where will this planet-threatening conspiracy lead them.
      Comment: There is much to like in this opening story of series 12 – the second series under Chris Chibnall’s helm and with Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor. It’s fair to say series 11 was a big disappointment in that it promised much and delivered little. It appears Chibnall has listened to some of the criticism and partly addressed the issues here, but as yet not wholly. Spyfall is an entertaining story and much the better for being stretched over two episodes. The story itself lacks a certain logic in the complex nature of its invasion plot and the re-introduction of The Master without an explanation of how this is linked with his/her demise two seasons ago. The story was also very fragmented and at first an obvious riff on the James Bond franchise. Part 2 moved into broader concepts with the re-introduction of the Doctor’s arch-enemy. Don’t go looking for logic into how this hangs together with the development of computers over a period of nearly two-hundred years (from Briggs’ Ada Lovelace to Henry’s modern-day guru) or an invasion from a still unseen alien menace from outside our universe who are somehow in league with the Master. The story fails to gell as a whole even though Cibnall is at pains to leave no holes in the plot. But there is a very intriguing reference to the fate of Gallifrey and the Master’s knowledge about its secrets, which promises much for the series ahead – as long as Chibnall can deliver on this. Whittaker is far more at home as the Doctor here, projecting a more dramatic side to her performance. Dhawan makes for a deliciously evil Master who, whilst veering a little too close to John Simm’s OTT performance, manages to just about stay this side of caricature. One of the problems Chibnall has failed to resolve is the issue of too many companions. Do we really need three of them stumbling over each other to solve the same problems? That said this is a promising opening with great production values and a huge sense of fun.

TV Review – DRACULA (2020)

Image result for dracula bbc 2020DRACULA (UK, 2020) **
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: Hartswood Films / British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Netflix; Release Date: 1-3 January 2020; Running Time: 3 x 90m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Atmos; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Jonny Campbell, Paul McGuigan, Damon Thomas; Writer: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat (based on the novel by Bram Stoker); Producer: Ben Irving, Larry Tanz, Sue Vertue; Executive Producer: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, Ben Irving, Sue Vertue; Director of Photography: Tony Slater Ling; Music Composer: David Arnold, Michael Price; Film Editor: Colin Fair, Tom Hemmings, Paulo Pandolpho; Production Designer: Arwel Jones; Art Director: Harry Trow; Casting: Kate Rhodes James; Costumes: Harriet Ferris; Make-up: Dave Elsey, Lou Elsey; Sound: Doug Sinclair; Special Effects Supervisor: Paul Dunn; Visual Effects Producer: George Tully.
      Cast: Claes Bang (Count Dracula), Dolly Wells (Sister Agatha Van Helsing/Dr. Zoe Van Helsing), John Heffernan (Jonathan Harker), Morfydd Clark (Mina Harker), Joanna Scanlan (Mother Superior), Lujza Richter (Elena), Jonathan Aris (Captain Sokolov), Sacha Dhawan (Dr. Sharma), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Adisa), Catherine Schell (Duchess Valeria), Youssef Kerkour (Olgaren), Clive Russell (Valentin), Natasha Radski (Mother), Lydia West (Lucy Westenra), Matthew Beard (Jack Seward), Mark Gatiss (Frank Renfield), Lyndsey Marshal (Bloxham), Chanel Cresswell (Kathleen), Sarah Niles (Meg), Phil Dunster (Quincey Morris).
      Synopsis: In 1897 Transylvania, the blood-drinking Count draws his plans against Victorian London.
      Comment: Adaptations can go one of two ways. Either a faithful representation of the source material or a completely different take. So, what to make of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s take on Dracula? It seems to me that it tries to be all things to all people and will therefore likely end up disappointing most. Why? Moffat, in particular, for some-time now has been trying to be too smart in his writing, going for showstopping revelation after show-stopping revelation. He brings that thinking to Dracula as the adaptation veers increasingly further away from its source material as it painfully slowly progresses the narrative. The story is divided into three distinct sections across the three episodes. the first deals with Jonathan Harker’s visit to Castle Dracula and the horrific discoveries he makes there. the second with Dracula’s voyage to England and the third with the ultimate showdown in London. Gatiss is an ardent fan of the horror genre and of Hammer films in particular. His influence is seen at its greatest in the atmospheric first episode, which for the most part establishes a truly gothic and horrific setting. The problem is that after this promising opener, the second episode stalls during the interminable and repetitive voyage, with Dracula picking off the crew one by one, before it finally veers off the rails completely in the third episode by moving the action to a modern-day setting. The result is jarring and neither does justice to Stoker nor succeeds as a post-modern interpretation. Gatiss and Moffat’s vision comes across as two writers trying to be overly smart without the needed controlling hand to challenge their increasingly wild ideas.  It’s a shame because there is a lot to commend the production from a technical standpoint and in the charismatic performances of Bang and Wells – if you can accept both in their wise-cracking characterisations. Viewers not familiar with the Dracula legacy both in print and on-screen may find much to enjoy, but those more acquainted with Stoker or Lugosi or Lee will likely see the smugness of the characters as an unnecessary enhancement. For me, I finished the viewing experience having enjoyed aspects, mostly those which steered a closer course to my ideal, but was frustrated by the liberties taken with the material and the looseness and laziness of some of the writing –  the close of episode two with Dracula emerging from the sea after over one hundred years only to find a police task force and helicopter waiting is written for effect without a care for logic. Stronger editing could have condensed this self-indulgent and bloated misfire into something leaner and more efficient. A shorter piece would have made the viewing experience much more rewarding and avoided a lot of the repetitiveness. Four and a half hours of Gatiss and Moffat’s trying to demonstrate how clever they are as writers to me detracted from the core story and whilst their vision for Dracula can be seen as a brave attempt to do something different it strays too far from the novel and legacy to be satisfying.

TV Review – THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (2019)

Image result for the war of the worlds bbcTHE WAR OF THE WORLDS (UK, 2019) **½
      Distributor: ITV Studios Global Entertainment; Production Company: Mammoth Screen / British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Creasun Media American; Release Date: 17, 24 November & 1 December 2019; Running Time: 3 x 60m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Stereo; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Craig Viveiros; Writer: Peter Harness (based on the novel by H.G. Wells; Producer: Betsan Morris Evans; Executive Producer:Jamie Brown, Peter Harness, Minglu Ma, Preethi Mavahalli, Damien Timmer, Craig Viveiros; Director of Photography: James Friend; Music Composer: Russ Davies; Film Editor: Adam Bosman, Josh Mallalieu; Production Designer: Pat Campbell; Casting: Karen Lindsay-Stewart; Costumes: Howard Burden; Make-up: Amy Stewart; Sound: Jonathan Seale; Special Effects Supervisor: Chris Reynolds; Visual Effects Supervisor: Stephen Coren, Sally Goldberg, Ivor Middleton.
      Cast: Eleanor Tomlinson (Amy), Robert Carlyle (Ogilvy), Rafe Spall (George), Jonathan Aris (Priest), Rupert Graves (Frederick), Woody Norman (George Junior), Nicholas Le Prevost (Chamberlain), Susan Wooldridge (Mrs. Elphinstone), Taliyah Blair (Lillian), Reid Anderson (Stall Holder), Philip Gascoyne (Navy Officer), Charles De’Ath (Greaves), Joey Batey (Henderson), Sam Benjamin (Salesman), Freya Allan (Mary), Christopher Hatherall (Naval Lieutenant), Daniel Cerqueira (Stent), Aisling Jarrett-Gavin (Lucy), Bradley Cottrell (Newspaper Boy), Harry Melling (Artilleryman), Kieron Bimpson (Captain), Cokey Falkow (Army Officer), Milo Twomey (Sergeant Major), Michele Donockley (Red Planet Survivor).
      Synopsis: Set in Edwardian England, this new adaptation of H.G. Wells’ seminal tale – the first alien invasion story in literature – follows George (Spall) and his partner Amy (Tomlinson) as they attempt to defy society and start a life together. The War of the Worlds tells their story as they face the escalating terror of an alien invasion, fighting for their lives against an enemy beyond their comprehension.
      Comment: This adaptation of H.G.Wells’ classic novel plays loose with its source material and clumsily attempts to invent its own allegorical agenda with references to British colonialism. Rather than follow the novel’s linear narrative we jump between scenes set during the invasion and three years after into a post-apocalyptic landscape. The latter scenes only serve to slow the narrative and remove any fluidity and excitement that the invasion generates. Split across three hour-long episodes, the story feels overly stretched despite the occasional excitements and moments of tension. Tomlinson is good as the heroine who is conflicted between her bravery and responsibility to her unborn child. Spall is also okay as an everyman out of his depth. Carlyle, however, is wasted in a role that largely consigns him to the periphery of the action. What lets the production down is the writing, which is often stilted and provides a totally unsatisfying conclusion which clumsily attempts to be symbolic. Viveiros struggles to lift the material and settles for long moments of slow-motion action and introspection, which further dilute some of the set pieces. Technical attributes, however, are pretty good for the limited TV budget.

TV Review – BERGERAC: ALL FOR LOVE (1991)

BERGERAC: ALL FOR LOVE (UK, 1991) ***½
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Seven Network; Release Date: 26 December 1991; Running Time: 106m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Terry Marcel; Writer: John Milne; Producer: George Gallaccio; Director of Photography: John Walker; Music Composer: Ray Russell, Kevin Townend; Theme Music: George Fenton; Film Editor: Bernard Ashby; Production Designer: Merle Downie, Stephen Sharratt; Costumes: Jacky Levy; Make-up: Pauline Cox; Sound: Simon Wilson; Stunt Arranger: Rocky Taylor.
      Cast:John Nettles (Jim Bergerac), Terence Alexander (Hungerford), Deborah Grant (Deborah Bergerac), Simon Williams (Rupert Draper), Suzan Crowley (Cressida Draper), Bill Nighy (Barry), Roger Sloman (Inspector Deffand), John Telfer (Willy Pettit), Al Ashton (DC Ramsden), David Kershaw (Ben Lomas), Jane Downs (Petra Crowe-Smith), Peter Watts (Ronnie), Philip Glenister (Philip), Bruno Madinier (Pascal), Charmaine Parsons (Ellie), Catherine Rabett (Jane), Iain Rattray (Club Waiter), Malcolm Gerard (Dentist), Gordon Salkilld (Barman).
      Synopsis: After receiving a letter from Danielle ending their relationship, Jim Bergerac starts drinking again. To keep him out of trouble, Charlie takes him to Bath, where art dealer Rupert Draper will be buying a painting that Charlie was given as payment for a debt. Once in Bath, Jim falls for the charms of Rupert’s faithless wife, unaware that she is using him to take the rap for a murder, back in Jersey, where a body is found in the burnt-out remains of Rupert’s shop.
      Comment: The last of six feature-length Bergerac specials and the last ever episode of the series was broadcast at Christmas 1991. Series 9 had seen a major shift in the series with Bergerac operating as a private investigator. As a result the series lost much of its charm and the constant switches of locale between Jersey and France did not help. However, for this final feature-length special the noir-ish elements hinted at through the preceding season finally gelled into one of the series’s strongest episoides. Nettles gives his best performance in the title role, with Bergerac having drifted back in to alcoholism and being made the patsy for an insurance con.  Crowley makes a strong impression as the scheming femme fatale. Nighy is also on hand as a hired assassin who also falls under Crowley’s spell. The climax may feel a little contrived, but the episode delivers a compelling story and points to where the show could have gone had it not been cancelled.

TV Review – BERGERAC: THERE FOR THE PICKING (1990)

Image result for bergerac "there for the picking"BERGERAC: THERE FOR THE PICKING (UK, 1990) **
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Seven Network; Release Date: 26 December 1990; Running Time: 99m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Gordon Flemyng; Writer: Desmond Lowden; Producer: George Gallaccio; Director of Photography: David Whitson; Music Composer: Ray Russell, Kevin Townend; Theme Music: George Fenton; Film Editor: Bernard Ashby, Paul Garrick; Production Designer: Bob Cove; Costumes: Barrie Sedwell; Make-up: Ann Ailes-Stevenson; Sound: Simon Wilson; Stunt Arranger: Clive Curtis.
      Cast: John Nettles (Jim Bergerac), Terence Alexander (Hungerford), Sean Arnold (Crozier), John Telfer (Willy Pettit), David Kershaw (Ben Lomas), Thérèse Liotard (Danielle), Michael Mellinger (Albert Leufroid), Warren Saire (Roderick), Melanie Thaw (Sarah), Kenneth Cranham (Gascoigne), Simon Chandler (Sumner), Lawrence Davidson (Police Inspecteur), Leslie Clack (Cafe Owner), Altay Lawrence (Chris), Julian Freeman (Air Traffic Controller), David Hargreaves (Hazelton), Paula Topham (Mrs. Hazelton), Rupert Holliday-Evans (Baz), David Keyes (Hippy), Tim Meats (Bank Manager), Adam Morris (Bank Clerk), Graham Fletcher-Cook (Deggsy), Grant Oatley (Jake), Luke Hanson (Killick), Bill Moody (Laborde).
      Synopsis: Jim Bergerac is now at the vineyard and it is grape-picking time. One of the young casual workers is English boy Roderick. However, he is also a computer hacking genius who is able to transfer 90% of the previous day’s takings on the Tokyo stock exchange into his own account. The son of the wealthy Hargreaves, he also targets Charlie and other Jersey residents. In addition to Roderick’s activities Jim is recalled to the island when a consignment of hand grenades is discovered in a cargo of whiskey and a French connection is suspected.
      Comment: The fifth of six feature-length Bergerac specials, was broadcast at Christmas 1990 ahead of the final series of the show (series 9). With Bergerac now out of the police and relocated to the vineyards of France with his French girlfriend the series lost its core hook and charm. The result is this rather listless elongated episode, in which the only redeeming factor is Cranham’s charismatic performance as an arms trader also seeking insider deals on the stock market. The story gets bogged down in its shifting locations between Jersey and France. The separation of Bergerac from his job leaves nettles with little to work with as the lead. The finale and pay-off is weak and the show seemed to be running out of steam. This would be Sean Arnold’s last appearance in the series as Crozier. Melanie Thaw (daugher of John Thaw and Sheila Hancock) has an early role as one of the students working at the vineyard. Veteran TV director Flemyng also helmed the two 1960s Doctor Who feature films.

TV Review – BERGERAC: SECOND TIME AROUND (1989)

Bergerac Second Time AroundBERGERAC: SECOND TIME AROUND (UK, 1989) ***½
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Seven Network; Release Date: 23 December 1989; Running Time: 97m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Peter Ellis; Writer: Ian Kennedy Martin; Producer: George Gallaccio; Director of Photography: John Walker; Music Composer: Ray Russell; Theme Music: George Fenton; Film Editor: Bernard Ashby; Production Designer: Martin Methven; Costumes: Barrie Sedwell; Make-up: Christine Greenwood; Sound: Malcolm Campbell; Stunt Arranger: Gareth Milne.
      Cast: John Nettles (Jim Bergerac), Terence Alexander (Hungerford), Sean Arnold (Crozier), John Telfer (Willy Pettit), David Kershaw (Ben Lomas), David Schofield (David Mason), Jenifer Landor (Elizabeth Dufresne), Donald Sumpter (Harry Tilson), Prentis Hancock (Arthur Medley), Richard Hawley (Michael Fulton), Chris Langham (Devas), Andrew Sachs (Moise Davidson), Rupert Frazer (Ted Grob), Sarah Neville (Sally Collins), Derrick Branche (Damian Shore), Elizabeth Bradley (Mrs. Maurice), Lisa Climie (Wendy), Pavel Douglas (De Lavarre), Clare Byam-Shaw (Dr. Bonham).
      Synopsis: David Mason murders Ted Grob by throwing him into a swimming pool, handcuffed to a patio recliner. Jim returns to duty to solve the murder and is asked by an ex-con who believes he was framed to go back over the details of the robbery of a courier company some years earlier which has a connection with the recent death.
      Comment: The fourth of six feature-length Bergerac specials, this one broadcast at Christmas 1989 ahead of series 8. By this time changes were afoot in the series with Nettles’ Bergerac a much more reflective character following his split with long-time girlfriend Susan Young (an absent Louise Jameson); Sean Arnold’s Crozier has been promoted to Superintendent and is operationg from police HQ, without the services of secretary Peggy Masters and Jim’s ex-family are long gone to London. The stories had become tougher and the new approach is no more evident than in this flashy, violent heist thriller with its explosive finale. It’s well-written and typical of Kennedy Martin’s hard-nosed approach to crime series – he did, after all, create The Sweeney. There’s a strong performances from Schofield – in one of his unhinged bad guy roles – and Landor briefly gives Bergerac hope of a new love interest. Producer Gallaccio may have been trying to move the series away from its cosier approach by giving it the edge of the more action-orientated dramas of the period, but in doing so he had taken something of the character of the series away.  As a result, the series lost some of its charms whilst gaining a bigger budget and slick action set-pieces.

TV Review – BERGERAC: RETIREMENT PLAN (1988)

Image result for bergerac retirement planBERGERAC: RETIREMENT PLAN (UK, 1988) ***
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Seven Network; Release Date: 27 December 1988; Running Time: 94m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Edward Bennett; Writer: Edmund Ward; Producer: George Gallaccio; Director of Photography: John Walker; Music Composer: Ray Russell; Theme Music: George Fenton; Film Editor: Bernard Ashby; Production Designer: Phil Roberson; Costumes: Barrie Sedwell; Make-up: Benita Barrell; Sound: Malcolm Campbell; Stunt Arranger: Gareth Milne.
      Cast: John Nettles (Jim Bergerac), Terence Alexander (Hungerford), Louise Jameson (Susan Young), Nicholas Ball (Gravel Beresford), James Laurenson (Raoul Fuegas), Sylvester Morand (Harry Lubeck), Constantine Gregory (Diego Ferrera), Sean Arnold (Crozier), Barrie Houghton (Reno), Danny Webb (Joe Grantham), Micha Bergese (Costello), Sue Lloyd (Eva Southurst), Carmen Du Sautoy (Marie Chantel), Anthony Calf (Simon Lorrilard), Matyelok Gibbs (Alice Thorwell), Bill Stewart (Gully), Paul Angelis (Jack Thorwell), John Telfer (Willy Pettit), David Kershaw (Ben Lomas), Nancy Mansfield (Peggy Masters), Hilary Mason (Miss Amberton), Robert McBain (George Beck), Dave Atkins (Wesley), Jonathan Oliver (Pathologist), Catherine Livesey (Woman House Buyer).
      Synopsis: Jim is summoned from Jersey to spend Christmas on the Costa Del Sol where a pair of small-time British crooks have tried to muscle in on Charlie’s latest business venture. When Jim gets involved he finds himself in the middle of a local gang war whilst back on Jersey a group of French thieves are causing havoc and Susan’s life is put in danger.
      Comment: The third of six feature-length Bergerac specials, this one broadcast at Christmas 1988 ahead of series 7. Series 6 had seen a new producer on board in George Gallaccio, who added a harder edge and more complex plots to the series. His desired style is fully evident in this episode which includes two separate plot threads. However, there is no connection between them, which gives the impression the special has been cobbled together from two distinct stories with characters disappearing without an explanation. The end result is a disjointed affair, despite the excellent supporting cast – notably Houghton’s piano-playing assassin and Du Sautoy’s high class thief – and the use of exotic Spanish locations.