Monday, 2 February 2009

Whitechapel, ITV1

Jane got a preview disc of this last week; I really enjoyed it, though I think there's a danger it could end up as a case of style over substance.

Whitechapel is a three-part thriller set in the contemporary East End. The set-up is pretty simple; modern career copper DI Joseph Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones) is sent to head up a CID department led on the ground by grizzled veteran Ray Miles (Phil Davis).

It is a token placement for Chandler, who is being fast-tracked towards the upper echelons of the Met. However, his arrival coincides with the grotesque murder of a woman.

The reactions of Miles and Chandler highlight their differing backgrounds; while Chandler finds it hard to deal with the brutality of what happened, Miles has seen it all before and gets stuck into the investigation, using his experience and local knowledge.

However, the case become more complicated when Ripperologist Edward Buchan (Steve Pemberton) points out similarities between the current murder and the first crime of Jack the Ripper.

The sceptical Miles is quick to dismiss the eccentric as a fruitcake, but Chandler - handling his first murder case - becomes convinced that there might be something in Buchan's claim, and attempts to use the potential pattern to predict when the killer might strike again.

There's nothing very original here, but it's done with quite a bit of brio and full-blooded performances from the three leads. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the presence of director SJ Clarkson, the dynamics of the police department are reminiscent of Life on Mars, with the shiny modern detective trying to impose his ways on a reluctant but instinctive and tenacious old sweat.

It's very stylishly shot, highlighting the creepy dual atmosphere of the East End, where Victorian alleys and courtyards still exist in the shadow of the City's gleaming office buildings. Like Life on Mars, it's got a very clear visual identity, and - by the end of the first episode, anyway - still hints uneasily at the presence of the supernatural.

However, the thing I found a bit irksome is the continued need for almost every serial killer to work to a detectable pattern. It was the same at the end of Apparitions - for some reason, it was necessary for the demonic bad guy to assassinate the pope at exactly the same time of day that someone else tried to shoot Pope John Paul in 1981.

It might give the detectives the opportunity to show their mental chops, but it seems like the policier equivalent of the Bond villain explaining his plan for world domination to the captured hero before going off and leaving one of his less-capable minions to deliver the coup de grace.

Anyway, this is engaging stuff that spruces up an old format without throwing out the baby with the bathwater - although I hope it manages to deviate from a dot-to-dot rehash of the 1888 murders.

Press pack
Official site (with interviews, trailers etc)

1 comment:

mark said...


Got your comments - will be watching with interest tonight!