Tag Archives: David Tennant

Broadchurch and the Case of the Inexplicable Non-Mystery

Once again I come to the final episode of Broadchurch with my hopes from the beginning of the series somewhat disappointed. The first season had an excellent start, with the usual murder-mystery elements mixed in with an unusual (and heart-rending) focus on the people left behind. But as time drew on, everyone in the world worked out who the murderer was about three episodes before the finale, but the series had been so good up to that point that we all thought, ‘Ah, but that’ll be a red herring, though.’ It wasn’t a red herring. There was no last-minute twist, despite writer Chris Chibnall’s exhortations to ‘Keep watching right until the end’. In the event, what we were avidly awaiting was not some new piece of evidence and a reshifting of everything we thought we knew, but a ten-second trailer for Broadchurch season 2. Nope.

This time around, the series’ writers and producers harped on about the fact that Broadchurch season 2 wouldn’t be a murder mystery. OK, fine. The best thing about Broadchurch is that the acting is impeccable, and David Tennant (DI Alec Hardy) and Olivia Colman (DS Ellie Miller) are basically national treasures, so a chance to sit back and reflect on how a community recovers after a murderer has been taken away would be extremely interesting. Except that’s not what we got. The murderer (Joe Miller, DS Miller’s husband) hasn’t been taken away; he’s decided, for no earthly reason, to recant his confession and subject us to the most unlikely trial the world has ever seen. I very much doubt that what’s happening now reflects in any way what communities really go through after a murder.

What’s more, apparently the programme makers recognised that this wasn’t going to keep viewers watching for eight weeks, so there’s a second storyline involving an unsolved murder from Hardy’s past. It seems as though the programme makers are trying to have it both ways. They’re claiming it’s not a crime drama because the bodies weren’t discovered in the town of Broadchurch in the first episode (the victims disappeared some years ago in a different police jurisdiction), and yet the driving force of the second season has been working out who killed someone and why. I tell you what, for a programme that definitely isn’t a murder mystery, it very much resembles a murder mystery.

And that would be OK, except that, as I’ve said before, I have very strict criteria for how murder mysteries should play out, and Broadchurch isn’t quite meeting them. The central question is: ‘Who killed Pippa Gillespie (12) and her cousin Lisa (19), and where is Lisa’s body?’ The main suspect throughout the original investigation, presided over unsuccessfully by Hardy, was next-door neighbour Lee Ashworth, for apparently no other reason than the fact that he’s a bit creepy. Throughout the course of the season, Hardy – and the viewer – has indeed moved on from the absolute certainty that Ashworth did it, mainly because it turns out that everyone involved in the case was a bit creepy: Ashworth’s wife Claire, the victim’s mother Cate, the victim’s father Ricky, random agrochemical specialist Gary Thorpe…

But the difficulty for the viewer trying to solve the case (which is, after all, the whole point of a murder mystery) is that there haven’t really been any actual clues, other than the afore-mentioned ‘everyone is weird and scary and therefore a suspect’ hints. What’s especially irritating about these hints is that we get them in odd flashbacks of suspects saying or doing something slightly suspicious – like Claire saying to Ashworth, ‘Can we keep lying to the police?’ Thus, we know that Claire is dodgy; so when two episodes later the police say, ‘Do you think maybe Claire’s not being honest with us?’, it’s not a revelation – it’s already old news. Even when it’s not in flashback, the audience gets there miles before the police: the idea that Ashworth might have been sleeping with Lisa, for example, occurred to everyone in about episode 2, yet it took Hardy and Miller until episode 7 to suggest it as a possibility.

In contrast, proper, actual revelations have been distinctly unforthcoming. For example, take this post-episode-one list (from the Daily Mail, apologies) of ‘Questions that we want answering after the return of Broadchurch’, and count how many have actually been answered.

LIST ONE: QUESTIONS ABOUT BROADCHURCH SEASON 2

1. Why is Joe Miller pleading Not Guilty to murdering Danny? We don’t know.

2. What are the ‘secrets’ about his fellow Broadchurch residents that Miller hinted to Reverend Paul Coates he wanted to reveal? We don’t know.

3. Could there be any other paedophiles living in Broadchurch that Miller will now expose? Ooh…! No.

4. As Joe Miller had an illicit relationship with Danny Latimer, had he groomed or molested any other children in the town? Ooh…! No.

5. Can the Reverend Paul Coates really be trusted? Could his ostentatious (if understandable) public snogs with hot hotel owner Becca just be a cover? Ooh…! As far as we know, no.

6. What is Danny’s dad Mark Latimer doing playing secret games of FIFA with Tom – without either his wife or Tom’s mother Ellie knowing? Making a classic Mark Latimer error of judgement that probably comes from a good place. Irrelevant in the overall scheme of things.

7. Episode one ended with the fresh horror for Danny’s parents of seeing his body being dug up at the request of Joe Miller’s lawyers. What will the new autopsy unveil? Ooh…! Nothing.

8. What are the ‘discrepancies’ with the prosecution case that Miller’s legal team has seized on? Ooh…! Spurious lies that make no sense.

9. Will Joe Miller’s confession (the big denouement of series one) be declared inadmissible? Yes. For no discernible reason apart from dramatic tension.

10. Can Olivia Colman suffer any more? Yes. One of the reasons to keep watching, because she is splendid.

11. Do the prosecution actually have enough evidence to make a case? If not and Miller is released, might he even kill again? This would make a mockery of the entire first season, so hopefully no.

12. Regarding the other storyline at the heart of series two (‘Sandbrook’), why was/is DI Hardy so convinced that Lee Ashworth was responsible for the murder of two girls in his previous high-profile case? As noted above, because he’s a bit creepy and weird, so…?

13. If Ashworth didn’t kill Pippa Gillespie, who did? THE BIG QUESTION.

14. Who is sending Claire Ashworth the pressed bluebells and what is their significance? ANOTHER BIG QUESTION.

15. Are the bluebells being sent by Lisa Newberry who was baby-sitting her cousin Pippa on the night she was murdered? If not, where is Lisa? A THIRD BIG QUESTION.

Maybe some of the ‘I don’t know’s from questions 1 to 11 will become ‘Oh I see’s after tonight’s episode, but I’m not hopeful. As for the Sandbrook questions, we assume we’ll get the answers tonight, because up to this point they’ve been distinctly unforthcoming. I’ve been racking my brains to try and bring together the crucial evidence, such as it is, and this is what I’ve come up with.

LIST TWO: SANDBROOK CASE EVIDENCE

1) Lisa’s body was never found. The heavy-handed implication has been that the body was destroyed (agrochemically, of course) by Gary Thorpe, but the more likely possibility, which occurred to us on day one but (again) took Hardy and Miller about five episodes to think of, was that she might still be alive.

2) Lisa was pretty. Which means the motive may have been passion. Aside from the questionable implication that being attractive means you must be sleeping with someone inappropriate, a sexual motive means it could have been Ashworth, who fancied her, or Ricky, who fancied her, or either of the wives, who knew that their husbands fancied her, or Gary Thorpe, who probably fancied her as well.

3) Bluebells. As List One makes clear, bluebells are all over the place. Flashbacks have shown Lisa and Pippa playing in a field of bluebells. Claire has some dried bluebells. Ricky has a picture of bluebells. My sneaking suspicion is that bluebells are involved somehow.

4) The pendant. Much has been made of the fact that Lisa’s necklace (which was found in Ashworth’s car) was stolen from evidence. Again, we found out quite a while before the police did that Claire stole it; but she’s given it back to Hardy and Miller now, so…?

5) Claire and Ricky. Claire and Ricky have kept in contact (recall that they were neighbours at the time of the murder), because his number was in her phone.

6) France. After being accused (and acquitted) of the murder, Ashworth fled to France. As Claire asks, “What’s so great about France?” No one knows.

It’s not a great list, is it? Everything is very vague, and Hardy and Miller have turned up almost no actual evidence. For example, I’m not sure we even know how Pippa Gillespie was killed (feel free to correct me on this)? As things stand, a case could be made for anyone being the murderer.

LIST THREE: SANDBROOK POTENTIAL KILLERS

Claire: Her husband fancied Lisa, so she forcibly removed her and her young cousin from his life. She stole the pendant (found in Ashworth’s car) to hide the fact that her DNA was on it. She kept some dried bluebells as a terrifying souvenir of her crime.

Ricky: He fancied his niece; when she rejected his advances, he killed both her and his own daughter to cover his tracks. He kept a picture of a bluebell field as a terrifying souvenir of his crime.

Claire and Ricky: Both disliked Lisa for reasons just mentioned; they ganged up together to commit the crimes.

Cate: Her husband fancied Lisa, so she forcibly removed her from his life. In a traditional murder mystery, it would be her, because she’s the least suspicious; but it seems a bit much to kill her own daughter at the same time because of her husband’s infidelity.

Gary Thorpe: Killed both Lisa and Pippa out of craziness. Got rid of Lisa’s body at his farming workshop.

Ashworth: Hardy’s instincts were right all along and Ashworth did it, to cover up his affair with Lisa.

No one: Ashworth and Lisa were having an affair, and, one day, as a result of them focusing on each other, Pippa had an accident and died. To cover it up, Lisa ran away to France, and Ashworth followed later.

I think this last option is the one I’m betting on based on the evidence we have so far (i.e. not much). It explains France and the absence of Lisa’s body, although not why Ashworth has come back from France. It also means, again, that the writers can argue that it wasn’t a murder mystery because technically there was no murder. I wouldn’t put that past them.

But that’s not all, of course. The other cliffhanger of season two is whether the jury will find Joe Miller guilty of the murder committed in series one. I don’t really see how this can end satisfactorily. If he’s found guilty, then what was the point of the trial at all from a dramatic perspective? So we watched a nasty lawyer tell lies about some people; everyone (apart from the jury, it seems) knows they’re rubbish, so who cares? But then if he’s found not guilty, we end up with a child murderer wandering the streets, and season 3 will be a third incarnation of the same storyline.

SO MANY UNKNOWNS. But even if they’re not explained, we can at least expect some nice moments from tonight’s finale. I’m particularly hoping for some snarky put-downs directed at one or more of the following: Nasty Defence Lawyer, Nasty Defence Lawyer’s Nasty Sidekick (along the lines of Nice Prosecution Aide’s beatific smile at her followed by the line ‘Abby, you’re… you’re a truly… horrible person’), Olly the Reporter, Claire (who if not a killer is still sinister and self-obsessed) and/or the Australian Lady Who Slept with Mark and Is Now Sleeping with The Vicar. Furthermore, I fully expect to be brimming with tears at least twice, preferably thanks to Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Jodie Whittaker, or some combination thereof.

Come on, Broadchurch. Turn it around and leave me impressed.

Who’s the New Who?

The Interwebs have been a-buzz for the last few weeks over the news that Matt Smith is leaving Doctor Who. ‘Tis certainly a trying time for those who’ve spent the last four years waiting with Amy Pond, curling their hair like River Song and smiling at strangers in the street simply because they’re wearing a bow tie. But I am managing to hold it together because (and I make this confession somewhat hesitantly) Smith has been my least favourite modern Doctor. Like many Whovians, I can firmly state that Number Ten – the dashing, cheeky, passionate David Tennant – is my Doctor; but I am among the comparatively few who would say that Christopher Eccleston, Number Nine, comes a close second. Eccleston’s Doctor felt like a thousand-year-old: determined but playful, browbeaten, lonely, yet still fighting the good fight.

So although Matt Smith’s Number Eleven has been fun, I don’t believe he’s the be-all-and-end-all of the character. Which is why I’m intrigued by the debate over who should be the New Who.

The fans were naturally the first to weigh into the discussion with their own thoughts on who should be cast in the role. A poll by the Radio Times concluded that Colin Morgan (of Merlin fame) should be the Twelfth Doctor, readers of The Guardian chose Chiwetel Ejiofor (recently Louis Lester in Dancing on the Edge), while IGN’s respondents, clearly unable to let go of the past, chose David Tennant. Other suggestions have included Rory Kinnear (Quantum of Solace and Skyfall), Tom Hiddleston (War Horse), Ben Whishaw (Richard II), Idris Elba (The Wire), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), Stephen Mangan and Julian Rhind-Tutt (respectively Guy and Mac from Green Wing), Russell Tovey (Being Human) and, perhaps my favourite out-of-the-box proposal, Rupert Grint (Harry Potter).

Many of these suggestions are, to put it bluntly, uninspired. Benedict Cumberbatch, for example, is doing a fantastic job as Sherlock in a programme produced by many of the same people as Doctor Who, so it’s natural that he would spring to mind, but much as I love him (and I do) I’m not convinced that he’s the right person for the job. But what I like about some of the quirkier suggestions is that they make you reconsider not just who, but what, the Doctor should be.

First, a number of fans have wondered whether John Hurt, who appeared in the series finale credited as ‘The Doctor’ and who was implied to be a past incarnation, will in fact be the Twelfth Doctor. I think that the writers will be sneakier than that, and that John Hurt is actually the Doctor from a parallel universe, or the Doctor before he called himself ‘The Doctor’, or even someone else called ‘The Doctor’ who is not actually our Doctor. But the mere possibility of John Hurt being the next Doctor underlines the fact that the last three – that is, all the Doctors of the modern era – have been under forty-five.

Actually, this isn’t such a break with the original version of the show. An  interesting blog post by The Reinvigorated Programmer reveals that the majority of Doctors were in their thirties or forties when they took the role; Peter Davison, the Fourth Doctor, was only two years older than the youthful Matt Smith when he began, while the First and oldest doctor, William Hartnell, was only 55. An interesting pattern, given that the character is somewhere around a millennium old – surely even a modern Doctor doesn’t have to be a slip of a lad? How about a Doctor who really looks and behaves as if he’s lived through a Time War, the loss of several wives, girlfriends, children and siblings, the sinking of the Titanic, the destruction of Pompeii and myriad other catastrophic events? Assuming that Clara makes it into the next series (and I hope she does), the relationship between her and the Doctor doesn’t need to be one of dashing hero and the young woman swept off her feet. Why not father-daughter, or teacher-apprentice, or just plain partners? Granted, the sexual tension between Numbers Nine, Ten and Eleven and their companions was fun to watch (except, of course, when it was heartbreaking), but the more paternal role of the doctor in some the earlier series didn’t seem to do the shows popularity any harm. In any case, there are only so many ways a man can react to young women falling in love with him without things getting repetitive.

Which brings us to the next general suggestion about the next Doctor: that he, or rather she, should be a woman. Specific actresses who’ve been mooted are Miranda Hart, Billie Piper (of course), Olivia Colman, Sheridan Smith, Sue Perkins and Helen Mirren, who would apparently be more than happy to oblige.

Now I’m all for strong, interesting female leads on TV, and, certainly, having a female Doctor would shake up the traditional Doctor-companion dynamic. Bearing in mind that all of the Doctor’s recent love interests (Rose, Madame de Pompadour, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (or so we hear) and of course River Song) have been female, maybe we could see the first gay Doctor? Wishful thinking, perhaps: although other planets in the known universe seem to produce more variety in their interpersonal relationships – as indicated, for example, by the lovely Vastra and Jenny (also an example of an interspecies relationship), and of course by Captain Jack, the epitome of pansexual – Gallifrey stills appears to operate under a one-man-one-woman system that’s sufficiently safe for the BBC at teatime on a Saturday. But a female Doctor-female companion friendship would also be very different ground to tread: bitch-fest followed by bonding over awful men, anyone?

And yet I’m not sure that casting a female Doctor is the right way to go. For one thing, from an in-universe perspective, it’s not at all clear whether this is even possible. All previous Doctors have been male, just as all of River Song’s incarnations (at least, those shown on screen) were female; indeed, the official BBC website suggests simply that some Time Lords are men and some (AKA ‘Time Ladies’) are women. True, there seems some flexibility (The Guardian points out that the Eleventh Doctor, on feeling his new long hair for the first time, thought he was a girl) but to my mind it’s a stretch, and one that I feel is only being considered to make a point. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Doctor being a man. It works. He isn’t defined by his gender, but by his decisions and his personality (and occasionally the fact he has two hearts). You could make him a woman, but why bother? The feminist cause would be much better furthered by original female characters who are fun, interesting and intelligent in their own right, not ones who are ‘made’ female for the sake of it.

So I am inclined to agree, finally, with YouGov’s poll, which asked not for possible actors but ideal attributes. By far the biggest items of agreement were that the new Doctor should be (a) British and (b) a man. Race and age were less of a concern, and being straight was important to only 15% of people. So, bearing in made that the public wants a home-grown actor in the role, the production team is definitely free to change tack, with an elderly Doctor, a child Doctor, a black Doctor, a gay Doctor… Or, you know, they could go with Rupert Grint – after all, the Doctor has always wanted to be ginger.