Daleks in Downing Street – That should revive the reshuffle. Admit it, there were moments last year when I’d paid good money to see a couple of murderous, overturned litter boxes screaming “Extermination!” While they were chasing down Dominic Cummings in Whitehall.
Doctor Who (BBC1) went better. Four Daleks are stationed outside the black front door of Number 10, where a uniformed Bobby usually stands. They have turned on the evil Prime Minister Harriet Walter, electrocuting her with their ray guns.
Ummah cheered – and perhaps afterwards she felt a little guilty for enjoying the spectacle so much.
However, after such a defeated Christmas, we’re entitled to be a little vengeful.
This entire episode, the Doctor’s only appearance for 12 months and her last for the foreseeable future, was totally satisfying, and not just because it led to that over-the-top blast of payback. Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) is back, full of sassy banter than ever.
“Did you do?” A student doctor (Jodie Whitaker), whom he hasn’t seen in thousands of years.
‘you can talk!’ Cut Captain Jack. Fair enough – the last time they met, the Time Lord was wearing a wrinkled suit and David Tennant’s face.
Barrowman’s presence gave the story a vital allegory. He appeared in a space prison, in the cell next to the Doctor, with a time-freezing device that doubled as a magic bubble for walking through walls. Well, it beats a bun with a file. Two minutes later, he’s flirting with Yaz (Mandip Gill) and also makes passes at Graham (Bradley Walsh) – “Hey, silver fox!” Poor Brad couldn’t seem more shocked if one of the pursuers on his audition show kissed him.
Since Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall took over the show, Doctor Who has more often than not become an honest dose of political correctness – less time travel than rewriting history in the service of women’s rights and racial equality. All commendable, but not very entertaining.
The moral situation is forgotten, as the Prime Minister teams up with an American businessman and Donald Trump look-alike (Chris Noth) to build an army of Daleks using 3D printers. The idea was to use them for crowd control and airport surveillance. Crowds at airports… Now that really sounds like science fiction.
There was a shocking scene, when overgrown teen Ryan (Tosin Cole) was whining about his feelings. But we’ll overlook that, because the big moohoo left the TARDIS in a frown at the end and headed back to Earth, where he learned to ride a bike.
Four Daleks were stationed outside the black front door of Number 10, where Bobby in uniform usually stands…
Christopher Stevens said the nation “cheered” when bots stormed Downing Street, but we are “right to be a little picky”
It was an upsetting departure, when compared to Billie Piper as Rose (trapped in a parallel universe) or Karen Gillan as Amy (stranded in the past). Ryan’s main achievement was the removal of his stabilizers.
Electric billboards, once familiar in railway stations and airports, provided a neat way to travel through time in The Serpent (BBC1), a true crime drama.
Every time the story stepped back or forward a few months, letters and numbers chimed in to tell us where we landed. Mostly, we’re set in Thailand’s capital Bangkok in the mid-’70s, where former Dr. Jenna Coleman stars as Mary Andre Locklear – a charming predator, who befriends naive back-stabbers and lures them to their deaths.
The villa she was sharing with boyfriend Charles Sobhraj (Tahir Rahim) seemed the scene of a perpetual pool party, laden with alcohol and marijuana, loud rock music pulsing obsessively. Everything about the couple was creepy, from the backless Marie-Andre suit to Sobhraj’s Reactolite wire-frame glasses. They looked like walking photovites.
Coleman was especially believable as the disguised and seductive Siren. She never smiled because she attracted her victims.
“You’re really pretty,” she turns her attention to a hippie Dutch girl, Lena (Ellie de Lange). “I just want to help you.” She seemed sad and devastated – and for the innocent girls she was ensnared in, that made her even more trustworthy.
It was short work for Sobhraj to crush some sleeping pills, steal their money and throw the dead bodies into the sea or into a ditch.
Billy Howell plays Hermann, the bumbling, hardworking diplomat at the Dutch Embassy who begins investigating the disappearances with his intelligent German wife, Angela (Ellie Bamber, last seen as Mandy Rice-Davies in The Trial of Christine Keeler).
Tim McInerney has a lot of fun as the alcoholic Belgian consul who’s happy to help Hermann, as long as he can get Mickey out of it: “What can I do for you, my clog-wearing friend?”
And of course they all – Billy, Ellie, Tim and Gina – make accents that would make Hercule Poirot blush.
Jenna Coleman was Marie-Andre Leclerc – a charming predator, who befriends gullible backstabbers and lures them to their deaths.
Part 1 ended with a really vile crime, the kidnapping and murder of a reckless American girl from a wealthy family who was taking a packet of traveler’s checks to a monastery in Nepal…and ended up in a common area in Bangkok instead.
The schedule has already become intertwined and trippy, and it’s only set to get even more confusing when the drama continues tomorrow night.
With its retro costumes and vibrant colours, the production feels like an upscale Euro crime series, without the hassle of subtitles.
Sobraj is a psychopath and Mary Andre is the monster who activates his evil. There is a strong suggestion from the start that his crimes will not be punished. Figuring out how this is possible is going to be a dark and troubling journey.