BE it a railway station, a shop, a museum or a hospital, some places would love to be “discovered” by TV. Think of all that free publicity. Somehow, I do not think the Ministry of Defence is going to feel the same way about Vigil (BBC1, Sunday-Monday).
Indeed, I expect this thriller set on a submarine is going to have the British defence establishment cowering behind the sofa every Sunday night, much as Doctor Who once terrified children.
The HMS Vigil of the title, you see, is not just any old submarine. It is a nuclear sub, housed in Scotland, one of those carriers of death and destruction that we civilians are not meant to think too much about lest we lose our tiny minds.
If we did consider such a sub, we might be consoled by imagining it as a place of calm and order. HMS Vigil was more like Taggart under the sea. There had been a murrrderr, or at least a suspicious death, and Detective Chief Inspector Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) was the officer from Civvy Street sent to investigate.
Nursing her own troubles (naturally), Silva struggled to get any answers from the hostile crew. On shore, her colleague Kirsten Longacre (Rose Leslie, Game of Thrones) was running into the same walls of secrecy. What the heck had been going on down there among all those bombs?
With its blistering pace, whiff of conspiracy and nerve-jangling score, Vigil had much in common with Line of Duty. Unsurprising, maybe, since it shares the same producers. Every TV thriller wants to be the new Line of Duty. Tom Edge’s drama stands a decent chance judging from the tight as a drum opening episodes. A new Sunday evening must-see.
Drama of the week was Stephen (STV, Monday), a recreation of the real life breakthrough in the case of the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence. Hugh Quarshie and Sharlene Whyte played Stephen’s parents, Neville and Doreen, with Steve Coogan as the old school detective who volunteered to apply some “common sense coppering” to a case that had gone through three investigations and a public inquiry, and still the culprits had not been brought to justice.
This was common sense writing on the part of Frank Cottrell-Boyce: nothing fancy, just a straightforward telling of the story, and all the more powerful for it. Running through it all was a quiet, necessary fury at the injustice inflicted upon the Lawrence family. An astonishing performance by Coogan, and the best thing he’s done since Philomena.
Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing (BBC2, Sunday) opted for North Uist as the place to open the fourth series of the bait, banter and B&B show. Any crew would be hard pushed to make such a place look shabby, but the Gone Fishing mob were lucky with the weather and innovative with their shots. The result: VisitScotland could not have wished for more.
The boys – definitely boys these two – were after sea trout. The fish played along and wandered into the nets. I’d like to think that they knew Mortimer and Whitehouse, being good sorts, would catch and release them with their by now familiar catchphrase of “And away …” They like a catchphrase. Bob and Paul, that is, not the fish, but who knows?
The banter was 90% sheer daftness with the rest gentle philosophising about living for the day and all that heart-healthy stuff. The pair’s cardiac woes were the inspiration for the series and, credit where it is due, they work wonders on this viewer’s pulse rate. Except when Bob falls, which he does in every episode. This time, picking his way across seaweed wrapped rocks, the outcome was inevitable, as was Paul’s teasing. “Part man, part otter” he observed of his mucker. How we laughed, and more so after Bob inevitably fell, even though it looked a sore yin.
Spirits were soothed with a pie for dinner (Bob: “Filo is the most heart healthy of the pastries.”), followed by a stare out the window and at the fire. Bliss. I’d be quite happy if the whole series was set here, but onwards we go to Cambridgeshire.
Caught a glimpse of The Chase (STV, Monday-Friday). There was one man left standing, a 20-year-old by the name of Eden. The heart sank. It is bad enough when it is only two people taking on the chaser in the final. But a kid, on his own? You could only hope that the ordeal would pass quickly and he would scrape into double figures (hardly a given after a less than dazzling opening round). The Chaser, Darragh Ennis, lovely man, looked as though he had been asked to shoot Bambi’s maw.
Can’t look, I thought, but I did. What do you know, Eden blazed through the questions, with not a trace of nerves, and won a cool £75,000. Who was more pleased, Eden or host Bradley Walsh, it was hard to tell. A real Susan Boyle TV moment. Beat that, Pointless.