A Comparison of Two British Police Series
What with British—and now Australian, with some Canadian and a dash of New Zealand—police series being so popular and seemingly endless, original plots are hard to find. Therefore so much depends on the lead sleuths and their closest assistants. It all harkens back to Holmes and Watson, who have re-emerged on television as the Detective Chief Inspector and the Detective Sergeant. Take for example two of the many British series released here by Acorn Media.
George Gently, Series 7 DCI George Gently (Martin Shaw) has changed in two ways. He is much more physical with recalcitrant suspects and he finds he is in the early stages of multiple sclerosis. In one episode, he actually covers up evidence to protect… Well, see for yourself.
Just at the point where his assistant DS John Bacchus, despite his deep rooted prejudices against ethnic groups, women police, and the rich, is going to be promoted to Inspector, he takes up with the wife of a police officer, who is known for treating rape cases with disdain for the victims. At the same time, WPC Rachel Coles (Lisa McGrillis) has to keep up an endless battle with the sexist Bacchus. With all this, the team manages to solve the four crimes of 93-minutes each (with subtitles) that make up “George Gently, Series 7.”
The stories are not particularly original—again, how many new plots can writers come up with in this genre?— but the characterizations and the period ambience (the last days of the 1960s) carry the day.
Vera, Set 5 “Vera” stars Brenda Blethyn as DCI Vera Stanhope, a character not unlike George Gently. She is on in years, has a bit of heart trouble (mentioned in an earlier series), and regrets the loss of her looks. (Blethyn was a sexy Joan of Arc in the BBC “Henry VI, Part 1” in 1983.) The setting is present day Northumberland and she has a lovely regional accent and calls everybody “love” or “pet.”
In this 5th series, she is bothered by the bad jokes and mistakes made by her assistant DS Aiden Healy (Kenny Doughty). As a rule, she is more ably assisted by DC Bethany Whelan (Cush Jumbo) and the older DC Kenny Lockhart (Jon Morrison).
The stories would be comfortable in just about any other police series, but Blethyn gives the character some depth and her problems do not take time from the main plot. Again, it is the main character that maintains interest, while the assistant character is not as interesting as George Gently’s Bacchus.
This set includes four episodes of 93 minutes each, with subtitles.