Foyle’s War Complete Saga

A-Foyles WarEntire “Foyle’s War” Series Now in One Collection

When the popular “Inspector Morse” series came to an end in 2000, ITV needed a new idea in police drama and came up with an good one: a detective fighting crime during World War II.  It was called “Foyle’s War” and was an instant hit.

 The show is helped immensely by the acting of Michael Kitchen as Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle and by the action being set in wartime Hastings, England. Now Acorn has released “Foyle’s War, the Complete Saga,” which includes all 31 episodes from Set 1 to Set 8.

Foyle wants nothing more than to be a combatant, but his civil work on the home front is too important. He is assigned a cute-as-they-come driver named Samantha Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks), and the two deal with espionage, war profiteering, and old fashioned murder.

Some of the plots are directly linked to the war. The first one is about a rich man’s German wife with  family connections in the homeland who was never interred because her husband was rich. Others are straight crimes, mostly murders that could have fit in any time period; but here many of the characters are members are of the military.

Weeks as Samantha

The Sets 5 and 6 are not quite as successful, as they take place after the war, and Foyle’s rejoining with Samantha is somewhat forced and awkwardly developed at first. However, sets 7 and 8 are concerned with the New Enemy (every decade must have one), and the last episode of all ends with a stunner.

The producers tried to end the series in 2007, but public demand convinced them to continue. We are now assured that the latest episode, filmed in January 2015, is indeed the last. So I am all the more grateful to have a complete collection of this fine series.

As it is with John Nettles in “Midsomer Murders,” Kitchen’s portrayal of Foyle brings out all the character’s decency and determination to solve his cases in a decent way, although he really wants to do his bit in the armed forces. Likewise, Honeysuckle Weeks plays his driver, Samantha Stewart, as a capable and dependable assistant who mixes her driving skills with policing skills.

There are 29 discs, the last of which is an extended interview, with stereo in Sets 1-6 and surround sound in the rest. Only Sets 6-8 are subtitled. There are over 6 hours of bonus material in the form of behind-the-scenes features, interviews and other forms of production notes. A very helpful booklet is provided with notes and plot summaries.

George Gently 7, Vera 5

A Comparison of Two British Police Series

A-Gently 7What 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.

A-Vera 5 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.