TV COLUMN: Doctor Who, Broadchurch, Election 2017

Doctor Who (BBC1) has re-materialised from its time vortex for what is incredibly its 828th episode, from 35 seasons over the last 54 years.

James Waller-Davies
James Waller-Davies

Who’s longevity cannot be denied and with the perfect plot devices of a time-traveling TARDIS and regenerating Time Lord, it potential for dramatic immortality of almost limitless.

This incarnation is dying, however. Dying a slow death as it descends from sci-fi drama to camp and politically correct space opera. Television series don’t die from audience boredom. Rather they die from production ennui as writers and directors succumb to the urge to do something a little bit different, a little bit nuanced, until they forget what it was audiences liked in the first place.

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Peter Capaldi has never sat comfortably as the Doctor. There’s something about him as an actor that is too much of a grown up. He’s just not believable taking on a Dalek with a sonic screwdriver, whereas his previous alter ego, Malcolm Tucker, from The Thick of It, could destroy a Dalek with a stream of sewer-mouthed vitriol. That’s the Capaldi show we want to see.

New ‘Who girl’, Pearl Mackie as Bill is ‘alright’ and certainly better cast than the miscast Matt Lucas, but they lack the sparkle and pizazz of Jenna Coleman, Karen Gillan, Freema Agyeman or Catherine Tate.

Capaldi has already said this will be his last series and sometime around Christmas he will regenerate into the poisoned chalice of what may well turn out to be the last run in present incarnation. The reboot is in need of a reboot.

Broadchurch (ITV) is over. The third and final series ended with detectives Hardy and Miller catching the serial rapist whilst the rest of the community laid the ghosts of previous series to rest.

Broadchurch is one of those unusual dramas where, despite the obvious qualities of its individual runs, it is greater than the sum of its parts. Across three series even small plot threads can be picked at, pulled taught and then sown back in and characterisation develops a depth not possible in a single hit and run.

Broadchurch has something of Blue Velvet, David Lynch’s 1986 small town noir, about it. Broadchurch, the quintessential English seaside resort, reveals its social cohesion as being held together by nothing more than a scab underneath which is a running sore.

Broadchurch is one of the best examples in modern British television of genre being a dramatic vehicle rather than the destination. It takes exceptional writing to break free of the ‘genre cage’ and release deeper themes, whilst still maintaining integrity and coherency of the drama. Even Line of Duty, great as it is, does not manage this.

“You’re joking! Not another one!” Yes, it’s general election time again and Brenda from Bristol’s incredulous outburst when greeted with the news has immediately become the media meme for the campaign.

Elections used to come around just every four or five years, but we are now a generation of voters developing repetitive strain injuries from putting X’s in boxes every other five minutes or so.

But there’s no denying that a good general election does not make for entertaining telly. Given the ubiquity of media and social media, the glare on wannabe MPs is so constant they might as well have a GCHQ sleeper cell in the back pockets.

Gordon Brown’s ‘bigoted old women’ should be a warning to every candidate at every moment of every day between now and June 8th. I’ve no doubt than in six weeks’ time, I’ll be writing on the ‘5 gaffs that blew the election’ as they go viral across all our screens, small and very small.

If you’re bored with the politics, just play along with ‘General Election Bingo’. Simply cross off any of the following election favourites: a giant chicken, the misguided prop, the food item… Yes, the 2015 election that brought you the yellow chicken, the Ed Stone and the bacon sandwich is back for a second series. Stay tuned.