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Tag Archive: BBC


First airing in March 2013, BBC’s police procedural Shetland is part mystery, part action, part suspense drama set in the stark and beautiful Shetland Isles.  It follows detective inspector Jimmy Perez, played by Douglas Henshall, as he and detective sergeant “Tosh” MacIntosh (Alison O’Donnell) and detective constable Sandy Wilson (Steven Robertson) solve unusual crimes in a rural part of the world that has its own set of rules.  Season 5 has begun on the BBC in the UK, and it will be coming to the U.S. delayed by only a few weeks, arriving this April.

The series is loosely based on characters and stories from a set of novels by Ann Cleeves.  We named season four of the series the best British/UK series of 2018 in our year-end wrap-up here at borg.  Take a look at our review of season four here.

BBC released a preview for the series’ next season.  After a gruesome discovery, Perez and his team track the murderer in a complex investigation.  Here’s the trailer for season 5 of Shetland:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders is now available for streaming in the U.S. on Amazon Prime.  Christie is renowned for the cozy mystery novel, but the 2017 three-part BBC series upends the cozy qualities of Christie’s trademark storytelling with the seemingly obligatory modernizing of the classics through a dark and grotesque filter.  If you’re revisiting Christie through the lens of something like Edgar Allan Poe, then it might make sense to you to swap out your familiar vision of the enduring detective hero Hercule Poirot for someone known for his whispering, creepy, and pretentious characters.  Someone like John Malkovich.  If you’re lucky, as was director Alex Gabassi (The Frankenstein Chronicles) and screenwriter Sarah Phelps (EastEnders), you might find Malkovich in one of his finer performances.

Malkovich, in a most reserved and dialed back performance, is perfect as Poirot at the end of his career, disgraced, derided, and reviled, shunned instead of adored in a time when the native Belgian was reviled in England in a wave of anti-immigrant hatred.  He is dark, moody, uncertain, nearly off his game as he begins to receive in his batch of daily love and hate mail a single set of letters from an unknown sender with violent intentions.  Now retired (this is Poirot in 1933) he seeks the aid of Scotland Yard, always helpful in the old days, to find one Inspector Crome, a twenty-something inspector played by 29-year-old Rupert Grint.  Poirot is out and Crome is in, until Crome realizes Poirot’s warnings of a killer taunting Poirot with murder victims and towns following laid out alphabetically were all spot on.  At last Grint makes his move into a mature role, and he does it believably well, holding his own opposite the incomparable mystique of Malkovich.  Joining Grint from the Harry Potter films is Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle) as the vile landlady of a creepy young man whose initials are A.B.C., played by Eamon Farren (Winchester, Twin Peaks), and who the story follows in parallel to Poirot’s pursuit.

Unfortunately the potentially interesting switch-up to the Modern is mired in unnecessary irrelevancies, including attempts at ambience at the expense of furthering the plot.  So prepare for overlong frames of lurid, exaggerated, repulsive, and vulgar wallowing in fluids, leering at every fathomable excess, regurgitations too numerous to count, an odd sex torture scene, tasteless dwelling on spilled urine and worse.  It becomes difficult to look over and around these additions to try to hone in on the point of the whole thing, the part that works: Christie’s clever mystery story.  Not surprisingly none of the excesses were in Christie’s original mystery.  The distractions are unfortunate, because Grint shows promise as a classic British character type he could possibly bank on for future roles, and Malkovich gives a good effort at an updated take on the character, complete with an acceptable mix of accents.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For fans of BBC’s four seasons of Shetland, while a fifth is in the works, a 2010 series available via Amazon and BritBox may fill in as a bit of a prequel to the Scottish crime drama.  Doctor Who fans may quirk a brow at the words The Silence, but the series villains are no relation to the tense crime drama co-starring Shetland’s Douglas Henshall and deaf actress Genevieve Barr.  The Silence is a four-episode series following Barr as 18-year-old Amelia.  Recently fitted with a cochlear implant, she is adjusting to the device during her “gap year,” the year between high school and college.  It’s a series notable for Shetland and Henshall fans because swap out the character’s DCI Jim Edwards for DI Jimmy Perez and you have basically the same British cop before he went off to Scotland.

DCI Edwards is Amelia’s uncle, and Amelia is staying with him, his wife Maggie (Doctor Who and Law & Order: UK’s Dervla Kirwan), and cousins Tom (Young Dracula’s Harry Ferrier), Joel (Doctors’ Tom Kane), and Sophie (Doctor Who’s Rebecca Oldfield), all while Amelia is attending appointments to practice use of her new hearing device.  Amelia hates it, a concept nobody quite grasps.  She sees being deaf as somewhat defining, a thing everyone else should accept, but her badgering parents, played by Gina McKee (MirrorMask, Emerald City) and Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey, Doctor Who), are the ones who don’t hear.  While staying with her cousins Amelia witnesses a murder, and soon DCI Edwards realizes the likely murderers are within his own police department.

Amelia becomes more than a tangent player to the plot when she tells her uncle she can read the lips of two cops on CCTV footage, implicating several people, and putting Amelia’s life and her uncle’s family and danger, and worse for her uncle, subjecting him to threat of imprisonment per police regulations for not disclosing his niece as an eyewitness.  All of this happens in the series’ four hours, in a story probably better suited edited down into a movie-length production.  And yet it’s all fresh and new–a police procedural unlike any you’ve seen before.

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Our borg Best of 2018 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2018 here and the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2018 here.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg TV Series, Best TV BorgHumans (AMC).  No other series touches on the ramifications of technology, specifically the perils of an onslaught of real-world cyborg technology, like AMC’s Humans.  This year three characters stood out, including Gemma Chan’s Mia, the cyborg Synth from past seasons, who sacrificed everything for the liberty of cyborgs in the UK.  Then there was Ruth Bradley’s Karen Voss, a Synth who refused to live segregated from the humans, opting instead for a normal life for the cyborg son she assumed care for.  And Katherine Parkinson’s Laura Hawkins, a human lawyer who fought so hard for the cause of the Synths all year, only to throw away all the good she had done, failing the first real challenge that was presented to her.  This year’s best TV borg is shared by Synths Mia and Karen, as each showed the uphill battle any future outsider must overcome when faced with humans.

Best Sci-fi TV SeriesThe Man in the High Castle (Amazon).  What had been a two-season build-up all came together in the series’ third season with the audacity of killing off key characters, wisely adhering to the framework of the source Philip K. Dick novel.  The use of science fiction to tell an often gut-wrenching array of subplots and unique characters has set up a fourth season with plenty to address.  Exciting, smart, scary, and even fun, it is an unusual science fiction show that isn’t merely trigger-happy sci-fi.  Honorable mention: Humans (AMC), Counterpart (Starz).

Best New TV Series, Best Reboot, Best Ensemble CastMagnum PI (CBS).  If you would have told us a year ago our favorite show this year would be a reboot of Magnum, p.i. starring Suicide Squad’s Jay Hernandez and an actress in the iconic role of John Hillerman’s Higgins, we wouldn’t have believed it.  And yet, even as diehard fans of the original, we had to acknowledge that many elements of the reboot series were even better in the new series.  With the dangerous risk of taking on a beloved property, the production maintained loyalty to the original while making it fresh, scoring Magnum PI high marks on all counts.  Every character was smartly written–suave and confident Magnum, energetic Rick and TC, and a savvy Higgins–every actor was perfectly cast, and each show was another round of nostalgic fun for fans of the original.  Best New TV Series Honorable mention for Best New TV Series: Counterpart (Starz), Lodge 49 (AMC).

Best Series, Best Drama, Best ComedyLodge 49 (AMC).  Lodge 49 told two stories: a darkly serious drama of real people dealing with real-life 2018 adversity, and the other a comedy farce like no other.  Hanging over our heads was the idea that this was going to be a fantasy show, complete with secret codes, hidden rooms, and psychic visions.  If you’re looking for all the elements of great fantasy the hint of it all could be found throughout this series.  And yet it wasn’t fantasy at all.  An oddball Cheers?  A southern Twin Peaks without the Lynchian weirdness?  Star Wyatt Russell’s hero Dud could be dismissed as a typical young man with no vision, or maybe he’s that idealist that everyone needs to strive to be.  Maybe we’ll learn more about that next season.  Honorable mention for Best Drama: Counterpart (Starz).  Honorable mention for Best Comedy: Baskets (FX).
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Review by C.J. Bunce

Netflix has been carrying BBC’s British police procedural series Shetland on Netflix for a few years, but now is a good time to get caught up on the series’ first three seasons as Season 4 aired in February in the UK and is expected to arrive on Netflix soon for U.S. viewers.  Set in the remote Scottish Shetland islands, Shetland stars Douglas Henshall (Sea of Souls, Outlander, The Secret of Crickley Hall, Kull the Conqueror, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles) as Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez, who solves crimes against the dramatic backdrop of the Shetland Islands.  Based on a bestselling detective series by award-winning crime writer Ann Cleeves, the series spotlights the stark landscape of remote Scotland and its small population, which must manage the big crime trouble of the far off Scotland metropolis of Glasgow, with far fewer resources.

The backbone of the series is the personable nature of Henshall’s cop as he wrestles with growing daughter Cassie (Erin Armstrong) who has a mind of her own, and the sparring he has over her in an almost spousal love-hate-bickering relationship with his deceased ex-wife’s second husband Duncan (Mark Bonnar).  Helping him dig into crimes is his right arm, DS Tosh McIntosh (Alison O’Donnell), who is part smart investigator and Glasgow street savvy and also very familiar with local norms, and next level down cop Steven Robertson as DC Sandy Wilson, who is trying to build his career path while routinely held back by his strange family and personal relationships.  Technology, a remote geography, and a culture removed from the rest of the country combines to create plenty of opportunities for resourceful police work by Perez and his team.

In the series’ third season Shetland hits its stride, combining the show’s regular cast of five recurring characters with a guest appearance by genre film star Ciarán Hinds, who drives the mystery for the bulk of the season.  Hinds boasts an impressive career in some of our favorite films, including Excalibur, Mary Reilly, The Sum of All Fears, Road to Perdition, The Phantom of the Opera, Munich, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, The Woman in Black, John Carter, Frozen, Game of Thrones, Justice League, First Man).

Although it’s not yet known when or if Season 4 will make it to Netflix, Season 4 is now available here via Amazon on Britbox.

Here is a brief trailer for Season 4–a Season 5 was in production this summer:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It may have the strangest of any television series’ opening credits, but Hinterland is one of the best mystery/crime dramas around.  All three seasons of the British series can be found on Netflix.  Similar to another solid British crime series, Shetland, the series Hinterland is more introspective, focusing on troubled Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Tom Mathias, a man trying to escape his past.  He does this through a form of distraction, immersing himself in each new murder or missing persons case.  His fatal flaw may very well be his inability to remove himself from each situation, and as each new case is presented, we learn more about DCI Mathias and his investigative staff.  Richard Harrington (Requiem, Bleak House), plays Mathias in a role that would have earned him major accolades on American television (it was nominated and/or won more than 70 awards, including dozens of BAFTA awards).  Harrington’s Mathias has a unique persona with reserved understated mannerisms impeccably performed in the style of a real police officer like you might find in Wales or here in the States–he created a character that is conscientious, intelligent, sympathetic, and yet also flawed.

Subtitled “y gwyll”–Welsh for The Dusk, Hinterland was the BBC’s first production broadcast in both English and Welsh.  That’s right, each scene is filmed twice, once in each language.  Filmed on location in rural Aberystwyth, Wales, the cinematography is striking, cold, and strangely beautiful.  Often rainy, windy, and desolate, the series is not as creepy as it could be.  Sure, you’ll see the crime scenes of any modern television police procedural, but the slow pacing and thoughtful artistry of every camera angle never seems used for ill effect.  The quaint, insular community provides all kinds of personalities, rarely anyone all that likeable, but viewers will get the feeling that what seems like an obscure, faraway locale is a town with all the modern problems of any metropolitan city.  And even urban Englanders will likely learn new and local rules and procedures of law along the way.

DCI Mathias works closely with Detective Inspector (DI) Mared Rhys, played by Mali Harries (Doctor Who, Being Human, Midsomer Murders), a 33-year-old mother who can never seem to connect with her daughter, but she’s masterful at her job.  Mathias and Rhys form what is probably the most realistic working pair on television.  Never getting that close to each other, and often uncomfortable sharing any of their personal lives with each other, they follow the rules of their profession to the letter, only straying where a higher morality is warranted.  Their trust with each other is implicit, and their detective work second to none.  The crimes are often complex, and DCI Mathias’s sleuthing techniques are always on-the-ground, personal, detailed, and his pursuit of truth and justice is always a passionate one.

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That’s the trouble with regeneration… you never quite know what you’re going to get!

Some things are worth stopping the presses for.  This time it’s a review copy of the forthcoming first issue out of the gates for Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor–Issue #0.  If you’re already a fan of the 55-year-old sci-fi television series and especially if you haven’t yet jumped on the Whovian bandwagon, there’s no better way to start than with this unprecedented voyage across time.  It stars all twelve regular series Time Lords plus the War Doctor, Captain Jack Harkness, River Song, and plenty of companions, all intertwined as the new Thirteenth Doctor readies to emerge from her latest regeneration.  With so many reboots and remakes these days with new actors that arrive with a bit of a resounding jolt, it’s Doctor Who that best found a way to overcome the need to replace actors over time.  And that mechanism was regenerating from one human form to another.

Few events are as significant in pop culture as the introduction of Jodie Whittaker as the first woman Doctor this year.  In this first issue of a new monthly series, the Doctor relives previously unseen adventures from each of her past lives.  The result is a book full of great Easter Eggs and special references for passing fans and diehards alike.  And every incarnation of the Doctor is featured in the story by Richard Dinnick with a different well-known comic book artist re-creating the changing TARDIS, sonic screwdrivers, a companion or two, and even more fan-favorite supporting characters.  Along with Dinnick’s great voice for each incarnation of the Doctor, each artist puts a special twist on their part of the story.  This may be one of the biggest comic book issues of the year, to prep you for what will be without a doubt pop culture’s biggest television event of the year.

Here’s a new image promoting the new series just released by the BBC, featuring stars Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, and Tosin Cole:

So get ready for some exciting imagery in the new Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor, Issue #0, from artists Rachael Stott, Mariano Laclaustra, Georgia Sposito, Arriana Florean, Claudia Ianniciello, Iolanda Zanfardino, Brian Williamson, Carlos Cabrera, and more.  And borg.com readers get a first look right now with preview pages from this landmark story, courtesy of Titan Comics.  Check it out:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Many books have called themselves the definitive guide to Doctor Who, but only one really can back it up.  Five years ago the BBC tapped comic book writer Cavan Scott and Mark Wright to create the ultimate data source for the series’ 50th anniversary and the result was Doctor Who Who-ology: The Official Miscellany.  It’s hard to believe five years have breezed by so quickly, but Scott and Wright are back again with an update in Doctor Who Who-ology: The Official Miscellany Regenerated Edition Scott, writer of comic books and audio novels and one of the few people to have penned stories for Doctor Who and Star Wars and Star Trek, and Mark Wright, Doctor Who tie-in writer and audio actor, have filled in all the blanks leading up to the 11th Season (11th “Series” for British fans), coming this Fall.

So fans will find 55 years of encyclopedic information about everything Doctor Who in this 355-page hardcover brick of a book, nicely designed to represent the appearance of the TARDIS.  For only a five-year span the updates to the 2013 edition are many, with updates representing David Bradley’s new stint as the 1st Doctor, the end of Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor, John Hurt’s appearance as the War Doctor, the entire run of Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor, and the beginning this past Christmas of Jodie Whittaker’s new 13th Doctor. Except for the 13th Doctor’s premiere appearance in this month’s Free Comic Book Day edition of the Doctor Who comic book, Who-ology looks to be the first book to feature Whittaker’s Doctor in an official Doctor Who publication.

Subject to the updates, the same design and organization that made Who-ology a British bestseller five years ago are back.  A trivia guide representing both in-world information and real-world information, cross-references to actors, creators, and episodes of the series, plus references to the radio dramas, audio books, comic books and other tie-in stories will allow anyone to access answers to Whovian questions quickly.  The scope and breadth of reference material demonstrates the reason why the series has so many fans.  Do you want to see a complete list of all the famous celebrities and historical figures the Doctor has encountered?  It’s broken down between people he only name-drops and personalities he encountered in his time travels throughout the series (from Alexander the Great to Shirley Bassey, and Nefertiti to Louis Pasteur).  How about the Doctor’s explanations for all of Earth’s mysteries of the unknown, like the end of the dinosaurs, the fate of Atlantis, the abominable snowman, and the Loch Ness monster?  And Who-ology isn’t just a big cold book of lists–Scott and Wright dig into the details of what makes all the incarnations of the Doctor and all their companions tick.  It’s interesting stuff, tying in the four corners of pop culture fandom, including actors that appeared in both Doctor Who and the James Bond movies, Star Wars, Star Trek, and the Harry Potter movies.

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Probably no other visionary from the 19th century except Mary Shelley and Jules Verne is as synonymous with the genre of science fiction as H.G. Wells.  How many science fiction works did Wells inspire with his stories, with elements infused into books, television series, and movies–120 years later and never going out of print?  Only hours ago the BBC announced a new three-part series adapting The War of the Worlds will be arriving later this year, starring Rafe Spall (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Shaun of the Dead), Eleanor Tomlinson (Jack the Giant Slayer, Alice in Wonderland), Robert Carlyle (28 Weeks Later, Once Upon a Time), and Krypton and Sherlock’s Rupert Graves.  The War of the Worlds.  The Time Machine.  The Invisible Man.  The Island of Dr. Moreau.  A new series of graphic novels from Insight Comics is adapting all four of Wells’ classics.  These go beyond the old Illustrated Classics editions, taking on several science fiction paradigms: warnings of the dangers of new technologies, the cost of hubris, and the adventures and trials that come from the unknown worlds of the future.

First in the new series is an action-packed adaptation of The War of the Worlds.   Tailored from the original 1897 tale of freakish alien tripod alien invaders annihilating parts of England, the writer known as Dobbs provides a faithful take on Wells’s work.  It’s always interesting to see new interpretations of the look of Wells’ invaders, and artist Vicente Cifuentes (best known for his DC Comics art) provides a visually striking view of the varying appearances of the invaders as well as an authentic and engaging feel for the 19th century setting of the original novel.

Scientist Dr. Robert H. Goddard referenced The War of the Worlds as an influence for creating the real-world liquid-fueled rocket that would later take humans to the Moon.

Take a look at these sample pages from the first book in the new H.G. Wells series from Insight Comics, courtesy of the publisher:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Rarely does a book’s title so aptly describe its content.  Doctor Who: The Book of Whoniversal Records (Official Timey-Wimey Edition) is exactly right–a play on The Guinness Book of World Records–it is an ambitious achievement that could only be done for Doctor Who, a series whose time traveler hero has charted records across the universe like no other character in any franchise.  In this 55th year of the Doctor, Simon Guerrier (probably the person who knows Doctor Who front to back the best) combines a TV series encyclopedia and world almanac with the ultimate trivia source to create a worthy TARDIS ride with all the Doctors through their greatest feats, strangest encounters, their firsts, bests, biggests, and mosts.  It answers almost any question you could have about the last of the Time Lords and his (soon to be her) interesting adventures.

Guerrier, co-author of Whographica: An Infographic Guide to Space and Time and The Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who for BBC Books, and one of our favorite writers of Doctor Who books, comics, audio plays (his new tales of the Doctors have been performed by Doctor Who actors including Sylvester McCoy and Freema Agyeman), and even documentaries, simply soars through the history of the 12 Doctors and the War Doctor, providing significant coverage of each Doctor, their companions, their greatest stories, and strangest encounters.  For the Doctor Who fan it makes for a great resource, too, complete with nicely indexed and detailed chapters and subjects to allow readers to easily jump back to topics of interest later.

Today is the last day to pre-order Doctor Who: The Book of Whoniversal Records (Official Timey-Wimey Edition) at a discount off the cover price–it arrives in bookstores and ships from online retailers tomorrow.

Check out this excerpt, courtesy of Harper Design:

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