Saturday, 3 April 2010


[10.46 - French Time] What a better way to start a glorious Easter TV weekend than episode one of the third and final series of Ashes to Ashes on BBC One.

1983, Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) is comatose - inside her coma! - after Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) accidentally shot her during the events which happened three months ago and made him an "accidental tourist" (« The Isle Of Wight. But that was shit, so I tried the Costa Brava. ») But the Gene Genie desperately needs her to clear his name.

« They said I tried to kill you, Bolls, but I know you wouldn't let me down, we're a team: Bodie and Doyle. I'm the one in the SAS, you can be the one with the girl's hair. Now get your knickers on, we're leaving. » Woken up in the most typical Hunt way, Alex rapidly goes business as usual with a kidnap case. But is it really business as usual?

Ray "Raymondo" Carling (Dean Andrews) sits now in Gene's office as Detective Inspector (« It's not that incredible »), Shaz (Montserrat Lombard) and Chris (Marshall Lancaster) have split up and Gene Hunt must settle things with Discipline and Complaints officer DCI Jim Keats (Daniel Mays). But Keats visited Alex in hospital when she was in coma and knows a great deal about Gene's past (« I know what you did three years ago. »)

This weekend marks the end of an era, of the most recent cycle of quality in British television fiction. A cycle which started with the new Doctor Who in 2005, and even before with the remake of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) or Kudos Film's first hit Spooks in 2000 - Kudos co-produces Ashes to Ashes.

Ashes, like Who, stars a larger than life character. Politically incorrect, testerone-fuelled copper and dodgy German import car driver Gene Hunt is the last British hero, the last "Gov". The final countdown (as yelled Europe in the excellent BBC promo) of his last chapter has begun and from what we've seen yesterday we can only expect the Gene Genie to leave in style.

Daniel Mays, one the finest British contemporary actor, is a wonderful addition to the regular cast as Keats (« It's about you, Hunt ») right after an exquisite performance in an episode of Hustle Series six. During Alex's "Russian doll" coma Keats tells her: « He did this to you and I don't want history to repeat itself. I don't want you to end up like... »

Sam Tyler? « My name is Alex Drake. And, quite frankly, your guess is as good as mine » says Alex in the new intro sequence, which sums up previous series. David Drury's direction is brilliant and Matthew Graham's script is superb. Watching something written by Graham is like reading a good book.

If there are budget cuts it doesn't show in this series opener. Anyway we're too busy with the story, the characters and the dialogues to notice. Your humble servant's favourite line: « Ray – if you come in here again dressed like a maths teacher, I will paint your balls the colour of hazelnuts and inform a bag of squirrels that winter's coming. »

Great soundtrack too: Wagner's Ride of the Walkyries (hilarious!), Sweet Dreams, Under Pressure... And one of the best use of Every breath you take ever (powerful).

And now... Doctor Who. By the way, read Frank Collins's review of this Ashes to Ashes episode in his quintessential blog Cathode Ray Tube:

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