Thursday, 11 October 2012

DCI Banks: Strange Affair - review

DCI Banks is back, with another two-parter, Strange Affair, the first episode of which I've just watched. I'm a long-time fan of the Peter Robinson books about Banks, but I haven't read this particular novel, which I suspect may be a good thing. The TV version featuring Stephen Tompkinson as Banks is perfectly watchable, but so far hasn't risen to the heights of the books. However, it's early days, and this story made a decent, if slightly slow, start.

Banks' brother Roy leaves Banks an anguished phone message, and it seems he may have something to do with the murder of a woman, who shortly afterwards is found shot to death. By this time, Banks himself has gone missing and the investigation is led at very short notice by DI Helen Morton, newly returned from maternity leave. Morton is played by Caroline Catz, a very appealing actor, who played a likeable DI in Murder in Suburbia. But Morton is very different - and much more serious.

So serious, in fact, that she treats Banks as a highly suspicious character, creating a bit of conflict, but (I felt) in a way that felt rather laboured and contrived. The screenplay writer might have done better to focus more on the whodunit side of the story, which didn't get going for a long time. The episode ended bleakly, though, with the discovery of Roy's body. He too had been shot.

The test of a two-parter is whether I want to watch the second episode, and the answer is that I do. My impression is that Tompkinson has toughened up his portrayal of Banks, and that's a sound move. He, like Catz, is a very engaging actor, and as the cast find their feet, it is possible that DCI Banks will turn into a staple of the schedules. At present, however, the jury is still out.


7 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks very much for this review. I'd been wondering how this series might fare on TV and it's good to know you enjoyed it enough to want to watch more.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Margot. Peter's plots are very well constructed and if the TV series reflects that, it should do well.

Nan said...

This is one of those shows that will probably never come over here. Maybe someday there will be some kind of UK/US internet site where we can share each other's television.
I so like both of those actors.

Martin Edwards said...

Hello, Nan. I do hope you get the chance to see it one day. They are indeed good actors, and the books that source the show are excellent.

Lesley Cookman said...

I'm not sure about it, but will continue watching. They'd have to go some to match up to the books. And of course I'm not jealous...

Anonymous said...

It's important to understand that the scripts for the ITV DCI Banks series are adaptations. Here's what Peter Robinson himself said about it and about the casting: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/8016841/Peter-Robinson-on-DCI-Bankss-TV-debutp.html People who loved the books and are intent on constantly comparing the TV version against the books will probably be disappointed. However, if you are able to set that aside and view the TV adaptations as the excellent crime dramas they are, they will be enjoyable because the cast is exemplary, as is the cinematography, lighting, pace, choice of locations, etc.

Martin Edwards said...

Anon, I think you make a very fair point, and if you look at my review of part two, you'll see that I'm increasingly drawn to these adaptations.