Aidan Smith's TV week: DI Ray (ITV), The Dry (Britbox), The Terror: Infamy (BBC2)

First - “Evenin’ all” - telly coppers were good. Then they were likely to thump first and ask questions later but still fundamentally good. Then they were bad-good but still got the job done. Then they were chaotic, home life a midden, but endearing all the same.

Parminder Nagra as DI Rachita Ray.
Parminder Nagra as DI Rachita Ray.

Then, when they were bad-bad, the force was always dependably decent. Then the force went all rotten and coppers had to investigate coppers (“Mother of God!”). And so we come to DI Ray (ITV) who’s good and her force is, well, not bad and a AC-12-type investigation might struggle to get the complaints to stick but, boy, do her colleagues make life difficult for her.

For how, as an Asian officer, do you complain about a Birmingham superintendent who doesn’t take your first answer about where you’re from - Leicester - and insists on knowing your “heritage”? Or the station receptionist who without properly listening when you announce your name, hands you the lanyard of another Asian officer?

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Subtle slights. Like when she’s in the supermarket and a customer mistakes her for a member of staff. This is Rachita Ray’s lot, portrayed with a heavy sigh by Parminder Nagra, in a drama scripted by Line of Duty actress Maya Sondhi who has found a different, albeit depressing, way of telling a story of policing in 21st century Britain, a place where boxes are furiously ticked but little seems to change.

Roisin Gallagher in The Dry
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For instance, Ray’s Punjab-Bengal background is “exactly what we need right now”, according to the supt, but the post in homicide looks to be a hospital pass. Her unit is surly, lazy and suspicious of her. Her DCI, played by Gemma Craven, is the kind of casual bully that this actress, in last year’s Line of Duty-esque The Tower, would have eaten for lunch.

Craven’s Kerry Henderson, so hard on Ray, sends our heroine for therapy where she protests: “Looks, throwaway comments, judgments - they don’t rate me, none of them do. I’m constantly having to prove I deserve to be there.”

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Ray has a white boyfriend, also a detective, who’s just proposed but she won’t wear the engagement ring in the station. The therapist wonders if revealing the relationship could help Ray gain acceptance. “I’ve spent my whole life trying to fit in but it’s never worked,” she says. “I’m not Indian enough for the Indians and not white enough either.”

There is some coppering to be done. A suspected honour killing mushrooms into human trafficking and drug smuggling but it’s the tensions back at the station in Brum which make DI Ray intriguing. They’re as twisty and tortuous as Spaghetti Junction.

Kiki Sukezane in The Terror: Infamy

“From the producers of Normal People” is just about as hot a tag as TV can offer right now. As we wait for the next Sally Rooney adaptation, Conversations with Friends, a comedy-drama pops up on Britbox about a recovering alcoholic’s return to her native Dublin.

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The Dry stars Roisin Gallagher as Shiv who initially finds her parents’ home as welcoming as a Birmingham incident-room. She’s back because her grandmother has passed away but Mum and Dad (Ciaran Hinds and Pom Boyd) are worried that, with the booze flowing at the wake, her teetotalism will cramp their style.

Shiv’s friends are dismissive of her problem: “If throwing up, blacking out and ending up in some stranger’s utility room makes you an alcoholic then she can sign as all up.” And even her own sister seems unsympathetic to the fact she’s returned from London with “no money, no job and no friends”.

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In the Big Smoke, when she wasn’t drinking, Shiv was trying to be a painter. When the singing starts at the wake she takes refuge outside and bumps into a fellow artist and old flame. Later, sis asks: “Did you kiss him?” “No,” comes the reply, “he treated me like s**t.” “Well, that didn’t stop you the last time … or the seven million times before that.” Shiv doesn’t have much going for her but The Dry might.

Hinds’ character is the head of a dysfunctional family which is a bit different from his role in the lockdown hit The Terror when he was the skipper of a polar explorer ship which gets stuck in the ice trying to cross the Northwest Passage and he was drowned by an unseen beast which had ripped off one of his legs.

Now an anthology, The Terror: Infamy (BBC2) is a new tale, a new historical backdrop and fresh horror, just as elusive, which in the opener turns a man blind and sends another shooting backwards off a jetty, popping up later in a fishing net.

Actually, there are two terrors. In a Japanese-American fishing community in Southern California a malevolent spirit is picking off its victims according to Oriental folklore. “I think we left that old country stuff behind,” says one sceptic. “Even if those things existed, why would they come all the way over here?” To which his friend replies: “Why not? We did.”

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Look out for George Takei. Down at the harbour he recounts the story, probably told a hundred times before, of the 200lbs bluefin he encountered on his first-ever fishing expedition, knocking it out with a single punch. I don’t think that’s the problem here, George.

Then there’s the terror of the internment camps to where the Japanese rounded up and dumped in a swift FBI response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The opener is slow but busy. Let’s hope that this time there’s no cannibalism.

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