Aidan Smith's TV week: Into the murky, murderous depths again, but thankfully not in a submarine

BBC1’s new Sunday nighter Showtrial is billed “from the makers of Vigil” and I’m thinking, oh no, they wouldn’t, would they? Set another drama in a submarine? I’m not sure I could take the claustrophobia, even if the dark labyrinths were made of balsa wood held together with Blue Peter’s sticky-back plastic.
Celine Buckens as entitled, bratty Talitha in ShowtrialCeline Buckens as entitled, bratty Talitha in Showtrial
Celine Buckens as entitled, bratty Talitha in Showtrial

So anyway about halfway through the first episode one guy says to another about an accomplice’s ferreting abilities that he could “find a leak in a nuclear sub” - but I’m assuming this is the producers’ little joke and maybe the start of a running gag for all future shows. Really, there are no similarities for while Vigil teased us with multiple suspects, Showtrial this early offers up just one - and even if she’s innocent I think I still want her hit with a special, rushed-through charge of being, in the cops’ words, a “rude, entitled little cow”. Or at the very least one for wearing puke-green nail varnish in a built-up area.

For an actress, a nightmare like Talitha Campbell must have been a dream to play and Celine Buckens gives it her all as an outrageously obnoxious posho who’s first reaction, when questioned about the disappearance of a fellow student she’d been sending vicious texts, is: “Hashtag praying for her.” On being held in a cell overnight, to the desk sergeant requesting she gives up a bracelet: “It’s worth more than you’ll earn in your entire career.” Then, on being arrested for murder: “But I’m meant to be in Paris for a friend’s gallery opening … ”

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Showtrial, written by Ben Richards, spins quite a few plates: class (victim Hannah Ellis, definitely no silver spoon, the first in her family to go to university), sex (Talitha: “I do a bit of webcam escort work - lots of students do”), drugs, politics (the Shadow Environment Secretary’s son, at the same uni, knows more than he’s admitting) and rapacious property deals. Talitha says her developer father would “bulldoze an orphanage with the kids still inside to build a luxury hotel” and may not be exaggerating.

Bertie Carvel as DI Adam Dalgliesh.Bertie Carvel as DI Adam Dalgliesh.
Bertie Carvel as DI Adam Dalgliesh.

Talitha’s mother is a former 1990s “It girl” who we’ve yet to meet but, with that c.v., surely will. The accused’s lawyer could be the most interesting character here: the duty solicitor appalled as anyone by her client’s arrogance and callousness and who at one point would be very happy to be relieved of the case - but the trial will be an absolute stonker capable of making her a star.

There’s so much going on in this five-parter that I haven’t even mentioned the detectives, the family liaison officer who has history with the lawyer and Hannah’s mum, so proud of her daughter’s academic prowess and now so devastated. But what if Hannah wasn’t as sweet as she seemed? And surely Talitha must have a redeeming feature somewhere, or a reason for behaving like a total witch? Showtrial, like Vigil, seems set to drag us down to the murky depths, even if this time they’re only metaphorical.

What is it with the students on TV this week? Why can't they, given Dalgliesh (Channel 5) is set in 1975, hang around the jukebox listening to T.Rex while getting paralytic on subsidised cider? But, no, there has to be more murder.

Dalgliesh is DI Adam Dalgliesh, PD James' cerebral crimebuster, a published poet no less, and this is an adaptation of Shroud for a Nightingale about a series on killings at a nurse training school with Bertie Carvel taking over a role played previously by Roy Marsden and Martin Shaw.

John Bishop jumps on board the Tardis for Doctor WhoJohn Bishop jumps on board the Tardis for Doctor Who
John Bishop jumps on board the Tardis for Doctor Who

We remember Carvel from Doctor Foster opposite Suranne Jones and the “hate sex” scene which proved that the combustible couple’s dining-room table most definitely wasn’t fashioned from balsa wood. To say his emotions are more buttoned-up this time is an understatement.

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Normally telly tecs pop down to the kit store to be fitted with a full back-story but Dalgliesh is only equipped with a car (what a car, though: an E-type Jaguar in racing green). Other shows would make more of the poetry and the fact he recently lost his wife, but not this one, or at least not yet. There’s a clash of styles with his brash, gauche sidekick who breaks off from the investigation to bonk one of the nurses in his car (not an E-type), but this isn’t exploited. It’s either brave or foolish of Dalgliesh to be this low-key and at the moment I’d say the former.

What a relief not to see inside a detective’s careworn home or his empty fridge. No cheap music on the soundtrack either, however potent, and I’m partial to that glitter-flecked glam pixie, Marc Bolan. But there’s nothing coy about the crimes here, beginning with a horrible death during one of the nurses’ training demonstrations and then taking our melancholy sleuth all the way back to the Nazi war trials.

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I haven’t seen Doctor Who (BBC1) in a while but feel I should look in on Jodie Whittaker’s farewell. She’s not being allowed to bring in games like on the last day of school - far from it. There’s Earth to save and, oh, everything else. “The end of the universe is chasing us!” she cries while trying to combat an apocalyptic hurricane. How can John Bishop more or less as himself - a professional Scouser - possibly help when the forces of evil, even more incredibly, include Jonathan Watson, best known as an impersonator of Scottish football stalwarts, playing a baked potato?

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